“I feel… uncomfortable, about the word because it seems to me that it is so rhetorically proximate to justifications for more war. Um, and, I don’t want to obviously desecrate or disrespect memory of anyone that’s fallen, and obviously there are individual circumstances in which there is genuine, tremendous heroism, you know, hail of gunfire, rescuing fellow soldiers, and things like that. But it seems to me that we marshal this word in a way that is problematic. But maybe I’m wrong about that.”
Unfortunately, rather than facilitate a national debate on the power of language use, Hayes instead sparked a rather predictable bout of partisan outrage and name-calling (which may have actually lent a modicum of validity to his attempted point, not that anyone noticed that aspect). Most of these criticisms iterated that, in bringing up this issue the day before Memorial Day, Hayes demonstrated unsympathetic judgement and poor timing. I would tend to agree with this line of assessment.
This is not to say Hayes's point is completely without merit. For as long as there has been communicative discourse, organizations, governments, and individuals have purposefully employed specific language and rhetoric in order to achieve desired results. (For example, domestic propaganda is now a thing again, apparently.) But if the conversation Hayes attempted to start is one worth having, and I think it is, then it would be equally worth having at another time.
A savvier way to discuss this topic, perhaps, would have been to talk about the myriad ways that laudatory and jingoistic language can and have been used to rationalize certain political and military actions, and to save the "uncomfortable" qualifier for a diary entry. Instead, Hayes's point has resulted in a slew of ad hominem attacks and flag wrapping, with his kernel of a pertinent political discussion getting lost in the malaise. It is more than a little ironic that in an attempt to critically consider word choice, Hayes made such an unfortunate linguistic decision of his own.
Update #1: Chris Hayes released this "statement"/apology. The comments section is as you would expect.
Update #2: Hamilton Nolan, at Gawker, articulated support of Hayes's original point.