Chris Hayes has gotten more attention in the past 24 hours than he has throughout his run at MSNBC. Hayes decided to share his thoughts on the Memorial Day holiday. Here’s the video:
Here’s an exact transcript of the above.
Thinking today and observing Memorial Day, that’ll be happening tomorrow. Just talked with Lt. Col. Steve Burke, who was a casualty officer with the Marines and had to tell people [inaudible]. Um, I, I, ah, [Steve] Beck, sorry, um, I think it’s interesting because I think it is very difficult to talk about the war dead and the fallen without invoking valor, without invoking the words “heroes.” Um, and, ah, ah, why do I feel so comfortable [sic] about the word “hero”? I feel comfortable, ah, uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism: hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.
I’ve chosen this because it underlines what I wanted to write about. Sure the substance is awful enough, but the manner in which it is delivered is so pathetic that it just cries out for mockery.
First of all, Hayes is a supposedly professional journalist. In other words, the man is paid to go on television and express his opinions. You would think that he’d be able to spit out what he wanted to say without a million “umms” and “ahhhs.” We all have these little ticks in our speech, but we’re also not paid to speak on television. The delivery is so awkward that it almost defies belief that such a poor public speaker could have his own show, even if it is on a network seen by a small handful of people everyday.
Second, if you get through all the stammering, Hayes says absolutely nothing. Oh he gets the point across that he is “uncomfortable” calling fallen soldiers heroes, but he does so in an agonizingly muddled fashion. Look at this sentence:
I feel comfortable, ah, uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war.
I realize that you can’t edit speech in the same way you can edit writing, but there are several ways to phrase the above sentiment in order to get your point across more clearly and concisely. This part is even worse:
But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.
What a completely gutless way to express your opinion. Hayes has already set himself up for controversy, so why not just come out and say what he feels? What is with the passive voice and the fear of outright condemnation of the practice of calling soldiers heroes? This isn’t nuance, it’s a pathetic attempt to make a ridiculous proposition sound reasonable.
This is a style of argumentation that drives me bonkers, and I see it on blogs (especially Catholic blogs) all the time. It’s a passive-aggressive style in which the writer – or in this case speaker – cannot make his point of view known in a straightforward manner. He feels the need to throw in some qualifiers, stammer out his uneasiness about expressing this opinion, and then makes an awful attempt to kind of, sort of backtrack but not really. It truly is a cowardly way to argue, as it allows the speaker (or writer) just enough wiggle room to somewhat plausibly deny that he really meant what everyone interpreted his comments to mean. If you have an opinion, just express it. The passive-aggressive style impresses nobody.
Finally, and I recognize that a few of you will tsk tsk at me saying this, but it has to be asked. Why do so many young male progressives sound like valley girls? Hayes is actually not as bad as a lot of other young lefties, though there’s a bit of that affectation in his voice. It’s that rising inflection at the end of declarative sentences uttered in a tone that makes it sound like they just came from a slumber party where everybody painted their toenails. I believe that Rush Limbaugh has called this set the “new castrati,” and I happen to think it’s a good fit. Yes it’s superficial and petty, but I happen to think it’s also kind of funny.