“The most dishonest 3 1/2 minutes of television, ever.”

By 9 Comments 2,796 views


“I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.”
President Obama

America. The indispensable nation. The last best hope.

Last week:

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump was asked by a reporter on Thursday whether or not America is “great.” Trump’s campaign slogan is “Make America Great Again.”

“Is America great — yes or no? ” the reporter asked.

“American will be great again, but right now, our country has major problems,” Trump replied.

He continued: “Our country could be doing much better. WE have deficits that are enormous, we have all bad trade agreements; we have an Army that the head says is not prepared; we have a military that needs help, especially in these times…Everybody wins except us.”

Certainly I’ve felt that these last 6 1/2 years under President Obama have been dismal (just as liberals feel about enduring 8 years of living under Dubbya). But America remains Star-Spangled awesome, whether it be 1776, 1864, 1945, 1976, 1984, 2001, or present day. Warts and all! We have more to be proud of than ashamed. And the fact that we even bother navel-gazing and questioning ourselves and engage in so much hand-wringing and introspection belies the notion that our brand of patriotism is nothing more than flag-waving, rah-rah ‘Murica First, Eff Yeah! I mean….self-hatred is what we keep left-leaning liberals around for!

Trump’s response prompted one such self-hating American a KosKiddie to go off on a little tirade this Labor Day:

Was it great when we got started and half the country owned slaves and only people in your economic class could vote?

Was it great when it aggressively expanded into native territories, violated treaties endlessly, forced deadly migrations, and committed genocide?

Was it great when two sides fought monstrous, bloody battles and left the South in tatters because they refused to end slavery?

Was it great when the robber barons, under laissez-faire capitalism, repeatedly led us into depressions, when workers’ strikes were met by armed repression?

Was it great when women couldn’t vote? Or Black citizens?

Was it great when Teddy Roosevelt busted the trusts?

When he set aside massive tracts of natural beauty to be owned and operated for the citizens?

When he followed up on the theft of half of Mexico by ejecting Spain from this hemisphere and most of its other colonies?

Was it great when Sacco and Vanzetti, in a spasm of racist fear of darker-skinned immigrants, were falsely accused, convicted, and hanged?

Was it great when a series of wars and interventions kept much of Latin America subservient to US agricultural and energy needs?

Was it great when the KKK and its kin lynched African Americans?

Was segregation part of its greatness, or red-lining, or overt discrimination, or poll taxes?

Was it great when Herbert Hoover fiddled as the economy tanked?

Was it great when isolationists looked away and the Bush family made a fortune as Hitler re-armed Germany?

And on and on it goes.

“The most dishonest 3-and-a-half minutes of television ever.”

That happened in 2012. When the pilot episode of an HBO program called “The Newsroom” aired.

I’ve never watched the HBO show, The Newsroom. You might never have, either. However, I’m sure most of you- especially if you’re on social media- have seen liberal friends (and perhaps those on the libertarian right) link to this and applaud its message:


For so much of my life- about 4 decades- it’s been trendy to bash America. And whenever this is done, it’s done as though it hasn’t been done for the last 4 decades; like the Howard Zinn anti-American narrative and the Noam Chomsky view are not in our mainstream.

There’s a lot about the clip that irks me. And not because it’s speaking “truth to power”. It’s as much propaganda as anything else.

This afternoon, the clip resurfaced again on FB, prompting me to start looking into why this clip seems to resonate so strongly amongst so many of my fellow guilt-ridden countrymen.

I was thinking of going through McAvoy’s hissy tirade; but then thought maybe I’d save myself time by looking for others who may save me some time and trouble.

I came across this blogpost by Bejamin Welch that reflects my experience:

A brief clip from the pilot episode made its way onto the internet after it first aired, and it resurfaces on my Facebook newsfeed at least once or twice a year. In this clip, the main character of the show, Will McAvoy, goes on an aggressive rant about why America is no longer the greatest country in the world. It has actually been very popular among college-aged students, who seem to assume that sharing the article will display their interest in the current state of affairs of the United States. In reality, it reveals two things: those who share the video clip blindly trust the facts stated within McAvoy’s rant, and have no clue about the current state of affairs in the U.S.

Ironically, McAvoy concludes with the statement that we (college-aged students) are members of the “worst period generation period EVER period.” I take no offense to that statement, given that there is no factual argument to back up his claim. In fact, our blind acceptance of McAvoy’s tirade against his own country shows that we may indeed have missed one of the most crucial aspects of being functional adults. What I DO contend with is the distorted, misused, or downright false facts that he spews throughout his rant, so I decided to do a little bit of fact-checking.

Benjamin does a fine job of going through each of McAvoy’s claims and concludes:

McAvoy makes 14 claims in a matter of seconds. A little research proves that only four claims are true, and the rest are either misconstrued or downright wrong.

