Just a few weeks after Arnett was fired, NBC's sister station, MSNBC, essentially destroyed one of their most popular TV correspondents for exactly the same "offense." Ashleigh Banfield, who had made her name as the ash-covered correspondent at Ground Zero on 9/11, spoke at a university lecture she gave on April 24th, 2003, just as the Iraq War was winding down. Banfield, who had been an embedded journalist, dared to criticize her fellow members of the media-that is, all the ones who, unlike Arnett, were cheering the war on from inside their military units, making great little careers for themselves as cheerleading Reichspropaganda tools. Here is part of what she said that got her into trouble:
"There are horrors that were completely left out of this war. So was this journalism or was this coverage-? There is a grand difference between journalism and coverage, and getting access does not mean you're getting the story: It was a glorious, wonderful picture that had a lot of people watching and a lot of advertisers excited about cable news: But we really don't know from this latest adventure from the American military what this thing looked like and why perhaps we should never do it again:"
The reaction was hysterical and universal. NBC President Neil Shapir-yup, him again, some kind of hero to Americans (at least in Russia the censors are considered unredeemable pigs, whether the censorship comes from a Surkov or a Potanin)-publicly rebuked Banfield, while her journalist peers immediately distanced themselves from her like, fleeing from potential controversy like shameless cowards, as captured in this April 29th, 2003, Reuters article: "'I don't think people look to Ashleigh Banfield to set the standards of journalism,' one person said about the reaction inside the [MSNBC News] department. 'People were sort of rolling their eyes.'" [Italics mine.]
Another MSNBC analyst, neo-con shock jock Michael Savage, labeled her "a slut" and a "porn star" and accused her of being an accessory to the murder of Jewish children:and got away with it. In fact, that was reasonable rhetoric, just as Rep. Weiner's call to commit a crime against The New York Press was reasonable.
As for Banfield, she was essentially given the Khruschev treatment, forced into disgrace. Before her lecture, she had her own magazine program for MSNBC focused on the War on Terror; after her critical speech, in which she said, "Free speech is a wonderful thing, it's what we fight for, but the minute it's unpalatable we fight against it for some reason," she was demoted to covering fluff like diet fads and Michael Jackson's kiddie rides, and there she wallowed in the professional backwater of tv tabloid stories.
The most ironic thing of all is that the bravest of these dissidents in the mainstream American television world aren't even American-Arnett is from New Zealand, while Banfield is Canadian-which might explain why they weren't spineless cowards. Real Americans, the ones born and raised in American culture, were the ones in the MSNBC room rolling their eyes as loudly and obviously as possible for as many people to see, tailing the Reuters reporter and making sure he noted that each one of them rolled their eyes and dismissed Banfield from the herd, so that they could all later tell Neal Shapiro, "That was me who rolled my eyes, Mr. Shapiro!": That's how American censorship works. That's how it's so effective.
Censoring Americans has a long history. If you really go far back-say, to the Cambrian period of the American attention span, or rather, to September, 2001-you might recall an attack on free speech that emanated directly from the White House.
Bill Maher used to host a show called "Politically Incorrect" on ABC. After 9/11, Maher made the point that the Al Qaeda hijackers could not be called "cowards" because they knew they were going to die, and cowards by definition don't want to die. He said that if you're going to call someone in war a coward, then certainly a guy who presses a cruise missile fire button from the safety of a ship thousands of miles from a war zone is a far more legitimate candidate for the coward epithet.