Very few Americans wake up early on weekend mornings to watch public intellectuals chat. For the tiny number who do, Up With Chris Hayes, a show hosted by Chris Hayes of The Nation, has distinguished itself for its unusual success bringing thoughtful, intellectually honest conversation to cable news. The show’s producers try to cover what they judge to be important, even when more trivial topics would result in higher ratings. During the panel portion of the show, the host and most guests actually grapple with fraught issues rather than shying away from them. Straw men, ad hominem attacks, and cheap point-scoring are exceptions* rather than the rule. Partisan hackery is discouraged. And Hayes tends to highlight rather than elide complicating facts and arguments that cut against his ideological instincts, preferring to interrogate his own views and to treat positions with which he disagrees fairly (something I’m attuned to because my politics are different enough from his that we’re often at odds).
Despite all this, Hayes is suddenly under fire for weekend remarks he made about heroism, war, and politics. Our public discourse is such that anyone can find him or herself viciously denounced by complete strangers based on a single sound-byte from which everyone extrapolates wildly. This controversy is worth highlighting because Hayes’ words and the reaction to them helps explain why so few broadcasters forthrightly discuss complicated, controversial subjects. Hayes subsequently issued an apology, but it’s his critics who’ve behaved badly.
An impassioned defense of Chris Hayes. We’ve read a few in the past day or so.