This article originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
By Michael Meyers
I don’t agree with anything that Pat Buchanan writes or says about race and eugenics — his views on immigration, integration, and politics are worse than extremist, and far harsher than bizarre. And I especially take exception to his latest book Suicide of A Superpower – another anti-Semitic, pro-white screed that takes a good swipe at the browning of America — which he regards as a peril to the survival of American democracy and freedoms as we have known them. Still, I take strong exception to MSNBC’s suspending and removing Pat Buchanan from his perch as on-air paid pundit, simply because he wrote another book with the same old song about the threat of people of color and immigration to American exceptional-ism.
My first question is why did MSNBC hire Buchanan as a commentator, knowing his reputation as a pugilist against political correctness and as a spokesman for the last angry white men in America?
MSNBC must have been thinking of pandering to — ahem, capturing some of that vast right-wing audience that has raised fortunes and profiles of their rival cable TV network — Fox News. MSNBC knew everything about Pat Buchanan — his views have changed a whit, but with the recent publication of what some decry as a “racist” book, MSNBC is being pressured to take off the air their house “racist.”
Racists, of course, come in many sizes, shapes and colors — and political stripes; and there are more than a few liberal racists that make their way into paid TV gigs and on radio, too. So, why is Buchanan the only contrarian with foolish rants singled out for retribution, for banishment from the airwaves? Answer: Once again the pressure groups of the left — which is MSNBC’s constituency and market share — are flexing their political and oral muscles and demanding that MSNBC fire Buchanan. Some of my best friends are among the protesters — gays, blacks, browns and immigrants, says Buchanan, who are trying to throw him off MSNBC permanently. According to Buchanan these “civil rights” groups also want to “deny [me] speeches,” and other gigs, and to have his newspaper column cancelled, too. Wow, that’s a whole lot of censorship being sought by groups whose own livelihoods and well-being depend on free speech guarantees.
Secondly, I know, this is not a legal issue — in the strictest sense. A private, for profit media network is within its rights to make a “marketplace” decision about this awfully offensive and smug on-air personality. But for me this is still an issue of censorship, albeit not by government. My friends on the left miss the point and the social impact of any kind of censorship imposed on mavericks and offensive speakers — especially when the pressure groups seek to punish the speaker for simply publishing his odious, ignorant ideas in a book — which their boisterous protests call more attention to than if they had just let it go. Even media-imposed censorship is to me a blow to freedom — and to minority interests. Think about it — minorities’ opinions are often offensive to and disfavored by the majority that seeks protection from being discomforted and the din of what they always regard as the loud and errant noise of protesters.
Should we encourage MSNBC and other networks to get rid of the few blacks and browns and gays and “others” who make it onto mainstream TV simply because the phones start ringing from the hardly moral majority? I don’t think so.
To me, Pat Buchanan’s errant nonsense warrants rebuttal — and that’s all. Not banishment of his person, not the silencing of his voice on TV or radio, and not the banning or burning of his books.
What are we on the left afraid of? If Pat Buchanan and his idiocy are a sampling of the right-wing’s best and brightest, bring them on! Let them speak!
In some ways, this is also a phony controversy, because everyone knows that MSNBC is the opposite in ideology to Buchanan’s. On any day and on any program his voice would be countered if not overcome by the liberalism of the anchors and most guests and co-panelists on the MSNBC network. Some of those liberals are pretty heavy hitters. So, let Buchanan keep faith with his credos; he will draw few kudos from that or any other media platform given him. That is because America ain’t what it used to be, and no matter how much Buchanan belly-aches we’re going forward not backwards with the making of history and with carving out further progress on race relations here. America is not already sufficiently brown and black and yellow and progressive white, it is more than ever tolerant and beneficent and noble. We hate hate in America now; that is not what it was before many of us turned this country forward instead of backwards.
MSNBC need not be a Nervous Nelly or afraid to bring back Pat Buchanan. Our nation’s strength and courage and forward march is symbolized by its first African-American President not by this discordant voice from America of yesteryear.
Buchanan’s verbal attacks on America’s diversity are laughable and ignorant; his poking the blame finger at minorities for changing America is just old-fashioned gibberish. We have changed America, for the better, right alongside our white and conservative allies, who don’t see eye-to-eye with Buchanan’s brand of conservative values. What we liberals and conservatives should seek and want to protect is diversity of opinion, and allowing all voices to bloom and be heard in the marketplace of ideas. Let us debate with and answer the Pat Buchanans, not drum them off the stage or heckle their public speeches. I, for one, want to hear what they have to say. I and others have the intellectual power to devastate the arguments of those who pine for either a return to a segregated or Old World America. In new America, even racist speech should be heard; its lost its sting because it does not carry with it even an ounce of truth.
The lesson we should teach MSNBC is to be more inclusionary and more diverse with their on-air pundits, including diversity of opinion — but don’t urge them to toss under the bus, at the first outcry from protesters, the TV pundit or personality who disagree with them How would a liberal like me, for example, ever get on the air to criticize President Obama for his having signed, for example, the Preventive Detention of Americans Act; or to lampoon him for having taken too damn long to end the military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, and to close Gitmo? What goes around eventually comes around — that’s how censorship works. And when the worm turns it could turn against us, we who so often disagree with the majority viewpoint and with the market share audience that tires so readily of hearing us bellyache. That is why I also, a few years back, sided with Don Imus when MSNBC cancelled his show over his wisecrack (for which he repeatedly apologized) about the hair texture of the African-American women on the Rutgers basketball team. I warned the pressure groups then that demanding that controversial personalities be driven off the air waves, into oblivion, could backfire, and that we minority voices are more likely than those with pabulum ideas to draw the concern and the ire from weak-knee advertisers.
So, I again dissent from MSNBC’s pusillanimity.
I side with Pat Buchanan against the censorious throngs. Not because I agree with him–but because I so profoundly disagree with him.
Read the article directly on the Huffington Post’s website: