Ordinarily we would not bother with a rebuttal to the television program called “The Newsroom,” if only because we never watch it and were only vaguely aware of its existence, but after hearing a brief clip from the first episode played on a local radio show we felt compelled to offer a response. Not because the anti-American views expressed in the clip are so extraordinarily offensive, but rather because they are so infuriatingly commonplace.
The clip portrays the show’s hero, a cable news reader played by Jeff Daniels of “Dumb and Dumber” fame, appearing on a panel at some sort of symposium where a young woman asks him why America is the greatest country in the world. After rudely dismissing the young woman as a “sorority girl,” the news reader goes on an obscenity-laden rant about how America isn’t “so star-spangled awesome.” He scoffs at the notion that America is great because it has freedom, saying that Canada, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and most other countries have freedom, then reels off a series of seemingly damning statistics about literacy, educational rankings, child mortality rates and such, then cites the number of prisoners and people who believe in angels as well as the size of the defense budget to suggest that America isn’t even a very good country. With his audience humbled into the awed silence that always follows a televised liberal rant, he goes on to recall a bygone era of American greatness when “we waged wars on poverty and not on poor people,” “we built great big things,” “we explored the universe,” “we aspired to intelligence, didn’t belittle it,” and “we didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election.” That past greatness, he explains, occurred “because we were informed by great men, great men who were revered.”
Given the swelling soundtrack, the complete lack of irony in the smugness of Daniels’ delivery, and the fact that the show is produced by former “West Wing” creator and archetypal Hollywood lefty Aaron Sorkin, we assume that the rant is intended to express the show’s point of view. Although the scene is permeated with the usual air of self-congratulation for being so bold in speaking such shocking truth to power, the rant also expresses a point of view that is not just commonplace and respectable but also quite fashionable among the cultural elites.
One hardly knows where to begin pointing out all the nonsense. The notion that freedom is the prevailing condition of mankind is self-evidently absurd, and even the rare exceptions to the rule named in the show’s rant are free to a lesser extent than Americans have been accustomed to expect. Each of the countries mentioned restrict free speech in the name of human rights, have done away with the right to bear arms altogether and the right to self-defense to an alarming extent, and they’ve long restricted economic freedom in ways that account for their relatively poor economies.
Most of the statistics that are rapidly reeled off are either false, misleading, or meaningless. Does the show really expect Americans to believe that there are 177 countries that provide better maternity care? That the country that has been at the forefront of most of the scientific and technological breakthroughs of the past decades is 27th in math? That third in median household income is a disgrace? The claim regarding the number of prisoners is perhaps true, although one wonders if the self-righteous news reader would prefer to have more criminals on the streets, but the claim about people believing in angels seems suspicious and not at all worrisome.
The angst-ridden nostalgia portion of the speech is also bunk. Anyone still longing for the days of the War on the Poverty simply cannot recall its disastrous consequences, and misunderstands why the country doesn’t seem to be doing “great big things” anymore. Somehow people such as the writers of “The Newsroom” can look back at a time when America was more religious, more capitalistic, and less governed, note the subsequent decline and conclude that the problem is those crazy Jesus nuts with their money-grubbing economics and that the solution is more government.
— Bud Norman