In a column for the new, even more boring Newsweek, Slate editor Jacob Weisberg claims that Fox News "stands to become the first network to actively try to kill its viewers" by spreading lies about vaccines (HBO and the Huffington Post, he should be aware, are also trying to kill their constituents) and is "un-American" for adopting the "Australian-British-continental model of politicized media." This is an odd claim, considering Murdoch's other cable news channel, Sky News in the UK, in no way resembles the abrasive partisanship of Fox News. One easily could make the case that aggro, hyperpartisan cable news—which is an extension of talk radio, not The Sun and the News of the World—is a distinctly American approach to political discourse. Weisberg might not like it (I certainly don't), but Fox's ratings do count for something. (And yeah, it is also odd for Weisberg to denounce Fox's shrill tone while accusing them of trying to kill people because they hate America.)
Sure, says Weisberg, MSNBC and CNN are attempting to boost ratings by copying the Fox model, but the blame ultimately lies with Murdoch who "provoked his rivals at CNN and MSNBC to develop a variety of populist and ideological takes on the news." So if Rachel Maddow calls Americans for Prosperity's Tim Phillips a "parasite," if Olbermann calls anyone to his right a "fascist," you know who to blame. And it's downright bizarre to claim that, prior to the advent of Fox News, American media had a "tradition of independence—that it serves the public interest rather than those of parties, persuasions, or pressure groups."
There are plenty of problems with Weisberg's argument, but, as many others have pointed out, there is something peculiarly disconcerting about liberals, who frequently reminded us that dissent is the "highest form of patriotism," getting in to the un-American, unpatriotic game. I took a quick (and by no means comprehensive) look in Nexis and found the following recent examples of lefty jingoism:
Bill Press, syndicated columnist and former CNN host: "There's only one thing left: to rename the party for what it really stands for. It's no longer the Republican Party; it's the Hate America Party."
Eugene Robinson, Washington Post columnist: "Why, oh why, do conservatives hate America so?…As Republican leaders —except RNC Chairman Michael Steele—are beginning to realize, "I'm With the Taliban Against America" is not likely to be a winning slogan."
CNN Headline News host Joy Behar: Guest Richard Belzer: "We see, you know, they`re cheering when we don`t get the Olympics and—and demeaning the Nobel Prize…Joy Behar: Right, which is so un-American.
MSNBC's host Ed Schultz: "This attack on President Obama trying to get the Olympics is about the most un-American thing I think I've ever seen."
Radio host Cynthia Hardy on MSNBC's Hardball: "So [with the case of Rep. Joe Wilson] what you get is this blatant disregard for the office of the presidency, which is extremely un-American."
MSNBC's host Ed Schultz: "Rush must have been popping a few too many pills that particular day. Turning a hopeful message about the resiliency of Americans into a partisan attack. That's un-American 'Psycho Talk,' which is par for the course."
Blogger Steve Clemons, appearing on MSNBC: "Jesse Helms of North Carolina was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. And many of these folks that have come into their own today, particularly in the Bush administration, were essentially tutored by Helms to bring, you know, somewhat of a 'Fortress America' attitude to the comments, which are, I think, quite unpatriotic."
CNN Headline News host Joy Behar: "Now why don`t you figure that this is a little unpatriotic for [Palin] to go to Hong Kong and badmouth the president of the United States? At the very least it's disrespectful."
Newsweek's Jonathan Alter, appearing on MSNBC: "But they're trying to delegitimize him in any way they can, be as disrespectful, not just to him but to the office as they can. And to my mind, to be actually, what I would call unpatriotic in their approach."
MSNBC host Keith Olbermann: "How are Democrats, anything but at best—I`ll use this combination—irresponsible at worst, unpatriotic for giving that party more say than utterly necessary than what they have already in many amendments of this bill in health care reform."