The ‘most honest three and a half minutes on television, ever’?

A few years ago, an anti-American television tirade went viral.

Typically, such a rant would not escape the boundaries of Hollywood, but this one has collected millions of YouTube views and has been hailed as the “most honest three and a half minutes on television, ever.” But it’s propaganda.

The harangue aired on the popular TV series, “The Newsroom.” Will McAvoy, fictional news anchor, is asked by a college student, “What makes America the greatest country in the world?” Here is his response:

Emotional, accusatory, and flamboyant — three substitutes for a lack of substance.

Let’s begin with McAvoy’s assertion that “there is absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world.” To make his point, McAvoy indignantly fires off a list of statistics where we’re ranked something other than one:

We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in exports.

A clever ploy, but as another blog pointed out, while many of these statistics are either misleading or wrong, the point is not whether we rank lower than one in some individual categories, but whether we rank consistently high across categories. By that measure, a legitimate case can be made that America is number one. Even so, McAvoy falsely claims:

We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined, twenty-five of whom are allies.

Checkmate in one. According to available data, America leads in manufactured goods, foreign direct investment, clean tech innovation, medical research and innovation, and peer-reviewed science publishing. We also possess the largest economy in the world, own eight of the top ten universities (including the top four), we’re the leading natural gas producer and the leading oil producer, and we admit by far more immigrants annually than anyone else. Checkmate.

Equally egregious, at one point McAvoy cavalierly dismisses the idea that freedom is what makes us great (as he shrugs off, 180 nations “have freedom”). But immigration patterns undercut his argument.

As foreigners tell us, America offers unique opportunities for themselves and their families that simply don’t exist in France, Britain, or Canada. As the New York Post pointed out:

Even in Britain and Canada there is no First Amendment. In both countries you can be prosecuted for what you say. In the UK, a college student spent two months behind bars this spring for tweeting racist remarks about a soccer player.

Hence why no one speaks of the “French Dream,” “British Dream,” or even the “Canadian Dream,” while they do of the American Dream. And to take that for granted, as many of our Hollywood elites do, is to commit the sin of ingratitude.

Of course, America is not without legitimate criticism. No nation is perfect. But as Abraham Lincoln put it, America is “the last best hope of the earth.” And only when we recognize the truth can we be grateful for the unprecedented blessings our country provides us.

Cross-posted at Diversity of Ideas

David Weinberger

David Weinberger

David Weinberger previously worked at the Heritage Foundation. He currently resides in the Twin Cities, and he blogs at Diversityofideas.blogspot.com


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