Friday, May 01, 2009

Does Fox News hate America?

From President Jimmy Carter's Farewell Adress

One of those constructive forces is enhancement of individual human freedoms through the strengthening of democracy, and the fight against deprivation, torture, terrorism and the persecution of people throughout the world. The struggle for human rights overrides all differences of color, nation or language.

Those who hunger for freedom, who thirst for human dignity, and who suffer for the sake of justice -- they are the patriots of this cause.

I believe with all my heart that America must always stand for these basic human rights -- at home and abroad. That is both our history and our destiny.

America did not invent human rights. In a very real sense, it is the other way round. Human rights invented America.

Ours was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded explicitly on such an idea. Our social and political progress has been based on one fundamental principle -- the value and importance of the individual. The fundamental force that unites us is not kinship or place of origin or religious preference. The love of liberty is a common blood that flows in our American veins.
I quoted this so as to provide a context for the following personal belief: in a very real sense, human rights invented America, and to the extent that we fail to respect human rights, we fail to be America.

Ok, that's my vision of patriotism. It's the patriotism of Thomas Paine. The patriotism of Senator Carl Schurz

“I confidently trust that the American people will prove themselves … too wise not to detect the false pride or the dangerous ambitions or the selfish schemes which so often hide themselves under that deceptive cry of mock patriotism: ‘Our country, right or wrong!’ They will not fail to recognize that our dignity, our free institutions and the peace and welfare of this and coming generations of Americans will be secure only as we cling to the watchword of true patriotism: ‘Our country—when right to be kept right; when wrong to be put right.’”
That's why I believe when the ACLU compels the Pentagon to release evidence of widespread prisoner abuse that organization is doing its patriotic duty. It is exposing a wrong that can now be set right.

Fox News, apparently, has a different view of "patriotism." Its is not patriotism, but nationalistic mock patriotism, in which the network's outrage is directed not at those who betray American laws and values, but those who expose it.

Despite their claim to "believe in the United States of America and its ideals, as expressed in the Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation," and a supposed commitment "to the core principles of tolerance, open debate, civil discourse," The Fox Nation seems awfully antagonistic to the ACLU, an organization dedicated to being guardians of American liberties. In fact, other than MoveOn.Org, I can't think of another organization that FOX News is more antagonistic toward. But a recent headline on Fox Nation is especially troubling. Not content to just disagree over the interpretation of the Constitution, those "patriots" at FOX "ask," Does the ACLU Hate America? If nothing else, it's a headline designed to inflame rather than stimulate tolerant, civil discourse about our Bill of Rights. Inflammatory rhetoric is exactly what they got in their comments.

The Fox Nation post doesn't even mention the ACLU, much less give a clue why we might think it hates America. Instead, there's a quick paragraph about the Department of Defense planning to make public photos of detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. (Why do I have a sneaking suspicion that FOX wanted to ask if the Obama administration hates America and toned it down to question the ACLU instead?) You have to click through to the full article to learn that the release is the result of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit from the ACLU.
Which is why I ask: does Fox News hate America? Does it hate the idea of universal human rights and the rule of law? Why is it more interested in demonizing the ACLU than holding accountable those who break our laws and make a mockery of the values upon which the legitimacy of our nation is grounded. Is Fox News incapable of understanding that an assault on the rights of others is an assault on the rights of ourselves?

If you click through that link and follow through to the Fox Nation article (a new version of IE is making it more troublesome for me to copy and paste the links when quoting) you'll see some of the "patriotism" that Fox inspires. Calls for disbanding or lynching the ACLU which "only protects gays and atheists" and "has been trying to destroy the moral fabric and traditional values of this country for years."

I previously expressed my disgust with this jingoistic pseudo-patriotism

"There is much I could say about America. There really is such a thing as freedom here and a strong feeling among many people that one cannot live without freedom. The republic is not a vapid illusion, and the fact that there is no national state and no truly national tradition creates an atmosphere of freedom or at least one not pervaded by fanatacism ... Then, too, people here feel themselves responsible for public life to an extent that I have never seen in any European country. For example, when all Americans of Japanese descent were locked up willy-nilly in concentration camps at the beginning of the war, a genuine storm of protest that can still be felt today went through the country. I was visiting with an American family in New England at the time. They were thoroughly average people - what would have been called 'petty bourgeouisie' in Germany - and they had, I'm sure, never laid eyes on a Japanese in their lives. As I later learned, they and many of their friends wrote immediately and spontaneously to their congressmen, insisted on the constitutional rights of all Americans regardless of national background, and declared that if something like that could happen, they no longer felt safe themselves (these people were of Anglo-Saxon background, and their families had been in this country for generations), etc." - Hannah Arendt, from a letter to Karl Jaspers, Jan. 29, 1946

Hannah Arendt came to the US after having fled Nazi Germany in 1933, fearing the persecution from the Nazis that would soon follow.

I find it very moving to consider that upon writing back to her mentor and friend Karl Jaspers, that she gave as an example of what is good about America individuals protesting the internment of Japanese-Americans. Those Americans who spoke out, who said to the government unequivocally, "what you are doing is wrong" are the ones that make me proud to be an American. I imagine those protesters Arendt spoke of wrote those letters of protest, not because they hated America, not because they wanted to undermine the war effort, not because they wanted Japan to defeat the United States, but because they loved America, and did not like what was being done in its name. They spoke out because they believed what was happening was wrong, and that it was their civic duty to say so. It took courage to speak out against these actions in a nation swept up by anti-Japanese sentiment, but looking back, we see that these brave Americans deserve our thanks for preserving the good name of America, and for defending the principles that we hold dear.

If you are starting to suspect a point to this then you are correct. Today when we speak out about some injustice or wrong that we feel has been committed by the government we are accused of hating America. We are accused of being traitors or are told we are guilty of treason. We are accused of undermining the war effort. But we do not hate America. Patriotism is not now, nor never have been, blind allegiance to people or policy. Patriotism is loyalty to an ideal - to principle. And when we feel that our ideals or principles have been betrayed, it is our civic duty to speak out in defense of them. We speak out to preserve what we feel is great. We speak out because of what we love about our country, not out of hate.

Those who seek to silence their fellow Americans, deport them, or kill them - that call us seditious for speaking the conviction of our conscience, are the ones I would argue who hate America. They hate America because they betray the principles that this country stands for. Their patriotism is a false allegiance. Their courage is a coward's courage. They are but "a mere shadow and reminiscence of humanity."

So when our country kidnaps and tortures people and then asserts the right to do so, speaking out against it is not hating America. When we see the fundamental values of this nation being assaulted, when we see our moral authority slipping away, hating America is not speaking out. Hating America is remaining silent. Hating America is defending and excusing such actions.


Anonymous said...

Fox News doesn't hate America. Its just completely indifferent to it. On the other hand, it loves the greenbacks.

Really, all Fox News is a source of entertainment. It is best viewed as reality TV, of the survivor/Dancing with the Stars type. Except with the whole world as its source, it can cherry pick (although now it has to resort to cherry picking and distorting) the "news" it wants.

Also, Fox News is about building a loyal following whose advertisers will pay for. The best way of doing this, as you noticed in an earlier post on AM radio, is to build a hatred for an "another". That is exactly what they are doing here.

Eventually, though, its all about fattening Rupert Murdoch's wallet even more.

Anonymous said...

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