I haven’t fully weighed in on Chris Hayes’ segment from Sunday about the use of concepts like heroism and valor when discussing the US military, and I’m not sure I have to. Conor Friedersdorf, a conservative, says most of what needs to be said here. This is a pretty simple case of cable news being completely unequipped to provide anything but an acceptable range of consensus opinions, and when anyone steps even lightly outside of that range, they must feel the wrath. You cannot have any conversation with any nuance on cable news, and Hayes, who is striving for nuance on his program – nowhere else on television do you even see a conversation about our broken criminal justice system, to pick just one example – found that out. I could scarcely imagine the freak-out if Hayes backed up his remarks by reading his 2006 column about the deification of the World War II “Greatest Generation” live on the air, on Tom Brokaw’s home network.
And this brings up the point I’ll make in this post. Hayes claims that he was not coerced or told by anyone at MSNBC to make this statement of contrition on Monday. But regardless of that, NBC made it extremely clear where they stood on the matter, and it wasn’t behind their employee. The Today Show ran a segment this morning on Hayes’ comments, with NBC employees as the commentators, and they universally bashed Hayes, in sometimes personal terms, for his comments, showing a real ignorance about those comments.
During a panel on Tuesday’s NBC Today, liberal pundits Star Jones, Donny Deutsch and Nancy Snyderman condemned left-wing MSNBC host Chris Hayes for suggesting fallen U.S. troops are not heroes. Deutsch was the strongest in denouncing Hayes: “I hope that he doesn’t get more viewers as a result of this…this guy is like a – if you’ve seen him…he looks like a weenie.”
Jones was clearly appalled by the offensive comments: “…the person that he [Hayes] was talking to was the officer whose job it was to call the families of fallen soldiers. Could you be more inappropriate on Memorial Day?” Snyderman voiced her disgust as well: “To criticize the young men and women who put themselves in harm’s way to protect us and then cheapen it…”
Co-host Matt Lauer actually attempted to defend Hayes: “I’m not sure he was criticizing those young men and women. He was just saying that the word is overused.” The panelists would have none of it. Snyderman declared: “But he’s wrong….Because you know what? The four of us aren’t fighting those wars. So these people are heroes to me.” Jones added: “When it’s a dead soldier, it’s not overused.”
After Lauer quoted Hayes’s apology for the remarks, Snyderman responded: “Where was that eloquence on the front hand?” Jones reiterated: “You don’t say this on Memorial Day.”
Hayes didn’t criticize troops, he merely made a point about how glorifying them without constraint has an impact on future calls for war. Lauer tried to get at that but to no avail.
The important thing here was not Nancy Snyderman or (Lord help us) Star Jones’ opinion on Chris Hayes and his views on valor and the US military, it’s that NBC scheduled this segment at all. As Inside Cable News writes:
Snydermann is an NBC News employee. Deutsch is an NBC brass favorite. And they just threw one of their own under the bus. Today staffers had to have known, or at the very least guessed, that the segment would go in this direction. Was this a subtle signal from NBC trying to distance itself from Hayes?
One could make that argument. If NBC didn’t want this issue addressed the word would have come down from the execs to Today EP Jim Bell and the word would have been “hands off”.
I’m sure that the Today Show, which is far more widely watched than a public affairs program on Sunday morning on a cable news network, got a pat on the back from the brass on that one. They know precisely how much they have riding on a consensus view of military heroism. The forces that promote and support imperialism – and here I’m talking about military contractors who make ad buys on networks like NBC – have no trouble with using the word “hero” to describe soldiers, and furthermore they know exactly what that terminology does psychologically and what it benefits.
You don’t step out of that ring-fenced set of views on corporate-run media. You don’t meddle with the primal forces of nature, as it were.