Let’s be honest

I don’t usually watch news programs on TV so I have no idea who this Mark Halperin guy is or why he thinks Obama is a dick. But I see that he’s been suspended by MSNBC for it.

Am I the only one who doesn’t think this is a big deal? Why did MSNBC suspend him? Oh sure, I know all the “reasons.” I just happen to think they’re bullshit. I think MSNBC are the ones who are dicks here. Quick, suspend me from the Internet!!!

You know what this all reminds me of? A conversation I once had with my father that I’ll probably never forget. First, a little background. We immigrated to the U.S. from Kiev in 1989. Among the reasons I had been given for why we did this was that we wanted to escape the oppressive anti-Semitism of the Soviet regime. However, I was already beginning to understand that prejudices exist everywhere no matter what the general ethos of a nation is. So once day I asked my Dad if he thought anti-Semitism was worse here in the U.S. or back in the USSR.

“It’s worse here,” he said to my amazement. 

“But, but… what do you mean??” I sputtered. I was sure he was joking.

“It’s worse here,” he went on “because here it’s hidden, it’s all below the surface. In the Soviet Union, it was official policy. You knew you would be discriminated against as a Jew so you always knew where you stood. It was out in the open. No one was afraid to mention it. Here in the U.S., you never know how someone feels about you being Jewish and you never know if they’re treating you fairly or not. You can only guess.”

To this day, I grasp exactly what he meant even though I still can’t find myself to agree completely. After all, was it better in South Africa under apartheid? That was also official policy. Was it better in the U.S. when we had slavery? That was official too.

But I hope you can see that we don’t have to understand my Dad’s outlook literally. What we can instead take away from it is that any sort of bias or prejudice is better to have out in the open than roiling beneath the surface. For a journalist or anyone else engaged in shaping people’s opinions with their work, the impetus should be all the stronger. Maybe “dick” wasn’t a great choice of words. But you have to admit it communicated Halperin’s sentiments about the president perfectly in that moment. And if this is a man who’s professionally responsible for reporting on national affairs, wouldn’t you rather know how he really feels? I know I would. And I bet my Dad would too.


  1. Anonymous June 30, 2011

    You certainly don’t have to abide by any societal standards Anna, but viewers do tend to prefer ideas expressed with class.

  2. Anna Tarkov June 30, 2011

    Beth, it sounds like you’re saying you’re a viewer who would prefer ideas expressed with class, right? It’s very difficult to say with any degree of certainly what all TV viewers want, right? They probably want different things. Also, I’m sure you know that “class” varies widely among different groups of people.

    Since you seemed offended by what Halperin said, do you agree that he should have been suspended? Further, is it just the use of the word “dick” that you object to or the underlying sentiment? Therein lies the real issue.

  3. Anonymous July 1, 2011

    Being a classy person isn’t a mutii-definitive art. Class is class. Either you have it or you don’t. Generally speaking, those who engage in or excuse others’ smirking vulgarisms do not have class.

  4. Anna Tarkov July 1, 2011

    Well no, that’s not accurate Rodeo.

    What is viewed as classy varies somewhat among, for instance, different classes of society, different professional groups, different geographic locales and much, much more.

    And if the occasional smirking vulgarism illuminates the views of a person highly paid to offer their thoughts on important national topics, then as long as it’s FCC-approved, I don’t mind hearing it. I don’t think it should be the norm of course, but I also don’t think it’s a high crime of some sort.

  5. Anonymous July 3, 2011

    It is difficult to live freely outside of the Shtetl, but living freely is a liberation from the expectation of bias and prejudice against oneself. It also means raising one’s standards to believe that better living produces better things. One such standard is never to excuse or pedestal the lowly, servile mouth of the brute. The FCC is not responsible for your standards – you are. Nobody said calling the president a dick is a high crime. It’s just trashy. That’s what it is.

    “Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world. … ” – RFK

  6. Anna Tarkov July 4, 2011

    Wow Will, not sure where you get off telling me my family and I lived in a Shtetl in terms of our mentality. I thought this post explained pretty clearly that there’s prejudice everywhere, it just sometimes it’s hidden and sometimes it’s out in the open. Beyond that, I don’t understand your metaphor at all. Somehow we were more accustomed to vulgarity in the “Shtetl?” You’re making no sense here, sorry.

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