Of lapels and jingoism

Today, the mass media has decided to shoot off a series of stories about Barack Obama’s decision not to wear an American flag lapel pin during the campaign.  Apparently, during an interview with a reporter for Cedar Rapids’ KCRG-TV asked him why he wasn’t wearing one, to which Obama replied:

The truth is that right after 9/11 I had a pin.  Shortly after 9/11, particularly because as we’re talking about the Iraq war, that became a substitute for, I think, true patriotism, which is speaking out on issues that are of importance to our national security. I decided I won’t wear that pin on my chest.  Instead I’m going to try to tell the American people what I believe what will make this country great and hopefully that will be a testimony to my patriotism.

When I read this story I asked myself, “That’s news?”  It certainly seemed like a reasonable response from Obama, especially considering the level of “patriotism” that surrounded the Iraq War.

But, it appears that some outlets are making a big deal out of it.  On a whim unrelated to the lapel story, I visited the liberal-biased fact-checking website Media Matters, where one example of a discussion of the issue between pundits on Fox News was the third top story.  The pundit they chose to be anti-Obama was a guy named Mark Williams, whose first remarks were:

It uh, well first of all, Obama’s very different than those other names, in that Obama says he took his flag pin off after 9-11, and he felt, apparently, some sort of an affinity or some sort of a connection, because at that point he felt it OK to come out of the closet as the domestic insurgent he is.

For me, this was jaw dropping stupidity.  First, it ignored the facts, which was part of why Media Matters was taking it to task but it also carried the stench of jingoism with it.  Of course, the stench only grew stronger as the session went on:

He took it off after 9/11. He said that he felt that the flag was becoming something — it was becoming too noticeable, too high profile. He thought that people were wearing it in place of showing their patriotism. I mean, come on, what has Obama done to demonstrate the patriotism that he says doesn’t belong on his lapel? What’s he done to demonstrate that, except get out there, badmouth this country, and help demoralize the troops, and help do his part to undermine this nation?

This is a perfect example of jingoism, which conflates patriotism with a policy of belligerence abroad.  Obama, of course, has not “badmouthed” our country and doesn’t aim to demoralize the troops or undermine the nation.  In fact, he has been advocating a position that is more beneficial for the troops and the nation as a whole that the policy advocated by the Bush administration and apparently Mark Williams.

Media Matters has two other stories relating to media coverage of the lapel comment.  I was intrigued by the other Fox News pundit session where two pundits agreed that Obama was being unpatriotic to get votes with the anti-American left.  During that segment, they intermittently ran photos of Obama from when he was sworn into the Senate and did wear a lapel pin as an attempt to discredit him.

Typically, I never watch cable news because I think it’s too sensationalistic and geared more towards entertainment than information.   However, I never thought that the quality of content would be that low or so blatantly jingoistic, especially when the well-known motto of Fox News is “Fair and Balanced”.

Of course, Fox News wasn’t the only one to pick this story up or try to make it into a big election issue, which it should not be.  The New York Times wrote several pieces as did the Washington Post, most of the television networks, and a variety of other sources.  Basically, it was a disappointing day from the American media.


About Meng Bomin

Real name Benjamin Main, I am a graduate of Grinnell College with a degree in Biological Chemistry.
This entry was posted in Current events, Opinions, Politics. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Of lapels and jingoism

  1. Pingback: U.S. Common Sense » Blog Archive » Meng Bomin: “Of lapels and jingoism”

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