Obama is tanking in the polls, but NPR says not to worry. While Bush’s tanking in the polls was a sign that he was a lame duck, Obama’s tanking in the polls is meaningless. The reasons given are insanely stupid: He’s never been effective with Congress; bad poll numbers are irrelevant (when it’s a Dem polling badly, of course); the map isn’t really that purple; his 15 point drop is a drop in the bucket; and he’s not running for office anymore anyway. So if I get this right, it doesn’t matter that people are starting to figure Obama out, because he’s always been a useless, ineffective git, and that’s never mattered before to his ability to “fundamentally transform” America, so why worry now.
It wasn’t until I crossed the political Rubicon that I started appreciating the irony of the intro to so many PBS and NPR shows. Turn on Masterpiece Theater and a measured male voice announces, “This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people.”
In the normal world, a private corporation means that individuals voluntarily buy into it, and that the corporation is then responsive to these shareholders. In the loopy world of “public broadcasting,” however, the reality is that the government uses its coercive powers to force taxpayers to hand over money for speech (not for roads or weapons, but for speech, which ought to be free). Many of these coerced taxpayers have no interest in the corporate product, and even more of them find it reprehensible.
We who oppose the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are right to do so. For most of my life, PBS and NPR were the main news sources for me and my family. That’s why I can say with certainty that these publicly funded entities inculcated in us a world view that was anti-American, anti-military, anti-Republican, anti-Reagan, anti-Bush, and anti-Israel.
As I’ve told you before, I swallowed everything . . . except for the Israel part. Unlike all the other stuff, I actually had first hand knowledge about Israel, since my parents were part of its creation, our friends and family lived (and still live) there, and I’d traveled there for extended periods of time. Once I realized that public broadcasting was out-and-out lying about Israel, or taking a view so slanted that it was tantamount to a lie, I began to question everything that public broadcasting broadcast.
As far as I’m concerned, public broadcasting’s only virtue now is . . . . Oh, never mind. I can’t think of a single news, entertainment, or educational product it sells that isn’t overt or covert propaganda for a hard-Leftist world view. The exception might be Masterpiece Theater, but that exception only works for some productions and, in any event, I’d be just as happy to watch them on A&E.
If the Corporation for Public Broadcasting was a true private corporation, I wouldn’t have a problem with its world view, although I still wouldn’t like it. What’s reprehensible is that I’m forced to pay for this ostensibly private institution that produces a product with which I strongly disagree.
I may be forced to pay for public broadcasting, but I don’t have to watch it or listen to it. Part of me knows I should, because it’s very useful to know how and what the opposition is thinking. The problem, though, is my blood pressure goes shooting through the roof when I hear its little packages of information, all of which have a Leftist beginning, middle, and end, with no room for argument and dissenting opinions.
This rant is for a reason. On Facebook, many of my liberal friends swoon about a new-ish show on NPR called Snap Judgment. As best as I can tell, this oh-so-hip show consists of short “true tales,” told with jazz and hip-hop music threading through the stories. The stories run the gamut from silly to serious. I’m sure there is much there that is interesting or informative.
I find the show off-putting for two reasons, though. First, having listened to a bit of it, I find the choppy mix of music and narrative, which is modeled on “slam readings,” irritating rather than attractive. I also don’t like the fact that the show’s sensibility is Left. This slant really isn’t a surprise. Take a look at the bios for two of the show’s four producers (bolded emphasis mine):
Glynn Washington – Host & Executive Producer
Before creating the Snap Judgment radio show, Glynn worked as an educator, diplomat, community activist, actor, political strategist, fist-shaker, mountain-hollerer, and foot stomper.
Glynn composed music for the Kunst Stoff dance performances in San Francisco, rocked live spoken word poetry in Detroit, joined a band in Indonesia, wrote several screenplays, painted a daring series of self portraits, released a blues album, and thinks his stories are best served with cocktails.
Anna Sussman – Producer
Anna Sussman has been trying to report serious stories but really reporting on frivolity for the past nine years. She earned two masters degrees from the University of California at Berkeley, in Journalism and Human Rights, and founded Backpackjournalist.org with her husband, reporting stories on U.S military debacles, international war tribunals and man-eating crocodiles from 21 countries.
Anna comes to Snap Judgment from the wilds of the freelance jungle where she reported for CNN, Current TV, PRI and the San Francisco Chronicle. She also plays the banjo and can be spotted in a Thai sports drink commercial.
Both Washington and Sussman are probably very nice people, the kind who would, with their many and varied life experiences, be enjoyable conversationalists at a dinner party. Glynn Washington, especially, has an interesting bio, one that actually ought to have him questioning the merits of Leftist politics rather than, if his wife’s politics are anything to go by, embracing them:
Washington thinks about those things [life-altering decisions] because of the radical turns his life took when he was young. His family left the urban grit of Detroit in the early 1970s for life on a farm in rural Michigan. “We were organic before organic was cool,” Washington said. He was often the only African American kid in his classes. It meant he got beaten up a lot, but the move might have saved his life, because a lot of the kids he grew up with in Detroit, he said, are dead or locked up.
A few years after moving to the country, radio transformed his family. His mother fell under the spell of an on-air evangelist, and she dragged the entire household into a group he described as an apocalyptic cult.
Washington went his own way in his late teens. He studied in Japan, got a law degree at the University of Michigan and worked as a junior diplomat in Malaysia. Lately, he’s made his living by running a series of Bay Area nonprofits; he currently directs the Young Entrepreneurs program at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
Despite Washington’s and Sussman’s probable niceness, their bios (especially Sussman’s) give the game away about the show’s sensibility: These are Leftists who dislike the military, blame poverty on capitalism, and generally don’t think much of the American way of doing things.