Gary Shapiro in Forbes also penned a rebuttal shortly after The Newsroom pilot aired.

Senaida Lopez at Taking on Issues also took on The Newsroom.

A more recent rebuttal was made by Steven Crowder:

Transcript here.

Why is it even important or relevant to counter and factcheck a fictional cable television show?

Another factchecker explains why the truth and reality matter:


We see that McAvoy’s numbers have an imperfect relationship with reality, and in evaluating their rhetorical value we tip our hat to Lamont Colucci, whose op-ed for U.S. News & World Report helped blaze the trail we follow:

This television tirade would be of no matter had it stayed in the dystopic universe that is Hollywood, but alas, the [I]nternet has pushed the statement across borders and time. The temptation to go line by line and deconstruct this outburst will be resisted, and would do little but add credence to the inanity. It is, naturally, what is not said that is more important, more enlightening, and more reasonable.


Colucci warns of a trap we’ve mentioned before:  It’s a common rhetorical trick to use a true fact to fallaciously support an argument.

What’s McAvoy’s argument?  That the United States is not the greatest nation in the world.  He tries to support that argument with a set of rankings that place the U.S. somewhere other than No. 1.  But is that a reasonable way to disqualify a country from being considered the greatest among its peers?

It’s wrongheaded.

The right approach

Statistically judging the greatest nation ought to involve looking for a nation that ranks consistently high in favorable categories and consistently low in unfavorable categories, with each category weighted as to relative importance.  Important categories might include the size of the economy, worker productivity, quality of the education system, contributions to scientific research, charitable contributions, economic freedom and median income.

The U.S. ranks highly in each of those categories, even ones mentioned by McAvoy.  And the U.S. ranks No. 1 in another category that speaks to the U.S. standing among the nations:  net migration.  More people come to the U.S. than to any other country.

We won’t seek to make the case that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world.  But McAvoy said, among other things, that no evidence supports the claim that the U.S. is the greatest nation in the world.  To the contrary, the U.S. consistently ranks high in desirable national statistics and consistently low in undesirable ones.  One can easily make a reasonable case for ranking the United States No. 1.

Bad data?

It’s worth emphasizing that the data we have ranking nations one against another often represent flawed comparisons.   Life expectancy has much to do with diet and behavior.  Nations use different methods to track statistics such as infant mortality.  Military spending lists that do not rank militarized nations like North Korea and Iran don’t tell a complete story.  Ranking the belief in angels while using a tiny subset of data that omits nations culturally dominated by Islam makes little sense.  Such examples abound on McAvoy’s list of supposed American failures.


McAvoy’s argument gets some numbers wrong and misuses some of the right numbers.  Overall, the argument is incoherent.

Zebra Fact Check also provides an extensive reference list for their research in rebutting the viral clip.

It also updated with the following:

Addendum July 28, 2013

For those interested in more fact checks of “The Newsroom,” check out Brian William Waddell’s “The Newsroom Fact Check.”

Update Dec. 29, 2014

While checking outgoing link data, we found our link to the .pdf file on the study of belief in angels no longer works. We were unable to fix that problem, but discovered some new data at Pew Research that effectively shows that the claim from “The Newsroom” relies on incomplete survey data.  For the general population, for example, Pew reports belief in angels at 84 percent in Brazil, 84 percent in Colombia and 86 percent in Venezuela. Each of those figures exceeds the 77 percent in the United States who believe in angels according to a 2011 CBS poll.



America: Imagine the World without Her

The 10 Big Lies About America by Michael Medved

Reminders & Recommended Sharing:

Why Our Military is So Hated Around the World

America’s War of Aggression Against Muslims Confirmed by Release of Abuse Photos

U.S. Soldier Caught Terrorizing Iraqi Children


And yes, I’m not ashamed to say: I know how to speak ‘Murican just as assuredly as Canadians speak Canadian! And gosh-darn proud of it, too!

I hope everyone had a wonderful, restful Labor Day Weekend in this, “the greatest nation on God’s green earth!” 😉

America, right or wrong:

9 Responses to ““The most dishonest 3 1/2 minutes of television, ever.””

  1. 2


    “the greatest nation on God’s green earth!”

    Sorry, but this kind of crap, and the fact that you get your panties in a wad because Trump won’t repeat this nationalistic nonsense, is one reason why rational people sometimes recoil from conservatives and the GOP.

    Most certainly, the principles upon which this country was founded make the USA quite unique, and arguably the greatest country in the world. But the fact of the matter is that over the past couple of generations, we have abandoned many of those principles – such as limited government restricted by the 10th amendment. The executive branch has virtually limitless power to issue regulations with the force of law, and has built a humongous bureaucracy to create and enforce more. Our Constitution is virtually ignored today, and can you really say that we are the greatest country in the world when our most fundamental legal document is ignored?

