The other day I commented, with no particular druthers, on MSNBC's firing of Alec Baldwin. The man's habitual foul slanders were destined to doom the guy's network career, so his termination came as less a surprise than a kind of inexorable fulfillment. Although I didn't much care at the time that MSNBC had sacked Baldwin, I've pondered his firing since, and have vaguely decided--due to one particular--that I was wrong.
Because, at the risk of pulling an Emersonian, hobgobliny consistency, I recalled that I had protested Pat Buchanan's firing by the same network, due to Buchanan's rather steady revelations that he was at least mildly neo-fascistic and, indeed, morbidly xenophobic. Yet I was able to both overlook Buchanan's diseased personal politics and dismiss his narrow stupidities, since, in my opinion, his even older-school abilities at plying disinterested political analysis more than compensated for his episodic paranoia and gleeful authoritarianism.
In the world of cable-network commentary, Buchanan stood virtually alone in his capacity for damning his side and praising the other, assuming such damnation or praise was objectively warranted in the study of tactics. I have come to cringe at the predictability and abject partisan slavishness of network commentators, especially those from my own side. But Buchanan, with all his flaws--and it's undeniable that they ran deep--could stand back from it all and deliver with that old Nixonian steeliness an impersonal reading.
I miss that. And at the time of his firing I protested his dismissal. Yet how in good conscience can I believe that that protest was fair, but also accept as fair the sacking of Baldwin for transgressions no worse than Buchanan's? A studied neo-fascism and explicit ethnic prejudices balanced against a hot-tempered fool's foul mouth?
Andrew Sullivan wrote after Baldwin's firing "that explicitly homophobic slurs directed at actual human beings as a way to degrade them doesn’t have a 'but-he’s-a-liberal' exception." I quite agree. He added, "It’s ugly and would not be tolerated if directed against any other minority group," thus "MSNBC did the right thing."
It's here we enter a very gray area, for while MSNBC perhaps "did the right thing" in firing Baldwin--I remain open to persuasion on this--Sullivan also believed, as I did at the time, that Buchanan's firing was misguided. Observed Sullivan: "That his ideas are often repelling should precisely be why he should stay on MSNBC."
Again, I agree, or rather, agreed. And that's a problem.