MSNBC host “uncomfortable” with calling fallen veterans “heroes”
Here’s how MSNBC honored Memorial Day, as the indispensible Media Research Center transcribes the Really Deep Thoughts of host Chris Hayes:
Thinking today and observing Memorial Day, that’ll be happening tomorrow. Just talked with Lt. Col. Steve Burke, who was a casualty officer with the Marines and had to tell people [inaudible]. Um, I, I, ah, [Steve] Beck, sorry, um, I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Um, and, ah, ah, why do I feel so comfortable [sic] about the word “hero”? I feel comfortable, ah, uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.
The first time I watched this clip, I didn’t realize he was correcting himself for getting the Marine officer’s name wrong. I thought he was saying “back,” as if he had just returned from a brief fugue state or out-of-body experience. I wondered if maybe the spirit of General George Patton had yanked him to the astral plane to beat some sense into him.
It’s especially nauseating to watch Hayes attempt to be “provocative” with all the intellectual courage and honesty of a nervous weasel. He was careful to throw in his “obvious” desire not to “desecrate or disrespect” anyone’s memory, and “obviously” granted an individual exemption for the “genuine, tremendous heroism” of soldiers who run into a “hail of gunfire” or perform rescues. Since this was a discussion of Memorial Day, which honors our fallen veterans, the “hail of gunfire” (or artillery shells, land mines, improvised explosive devices, and so forth) is pretty much a given.
But Hayes couldn’t even bring himself to offer undiluted respect for our fallen heroes, on the day we set aside for that very purpose. He had to qualify it by expressing his reservations that calling them “heroes” might provide rhetorical cover for warmongering, unless we limit our adoration to the troops who “perform rescues.” Considering how much our Oprahfied culture has diluted the term “hero,” it’s galling that the families of men and women whose conduct defines heroism have to watch some pinhead fidget and fret because the enthusiastic national commemoration of their sacrifice might cause political difficulty for the anti-war movement.
That’s what this is really all about: another tragic case of a lightweight talking head that spends entirely too much time wading in the fever swamps of far-left blogs, where fears of military heroism rubbing off on cowboy imperialist presidents (i.e. non-Democrats) are frequently expressed. Hayes was basically regurgitating crap he found floating in the left-wing gutters of the Internet. Certain websites are always buzzing with fears that flag-draped coffins are bullets, which the bloodthirsty political minions of War Incorporated can’t wait to load into their political guns. Those people are MSNBC’s tiny target audience, so Hayes decided to carry some of their stagnant water on the air.
VFW National Commander Richard DeNoyer nailed Hayes perfectly in his statement to Fox News: “Chris Hayes’ recent remarks on MSNBC regarding our fallen service members are reprehensible and disgusting. His words reflect his obvious disregard for the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have paid the ultimate price while defending our nation. His insipid statement is particularly callous because it comes at a time when our entire nation pauses to reflect and honor the memory of our nations’ fallen heroes.”
MSNBC apparently retains some tiny reservoir of self-respect. It’s not deep enough to keep them from apologizing for handing over their cameras to a crackpot Democrat operative so she can blame the Republican presidential candidates for killing Trayvon Martin, but it was enough to squeeze a written apology out of Chris Hayes on Monday night, after the network brass got to enjoy a day of feedback:
On Sunday, in discussing the uses of the word “hero” to describe those members of the armed forces who have given their lives, I don’t think I lived up to the standards of rigor, respect and empathy for those affected by the issues we discuss that I’ve set for myself. I am deeply sorry for that.
As many have rightly pointed out, it’s very easy for me, a TV host, to opine about the people who fight our wars, having never dodged a bullet or guarded a post or walked a mile in their boots. Of course, that is true of the overwhelming majority of our nation’s citizens as a whole. One of the points made during Sunday’s show was just how removed most Americans are from the wars we fight, how small a percentage of our population is asked to shoulder the entire burden and how easy it becomes to never read the names of those who are wounded and fight and die, to not ask questions about the direction of our strategy in Afghanistan, and to assuage our own collective guilt about this disconnect with a pro-forma ritual that we observe briefly before returning to our barbecues.
But in seeking to discuss the civilian-military divide and the social distance between those who fight and those who don’t, I ended up reinforcing it, conforming to a stereotype of a removed pundit whose views are not anchored in the very real and very wrenching experience of this long decade of war. And for that I am truly sorry.
If he really felt that way, he never would have expressed his reservations about the rhetorical proximity of America’s respect for our fallen heroes to political arguments he dislikes, and he wouldn’t have wrapped his silly “apology” in gobbledegook about “conforming to stereotypes,” after indulging in some entirely unjustified chest-thumping about his normally lofty standards.
The entire point of Memorial Day is for civilians to appreciate the men and women who sacrifice everything to defend our liberty. Military experience isn’t supposed to be necessary to develop this appreciation. Memorial Day is not only a time for those who have been “over there” to salute the brothers-in-arms who never came back. It is a time for all of us to render love and admiration for our heroes… a time for civilians to demonstrate their understanding of honor.
What use has any honorable American for an insipid “apology” in which Hayes makes himself out to be a helpless victim of the allegedly growing divide between the vast civilian population and our small, incredibly skilled and gallant military? If that divide is truly growing, it is a failure of civilian imagination, as Hayes so effectively demonstrated on the air. It’s no fault of the American heroes who died in Iraq and Afghanistan that their stories of their valor are not as well-known as World War II’s roll call of courage. That’s on us, back here in the civilian world, where Hollywood spent years cranking out garbage films useful primarily to the enemy. Instead, they should have been celebrating the deeds of 21st-century patriots who very much belong in the company of those who took Iwo Jima.
Considering the left-wing idiocy they tolerate on a daily basis, I doubt MSNBC will dump their embattled host. The name of his show is “Up With Chris Hayes.” Maybe they should just change the title, by substituting “Yours” for “With.”