A capsule summary of how our world has changed
MSNBC, whose web servers feel like they’re under heavy load today, is running retrospective stories like every other major news outlet. I was watching one of their slide shows this morning and was particularly struck by one portion of it.
MSNBC’s “A changed world” slideshow, in section 6, shows images of anti-war protestors shortly after 9/11. At that time, they were opposing military action against the Taliban. The caption for this portion of the slideshow reads:
Even though President Bush’s approval rating neared 90 percent for his handling of the response to terror, a small but vocal anti-war contingent hoped to see the conflict solved by other means.
If you click “play”, you get this voiceover:
Patriotism assumes many shapes. One of democracy’s defining qualities is its ability to accomodate different ideas, even during times of crisis. Nonviolent debate, if not encouraged, was at least allowed as some people began expressing their concerns about a military response.
Now, color me hyper-sensitive if you will, but I found this jarring. While showing images of peace activists, saying “patriotism assumes many shapes” sounds to me like “these people think they’re being patriotic. I guess it takes all kinds.”
Worse, what the heck is the sentence about “allowing” nonviolent debate supposed to mean? Why would nonviolent debate ever not be “allowed” in a free society? And who were these people “not encouraging” nonviolent debate? And by what right would they exert any authority over what debate can and cannot be held, in the first place?
I think MSNBC has unwittingly and discouragingly summarized our entire political climate since 9/11: dissent, although not yet actively suppressed, is “not encouraged”. In fact, things have gotten worse since the aftermath of 9/11, if you take the slideshow’s description as accurate: it’s no longer accepted that those holding different viewpoints may be genuine “patriots”. Dissent is now called out as the hallmark of traitors and criminals.