Turning Over A New Leaf

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OK, I'll freely admit that I often rag on the standards of discourse in our modern media outlets. I call them nonsensical, inconsistent, unfair, and borderline psychotic. Well, I'm proud to say that all my complaining has had an effect, and that clear, reasoned standards for what constitutes acceptable debate amongst cable news and punditry have at long last been established. Let's examine these new rules through the omnipresent Wednesday lens I like to call IDIOTS SAY THE DAMNDEST THINGS.

"Well, first, with regard to Levi, I think First Dude up there in Alaska, Todd Palin, ought to take Levi down to the creek and hold his head underwater until the thrashing stops." - Pat Buchanan, on MSNBC's "Morning Joe".

Now, we have to keep in mind that these standards are newly imposed. And under these new standards, what Pat Buchanan said is perfectly acceptable. Sure, less than a month ago, implying that something over-the-top, fictional, and bad had happened to Bristol Palin led to weeks of hand-wringing, protests, and finally a public apology from a late-night talk show host. But that was then, and this is now. We've grown, as an audience. We've matured, as a people. And thanks to that growth and maturity, there's nothing wrong with implying that Todd Palin should murder his daughter's baby-daddy because Levi Johnston has been giving negative interviews about Sarah Palin since Palin announced her resignation.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're wondering if this really is a new standard, or if it's just the newest example of some old racist asshole getting to say whatever he wants because he's finagled a position as a respectable pundit. But this is clearly not the case, and I have proof:

"We keep marrying other species and other ethnics. The problem is the Swedes have pure genes. They marry other Swedes, that's the rule. Finns marry other Finns; they have a pure society. In America we marry everybody. We will marry Italians and Irish. - Brian Kilmeade, co-host of Fox and Friends, attempting to explain away a study that showed a correlation between long marriages and a decrease in Alzheimer's among elderly Swedish and Finnish people.

See? I mean, sure, Brian Kilmeade is white and racist, but he's not old, and he certainly doesn't have a reputation as a respectable journalist or pundit. Yet, thanks to the new standards, he's allowed to equate other ethnic groups with other SPECIES, and imply that all this damn American miscegenation has sullied our gene pool to the point where we're more susceptible to diseases than the Nordic tribes. Gone are the days when a "fast-twitch muscle fiber" would get you fired, or a "nappy-headed ho" would get you pulled off the air for a few months. This is the brave new world of cable news, where freedom of speech means not getting in the slightest bit of trouble for not making the slightest bit of sense.

Now, I know what you're thinking. You're wondering if there really are new standards, or if it's just the complete abandonment of any standards at all, allowing anyone to say anything at any time, no matter how big of a lie it is, no matter how patently racist or offensive it is, and no matter how much it may expose the hypocrisy of previous fake outrages. And I understand why you might feel that way, which is why I've brought along a third quote to allay your concerns.

"I'm sure she apologizes for that choice of words, she's very passionate about it. We all say things sometimes when we're passionate that we don't intend, and especially on a dayside family-oriented cable television news network. I'm sure she apologizes, and we do, too," - Tamryn Hall and David Shuster, on MSNBC.

See that? Those are actual cable news hosts, actually distancing themselves from, and apologizing for, the outrageous and unacceptable statements made by one of their guests. And frankly, it's about damn time. If there's one thing cable news needs more of, it's real journalists like Tamryn Hall standing up to outrageous comments like those made by Marcy Wheeler. And although I hesitate to give Wheeler's comments any more publicity than is necessary, context demands that it be ACTUAL QUOTE TIME!

"[Y]our idea is that after investigating Bill Clinton for a blow job for like five years, we shouldn't investigate the huge, grossly illegal things that were done under the past administration, only because Alberto Gonzales was too much in the back pocket of Dick Cheney to do it while he was still in office. That's ridiculous."

If we let shameless demagogues like Wheeler refer to fellatious oral relations by such a crude term, especially during the dayside, family-oriented programming of MSNBC, what's next? Hour-long specials showing prisoners beating each other up? Graphic and detailed explorations of murder investigations on weekday afternoons, when children are often home and flipping through the channels? No, MSNBC must draw the line, and they've clearly found just the right place to draw it.