Washington and Sussman, and all their cohorts, are more than entitled to their views. Indeed, I love living in a free marketplace of ideas. What I hate is being forced to pay for someone else’s ideas.
And yes, I know that public broadcasting is a miniscule part of the federal budget. That’s irrelevant. First, it’s still money and, in a broke economy, every penny counts. We should be sequester public broadcasting in its entirely, rather than imposing cuts on our military.
Second (and this is the really important one), it’s my money that’s funding these shows. I didn’t voluntarily hand my money to NPR. NPR took it from me, using the federal government as its weapon. If you’ve been mugged, you don’t care whether the thief took $10 or $100. What you care about is the fact that you’ve been robbed at gunpoint.
In one of his more delightful articles, Jonah Goldberg tackles Justice Ginsburg’s disingenuous claim that the most “conservative” thing the Supreme Court can do is to pick its way through all 2,700 pages of the ObamaCare bill and save all the good bits. After politely decimating Ginsburg’s word choice, Goldberg has this to say:
The conservative thing to do — and I don’t mean politically conservative — is to send the whole thing back to Congress and have it done right. Leaving aside the fact that Obamacare largely falls apart if you remove the mandate, it’s not the Supreme Court’s job to design our health-care system from the scraps Congress dumps in its lap. What Ginsburg proposes is akin to a student handing in a sloppy, error-filled term paper, and the professor rewriting it so as to give the student an A.
Goldberg’s charming analogy reminded me of something a friend told me. Although a conservative, she’s a strong, brave woman, and still listens to NPR. (I don’t, because I find myself screaming at the radio too much, especially with NPR’s Israel coverage.) During a call-in show, she said that several of the callers were deeply offended that the conservative justices used analogies, such as questions about broccoli and cell phones, to discuss ObamaCare’s provisions. The tone seemed to be “How dare those evil conservatives dumb down a sophisticated act to appeal to the rubes in America in order to justify destroying the best legislation ever.”
I was actually reminded of someone who used analogies with incredible grace to simplify (not destroy, but make accessible) challenging ideas:
Behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested him, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
He said to him, “What is written in the law? How do you read it?”
He answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind [Deuteronomy 6:5]; and your neighbour as yourself [Leviticus 19:18].”
He said to him, “You have answered correctly. Do this, and you will live.”
But he, desiring to justify himself, asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbour?”
Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he traveled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, and gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbour to him who fell among the robbers?”
He said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” — Luke 10:25–37, World English Bible
He told them this parable. “Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.” — Luke 15:3-7, World English Bible
I don’t call this dumbing things down. I call it the wisdom to drill down into something’s essential element and the skill then to communicate those core principles (whether they are good, as with the parables, or bad, as with ObamaCare) to others.
P.S. I am not likening the conservative Supreme Court justices to Jesus Christ. I’m just saying that smart analogies are a staple of intelligent communication, and should be admired, not denigrated.
I drove Mr. Bookworm’s car today. That means that, when I turned on the radio, I got NPR. I don’t listen to NPR anymore. I find very dull the carefully packaged stories, all of which advance, with greater or lesser subtlety, a Progressive political agenda. I prefer freewheeling talk radio, where hosts do live interviews of people with whom they agree and, even more interestingly, with people with whom they disagree.
Today, though, I listened to NPR long enough to hear a promo for an upcoming show, the name of which I forget, which looks at the fact that more and more people are free-lancers rather than employees. It was clear that NPR disapproves of this trend, because the show was sold as a look at people who are pathetically hustling for work without the security of full-time employment.
I used to be one of those people, although I never thought of myself as pathetic. I did my best lawyering when I stopped being a wage slave and started working for myself. Instead of resenting every hour worked, because it simply put more money into the boss’s pockets, I threw myself into my work because it benefited me. When I hustled, there was a direct return on effort.
The economics of what I was doing meant I never made as much money working as a free-lance attorney, hiring my services out to other law firms, as I did when I worked for the big firms. I also actually worked harder for that lesser amount of money. But I was so much happier. The direct connection between labor and profit was incredibly satisfying. Yes, I was out there hustling, but I was free. And while it’s true that I’d lost my “safety net,” the fact is that my employers could have fired me at any time. So that safety net was an illusion. Working for myself, I knew what I had to offer and I knew I could survive.
[Between kids and phone calls, it took me way too long to write this post, although that proved useful at the end, as it was the AP's republished news report that contained the real gem. Rather than re-write this post, I'm simply highlighting the explosive little factoid hidden in the AP's execrably written article.]
This morning, I noted that the New York Times, in reporting on the NPR debacle, managed to ignore the anti-Semitism issue. I speculated that this was to protect its Jewish readers from getting suspicious about the whole Progressive/Democrat structure. What I forgot is that the MSM (especially the Times) also likes to keep from its readers the fact that Islamists are violently (in deed, not just word) anti-Semitic.
The AP’s coverage (as of 3:00 PST) displays exactly the same elusiveness when it comes to anti-Semitism. Also, interestingly, the AP was unable to find any conservatives to talk to about the sting and its implications. It got quotations only from NPR sources.
What the AP included and what it omitted are both telling, as are quotes from the players. Here’s the sum total of what the AP has to say about the O’Keefe video’s content:
NPR president and CEO Vivian Schiller resigned Wednesday under pressure, a day after an undercover video showed one of her executives on a hidden camera calling the tea party racist and saying the news organization would be better off without taxpayer money.
On Tuesday, conservative activist James O’Keefe posted a video showing NPR executive Ron Schiller bashing the tea party movement. The video shows two activists, working for O’Keefe, posing as members of a fake Muslim group at a lunch meeting with Ron Schiller, who is not related to Vivian Schiller. The men offered NPR a $5 million donation and engage in a wide-ranging discussion about tea party Republicans, pro-Israel bias in the media and anti-intellectualism.
“The current Republican Party is not really the Republican Party. It’s been hijacked by this group that is … not just Islamophobic but, really, xenophobic,” Ron Schiller said in the video, referring to the tea party movement. “They believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting — it’s scary. They’re seriously racist, racist people.”
[And buried in the article's very last paragraph] Another NPR executive, Betsy Liley, was at the lunch with Ron Schiller. She said little in the video, although she can be heard laughing when one of the men says his group referred to NPR as “National Palestinian Radio.” She has been placed on administrative leave.
The article makes no mention of the way in which the stingers boasted about their Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas and Hezbollah connections; no mention of their openly stated desire to bring Sharia law to America; no mention of Schiller’s contentions about Jewish control over print media; etc. Instead, the report limits itself to having Schiller attack a group — Tea Partiers — that the media assumes everybody wants to attack, and for precisely the same reasons Schiller did.
The report also helps Vivian Schiller look like a victim. As you noticed, O’Keefe is not described as a citizen journalist, or a muckraker, or even a provocateur in the Michael Moore mold. Instead, he’s a conservative activist. The article has more to say about O’Keefe, little of it complimentary. While it passes as lightly as possible over the way in which he brought ACORN down, it packs the highest number of details into describing his arrest:
O’Keefe, best known for wearing a pimp costume in hidden-camera videos that embarrassed the community-organizing group ACORN, posted the NPR video on his website, Project Veritas. The group said the video was shot on Feb. 22.
O’Keefe also pleaded guilty last May after he was accused of trying to tamper with the phones in Sen. Mary Landrieu’s office. He pleaded guilty misdemeanor charges of entering federal property under false pretenses and was sentenced to three years probation, 100 hours of community service and a $1,500 fine.
Not only is Schiller (per the AP) being hounded by a criminal activist, she and NPR are coming under “pressure” for what are apparently the most innocuous of sins — offending anti-liberal conservatives and using poor judgment in firing tactics (not, please note, in the decision to fire in the first place):
The shake-up comes at a critical time. Conservative politicians are again pressing to end congressional funding for NPR, money the organization said it needs to keep operating public radio and television stations in some of the nation’s smallest communities. The White House defended the funding, saying there remains a need for public broadcasting.
Vivian Schiller also faced criticism for her firing of analyst Juan Williams over comments he made about Muslims. She told The Associated Press that the recent remarks made by her fellow executive Ron Schiller were outrageous and unfortunate, and her staying on would only hurt NPR’s fight for federal money.
“I did not want to leave NPR. There’s a lot of pressure on NPR right now,” Vivian Schiller told AP.
NPR has long been a target of conservatives who claim its programming has a left-wing bias. The budget bill passed by the House last month would end funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which supports programs distributed on NPR and PBS.
Vivian Schiller was criticized for last year’s firing of Williams after he said on Fox News that he feels uncomfortable when he sees people in “Muslim garb” on airplanes. She later said she was sorry for firing Williams over the phone and that he deserved a face-to-face meeting.
“We took a reputational hit around the Juan Williams incident, and this was another blow to NPR’s reputation. There’s no question,” she told AP.
Schiller said she and the board concluded that her “departure from NPR would help to mitigate the threat from those who have misperceptions about NPR as a news organization.”
Vivian Schiller is not the only one to offer laughable statements to defend her position. In this wired age, Dave Edwards, who chairs NPR’s board, makes it sound as if this is 1932 all over again, and the federal government is desperately needed to bring electricity to the Tennessee Valley, not to mention news to those dark corners of America without electricity, cable, computers and television:
“It is absolutely true that without federal funding, a lot of our public radio and public TV stations in the system could go dark, and that will happen in some of the smallest communities we serve,” Edwards said. “In some cases, public broadcasting remains that community’s primary connection with the outside world.”
Ron Schiller doesn’t do much better in his own defense:
“While the meeting I participated in turned out to be a ruse,” Ron Schiller said, “I made statements during the course of the meeting that are counter to NPR’s values and also not reflective of my own beliefs. I offer my sincere apology to those I offended.”
Let me see if I can translate: If Schiller, is not, as he appears in that video, an anti-White, anti-Semitic, anti-Conservative, pro-Muslim hater, he is instead a whore who will say anything to anybody to get money. That’s the kind of guy we need working on the federal dime.
(3:45 PST) You get the news in real time at this blog. As I’ve been working on this post, AP, without any acknowledgment that it did so, just republished its article, with substantial changes. The new version of the article isn’t much better than the old. While keeping, albeit in somewhat different form, the points I noted above, it adds a few new gems. For example, it helps make Chairman Edwards’ case that, without just a wee bit of federal funds, all sorts of local stations will have to close their doors:
The CPB is receiving $430 million in the current fiscal year and will get $445 million in fiscal 2012. It CPB handed out nearly $94 million in grants to more than 400 public radio stations — not all of which are NPR affiliates — in fiscal 2010.
NPR itself typically gets only about 2 percent of its budget from CPB grants, but many of its 268 member stations rely heavily on them. NPR affiliates get an average of 10 percent of their funding from CPB, and some small and rural stations receive more than 40 percent of their funding that way, although NPR could not provide exact figures.
About a third of NPR’s $161 million budget in fiscal 2010 came from its affiliates in the form of programming fees. NPR spokeswoman Anna Christopher said it’s difficult to say how a loss of CPB funding would affect stations’ ability to pay.
A cut in funding to CPB would hit public television stations harder than radio stations. By law, 75 percent of CPB’s grant money must go to TV stations.
