CHICAGO, May 29, 2012 — On Sunday, while people were getting ready to celebrate Memorial Day and other media outlets were remembering and lauding the military, MSNBC host Chris Hayes created a firestorm. He disparaged military personnel who died for their country. He stated he felt “uncomfortable” calling those who died in combat “heroes.”
Who does he feel comfortable calling heroes?
Chris Hayes hosts “UP with Chris Hayes”. He should change the name of the show to “Up Yours with Chris Hayes”.
Any normal American would be appalled by what he said, especially since he said it on Memorial Day weekend, a time we remember and express gratitude for the sacrifice of our military personnel. Talk about insensitivity.
Most people in the media, the talking television bobble heads and the suits in the executive suites, are not normal.
We could debate the appropriateness, insensitivity, and timing of the comments. We could use inflammatory rhetoric to condemn Hayes. It would all be a waste of time. Hayes said what he meant, meant what he said, and timed it for that day. This was no spontaneous statement.
Whether we agree or disagree with Chris Hayes is irrelevant. He had every right to express his views. This is America. Like all of us, Hayes has the unalienable and unmitigated right to say whatever he wants. We have the same rights to denigrate, disagree, and disparage him.
Freedom of speech allows each and everyone of us to express what we really feel and believe. If Hayes believes that dead soldiers are not heroes, he is entitled to that. He is entitled to express those beliefs. He can even use Memorial Day to spread his beliefs. Hayes can even get paid a high salary to express his feelings.
The MSNBC executives felt the heat from the only people that matter, the consuming public. Chris Hayes issued a kind-of sort-of written apology on his website. It made as little sense as the insult he threw out to our heroic troops. Like a coward he tried to walk it back. His apology was as meaningless as his original statement was meaningful.
Chris Hayes and the suits know one thing. In the 24/7 hyper-speed news cycle, his meaningful statements and meaningless apology will soon be forgotten. No harm no foul.
In both cases, the insult and the apology, Hayes could not resist the urge to impress with his vocabulary. Extensive vocabulary does not stop people from saying stupid things.
Hayes is an unabashed liberal working for a liberal news outlet. Chris Hayes was speaking “truth to power,” as he sees it. He knew exactly what he was saying, why he was saying it, and may have even rehearsed it a few times.
He can blather about standards of rigor or objectivity he set for himself all he wants. He is what he is. He believes what he believes. He is not “truly sorry.”
The apology is weasel words.
What Hayes said in front of millions of people was stupid and insensitive. People have a right to be stupid and insensitive. However, people should be held accountable for their stupidity. Media personalities are not held to rigorous standards unless they plagiarize or commit other journalistic sins, like making up stories. Only then are they are held accountable, fired, and usually have a tough time finding work.
Look how long Keith Olbermann lasted.
When they express truly stupid, hurtful things they get to apologize and move on. There is no accountability for celebrities. What does this tell us? The television news business is not journalism. It is entertainment, just like World Wide Wrestling.
People like Chris Hayes are dancing bears and prancing poodles. They are there for amusement. Their only value is entertaining the masses. If they insult people they get to say oops, so sorry, now let’s move on. “Move on” is liberalspeak for there is no there there.
Chris Hayes is not the first and will not be the last person to say stupid things on the air. Stupidity is not confined to liberals, or progressives. Conservative pundits say and write stupid things too. Unlike Hayes, they do not hide behind some nonsensical rigorous standard of objectivity. They are conservative. Their apologies are just as meaningless, but they do not hide who or what they are.
It is unfortunate that Hayes will get away with insulting military personnel who were killed in action, and their families, during the time we honor them. It is unfortunate his apology is expected to be taken seriously. It is unfortunate he will be allowed to say stupid things on the air again.
“Stupid is as stupid does.”
Disclaimer: I fully support anyone’s right, even television talking bobbleheads, to say or express anything they want, no matter how dumb, stupid, or insensitive. I will vigorously defend their right to be dumb, insensitive, and stupid. I don’t have to like it. I do get to criticize it.
Peter V. Bella is a retired Chicago Police Officer, freelance journalist and photojournalist, cook, and raconteur. He likes to be the irreverent sharp stick that pokes, prods, and annoys. His opinions are his and his alone. Mr. Bella is a member of the National Press Photographers Association and the Society for Professional Journalists.
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