Penetrating the illusion of tolerance and diversity

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Cue the theme music.

“You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind; a journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead...”

Yep, it’s “The Twilight Zone” — or is it MSNBC?

Sometimes, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Take the case of Patrick J. Buchanan, who went from being the highly paid token conservative at the far-left news network to being the scapegoat for liberal rage when his bosses found out he had written a book that paints liberalism as a clear and present danger to the future of America.

The rise and fall of Buchanan at MSNBC reads like a final irony-laden episode of “The Twilight Zone.” But what happens on MSNBC is black-and-white fantasy nearly every day of the week, not just when Buchanan is being thrown under the bus. The truth of the matter is that every show on MSNBC is identical — the liberal hosts asks their guest or panel of guests whether Republicans are scary, racist or just plain stupid, and then the guest or panel smirks, says “good question,” and confidently answers, “All of the above,” as the host chortles.

Except Buchanan, of course, did not play along. He was there as the token conservative in order to provide proof that liberals really do respect diversity of opinion — except when they don’t.

Liberals love tolerance for gays, Muslims and potty talk, but it turns out they are not too much in favor of people who think differently than they do. Diversity is cool if it entails people of a variety of skin colors spouting the same mix of tired slogans and Obama worship, but not so cool if it involves people actually questioning liberal shibboleths no matter what their skin color is (check out Herman Cain and Allen West for more details).

Rod Serling, the creator of “Twilight Zone,” was a master of skewering this kind of hypocrisy, and though you can’t pigeonhole the genius of Serling and his co-creators, it is safe to say that the show was a weekly chronicle of the dubious fate of small minds and big egos. More often than not, there was a recurring theme of how fear can shape and distort people’s lives, and sometimes even their faces.

In the wake of the McCarthy era, Serling was sensitive to any attempt to put people into cookie cutters and try to make them come out looking alike. He warned that sometimes the cookie cutter approach works only if you are willing to sacrifice individuality — and maybe a few fingers and toes.

One memorable episode of “The Twilight Zone” tells the story of a young woman who is hideously disfigured, but is being provided by the State with one last chance to become “normal.” Doctors perform surgery on her in an effort to transfigure her into someone who can live among other people without shame. When the bandages come off, she is revealed to be a stunning beauty — who elicits gasps from the surrounding nurses and doctors NOT because of their surgical success, but because they had failed to transform her into what they are — piggishly ugly trolls from another planet. The title of the episode says it all — “Eye of the Beholder.”

I imagine that Pat Buchanan must feel a bit like that lovely lady when he considers his ill-fitting tenure at MSNBC, where he was the lone redoubt of traditional American values amid dozens of smugly sincere liberals who practiced a form of tolerance by agreeing to sit next to Buchanan without picking up rocks and stoning him on camera.

Tsk-tsk, his fellow MSNBC’ers probably muttered. Poor Buchanan! So different. So handicapped. But we really must try to overlook how hideously conservative he is, and pretend that nothing is wrong! After all, we are liberals and therefore respect diversity and practice tolerance — no matter how painful it is to do so.

Except one day, Pat Buchanan wasn’t there any more. He had been diversified into the literal “Twilight Zone” of unofficial, unannounced suspension from the channel. Not for moral turpitude. Not because he had violated a code of ethics. Not for conflict of interest. But because he wrote a book.

Yep, the purveyors of “diversity for all” had just met their match — a book called “Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive to 2025?”

MSNBC President Phil Griffin probably got a phone call from someone pretty high up in the chain of command at MSNBC — maybe even someone in the White House, who knows? — and pronounced thumbs down not just on the book, but on Buchanan.

“The ideas he put forth aren’t really appropriate for national dialogue, much less the dialogue on MSNBC,” Griffin said.

Say what? Arguing about the survival of our country is not “appropriate” for the national dialogue? Then what is? Just ordering flowers for the funeral?

What’s classy is that no one from the network even bothered to tell Buchanan he was suspended. He was quite sick in December, and maybe the network execs just hoped he would do the right thing and die to spare the nation any further distasteful discussion of national suicide.

But, alas, he got better, leaving his bosses in an uncomfortable position or either being loyal to their longtime employee or just pandering to their viewers and pretending they were “shocked” by Buchanan’s book.

This is too cute by half. It’s not like MSNBC could have been surprised to find out what Buchanan thinks. After all, they have been paying him to be an expert commentator on politics for most of the past decade — and Buchanan is nothing if not outspoken.

Having someone as high profile and as conservative as Buchanan on the channel allowed MSNBC to pass itself off as supremely tolerant. After all, Buchanan had run for president as a Republican and even worked for Ronald Reagan. But when push came to shove, the illusion of tolerance and diversity was less important to MSNBC than the certainty of liberal hegemony on the channel’s endless panels.

Why did his bosses finally silence him? We may never know exactly, but clearly tolerance has its limits when it comes to white males over the age of 50 who profess their Christian faith, lament the decline of American values and mock the Obama White House.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why some local liberals squirm every Sunday morning when another of my columns shows up with the same unrepentant conservative viewpoint. Some of them may even be hoping for the day when I will star in that “Twilight Zone” episode where I have to go in for my “adjustment” and get straightened out — not in my spine but in my thinking.

It’s not surprising though, is it? In an entitlement society, lots of people think that every community is entitled to its very own liberal newspaper editor. After all, why should any of us be deprived of the illusion of tolerance?

Celebrate diversity — by thanking God that you have a token conservative at the helm of the local newspaper. And if you ever wake up and find me missing one Sunday morning, don’t panic, don’t fret... You’ll find me hosting a new show with Patrick Buchanan debating the true meaning of tolerance in ... (cue ending music) ... “The Twilight Zone.”

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