AP then proceeds to undercut entirely both its and Edward’s claim that federal funds are the only thing keeping the pathetic little affiliates going to serve the poverty stricken in 1932′s Tennessee Valley time warp. You see, it turns out that those member stations were already in trouble — not because of funding, but because of Schiller herself. Notwithstanding Edward’s claim that NPR television is the only thing connecting Americans in the outback to civilization, it turns out that Schiller was busy trying to destroy local affiliates in favor of funding NPR’s national website:
Howard Liberman, a longtime broadcast communications attorney who represents NPR affiliates, said many stations were unhappy with Vivian Schiller and the release of the video was the last straw. He pointed to the Williams controversy and other moves by Schiller that have alienated stations, such as shortening the organization’s name from National Public Radio to NPR and trying to drive listeners toward NPR’s website. (Emphasis mine.)
Bottom line: NPR was planning on killing its own (and isn’t that what Leftist revolutionary entities always do?)
I very much look forward to the next batch of videos O’Keefe promises to release. They should be interesting.
Apparently a video of her employees gleefully cuddling up to the Muslim Brotherhood, all the while trashing conservatives, Tea Partiers, and Jews, was the infamous straw that broke the NPR camel’s back: Vivian Schiller just got fired. (Although NPR is already phrasing it as a resignation — a forced resignation, I assume.) I doubt that will do much to change NPR’s corporate culture — it’s too deeply embedded at every level — but it’s still a satisfying denouement to a tawdry story.
I’m actually grateful to NPR. It was its unbelievably biased Israel coverage that helped me make the break with my reflexive liberalism and take a long, hard look at my political beliefs and party affiliation. Nevertheless, it irks me no end that my taxpayer money funds NPR, PBS and local affiliates. There is no reason in this day and age to have government media, especially government media that is hostile to more than half the American population and wants to roll around naked in bed with the Muslim Brotherhood.
If you don’t believe me about NPR’s beliefs and desires, you must read this Daily Caller article and take the 11 minutes to watch the video that is a part of the article. It’s disgusting but it’s also wonderful, because it shines sunlight in an area the Progressives have tried to keep shady. Considering that the NPR executive who got punked said it would be best for NPR to lose its federal funding, my response is, let’s give the guy what he wants.
UPDATE: I like NPR’s defense which amounts to this: since we didn’t immediately accept their phony bribe, we’re “appalled” by Schiller’s comments, and Schiller got another job, get off our back.
“The fraudulent organization represented in this video repeatedly pressed us to accept a $5 million check, with no strings attached, which we repeatedly refused to accept.
“We are appalled by the comments made by Ron Schiller in the video, which are contrary to what NPR stands for.
“Mr. Schiller announced last week that he is leaving NPR for another job.”
It doesn’t seem to occur to the NPR folks that the video shows Schiller desperate to get a steady stream of income from a Muslim Brotherhood organization that wants to give a platform to Hamas and Hezbollah, two terrorist groups.
When I left law school, a switch tripped in my brain. Whereas before I’d listened only to top twenty music, I suddenly got bored with music and switched to news. But not just any news. NPR news. Whenever I was in the car, I had my radio tuned to my local public radio station. In those days, I spent a lot of time in the care, so I listened to a lot of the stories flowing from that station. I considered myself extremely well-informed. Oh, and smug. Very smug. As far as I was concerned, NPR made me an informed person.
One of the things that made NPR so appealing to me was the story arc. Their news stories always came in beautifully presented, neat, tidy little packages. I’ve always loved tight narratives (i.e., stories with a beginning, a middle and an end, and, if I was lucky, a moral too), so NPR was perfectly suited to my temperament.
The guy or gal who functioned as a given show’s Master of Ceremonies would give a neat little promo in his or her warm, erudite voice: “In the wake of last Tuesday’s midterm election, House Republicans, relying on the Contract with America, have vowed to shut down welfare, denying funds to hundreds of thousands of vulnerable children. For more on this story, we have Harvard-grad reporter Louis Liberal.”
Louis would then come on, and in that same warm, erudite tone, give a neat, three-sentence intro detailing how the House Republicans had a plan to deny necessary funding to hundreds of thousands of hungry children. Louis would then say, “Harvard economist Pol Klugmen explains that, if Republicans are successful in ending welfare as we know it, studies show that there will be dead bodies lying in the street.” We’d then hear Prof. Klugmen, in warm, erudite and scholarly tones, explain about all the dead bodies. Louis would then introduce another expert, perhaps from a liberal think tank, explaining that the only way to reform welfare is to pump more money into it. That expert, too, would give a short, sweet, scholarly statement on the subject. Louis would then add, “Leading house Republicans deny this charge.” Next would com a swift Newt soundbyte: “That’s not true.” Louis, in his erudite, patrician voice, would end this tight story-line by saying, “Only time will tell if the Republican plan can be implemented without causing catastrophic failures amongst the nation’s poor.”
Each story was such a neat little package. There was no thinking required. We were told the thesis; the good view was identified, with nice neat soundbytes; the bad view was identified, with meaningless soundbytes; and the wrap-up warned us of the horrors awaiting if the bad view prevailed.
I bought into these morality tales with wholehearted fervor. The good guys, the Democrats, wanted to protect the poor; the bad guys, the Republicans, intended to leave them starving in the street. And even worse, because the stupid American people had given those evil Republicans power, poor, long-suffering President Clinton, who’d been dogged by those nasty lies about his over-the-top sexual escapades, would be forced to put his imprimatur on a bill leaving the homeless more homeless than ever.
