Jonah Goldberg

Let us now sing the qualified praises of questioning patriotism.

Last Sunday, Mike Wallace of "60 Minutes" fame appeared on Chris Wallace's must-watch show, "Fox News Sunday." Having the CBS liberal lion appear on the upstart Fox - particularly after Fox had so much fun with the "60 Minutes" memogate story - made it the journalistic equivalent of an exciting crossover episode. You know, like when "Happy Days" was continued on "Mork & Mindy." The fact that Chris is the son of Mike made it simultaneously more and less interesting.

The less interesting part was that the interview was fairly soft, and it probably wouldn't have taken place had not the son wanted to help dad move his new book. What made it more interesting was that Mike Wallace felt a bit more relaxed to speak freely.

To wit: Chris asked Mike, "Do you understand why some people feel such disaffection for the mainstream media?"

"Oh, yes," Mike answered. "They think we're wild-eyed commies, liberals. Yes?"

"That's what they think. And how do you plead?"

"I think it's damn foolishness," Dad retorted, continuing, "Look, you know as well as I, reporters are in the business because they want to be - first of all, they're patriots just as much as any conservative. Even a liberal reporter is a patriot, wants the best for this country. And people - you know, your fair and balanced friends at Fox - don't fully understand that."

Well, not only is that more than a little condescending. It's highly concentrated damn foolishness.

What Wallace doesn't fully understand is that lots of people have good reason to suspect that media Brahmans like him are less patriotic than the average Joe.

Now, before everybody gets their knickers in a twist, let me be clear. I'm not saying that journalists are unpatriotic. Nor am I discrediting the argument that it is the hallmark of the true patriot to tell unpleasant or inconvenient truths. Chesterton was right when he declared: "My country right or wrong is a thing that no patriot would think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying, 'My mother, drunk or sober.' "

But what Mike Wallace and so many others seem to forget is that patriotism, like most any other trait, comes in varying quantities. Person A can be less nice than person B and still be perfectly nice. Joe can be more tolerant than Phil, but that doesn't make Phil a bigot. And Mike can be less patriotic than whomever and not be a traitor or a "wild-eyed commie."

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg is editor-at-large of National Review Online,and the author of the book The Tyranny of Clichés. You can reach him via Twitter @JonahNRO.
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