The Farce of Being “Above the Fray”

Joe Williams still can’t get a job.

With thirty-plus years of reporting experience, and a resume that includes The Boston Globe, Richmond Times-Dispatch; The Miami Herald, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, and ultimately a three-year stint at Politico, his career in journalism came to a rather abrupt, untimely end last year after giving clear insight as to who the defeated Republican candidate wanted to associate with most:

It’s very interesting that he does so many appearances on Fox and Friends, and it’s unscripted; it’s the only time they let Mitt “off the leash”, so to speak. But it also points out a larger problem that he’s got to solve if he wants to be successful come this fall: Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him. That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in some town hall settings, why he can’t relate to people other than that. But when he comes to Fox and Friends, they’re like him; they’re white folks who are very much relaxed in their own company, so it really is a very stark contrast, I think, and a problem that he has not been able to solve to date…

This simple, honest, concise breakdown of who and what Romney was–a sheltered fish out of water with barely any contact outside his very rich, very white circle–cost Williams, a father of two, his job, reputation, and his livelihood. Despite the vindication he received from Romney’s infamous “47 percent video” three months later, white men ending up as the only voting demographic Romney would win in the election, and examples of Politico’s fraudulent appearance as an institution of journalism coming to light, Williams now works a part-time job making only ten dollars an hour.

Yesterday, in a sad, rather cruel example of the universe’s fetish for irony, Martin Bashir, the man on whose show Williams gave his accurate assessment of Mitt Romney also lost his job, tendering his resignation from MSNBC after rightfully referring to former half-term governor of Alaska Sarah Palin as a “world-class idiot”, declaring that she should be a candidate for the punishment Thomas Thistlewood doled out to the human beings he enslaved on the island of Jamaica in the 1750s, as she and other Right-wingers like Dr. Ben Carson continuously use slavery as a metaphor in attacking the Affordable Care Act.

There is a certain form of hypocrisy we of the Left needlessly saddle ourselves with: this unconscious, reflexive need to be “above the fray” when dealing with conservatives. For many of us, we find ourselves being caught up too often in this ethereal, movie-scene idealism, where every political party has nothing but genuine love for their country. In this view, both Democrats and Republicans are desirous of spirited debates and seek to enhance and protect civil discourse, having only the best interests of the country at heart. 

In reality, nothing could be further from the truth. The Right has dispensed with every pretense of civility and collegiality, having called Barack Obama a “skinny, ghetto crackhead”; cast aspersions on his being born an American and playing to his “otherness”. These people have waved Confederate flags at his doorstep, shown up outside town hall events with assault weapons at the ready; waved their fingers in his face because they felt threatened by him, and called him a liar to his face in the House chamber, and yet we cling to the conceit that somehow, firing Martin Bashir for his comments makes us morally superior than the Right? 

As a former conservative, I don’t have any convictions about somehow appearing to be “no better than they are.” Quite the opposite; it is because I have firsthand knowledge of what the Right is capable of that I fight as hard–and at times, as vulgarly–as I do. Bashir valiantly fought the dogs of the Right, having taken on Larry Klayman not too long ago over his remarks that President Obama should come out of the White House “with his hands up.” Bashir sacrificed his job to give this country a proper education on just how horrific and barbaric slavery was, and why comparisons to the same for any form of public policy are not just “bad optics”, they are reprehensible and immoral.

Hopefully, Bashir will eventually be brought back to MSNBC, and the Right’s latest cloud of corrosive, hypocritical fake outrage will yet again come to nothing. If not, perhaps irony will favor the wonderful and insightful Joy-Ann Reid, who has been more than capable and deserving of holding her own time slot as one of the best journalists the network has ever had. Perhaps the field of journalism will once again welcome people who are not afraid of calling out malefactors and bad actors on the Right, with the courage to push back against their poisonous, hateful rhetoric.

And maybe then, Joe Williams will finally be able to get a job.

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