So Long, Lou

CNN bids farewell to an overly narrow patriotism

Like many in this country, I share the concerns of Lou Dobbs ’67 for sacred elements of democracy and the American dream. Although Lou and I rarely agree on policy, I’ve often appreciated his championship of honest, hard-working men and women as well as his attention to civic responsibility and the limits of the market.

It is unfortunate, then, that I believe his resignation this past Wednesday is appropriate. Notwithstanding his nominal commitment to improving the life of the average American, there’s a peculiar, troubling quality to Dobbs’s patriotism: his vision of a strong, hard-working America often fails to recognize the contributions of people of different cultural backgrounds.

His resignation has been a long time coming. For several years now, doubts have arisen as to whether Dobbs can separate fact from opinion, and even fact from misinformation. But even worse than his flirtations with journalistic integrity, Dobbs has used his platform on America’s most trusted news network to promote a vision of the country that has become more about exclusion and anxiety and less about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. And he’s done it with a jaundiced eye. For some time now, “Mr. Independent” has spent less time offering fresh political commentary than giving credence to cultural prejudices.

Dobbs has done much to make clear that his advocacy of the average American omits not only new arrivals but also often American citizens of cultural backgrounds different from his own. Just this past March, Dobbs claimed that the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce was “effectively an organization that is interested in the export of American capital and production to Mexico, and Mexico’s export of drugs and illegal aliens to the United States.” For a journalist who consistently stresses we focus on the real issues (like the state of public education), Dobbs often pandered to conspiracy theories. He’s claimed that Latino immigrants bring leprosy to the United States. He’s sparked scandal about an impending North American Union between the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. And over the summer, he gave voice to the factually bankrupt idea that President Obama is not a native-born American citizen.

Dobbs is not the only talking head to believe what he believes. But as an anchor claiming to represent ordinary America on a 24-hour news network, Dobbs has often flirted with crossing the line of respectability. Many journalists defend the exceptionalism of American citizenship or advocate for tighter borders. But Dobbs lost credibility when he began to provide a platform for hate groups and spread one-sided misinformation about immigrants. Many journalists advocate for the protection of a certain national culture. But Dobbs was often prone to mischaracterize and dismiss what many groups that make up America have to offer. It’s little wonder that a national grassroots movement played a significant role in forcing Dobbs off CNN.

I harbor no illusions that we have seen the last of Lou Dobbs or his particular brand of the American dream. He’s a private citizen and certainly has the ability to voice his opinion as to what the country should look and sound like. In the short run, at least, I’m happy to know that Dobbs will no longer have a home on a network that prides itself on providing objective news to the whole country. In the long run, I see Dobbs’s resignation as a promising sign that we’re moving toward a patriotism that sees “ordinary America” as great enough to include the dreams and contributions of all kinds of people.

Raúl A. Carrillo ’10, a Crimson editorial writer, is a social studies concentrator in Lowell House.

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