There was only one problem with this neatly enclosed little universe: Israel. You see, unlike stories about domestic politics, where my only understanding of the facts came from NPR itself, when it came to Israel, I actually knew one important thing: Israel wanted to live peacefully on the small plot of land given her by both the League of Nations and the UN, and won by her in subsequent wars; and the Palestinians wanted every Jew in the world dead. This meant that all the spin NPR put out about Israeli brutalities against innocent Palestinians, and the poor, suffering, peace-loving Palestinians, didn’t touch me. I knew NPR was spinning or, worse, lying.
The problem is that, once you realize that a narrator is comfortable abandoning the truth, you start to wonder, “Where does that end? I know NPR is lying when it tries to make a moral relativism argument re Israel or, worse, when it presents the Israeli military as an out-of-control killing machine, so I have to wonder if it’s lying about other things too.”
After 9/11, I got some further reality checks regarding the NPR world view. I didn’t like the way NPR kept trying to exculpate Islam from the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. That made no sense to me. I also didn’t like NPR’s relentless negative war coverage. I actually agreed with Bush: when a nation supports mass murderers, you bring war to that nation. I also had a hard time understanding how, despite the fact that Bush spent a year begging the UN for help, eventually ending up with a coalition, NPR could keep selling little story packages that presented Bush as an out-of-control, go-it-alone cowboy. The spin was inconsistent with the facts on the ground.
Eventually, I started cross-checking NPR stories. They’d say one thing, and I’d go on an internet search for more information. That’s when I stumbled across conservative blogs. What fascinated me was that, using the same facts NPR reported, or sometimes just alluded to, the conservative sites would reach conclusions that were — surprise! — consistent with those facts. There was no bending and stretching, there were no contortions. Facts and conclusions flowed logically, from one to another.
The biggest surprise, though, was the way the conservative blogs opened themselves to the opposing point of view. Where I expected an echo chamber, I got huge quotes from and links to NPR, CBS, NBC, and all other mainstream outlets, along with detailed analyses explaining the flaws in the reasoning or the factual errors and omissions. Unlike the tight, one-world view of the NPR story packages, this was all out intellectual warfare. Suddenly, that seemingly trite phrase “the marketplace of ideas” made big time sense.
From blogs, it was a short stop to radio, and that’s when I definitively abandoned NPR. I realized that those neatly tied-up story lines weren’t a sign of sophistication and erudition, they were a sign of cowardice. NPR was the intellectual (and news) equivalent of the three monkey, insofar as it religiously assured its audience that, when it came to the liberal viewpoint, there was no evil to be seen, heard or spoken.
The courage was with Rush Limbaugh, or Dennis Prager, or Hugh Hewitt, or Michael Medved, or a host of other hosts, all of whom welcomed opposing views on their program, whether in the form of actual guests, ordinary citizens calling in, or lengthy playbacks of liberal arguments and speeches. The conservative blogs and radio shows were sufficiently secure in their viewpoints, and in their ability to support those viewpoints, that they’d take on all comers.
Suddenly, I was out of the bubble — and I’ve never looked back. My liberal friend accuses me of still living in the bubble because I read so many conservative sites. What he doesn’t understand, because he lives in the liberal media world, is that these conservative sites take the same news the liberal media sells, and then give added value, in the form of criticism, analysis or additional facts. They pierce the bubble at every turn.
More than that, because conservative media openly admits its bias, I can separate facts from viewpoint with relative ease. Such is not the case with NPR, which stridently asserts its perfect objectivity, allowing it to present its conclusions as objective facts. As Benjamin Kerstein says:
Put simply, NPR is for coastal liberals what Rush Limbaugh is for heartland conservatives: a means of relating to the world from within the confines of a specific subculture. The difference, of course, is that Limbaugh’s admirers do not force others to pay for it.
Nor, I imagine, are Limbaugh’s listeners laboring under the same illusion as NPR’s. Most of them probably understand that Limbaugh is giving opinions based on his political point of view, which is, to say the least, well known to his listeners. NPR’s listeners, on the other hand, are quite convinced that they are receiving nothing less than the pure, unvarnished, objective truth from the network. They believe themselves to be smart and informed, and thus the network they love must also be, perhaps by definition, smart and informative.
As far as I have been able to discern from my own, admittedly subjective, encounters with the network, this is largely a convenient illusion. Put simply, NPR’s reputation seems based largely on aesthetic considerations. Its personalities are articulate and employ a more extensive vocabulary than commercial radio; its programs are professionally produced, with a slickness that conservative media cannot match; and its reporters are generally skilled at sounding calm and objective, even when they manifestly are not. The more one begins to delve into the substance of NPR’s programming, however, the more one senses that the network is neither particularly smart nor particularly informative.
As someone who listened to NPR for almost two decades, I can assure Kerstein that he is absolutely right.
Cross-posted at Right Wing News
Juan Williams breached PC, group-think protocol by giving voice to a personal feeling, which is the fear of Muslims on airplanes. This is not an irrational fear. While the percentage of Muslims who will be threats on airplanes is small, the percentage of mass murderers who board airplanes and happen to be Muslims is large.
Normal people understood what Williams said. Leftists intentionally misconstrued him — and then one of them said something more, and it’s a something that, to me, reveals a lot about the true nature of statism.
The “something more” that emanated from the Left after Williams violated the PC shibboleth was this statement from Vivian Schiller, the CEO at NPR:
After the firing, Schiller said publicly that whatever feelings Williams had about Muslims should be between him and “his psychiatrist or his publicist — take your pick.”
It took me a while to figure out why that remark was so awful, and the “so awful” part doesn’t have to do with the fact that it’s demeaning or unprofessional. It was a little trip down memory lane that made me realize what was so terrible about it.
