Thursday, October 20, 2005

How I Learned To Relax, Listen To National Public Radio, And Not Have To Duct Tape My Head

I've had a like/disgust relationship with National Public Radio for some time. Mellifluous, high-toned, undeniably left-leaning, as even The New Republic agreed, NPR--specifically the news programs All Things Considered and its weekend editions--alternately intrigued and irritated me. It was of course interesting to listen to human interest stories, like the fellow who made a living repairing 100-year-old carnival organs. But time and again I would be put off by ATC's condescending biases. Some examples:

During Ronald Reagan's second term, I think, when homelessness was a permanent front page story in the liberal news media, someone in the administration made a comment about how anyone needing food could easily get it from most any aid agency in the city. Eagerly hoping to catch him in a gaffe, ATC phoned around to several Washington D.C. missions and shelters, asking if this was true. Each one declined to talk to ATC, referring them to their supervisors. Yet ATC still aired the phone calls, as if they actually proved anything.

Or their pro-Palestinian tilt, from at least the 1980s, which frequently went beyond offensive to downright ludicrous. I still remember Bob Edwards closing out one news story in the 80s with words to the effect that "Israel says the PLO is a terrorist organization and has refused to co-operate. The PLO has recognized Israel's right to exist and is working to revive the peace process." See? Israel, no matter how blood-spattered her kindergartens and pizza parlors get, is just making wild allegations by calling Arab terrorists terrorists. Meanwhile, a temporary propaganda gambit by Yasser Arafat is credulously accepted as the truth. And they air stuff like this all the time. Like they had a segment on about angry young Palestinian rappers. NPR approvingly summarized their rebellious message in translation, but tap-danced around what they were actually chanting, which is a sure sign that they were baying for Jewish blood.

And just this past week, they had E. L. Doctorow on, talking about his new book. He managed to work in his opinion, which was the last word in the segment btw, that the U.S. military couldn't manage the Iraq war, and that Iraq was now in the same pre-Hitler phase that Germany was after WWI. And this was a couple of days after the Iraqi constitutional referendum and a couple of days before the start of the trial of Saddam Hussein.

I could go on, and I probably will in future posts, assuming I can come up with a First Things tie-in. But I find myself tuning in more frequently nowadays. Why? Well, there's a few reasons.

1. They do air more in-depth stories than can be found elsewhere on the radio dial. I'm a big boy and I can correct for bias, plus I get news from a variety of sources. News on AM radio stations in my area is little more than the local apartment fires, convenience store shootings, national headlines, dopey listener polls, and celebrity gossip. NPR does get beyond that.

2. Garrison Keillor usually puts on a fun show, his famous contempt for Republicans aside. Sometimes he gives me the creeps, don't know why, and I chafe at hearing the existence of conservatives used as a punchline. But, I can filter that out. I'm a big boy, like I said.

and 3. I finally accepted that most of the news programming on NPR simply is not marketed towards me, so there's no reason to get torqued over what I hear. Oh, my demographic attributes probably track pretty close to the typical NPR listener, but I feel myself to be very much an uninvolved, outside observer. I may get as mad as this guy sometimes, but rarely, and only briefly.

Here's your First Things tie-in, a brief account of how NPR briefly hired cop-killer Mumia abu-Jamal as a political commentator

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I agree completely. Same feelings towards PBS as well. I love my installments Master Piece Theatre and This American Life but could do without the irksome snippets of bias.

    Regardless, You might go again towards that "hate dial" upon listening to their initial careful reporting of the Parisian rioting...the reporting that doesnt like to use the "m" word as an adjective. Ultimately, religion might not have anything to do with what transpired, neither does "conservative" have anything to do with whether or not Tom Delay committed finance fraud, but you can guess which scenario a superfluous adjective is more likely to be used...


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