Right-Wing Political Correctness (Video)

MSNBC host Chris Hayes has been forced to apologize after a conservative media pile-on over comments deemed ‘insulting to the troops.’

The comments were made on his Sunday show, which had long segments about Memorial Day and featured US Marine Lt. Col. Steve Beck, who recounted his experience as a casualty assistance officer, and Mary Kirkland, whose son Army Specialist Derrick Kirkland was diagnosed with PTSD and took his own life at age 23. It also included a conservative commentator, BusinessInsider.com editor Michael Brendan Dougherty.

The show also unearthed that Memorial Day was created by slaves and first held in Charleston in 1865. It also named some of the civilians killed in Afghanistan.

In a segment about the meaning of heroism and valor, Hayes said:

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.” Why do I feel so [uncomfortable] about the word “hero”? I feel comfortable — 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.

Part of the context for this, discussed on Hayes’ show before, is how America calls returning service people ‘heroes’ — then cuts services for them or denies them an education or, in some cases, citizenship.

Here’s the context of the show segment:

Conservative media went haywire, calling Hayes “a parasite taking sustenance from the exertions of better men and women,” “the human embodiment” of the word “effete.”

Ann Coulter tweeted:

Chris Hayes ‘Uncomfortable’ Calling Fallen Military ‘Heroes’ — Marines respond by protecting his right to menstruate.

But not to the First Amendment and certainly not to discuss a difficult subject?

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) finally chipped in; “reprehensible and disgusting,” they told FoxNews. So by Monday, Hayes made this statement:

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.

Ed Kilgore at Washington Monthly writes that a veterans group should know better:

I guess the VFW doesn’t do nuance, and is “fair and balanced” only in the sense of Fox News.

The VFW might have expressed a few words of dismay at the regular exploitation of fallen soldiers by conservative pols and garden-variety militarists who want to borrow some of that heroism to grind their many axes, often at the expense of present and future men and women in uniform. That is part, of course, of what Chris Hayes was talking about in expressing his ambiguity about the term “heroes.”

Writes John Cole, a former soldier, at Balloon Juice:

[As] Tennyson, Galloway and Moore, and others note, we’ve been making heroes for hundreds of years. It takes nothing to go along with that status quo. It takes balls to stand up and say “Make it stop. No more heroes.”

Taylor Marsh slammed “the usual suspects, who want to preen they support the U.S. Constitution, but won’t allow any discussion about war and peace that might land in an uncomfortable arena.”

We can no longer disagree with one another, with the right proving their political correctness is as vicious a scourge as anything on the left.

There are many individuals who want to work on backing our country away from “justifications for more war,” with these people having every right to say so in a discussion forum on cable, without fearing reprisal or being threatened with the loss of their job, or humiliated for expressing an opinion on the way to fostering debate.

· Read more about the treatment of 21-year-old “hero” Army Spc. Derrick Kirkland.

Related stories:

Memorial Day 2012 – Will You Remember Them Tomorrow?

Please Don’t Say Happy Memorial Day

Veterans and the Truth

Photo credit: MSNBC screengrab


Terri E.
Terri E.5 years ago

Sorry, but I for one am also very uncomfortable naming all active duty service people heroes. Not because I don't believe that ANYONE who serves honorably, whether in combat or not, isn't a true hero. Anyone who volunteers for duty and serves honorably is welcome to the title. However, as long as there are American Service people desecrating enemy bodies, or religious texts, or displaying hate flags, or speech, or willfully killing civilians, I cannot in good conscience call every one of them a hero!
I also agree with Chris, that designating anything, and anybody connected to pointless wars automatically heroic is wrong - and cheapens the title for the truly deserving.

Robert H.
Robert Hamm5 years ago

George B nailed it. Most of us former soldiers do not consider ourselves heroes. Most highly decorated people don't consider themselves one. The word hero has been cheapened. I know soldiers that got purple hearts for falling down the stairs in a drill. Most soldiers do what they do for their fellow soldiers. They don't want to lose their teammates or even friends.

WE glorify war far too much in this country. The military industrial complex makes sure we continue.

Barry D.
Barry D5 years ago

Chris Hayes was totally repectful while questioning unchallenged obedience in the military. Mr. Hayes had no reason to appologize for his thoughtful and honest comments.

Don H.
Don H5 years ago

Why are we at war with other nations when the American far right is destroying this nation right here?

Ken W.
Ken W5 years ago

Chris Hayes your top dog in my book and I`m with you all the way !!

George Boggs
George Boggs5 years ago

Chris asked a good question. What do you consider a Hero? Everyone has an opinion. Just doing your job ? Or an act of valor ? Ask any military man and he will tell you a Hero has done something over and above just serving in the armed forces. I am a decorated ex service member with over 30 yrs service. There is a meaning to the word Hero, and the over use of it demeans the definition. That is what Chris is saying. You do what you are trained to do and are put in a position where Duty, Honor and Country becomes paramount and personal regard is not even considered. I do not know of anyone who sets out to be a Hero, they hope they will react in a manner which demonstrates courage over and above the call of duty. Sometimes the person just reacts to situation, that is a Hero. The news people live by hype and will never know the true meaning of the word.

Charlotte A.
Charlotte A5 years ago

I think Chris Hayes was so honest saying he was uncomfortable talking about heroism. He did express himself uncomfortably. I have watched him many times. He is one of the most articulate young journalists on TV. However, I think his apology was elegant. I don't think he gave it for any other reason than to let the familiesof the fallen veterans, veterans and service men & women know that he didn't mean insult to them. Those of us who believe in peace don't try to provoke anyone.

Chris Cole
Chris C5 years ago

Chris Hayes is right! We need to support our fallen and injured and current heroes but we also need to STOP creating more of them. We can't even hope to understand what war is really like until we've served, until we've walked a mile in the boots of our soldiers...or until we've watched our own family leave to go to war! We sit on the sidelines and listen to stories and watch videos etc but we're still too far removed from the actual reality of war and we MUST have the guts to stand up and say "NO MORE WAR!"

Fred Urbasek
Past Member 5 years ago

Bring back the DRAFT and make every man and woman a HERO or CANNONFODDER.

Robert Ludwig
Robert Ludwig5 years ago

If we cannot question the justification for war, then wars will continue unabated. It is not an insult to those who served to question the motives behind those who ordered them to go to war.

The justification for going into Iraq was a pack of lies. The men who fought did not lie. The men who ordered them to die did.

The justification for going into Afghanistan was to kill or capture bin Laden and break up Al Qaeda in that region. Bin Laden is dead and Al Qaeda has moved - job done, come on home, it's Miller time. Any one who has the idea that we can create a Jeffersonian democracy in Afghanistan at the point of the business end of an M16 needs to disabuse themselves of that illusion now. It will not work. In the history of warfare, it has never worked. Sun Tzu and Machiavelli both pointed out that this is the least effective way to create an ally in an area - quite the contrary, it creates entrenched enemies.

As long was we allow a few small minds to force the false connection of the talk about the justification, efficacy, and continuance of war to the valor and heroism of the troops that fight our wars, we will continue to fall blindly into these expensive traps - expensive both in terms of the monetary cost and especially the cost in lives.