Walk back with me in time. It’s sometime in 1970. The Soviet Union is still a completely committed Communist nation. As a completely committed Communist nation, it is also a complete totalitarian nation, which means that it must exert total control over any citizens who dare to challenge its hegemony. (I bet some of you have figured out where I’m going with this one.) One of the ways the Soviet Union controlled dissidents, whether they dissented because of religion, political beliefs, homosexuality, or whatever else made them challenge the statist monolith, was to send them to psychiatrists for “reeducation“.
For those too young to remember those times, you have to appreciate that psychiatry in America and psychiatry in the Soviet Union were two vastly different things. In the Soviet Union, psychiatry wasn’t about voluntary commercial relationships between an individual and a doctor, with the latter helping a person break a bad habit, find greater happiness, control anxiety, make personal relationships richer, or whatever else got a person thinking a psychiatrist might be a good thing.
In the Soviet Union, psychiatry existed to support the state. Psychiatrists used the new science of the mind, not to educate people, but to mentally coerce them into singing the state tune, so that they would abandon their dissenting ways forever. Or, sometimes, they just tortured them with mind games:
In the Soviet Union, psychiatry was used for punitive purposes. Psychiatric hospitals were used by the authorities as prisons in order to isolate hundreds or thousands of political prisoners from the rest of society, discredit their ideas, and break them physically and mentally; as such they are considered a form of torture. This method was also employed against religious prisoners, including especially well-educated atheists who converted to a religion; in such cases their religious faith was determined to be a form of mental illness that needed to be cured.
So, when the head of NPR lashes out at someone for deviating from Leftist orthodoxy by suggesting psychiatry, that’s a significantly more creepy and unguarded response than its superficial snark and immaturity would seem to imply.
UPDATE: Turns out I’m not the only one thinking along these lines.
UPDATE II: Garry Hamilton reminds me that psychiatry in America hasn’t been that innocuous either.
I managed to get as far as writing a nasty letter to NPR about the Juan Williams firing, because my day self-destructed, and my blogging hopes ended. Fortunately, many of my blog friends have been very busy, so let me pass them on to you. You know, without my having to tell you, how good each of the following writers is, so you can be assured that you will enjoy, and quite possibly agree with, what each has to say:
Incidentally, my take on it to NPR was that NPR long ago stopped being a news outlet, and became an opinion outlet for the Democratic Party, with the opinion packaged to look like news. For NPR to fire Williams for openly voicing his opinion took hypocrisy to new heights. I also pointed out that, while I no longer listen to NPR’s claptrap, I still have a say in the matter, since I’m forced to pay its bills.
UPDATE: A few more good links –
And Fox gave Juan a job — because Fox actually lets people speak
You’ll find yourself enjoying the different writing styles, but I think you’ll see that they all reach the same conclusion: NPR, a taxpayer funded institution, showed the horrible nexus of political correctness and dhimmitude that will destroy America unless we start refusing to let them bully us. The only way to deal with political correctness is to ignore it. Sadly, though, too many people are cowed by it. I’m actually not. I may not be a confrontational person, but I’ll politely, and factually, argue my way around the PC shibboleths that try to constrain me. Usually, the people to whom I’m speaking end up nodding like those floppy necked dogs on car dashboards. PC can’t shut down the part of their brain that knows I’m right; all it can do is cut out their tongues, preparing them for the ultimate ritual sacrifice.
This is the way to treat PC censorship:
Or as Ben Franklin said: “We must, indeed, all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”
Some months ago, I read and enjoyed Michael Sragow’s fine Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master. It’s clear from the book that, as a director, Fleming was the last of a dying breed — a gentleman in Hollywood and, of course, a truly great director, responsible for such classics as Red Dust, Gone With the Wind, and The Wizard of Oz.
What I also read and enjoyed very much this morning was Sragow’s description of his run-in with NPR (appearing as part of a larger article about Fleming’s ability to avoid the limelight, even as his stars and his movies shown ever brighter):
OVER a year ago a producer for National Public Radio’s “Fresh Air” interviewed me about whether my book, “Victor Fleming: An American Movie Master,” would be worth the host Terry Gross’s time. The result was a mildly farcical call and response. Fleming, I said, molded as many great stars as any director in Hollywood, including Clark Gable, Gary Cooper, Spencer Tracy, Judy Garland and Jean Harlow. The producer responded, “Then why haven’t I heard of him?” I explained that he was not a self-promoter, hired no publicist and left no diaries or journals. But he did direct pictures that defined movies for generations of Americans, smash hits like “Gone With the Wind,” “The Wizard of Oz,” “Captains Courageous” and “A Guy Named Joe.”
The producer repeated, “Then why haven’t I heard of him?” I added that he died young, at 59, in 1949. Not only that, his best director friends, Howard Hawks and King Vidor, and respected colleagues, like David O. Selznick, outlived him and later took much of the credit for his work.
Again the producer asked, “Then why haven’t I heard of him?”
I said that’s why I wrote the book.
The problem wasn’t simply the producer’s argumentum ad ignorantiam. It’s also the persistence of conventional wisdom.
NPR — paid for in significant part by taxpayers, ardently liberal in its outlook, and guided by idiots.
Will you all join me in remembering this wonderful phrase — argumentum ad ignorantiam — the next time you read the newspaper or listen to a TV show?
Despite the fact that my tax dollars fund it, I pretty much ignore NPR, even when it pulls stupid stunts such as running an extremely crude little video cartoon that lambastes the Tea Party movement by promising to teach “How to Speak Teabag.“ Speaking “teabag,” of course, involves mouthing things that are either inane, or that use the word Nazi in every other sentence — or both. Conservatives, unsurprisingly, took umbrage at this cartoon. NPR’s ombudsman acknowledged that the whole thing was “mean-spirited,” and out of sync with NPR’s normally saintlike demeanor.
