As is so often the case, Mark Steyn had the best and most trenchant take on the NFL’s collective kneeing of its former patrons and supporters. He cites Lord Moulton’s division of the rhetorical universe into the domain of freedom and the domain of the law with a vast middle ground between them occupied by — or formerly occupied by — the domain of manners. Manners, that is, are a kind of law that we impose on ourselves for the purpose of living on amicable terms with our neighbors. On this view of the matter, both the boorish players on one end of the continuum and the brutish Donald Trump on the other end, with his proposals to enforce good manners on the players, are guilty of encroachment — that’s a five yard penalty, I believe — on the domain of manners.
It’s all perfectly true, of course, but there is a certain inequality between the two sides in this unseemly battle because of the shameful role of the media in it.
Just as reliably obtuse as Mark Steyn is acute, The New York Times editorial board headed its editorial on the subject: “The Day the Real Patriots Took a Knee.” For extra credit, class, discuss the use of the word “real” in that headline. So confident, in fact, is the Times in its ownership of “reality” — just like its ownership of “truth” — that the article never even bothers to attempt to justify it. It is enough that the Times says it is real for it to be real, even though the overpaid behemoths on whose behalf they are claiming this “real” patriotism could hardly be said to have claimed it for themselves. The Times is presumably stuck back in the days when lefties used to be outraged — or at least to pretend to be outraged — at anyone who dared to impugn their patriotism. Remember “Dissent is the highest form of Patriotism”? It seems like only yesterday. But that slogan is no longer operative in the left’s rhetorical arsenal. Now they’re outraged by patriotism itself, and the media with one voice seconds that emotion.
Mark Steyn also points out that the players in London who knelt for their own anthem but stood for the British one were demonstrating that they knew very well what was due to good manners but had deliberately decided that their brand was bad manners towards the fellow citizens whom they knew would be outraged by their action. But that could also be said to suggest that their quarrel is not really with flag or anthem, for both of which, after all, they have stood respectfully many times before in the course of their careers, but with the very idea of holding anything in common with those they have been taught by the left and the racial grievance industry to hate.
How has this been allowed to happen? Because, I think, not the least of the bad effects of moralizing politics is that it makes your mind up for you on all kinds of subjects that might otherwise require thinking. Instead, you just have to go with the good people and their opinions about everything and hate the bad people and their opinions about everything.
Pace their perfervid headline writers, I don’t think The New York Times is really anti-patriotic. It’s just that, from the media’s point of view, that kind of yah-boo politics makes better copy and energizes their political base, just as Donald Trump is doing in reverse. That’s what makes the attack on Trump as the cause of it all so ridiculous. He’s just playing the media’s own game, and they don’t like it one little bit. It’s very bad for the country, of course, but Mr Trump could truthfully say he didn’t start it. And who knows if all those liberal-minded conservatives’ scolding of the President and praising with faint damns the creeping anti-Americanism of the left wouldn’t be even worse for the country?