    The establishment GOP created Trump (as a candidate). We The People are sick of voting in GOP candidates – including congressional majorities, and then seeing them fecklessly abandon the principles which they said they stood for. The establishment GOP has sold out to the Chamber of Commerce, for example, and thus will never do anything meaningful to stop illegal immigration.

    If Jeb Bush or any of several “establishment” candidates is voted into office in 2016, we might slow the progressive agenda for a little while, but it will not be reversed. No department of the executive branch would see any dramatic change. Trump, for all his faults (and he has plenty) is the kind of man who is capable of shaking things up. Even if the Democrats and GOP combine forces to block his legislative agenda (and I think the establishment GOP is perfectly capable of trying to sabotage him), he could, by executive action alone, cut a huge knife through the departmental bureaucracies over which the President has direct control. We could finally see meaningful reform at the IRS, EPA, Department of Education etc etc.

    The GOP had the chance to push through such reforms in the past, and forfeited the opportunities. So forgive me if I find the the establishment GOPs whining about Trump putting a smile on my face. Maybe now we have your attention. Push for a party platform that proposes real and concrete programs which disassemble the massive federal bureaucracy where ever possible, that secure our borders and bring the USA back to honoring the principles on which it was founded, and thereby, perhaps, deserving once again the title of Greatest Country in the World.

  2. 3


    Patrick Manning explains that �if there is any time when one can speak of African societies being organized around a slave mode production, [1850-1900] was it.�

    The continuing anti-slavery movement in Europe became an excuse and a casus belli for the European conquest and colonisation of much of the African continent. It was the central theme of the Brussels Anti-Slavery Conference 1889-90. In the late 19th century, the Scramble for Africa saw the continent rapidly divided between Imperialistic European powers, and an early but secondary focus of all colonial regimes was the suppression of slavery and the slave trade. In response to this pressure, Ethiopia officially abolished slavery in 1932, Sokoto Caliphate abolished slavery in 1900, and the rest of the Sahel in 1911. By the end of the colonial period they were mostly successful in this aim, though slavery is still very active in Africa even though it has gradually moved to a wage economy. Slavery has never been eradicated in Africa, and it commonly appears in African states, such as Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, Niger, and Sudan, in places where law and order have collapsed.

    as well as

    In the mid 19th century Islamic jihad against black Africans was in full force. The Muslims had invaded central Africa and were killing and enslaving Africans on a massive scale. They would march the newly minted African slaves out to the coast in chain gangs. These poor sick undernourished Africans were forced to march with elephant tusks on their heads. Many of the men were castrated out in the field�

    The Britisher who was most influential missionary in fighting Muslim depredations in Africa was a Scottish missionary named David Livingstone (19 March 1813 � 1 May 187). The primary mission of the early British missionaries to Africa was to protect the Africans from Islamic jihad. David Livingstone and the other missionaries fought Islamic jihad against Africans primarily through education both in England where the English were alerted to the tragedy which was unfolding in Africa and in Africa where the Africans received the education necessary to enable them to repel the Muslim invaders. It is ironic that leftists accuse missionaries of destroying traditional African society and to some extent they did however since Christian missionaries relied on education and persuasion to win converts rather than by force they ended up saving much of what is uniquely African from the impending destruction by Islamic jihad.

    The name of the modern day Islamic jihadis in central Africa, Boko Harem (roughly translated � Western education is a fraud which is forbidden in Islam) is not a fluke. The Islamists know exactly what the missionaries hoped to accomplish by establishing schools and hospitals throughout Africa and they hate them because they stand as bulwark against their violent jihad.


    Bernard Lewis writes: �In one of the sad paradoxes of human history, it was the humanitarian reforms brought by Islam that resulted in a vast development of the slave trade inside, and still more outside, the Islamic empire.� He notes that the Islamic injunctions against the enslavement of Muslims led to massive importation of slaves from the outside. According to Patrick Manning, Islam by recognizing and codifying the slavery seems to have done more to protect and expand slavery than the reverse�

    Arab or Islamic slave trade lasted much longer than Atlantic or European slave trade: �It began in the middle of the seventh century and survives today in Mauritania and Sudan. With the Islamic slave trade, we�re talking of 14 centuries rather than four.��

    Earlier in the 20th century, prior to the �reopening� of slavery by Salafi scholars like Shaykh al-Fawzan, Islamist authors declared slavery outdated without actually clearly supporting its abolition. This has caused at least one scholar (William Clarence-Smith) to bemoan the �dogged refusal of Mawlana Mawdudi to give up on slavery� and the notable �evasions and silences of Muhammad Qutb�.

