Now, we were just talking about all the trouble Martin Bashir encountered after he went super-dramatic about how despicable it was for Sarah Palin to have used slavery as a metaphor, and I said:
Bashir — if he was ever worth having his own show — should be able to say very clearly that he intended to express the depth of the horror of slavery and therefore why it should never be used as a metaphor. Now, of course, he'd be open to the criticism that he only chose to go where he did because his target was Sarah Palin, but he could confess to that, say that was wrong, and dedicate himself to permanent across-the-board opposition to slavery as a metaphor.So... imagine going Bashir over the use of the term "slave wages." Remember, all Sarah Palin did was use slavery as a metaphor, and she was grilled by Jake Tapper on CNN — here's the transcript — in what to me looks like an effort to make her say something off (as if Tapper wanted to be the new Katie Couric, ruining Sarah Palin all over again).
TAPPER: So, you obviously feel very passionate about the national debt. The other day, you gave a speech in which you compared it to slavery.More at the link. You see what Tapper is doing, playing the old game of Screwing with Sarah. And Bashir just came tripping after Tapper. He can get in there too. They want to tap her and bash her. Rape metaphor intended, because I'm trying to highlight the political use of metaphor and responsive arguments that this metaphor is not allowed. Bashir said:
PALIN: To slavery. Yes. And that's not a racist thing to do, by the way, which I know somebody is going to claim it is.
TAPPER: Don't you ever fear that by using hyperbole like that -- obviously, you don't literally mean it's like slavery, which cost millions of people their lives and there was rape and torture. You're using it as a metaphor. But don't you ever worry that by using that kind of language, you -- you risk obscuring the point you're trying to make?
PALIN: There is another definition of slavery and that is being beholden to some kind of master that is not of your choosing. And, yes, the national debt will be like slavery when the note comes due.
Given her well-established reputation as a world class idiot, it’s hardly surprising that [Palin] should choose to mention slavery in a way that is abominable to anyone who knows anything about its barbaric history. So here’s an example. One of the most comprehensive first-person accounts of slavery comes from the personal diary of a man called Thomas Thistlewood, who kept copious notes for 39 years. Thistlewood was the son of a tenant farmer, who arrived on the island of Jamaica in April 1750, and assumed the position of overseer at a major plantation.
What is most shocking about Thistlewood’s diary is not simply the fact that he assumes the right to own and possess other human beings, but is the sheer cruelty and brutality of his regime. In 1756, he records that a slave named Darby ‘catched eating kanes; had him well flogged and pickled, then made Hector, another slave, s-h-i-t in his mouth.’ This became known as ‘Darby’s Dose,’ a punishment invented by Thistlewood that spoke only of inhumanity.
And he mentions a similar incident in 1756, his time in relation to a man he refers to as Punch. ‘Flogged Punch well, and then washed and rubbed salt pickle, lime juice and bird pepper. Made Negro Joe piss in his eyes and mouth.' I could go on, but you get the point....
When Mrs. Palin invokes slavery, she doesn’t just prove her rank ignorance. She confirms if anyone truly qualified for a dose of discipline from Thomas Thistlewood, she would be the outstanding candidate.I'm asking you to imagine consistency about the use of metaphor, disaggregating it from the lust to get Sarah Palin or somebody else you think is asking for it. Imagine doing the Bashir routine when anyone talks about "slave wages" or being a "wage slave." That's what Bashir would have needed to do to prove his good faith in his outrage over the cheap deployment of the idea of slavery. It's not something you can realistically imagine, and that's why we know it was Bashir, even more than Sarah Palin, who carelessly appropriated the suffering of others to make a political point.
Bonus: Imagine what Bashir — in a quest for consistency — would have to say to Bryan Ferry:
By the way, Bashir's Thistlewood story was about torture, and torture can occur in many contexts other than slavery. True consistency would require him to rage against the use of torture as a metaphor. He ought to lose his cool whenever he sees, say, a headline like "Homework torture for some gifted students."
Be consistent and principled about metaphor or eat shit and die.