Conservatives Hate America Too

Looking to fill time during a slow news week, the good folks at Fox and Friends devoted multiple segments of their July 9th show to Ariana Grande's "I hate America" comments. The conversation fit nicely into the Fox News narrative that conservatives' devotion to America is greater than that of liberals, and especially that of Hollywood liberals.

To prove their moral superiority, Fox News offered up data from a Gallup poll which Steve Doocy said suggests Grande "might not be alone about hating America" because "just 43 percent of 18 to 29 year olds say they are extremely proud to be an American". The problem in not being "extremely proud" to be American is not the same as "hating America". The only people who could really be associated with "hating America" are the 1 percent of Americans who responded they were "not proud at all". It should also be pointed out that there is no data in the poll to show that kids today are any more or less patriotic than their predecessors.

Curiously there was no mention of the Fox News poll from 2011 that found that Democrats were the most likely to say they were proud to be American while Tea Party voters were the least likely. Using the Fox and Friends logic, their own poll seems to indicate that Tea Party members might hate America.

Having said that, the real problem for conservatives in these "proud to be American" polls is their cognitive dissonance. While a Gallup poll from 2013 shows conservatives are the most likely to say they are proud to be American, it also lists them as the most likely, by a wide margin, to believe the signers of the Declaration of Independence would be disappointed in how the U.S. turned out. They somehow hate how the country has turned out, simultaneously loving it more than anyone else.

The irony is that this seems to be the same argument Grande is making. She hates certain things about America but is still proud to be American.

Of course Grande's comments are simply a pretext for Fox News to blame Obama for how awful the country is. The guest for this segment, Miss Kansas 2013 Theresa Vail, said she "can speculate" that the problem with Grande and other millennials is the fact that "for the past 6 or 7 years...we've had a president who doesn't believe in American exceptionalism; he doesn't speak up for American values...so can you blame millennials for their modicum of patriotism".

The hypocrisy of this statement is outstanding since there is no better source for criticism of the U.S. than conservative media. Certainly having people like Rush Limbaugh say they hope Obama fails or rooting against the success of policies like the stimulus package, the Affordable Care Act, or renewable energy doesn't seem very patriotic, but if you want to see why people have a negative view of America just check out the conservative media conversations on immigration, gay marriage, free speech, religious freedom, or gun rights. These people honestly believe they are slowly losing their rights and America is going to hell. Perhaps this pervasive attitude, not the president's words, is the reason for the current perceived lack of patriotism.

Perhaps more troubling was the segment of the Fox and Friends broadcast where Laura Ingraham put in her two cents on Grande's comments. Despite being 30 years her senior, Ingraham displayed all the class of a 15-year-old girl when she calls Grande, who came from a middle class background and worked her way up from cruise ship karaoke lounge act to Broadway to television, a "spoiled, entitled pop princess". Making matters worse, Ingraham calls Grande "estupida" in spite of the fact that her heritage is Italian not Hispanic.

Ingraham's comments are a microcosm of the problems with the love of country argument. In spite of being completely uninformed on the topic, Ingraham acts like a bully by publicly shaming a 22-year-old girl. She smugly pretends that her positions represent that of a true patriot and uses racially charged language to imply outsiders should appreciate America like she does. She ironically offers up a perfect example of why some people might hate certain parts of America.

Clearly Grande made an error in judgment, but one wonders if the holier-than-thou pitchfork mob remember what it was like to be young. Did they never do or say anything that they later regretted? Did they never act out when with a group of friends? Did they never tell their parents or anyone they loved "I hate you" but didn't actually mean they hated the person but rather the situation?

One also wonders if there would be such vitriol from the right if a celebrity baker was forced to bake a cake for a gay wedding or a celebrity gun owner was refused the right to carry his gun to his kids' school and then came on Fox News and said that for those reasons they hated America. Odds are they would happily accept the excuse offered up by these "patriotic" celebrities and rationalize the comments in context.

Regardless of the disingenuous nature of these attacks, the reality is, to a large extent, patriotism is a subjective idea, which means who the conservative media deems patriotic is completely irrelevant. In the end, if what defines a true patriot is determined by the folks in the conservative media, you can bet that a majority of Americans would wear the label of unpatriotic as a badge of honor.