Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is America The Greatest Nation? The Newsroom's Response

HBO has posted the complete first episode of its new show The Newsroom.

It starts at a dreary Crossfire type debate at Northwestern College [University].  Newsman Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) is avoiding giving straight answers. 

A student named Jenny asks:

Can you say in one sentence or less, you know what I mean, why America is the greatest country in the world?

Will avoids a serious answer, but the moderator pushes.  A woman in the audience has a sign that says:  “It’s not.  But it can be better.”

Pushed by the professor who is moderating - “I want a human moment from you” - Will’s dam bursts:
It’s not the greatest country in the world, professor, that’s my answer. . .

. . . You know why people don’t like liberals, cause they lose.  If liberals are so fucking smart, how come they lose so god damned always? 
And with a straight face, you’re going to tell students that America is so star spangled awesome that we’re the only ones that have freedom?

Then he gives a list of statistics where the US is lower than many other countries. 
7th in literacy. . .  27th in math . . 22nd in science . . .   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 25 countries combined. . .

. . . So when you ask what makes America the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.  Yosemite?

But then he gets positive.

We sure used to be. . . and gives a long list of things we used to do.

OK. this is a scripted speech, and the rankings on these scales depend on how the factor is defined and measured.  Information Clearing House, for example,  also attacked the question of America’s greatness ranking back in 2005, but it says we’re 49th in literacy and 28th out of 40 countries in mathematical literacy.

But the basic premise, that we aren’t the greatest, is important for Americans to hear.   Too many Americans believe the myth of our being the greatest country like alcoholics believe they can stop drinking any time.  The first step in recovery is getting past denial.  Until we recognize there are many ways to be great and we don’t monopolize them all, we’ll continue to slide, just as Rome did, as Spain did, as Great Britain did, to name a few former greatest countries in the world.   

And his nostalgia for the past leaves out slavery and segregation and killing off of our indigenous population, the denial of rights for women, American imperialism around the world, and a lot of other nasty stuff. 

But the episode is a promising start for a new series brought to us by the people who gave us the Sopranos, Six Feet Under,  and The Wire.

You can see the whole episode here. 

Thanks to Gryphen at Immoral Minority for posting this video.

I'd also note that while 'America' is a common abbreviation for the United States of America, its use slights the rest of the people who live in the Western Hemisphere in North, Central, and South America.


  1. Living in a former 'greatest nation' (GB) where all too many conservatives lament loss of empire still, US myopia is a necessary condition of empire. A nation can get over it with help but it must first admit it has a problem!

    Myself, I found myself a bit amused and now settled, when immigrants from other countries in the western hemisphere call themselves Americans, too. Their easy friendliness reminds me I had it wrong. Oh well.

    On the issues of American culture and superiority complex? Let me ask how many friends we hold on to when we find them full of themselves. That's how nations see each other, too.

  2. Finally, something to cheer about on TV (besides So You Think You Can Dance, of course).

    If only the main-stream cable newsrooms could see THEIR complicity in the mess America is in now. Esp. the condoning of lies spouted by candidates. And then there was the New York Times' editor who was utterly surprised when his poll told him his readers wanted his writers to do this! Remember that story?

    And by the way, don't think the Conservative gov't in Canada isn't watching what the GOP is getting away with. And learning bad behavior. Fast. We now have a pay-for, right-wing TV station, too, which doesn't have many viewers...yet...thank gawd.

    1. Newsroom is preaching to the choir, alas...

      "Trying to get today's Republicans
      to accept basic facts is like trying
      to get your dog to take a pill. You
      have to feed them the truth wrapped in a
      piece of baloney, hold their snout shut,
      and stroke their throats. And even then,
      just when you think they've swallowed it,
      they spit it out on the linoleum."

      Bill Mayer

  3. Oh, btw, Americans of the uniquely Spanish-Swedish-Dutch-French-English-Russian colonialists, congrats on your SC decision. Welcome to the 20th century. Now, about the 21st...

  4. The leader usually gets lazy because of her position, therefore I think it is "natural" that the World leaders are changing from time to time.

  5. Ropi, Good to hear from you. I wasn't sure if you were still coming around. I agree, when you are on top it is easy to believe you always will be.
    BTW, I had two posts about a book on Hungary that I was wondering if you had read or even heard about. It's by the son of two Hungarians who moved to England in 1956. It's called Under the Frog by Tibor Fischer. I think you'd find it interesting. It was written in English originally. Here are links to the posts:

    Cerebral Chewing Gum


    Women I almost slept with

  6. Well, I had busy final weeks at the university and now I am taking a spanish course and looking for student jobs so I am not bored at all. I was checking your blog from time to time but I was not writing comments.


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