What’s really funny about the whole thing is that NPR earnestly assures us that it’s been looking for a conservative cartoonist to balance out its taxpayer-funded offerings. It just can’t find one:
It comes as no surprise to learn that NPR does not employ a conservative cartoonist. [Dick] Meyer says the criticism that “we don’t have a conservative cartoon is certainly legitimate and reasonable.” He claims that NPR has been looking for a conservative cartoonist. But if NPR were serious about this effort, wouldn’t it have found one by now? I suspect that any search for a conservative cartoonist has taken a back-seat to the quest “to make sure there are an equal number of female and male voices as well as minority perspectives,” to quote the person in charge of NPR’s site.
While I’m sure the search is indeed taking a back seat to everything, I believe that, even if it took a front seat, NPR still wouldn’t find a conservative cartoonist. Cartoonists, after all, are supposed to be funny. Since we’re speaking here of political cartoons, we’re not expecting “Take my wife . . . please” jokes or Keystone Kops chases. Nevertheless, the essence of political cartooning is to use satire and humor to drive the joke home. And in NPR land, there is nothing funny about jokes aimed at Obama, Pelosi, Reid, Islamic terrorists, etc. Since the topics, to them, are inherently unfunny, no cartoonist can ever submit examples of his work that will tickle the NPR pooh-bahs enough to decide that the cartoonist is worth hiring.
You know that NPR is hitting new lows when a liberal friend who reads only the MSM, who refers to anything that’s not MSM as “right wing rags,” and who prefaces his remark with “You know I don’t agree with everything Israel does,” then goes on to add that “NPRs coverage of the Gaza thing is appallingly biased.” Perhaps this friend will begin to figure out that this type of “appallingly biased” coverage isn’t anomalous, but is par for the course — and at tax payer expense too.
Starvation, sadly, regularly stalks the African continent. This religiously prophetic website, in its famine page, tracks those trends and provides truly horrible images, one of which I reproduce here (from Somalia):
In the great country of America, however, hunger has a different face:
I do not post the above picture to be mean to the voluminous ladies who appear in it. Indeed, it’s not my picture at all. Instead, it’s the picture used to illustrate an NPR story about the way in which rising food prices are affecting the poor: among other things, they’re not able to buy all the food they want:
The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it’s more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don’t buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.
I appreciate the story’s main point, which is that, for people who live their lives on the economic razor’s edge, inflation is devastating.
I also understand that the story is trying to show that, from an Atkins’ diet point of view, cheap hi-carb food is more likely to increase weight than more expensive low carb food, including meat. The ladies above clearly aren’t shopping at Whole Foods. It’s just as clear, though, that these gals didn’t suddenly gain weight when inflation began. Instead, it’s obvious that their weight problems pre-date the recent rise in prices, and that, even as they stock up on potatoes and noodles, they’re not buying much in the way of fruits and veggies. And perhaps, just perhaps, they’re eating too much. (Incidentally, you can still get a good value on meat at McDonalds, if you wish to offset your all carb diet, but I suspect McDs is a dirty word in NPR circles.)
Hat tip: Moonbattery (and Danny Lemieux)
From 1987 through 2003, I listened to NPR with religious fervor. It was my church. Everything I knew, I knew from NPR. In 2003, I discovered the internet and began following up on stories I heard on NPR. I learned for the first time that NPR had not only an anti-Israel bias — one that usually saw me screaming at my radio before snapping it off — but an anti-anything but lockstep liberalism bias. I tried to listen to it after 2003, just to remain informed about the “other side” politically, but didn’t have the time or the energy. It became too irksome to me that my taxpayer dollars were (and are) funding something so relentlessly one-sided politically.
Something strange happened at NPR this weekend, however. Scott Simon, a regular NPR commentator, broke free of the liberal stranglehold and broadcast a very strong criticism of Obama. It touches upon his reckless spending, his broken campaign promises, and his attack on Republicans on racist grounds. Aside from a mean throw-away line about bloggers, it is a model of rational thinking. Very peculiar — but absolutely worth the three minutes and thirty seconds it takes to listen to the comment.
David Mamet is a famous American writer, who has distinguished himself in every area of endeavor: plays, screen plays, film director, essayist, and author. You name it and he’s done it, and done it well. By his own admission (see below), he was also just as liberal as you’d assume an older, intellectual Jewish man in the Broadway and Hollywood world would be. But no longer. Mamet has stepped out of the closet and done so loudly and articulately in The Village Voice:
John Maynard Keynes was twitted with changing his mind. He replied, “When the facts change, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?”
I wrote a play about politics (November, Barrymore Theater, Broadway, some seats still available). And as part of the “writing process,” as I believe it’s called, I started thinking about politics. This comment is not actually as jejune as it might seem. Porgy and Bess is a buncha good songs but has nothing to do with race relations, which is the flag of convenience under which it sailed.
But my play, it turned out, was actually about politics, which is to say, about the polemic between persons of two opposing views. The argument in my play is between a president who is self-interested, corrupt, suborned, and realistic, and his leftish, lesbian, utopian-socialist speechwriter.
The play, while being a laugh a minute, is, when it’s at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.
I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.
As a child of the ’60s, I accepted as an article of faith that government is corrupt, that business is exploitative, and that people are generally good at heart.
These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the fuck up. “?” she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as “a brain-dead liberal,” and to NPR as “National Palestinian Radio.”
This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.
Please read the rest here. Every word is worth taking in.
I was particularly charmed by the NPR story, because I so completely understand it. When I started listening to NPR in the mid-1980s, it shaped me as a liberal. I unthinkingly accepted the world view it offered. However, as the years rolled by, whether because it got more strident and biased, or because I got more knowledgeable and discriminating, I started getting angry at the stories.
I got angry at the Israel stories, which I found were offensively biased (I love Mamet’s “National Palestinian Radio” quip). I got angry at the stories that advocated euthanasia in America, even though I’ve always understood that America is not like Holland, with its cradle to grave care, so that there would be an economic incentive for American families to press a loved one to end it all before using up the money. I now know that the situation is even worse in socialized states because, while familial love will be a strong pushback against urging suicide, states looking at the bottom line will not have any emotional problems with hastening their expensively sick citizens to their deaths. I hated the stories that positively presented “ethics” classes at high school, classes that didn’t actually teach any morality, but just devolved into discussion groups about people’s feelings. (Stealing is bad, except if it feels good to steal.) I hated the unwavering and increasingly irrational anti-George Bush stories, stories that had an emotional content completely inconsistent with the underlying facts.
I found myself driving in the car screaming at the radio (very uncharacteristic behavior for me, I assure you) and, news junkie that I am, I started searching for alternatives. These alternatives turned out to be Rush Limbaugh, Dennis Prager, Michael Medved and Hugh Hewitt. I thought that I’d be screaming at them (radio-wise), but couldn’t have been more wrong. Sometimes, listening to their shows, I felt like one of those bobbleheaded dogs people have in the back of their cars, because I was nodding so much in agreement. Nor did I feel that I’d just converted mindlessly from one true belief to another. On NPR, shows were presented as tight little stories that pushed one inevitably towards the reporter’s conclusion — all without the reporter ever admitting to a bias. On talk radio, the host freely admitted to his bias — and then defended it. He used the facts to make his case. He took on calls hostile to his position. He invited guests with whom he disagreed. It was a revelation to me.
I don’t always agree with what my talk radio hosts say, but I always agree with the intellectual honesty they show, with their openness about their bias, and with their willingness to defend their position and, if necessary, to concede any errors, factual or theoretical, that they have made.
And that’s just one point in Mamet’s essay with which I agree. He describes so precisely the intellectual journey I made, one in which I learned to examine the liberal shibboleths with which I’d been raised and to recognize that they don’t apply to the real world. Instead, they posit exactly the same world Marx and Engels believed existed in mid-19th Century Europe, and act as if nothing has changed. As if no World Wars have come along, as if modern technology didn’t exist, as if economics are still Keynesian, and as if Communism, rather than proving to be an abysmal totalitarian failure, is still the last, best hope of mankind.
Mamet has beautifully articulated Progressivism’s failure to align political theory with the world in which we actually live. He’s chosen to do so in the Village Voice, a well known liberal publication. (And kudos to the Voice for publishing his essay.) I wonder if his thoughts will affect any of his readers, by helping them to reexamine their own unthinking beliefs. Given the defensive narcissism that characterizes Progressive thinking, though, I rather doubt that will happen. He’ll be reviled as a traitor, chastized as someone whose mind is going, or simply ignored.
In this regard, it’s worthwhile checking out the comments to his essay. Some congratulate him on making the journey they made themselves, as I do; some riff in their own little wonderland; and some are incredibly angry and abusive that someone would leave the true faith. I’m reprinting a small handful of those that fall into the last category, since I think they illustrate my point about the defensive narcissism of the Progressive true believer:
Michael on Wed Mar 12, 2008, 12:01, says:
I had no idea a talent like David Mamet could be so shallow. I love his plays but if he thinks Thomas Sowell is even a mediocre mind then I have to conclude Mamet is in serious mental trouble.
This article seems to say “we’re all
troubled humans muddling through so let’s forget about advancing ourselves:. To hell with that mantra for the weaklings. And equating a punk mind such as Bush’s with Kennedy in any way, much less sophistic minor comparisons suited to the purpose, is not a substitute for real thought.
All in all this is a pitiful article and I am sorry to see this talent abuse himself.
tom on Wed Mar 12, 2008, 11:57, says:
If government can’t run things just let the free market do it? That’s worked out just great the past 7 years.
Mr. Mamet, I’m afraid you’ve become a lazy citizen. Our government isn’t something you just vote for every 2-4 years and then send off to do it’s job. You need to stay engaged. Our form of government isn’t a wind-up toy, it’s a child and it takes constant supervision and guidance from We the People.
Put simply: Get involved.
Deadhead on Tue Mar 11, 2008, 21:18, says:
We’re not braid-dead [sic], David. We just don’t like pulling the wool over our eyes.
Does this mean that you’ve given up on democracy and thrown in with the authoritarians? Aligning yourself with Milton Friedman suggests tacit support of the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. Just asking.
On Bush and JFK: The former’s crimes in Iraq and the latter’s crimes in Cuba prove both men were following the same flawed logic of global hegemony. Saying they’re the flip side of the same coin illustrates nothing but the stranglehold Wall Street has on our political process.
The view that government shouldn’t interfere in the lives of the citizenry is the view of anarchists, not conservatives. On the contrary, conservatives believe that government should intrude again and again, in the form of subsidies, tax breaks and bail-outs for “the corporations.”
Happy election season, indeed.
Your reference to National Palestinian Radio is borderline racist. If you want to send me a link to the last NPR report that was sympathetic to the plight of the Palestinians, then I’ll be happy to eat crow.
Tony on Wed Mar 12, 2008, 03:15, says:
The idiocy of this piece is evident right away from the author’s gross over generalization that government has never done anything right or leads ONLY to “sorrow.”
Then, he continues to talk about “magnificent” schools and the jury system, both of which are products of government.
The government builds roads, schools, employs police officers, firefighters and manages that military you are so proud of.
Stick to making mediocre movies, moron.
Hat tip: The Anchoress