Ethics Quote of the Week: Chris Matthews

“Loyalty is the heart of Pat’s being. He is loyal to country, to church, to neighborhood to heritage. To Pat, the world can never be better than the one he grew up in as a young boy. Blessed Sacrament Church and Grade School, Gonzaga High School, Georgetown University. No country will ever be better than the United States of America of the early 1950s. It’s his deep loyalty to preserving that reality and all its cultural and ethnic aspects that has been his primal purpose and is what has gotten him into trouble. Not just now but over the years.”

MSNBC talking head Chris Matthews, in his wistful on-air tribute to Pat Buchanan, who was fired from his long-time role as the left-wing network’s token hard-right conservative.

"Pat, I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it...on some other network."

Matthews’ quote helps explain why loyalty is the most corrupting of the ethical virtues. Loyalty is important and admirable, but when it is divorced from the other values, it can lead to rigidity, stubbornness, and corruption. When a person, organization or cause no longer embodies the qualities that justified the loyalty in the first place, loyalty can undermine ethical conduct as strongly as any vice.

The right is attempting to frame Buchanan’s dismissal as part of a conspiracy to silence conservative voices. I never understood why Pat was on MSNBC anyway, unless it was to have a particularly Jurassic conservative around to make MSNBC’s extreme liberal bias look reasonable by comparison. It was Buchanan’s latest book, “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive 2025?,” that finally triggered his ouster. I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard Buchanan on this topic sufficiently already. He may not be a racist, xenophobe, homophobe and anti-Semite, but his confusion of the need to hold on to American cultural values, with which I agree, with the need to keep America as white, Christian, heterosexual and Anglo-Saxon as possible is hard to distinguish from racism, homophobia, xenophobia and anti-Semitism. If I were running a news network, I wouldn’t employ him.

Is it troubling that Media Matters, David Brock’s combative left-wing media watchdog, reportedly had a hand in MSNBC’s decision? I think that attempting to silence political speech rather than opposing it—and by that I mean making it impossible for opponents to express themselves, not merely suggesting that they shut up—is despicable and un-American, and that’s what Media Matters often tries to do, as in this case. But the fact that a dubious organization lobbied MSNBC to dump Pat Buchanan doesn’t mean that MSNBC didn’t have every right to decide that he isn’t an asset to their brand, or that Buchanan didn’t deserve to be dumped.

Buchanan is loyal and sincere, but he is also an example of conservatism at its most intolerant and doctrinaire. He has a right to his opinions, but no broadcast organization has any obligation to feature them.


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