It's Brooke Baldwin's show, so far be it from me or anybody else not associated with it to tell her how to run it. If she wants to shut down a guest because the language he chooses to use is a bridge too far for her, so be it. But it's unfortunate that she did exactly that yesterday. It's unfortunate because I think it's imperative that the press not censor or sanitize the grotesqueness of Donald Trump and his ascendent administration and era.
In case you haven't heard, yesterday on CNN, host Brooke Baldwin -- a talented broadcaster by any standard -- shut down a conversation on her show between two oppositely aligned political partisans. She did it because one of those partisans, a journalist named Charles Kaiser, was tearing into Trump, accusing him of sanctioning neo-Nazi hate by retweeting white supremacists, encouraging his followers to "swear allegiance" to his campaign, bringing aboard “the most homophobic man in American public life” as his running mate, and, specifically, hiring as one of his closest advisers "a man who uses the word 'nigger.'"
Now Charles Kaiser is a white guy -- and all of that was apparently too much for Baldwin to handle. Visibly shaken, she chastised Kaiser for using "the n-word" on her show. “I’m sorry,” Kaiser responded. “But I never use the n-word, except when I’m quoting someone who’s been appointed by the President to the Oval Office, since this such a disgusting moment in our history.” Regardless, Baldwin had decided that she'd had enough and demanded that her show "take a break." The entire segment was ended.
Certainly, Brooke Baldwin was right to be flustered by what was happening on her show. She's right to be overwhelmed with frustration and emotion that this is what the discourse has deteriorated into. And she's damn sure right to be thinking, as I have no doubt she was, that her show -- which has always been a reliably decent news program -- is now nothing more than a relentless shouting match between Trump's asshole surrogates and those now forced to be equally obnoxious in standing against them.
There's proof that Steve Bannon is part of a hyper-conservative Facebook group that regularly calls President Obama a "nigger," and of course as the chief of Breitbart Bannon embraced and fomented racism and anti-semitism, but I've never personally seen evidence that Bannon has called Obama that worst of racial slurs in public. With that in mind, I can see where Baldwin would be angry if Kaiser was making the claim with nothing to back it up. But if she was arguing that Kaiser -- or anyone else -- should be prevented from simply saying the word "nigger" out loud because it's offensive, well, that's where she's wrong. Because that's the idea: that it's horribly offensive and flat-out disgusting.
The thing about the rise of the so-called alt-right is that it's a racist, misogynist, xenophobic movement, one that now has direct access to the Oval Office. That constitutes an emergency. Because of this, the beliefs and actions of these white supremacists should never be glossed over. On the contrary, the things they say, do and believe should be proclaimed to the world in all their ugliness day after day, night after night. To in any way decontaminate for the sake of decorum the kind of barrier-breaking within decent society that these monsters represent is to -- ironically, I know -- fail that decent society.
Now more than ever, as unfortunate as it is, we as a culture need to be willing to confront the grotesquerie that is the Trump administration and the hat tip to white supremacy that it stands for. And that means refusing to coddle or sugarcoat its worst sins and impulses. It's going to be exhausting and Brooke Baldwin's reaction in so many ways makes sense, but bending the rules will occasionally be necessary because Trump isn't bending the rules -- he's flat-out breaking them. To not respond in a way that properly conveys the enormity of what he's doing here would be a dereliction of duty.
Brooke Baldwin is right to not want to hear racial slurs on her show. But I promise you, racial slurs are what we're going to hear quite a lot in our discourse over the next few years. It's imperative that she and all our journalists make clear that that's what's out there and report on it without fear or compunction.
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