    Muhammad Qutb, brother and promoter, of the famous Sayyid Qutb, vigorously defended Islamic slavery from Western criticism, telling his audience that �Islam gave spiritual enfranchisement to slaves� and �in the early period of Islam the slave was exalted to such a noble state of humanity as was never before witnessed in any other part of the world.� He contrasted the adultery, prostitution, and (what he called) �that most odious form of animalism� casual sex, found in Europe, with (what he called) �that clean and spiritual bond that ties a maid [i.e. slave girl] to her master in Islam.�

  3. 4




    “the greatest nation on God’s green earth!”

    Sorry, but this kind of crap, and the fact that you get your panties in a wad because Trump won’t repeat this nationalistic nonsense, is one reason why rational people sometimes recoil from conservatives and the GOP.

    Are speaking to me personally, or conservatives collectively? Dude, chill-pill. Learn to speak ‘Murican! You forgot to blockquote the 😉 emoticon.

    Part of my post is a bit tongue-in-cheek in places. The phrase, “Greatest nation on God’s green earth” is not my phrase. Nor am I religious. But I love it! This post may help clarify what it means to me. I’ll update this post with that link.

    over the past couple of generations, we have abandoned many of those principles – such as limited government restricted by the 10th amendment.

    Try since our nation’s founding. Certainly by the time we get to Lincoln.

    So the “Establishment” is to blame for the popularity of the Trump, huh? I guess he’s this election cycle’s Ron Paul for the right; as Bernie Sanders is for the left. Feel the Bern, Trumpeteers! How about a Trump/Bernie ticket? That’ll really show everyone and teach the “Establishment” a lesson!

  4. 5


    Sorry if I did not catch the irony. But I think the Trump/Sanders phenomenon is related to similar patterns. Both the GOP and Democratic party have been taken over by special interests, and the people are sick of it, and supporting the rank outsider. In Hillary’s case, you have a leading candidate that is clearly a liar and a crook, has a track record as such for 25 years, and doesn’t have the common decency to retire from public life, counting on the die-hard base to carry her through. Many Dems are going for the rank outsider, not because they believe in Sanders’ Socialism, but because he seems to be more honest than the other alternatives – for all his faults, you always know where Sanders stands.

    Trump has flip/flopped on several issues, but there is no question that he is an able organizational leader and administrator – unlike the current White House occupant. When someone like that becomes in charge of the executive branch, with 2 million civilian employees involved in bureaucratic masturbation with taxpayers and businesses suffering for it, heads will roll.

  5. 6


    I watched that clip both times it showed up in my FB feed and I realized why people love it and Sorkin so much, and there’s really no big surprise: It is the easiest form of ‘bravery’, which is challenging something conservatives believe to be true. Liberals are always going on about ‘controversial’ books or ‘controversial’ people, and 95% of the time, these ‘controversies’ are the expression of liberal beliefs about this country, always–always–to the detriment of the US.

    I don’t have your energy, so I can’t do a good rant, but seeing that clip had me thinking what creampuffs libs are, today and earlier in my life. They can’t create something that equals the achievements of Americans past, so they tear down what came before, by pointing only to the problems, only to the sins, and saying “So ALL of it was built on the blood of innocents, so you can’t like it. Only the brave like us will say this.” Thus, they become heroic simply for believing what they already believe.

    How much braver and more difficult it is to challenge your own easy cynicism about an achievement Paul Johnson called the single greatest thing the human race has created. SO much easier to nod as the talented but wrongheaded Sorkin puts into words the deepest cynical thinking about this country and applauding yourself for being ‘challenged’…with your own beliefs.

  6. 7


    I don’t like Trump. However, he has some skills which can help solve SOME problems that must be solved if we are to survive as a nation somewhat resembling what it once was and could be again.

    Obama, Hillary and Sanders simply have no skills beyond gaining and holding power. Obama has shown zero ability to think strategically, to deal with people who don’t share his views, and on the stimulus and Obamacare simply threw the ball to Pelosi and said ‘You do it, I’ll sign it.” What abilities has Clinton shown she has that will be useful in running the country? Bernie Sanders’ ascendance would be a joke if this utter fool were not so scary in how he sells exploding our debt to buy votes and people lap it up while claiming he’s something new.

    If Trump gets in, I suspect he will be a net positive for the economy, veterans, the military and immigration. Beyond that, even if he fails, he will have achieved more than Obama. A low bar, but it’s something.

  7. 8


    @JSW: The ‘bar’ that Obama has set is well below grade, a baby could get over it easily. I agree, with your assessment of Trump but we could pick almost any of the GOP candidates and be better off. Heck ‘maybe’ even Crazy Old Uncle Joe.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *