NPR and Day O'Connor
Recently, a number of people involved with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and other regulators of institutions such as NPR, PBS and so on, have been launching an attack from the inside upon public media.
I will admit from the get go that NPR, PBS, etc. are among the most liberal voices out there. However, even the most die-hard conservative partisan would also have to recognize that NPR and PBS do a variety of non-partisan activities: Children's shows, Garrison Keillor, and specials on a variety of topics that are simply informative.
Further, the entire media, while being liberal, has seemed to move to the right in recent years. Has there been an Iraqgate to match Watergate? After all, Watergate was petty burglary. Yet despite far more serious accusations levelled against Clinton and Bush, oftentimes that were 100% vindicated by either various courts or the evidence of history after some time, there were no Woodward and Bernstein. Nixon went down because he threatened power; COINTELPRO, Laos and Cambodia were not crimes worthy of the Post's attention. But even that crime no longer captures the "liberal" media's ire, as they continue to back down from objectivity.
Just listen to, say, Marketplace. One would be hard pressed to call that an especially liberal show. Conservativism may not be streaming from its pores, but that is a benefit, not a deficit.
But having an ideological tone does not necessarily make one less objective, especially since "public broadcasting" is such a necessarily heterogenuous institution. (In FOX's case, it does, but I could imagine objective conservative news.... though it is not very likely given the construction of the conservative movement). If someone reports the facts and then uses the editorial pages to make the partisan comments (which is overwhelmingly what NPR does), that is not being partisan. After all, supposedly public radio is designed to be responsive to the public. Why don't conservatives put their money where their mouth is, for once? Why don't they propose what the Left does to make all media, especially "public" media, more democratic?
Because the intent is to sink alternative news.
Well, that's not what Tomlinson says. He thinks he's trying to make NPR more popular. Here's a quote to rebut from "Big Bird Gets Plucked", a Moses Ross article:
"Tomlinson secretly hired conservative lobbyists to investigate programming on public television. Tomlinson gave thousands of dollars to lobbyists who tracked “liberal bias” on shows such as NOW with Bill Moyers – without the consent of the CPB board. As a result, Tomlinson is under investigation by the CPB’s inspector general for these handouts. Among the lobbyists hired is Brian Darling – the man behind the infamous Terry Schiavo talking points memo from Sen. Mel Martinez’s (R-FL) office.
Conservatives are out of touch with the American public when it comes to public broadcasting. Poll after poll shows that the overwhelming majority of Americans support public broadcasting. In addition, the vast majority of Americans find that public broadcasting is fair and evenhanded in its presentation of the news. These findings came from a poll that Tomlinson himself commissioned for the CPB. Tomlinson buried the findings in an annual report to Congress without releasing them to the press or even sharing them with PBS and NPR."
The important thing is to remember that, irrespective of whether Tomlinson is right or not about his hypothesis, he didn't do his job and should be fired. He has been running his own investigations in blatant contempt for his very employer. But when you're a right-wing wonk, hypocrisy or corruption is no reason to fire you. Why is DeLay still in Congress? Why did Limbaugh go to rehab for his addiction problems?
Of course, the notion that public media needs to reach out to more people is laughable. Even if it was true (see poll above), it just seems to be intuitively ridiculous to change the programming if the concern was really the number of folks listening. Let us say NPR were to start toeing the Bush Administration's line. Would more conservatives listen in? Probably not; they have FOX and Michael Savage. Would liberals stop supporting it and listening? Probably.
In any respect, altering NPR's existing editorial strategy should only be done with a huge burden of proof, the type that the obvious pseudo-Bush-agent Tomlinson cannot provide.
Conservatives often employ a bait-and-switch tactic, from everything from the economy to the war on terror. Cut Social Security then claim it isn't working. Bomb Iraq, make it into a terrorist's dream and then claim it's the focal point of the war on terror. And they're pulling it here too. They'll often claim that conservatives are woefully underrepresented on the "liberal media".
Might that be because they turn down invitations to appear on their shows?
Meanwhile, any frequent listener to conservative shock jocks or Bill O'Reilly can surely see the badgering, the ignoring, the silencing (cutting the mics of or hanging up on) liberal guests and callers.
(As an aside: Steve Young proposes what I call the "MST3K strategy" of dealing with the hard right, something Jon Stewart has had great fun with, as well as Al Franken: quote the right-wing shows, play them, then rebut, hopefully with witty jabs. Since we have the time and control the forum... I still think a leftist could out-O'Reilly O'Reilly, and I'm willing to try).
In other news: Sandra Day O'Connor is now off the Supreme Court. This is a serious problem, as Dubbya's moving in to replace her.
I had my disagreements with Justice Day O'Connor. However, she has comported herself well on the Supreme Court. I am afraid a nomination from Bush will not. Irrespective of one's partisan affiliations, I believe any reasonable person can see that the present anti-judicial outburst from the Right is going to make any objectivity on the part of anyone, especially a conservative like Bush, a near impossibility.
It is up to our Senators to insure that a judge be selected: not on the Left or the Right (though, ceterus paribus, the Left would be better), but rather someone who respects the independence of the judical system and the process of interpreting the Law and the Constitution.
Realistically, there is a very good chance this won't happen. I urge readers to petition as soon as possible.
http://2cd.lonseidman.com/?q=node/365 (Sign, please!)
"Save NPR and PBS" MoveOn http://www.wnpj.org/node/341
"Public Broadcasting Targeted By House," _Washington Post_, June 10, 2005 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=745
"CPB's 'Secrets and Lies': Why the CPB Board Hid its Polls Revealing Broad Public Support for PBS and NPR," Center for Digital Democracy_, April 27, 2005 http://www.moveon.org/r?r=746
"Republican Chairman Exerts Pressure on PBS, Alleging Biases," _New York Times_, May 2, 2005 http://www.commondreams.org/headlines05/0502-01.htm
"Big Bird Under Fire" http://lab.dpo.org/mult/node/528
(Regarding the way that shock jocks attack liberals): http://www.americanpolitics.com/20031016Young.html
To be fair: FOX is also having trouble getting liberals (possibly because those liberals believe, probably rightly, that they won't get a fair hearing): http://www.newshounds.us/2005/02/02/is_fox_having_a_hard_time_getting_democrats_on_their_shows.php
And, as a final footnote, a fun article: http://jeff.pasleybrothers.com/writings/buffy.htm. A quote I particularly like:
"But does this moral seriousness and penchant for punishing characters mean that Buffy and Angel are shows with a conservative message? I would argue not, at least not in any political sense. For one thing, the conservative interpretation of the Buffyverse is grounded in one of modern conservatism’s most tendentious and debatable premises: that only conservatives understand the difference between good and evil and that liberalism is a philosophy of nihilistic relativism. Starting from that baseline belief, conservative cultural critics like to argue that any television show, book, film, or play that deals seriously with questions of ethics, religion, and morality, or shows evildoers being punished, is ipso facto conservative. Suffice it to say that this premise is misleading and inadequate at best. If postwar liberals were once too sanguine about the possibility that progress, reason, and government action could solve social problems, and too optimistic that the defects of human nature could be corrected, they were and are also highly moralistic, condemning the evils of war, violence, poverty, inequality, and concentrated power.
The difference lies in the scope of the moral compass that liberals and conservatives use. Conservatives focus almost exclusively on individual, personal morality, as seen in matters of sex, substance use, religious faith, and deportment. They also tend to be pessimistic about human nature, doubting the possibility that those who commit moral transgressions can ever change and believing fervently that evil actions stem from the evil intent of irredeemably evil people. Liberals, on the other hand, acknowledge collective notions of morality as well as the personal ones, believing that moral duties and moral transgressions can apply to societies, nations, corporations, and economic systems as well as individuals. Liberals are much more willing to see individual transgressions in the context of these larger structures. Conservatives approach the collectivities and structures of human life either by denying their influence or else by simply demanding that people choose sides: the good guys (us) vs. whatever the current “axis of evil” happens to be. “You are either with us or against us” is not just the Bush administration slogan for the “War on Terrorism,” but a whole conservative approach to politics that has rarely varied over the course of U.S. history."