Are we as hateful as those we hate because of their hatred?

by vpundir | May 17th, 2007

I keep getting this great stuff from Hannity and Colmes on Fox News; Sean Hannity, it seems to me, represents the emotional, high-on-rhetoric, firebreathing, people-with-other-opinions-are-idiots-and-don’t-deserve-airtime, Fox-brand of journalism.

The latest example is today’s little segment on prominent evangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell who passed away earlier in the day. H&C had invited over Christopher Hitchens, author of “God is not Great” and a long-time vehement critic of Falwell’s cocktail of politics and religion, to comment on the deceased reverend’s life.

Hitchens, who appears to be full of hatred for Falwell and his message of hate, predictably reiterated his views and essentially said “good riddance” of his death. He said that Falwell was divisive and dangerous, and a conman in the way he had created a family business peddling religion. He recalled Falwell’s statement that 9/11 was God’s wrath that Americans had brought upon themselves through their immoral day-to-day living. When it was pointed to him that Falwell had apologized for the statement several times, Hitchens said he did not believe those apologies were sincere.

Hannity took grave exception to Hitchens’s comments and was indignant. He attacked the author viciously and wouldn’t let him complete his sentences, leave alone thoughts. He criticized Hitchens for his negative opinions on Falwell and came down heavily on him for “attacking the grieving family”. That Hitchens had never even mentioned Falwell’s family, let alone criticized or “attacked” it, obviously was inconsequential to his vociferous charging.

It seems perplexing and illogical to me that Fox would invite a zealous critic of Falwell to talk about Falwell and then beat him down for criticizing Falwell. But on second thoughts, it all does make sense too; Hannity’s “impetuous” indignation is perhaps a premeditated show designed to boost the rankings by micmicing the spontaneous reactions of many viewers of the channel.

The message seems to be “the man just died, let him rest in peace”. However, one must not forget that Hitchens didn’t go to town shouting “Hallelujah! Falwell is dead”; it was Fox that invited him over and asked him for his opinion. I’m going out on a limb here, but in my opinion the only reason for inviting Hitchins to the segment was to pick that fight and paint a picture of the “Godless, hateful and inhumane” liberals.

Come to think of it, another interesting aspect of this exchange was how Hannity condemned the “criticism of the recently deceased” as un-American and inhuman on a matter of principle. I wonder if Hannity would not celebrate if Osama bin Laden was killed tomorrow, and whether he didn’t say “good riddance” when Saddam Hussain went down.

Make no mistake, I’m not equating Falwell to bin Laden or Hussain; rather I am testing how true Hannity is to his principle of being respectful to the dead. If one truly believes a person to be evil, is one still obligated by norms of civil society to praise that person on his/her demise? That certainly seemed Hannity’s message during the show though I’m not sure he’d live by it.

Lastly, Hannity mentioned having personally met Falwell and how impressed he was with the reverend. He found Falwell to be a genuine, humble, caring human being. Of course, Hannity has a right to his opinions, but what soured the message was the fact that he was using this “personal experience” to counter Hitchens’s fact-based criticism. Here’s the problem with that rationale: many of the most destructive and dangerous villains in history are known to have been personally very affable, sociable, humble and principled. In fact, Osama bin Laden is said to be simple, humble and principled; that doesn’t take away the blood of thousands of people off his head.

Again, I’m not saying that Falwell was indeed a messiah of hate; I don’t know enough of his life and work to be able to take a stand one way or the other. What I am saying, though, is that people should think long and hard before taking stands on matters of principle; by definition, matters of principle do not leave them the choice to pick and choose to suit their likes and dislikes, and whims and fancies.

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