Wednesday, March 9, 2011

NPR and the Night of the Living Brain Dead

You have to love the idiocy of the controversies surrounding what two NPR fundraisers and employees said to the master of the faux mockumentary James O"Keefe, the right's favourite polemical demagogic media whore. I am of course not shocked (no Casablanca moment here) that all of this, not by accident, comes at a time when the American Congress is trying to kill once and for all something they have been trying to eliminate almost since it was created during the Johnson administration, public television and public radio. PBS, lets not forget, was one of Nixon's and Agnew's stereotyped and caricatured east coast liberal media establishment that was, they claimed, trying to bring them down. Forget Watergate. It was all the fault of the East Coast liberal media establishment.

While PBS, NPR,and American Public are no match for the BBC or even the CBC, another public television service that is being slowly sucked dry by vampiric right wing politicians, it has provided an important arena for the arts, for news, for documentaries of all types, things that were once mandated by the FCC for private broadcasters, and once even brought the US viewer intelligent and well crafted drama such as the controversial Steambath in the 1970s, the two adaptations of Jean Shepherd in the 1980s ("The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters" and "Ollie Hopnoodle's Haven of Bliss"), and the superb Tales of the City in the 1990s, the same Tales of the City right wing North Carolina senator Jessie Helms went ballistic over because of its portrayal of drug use and San Francisco's homosexual lifestyle in the 1970s.

Let me make a few points about the latest manufactured controversy brought to us by these right wing ideologues, demagogues, polemicists, and apologists. First of all, those who see many on the tea party as latter day racists and xenophobes are right. Many of the states rights back to the Articles of Confederation tea party folks are xenophobes and racists. They draw on traditions--Southern states rights anti-federalism (which was used to justify slavery and Jim Crow), Southern populism, rhetoric of the John Birch Society (through Skousen for Beck)--which are xenophobic and racist. And this is certainly an aspect of how their history will be written in the future. Quite clearly xenophobia and articles of confederation like anti-federalism are two of the broader contexts of the reborn populist right. If only Richard Hofstadter, Daniel Bell, and Seymour Martin Lipset were still here to see this latest resurrection of the "radical right" and how popular and prominent it is these days.

Second, NPR (or PBS) is hardly leftist. Unlike Fox, which is unfair, unbalanced, and right wing in its ideology, NPR is quite fair and quite balanced. You can hear a host or right intellectuals and right wing politicians on NPR every night. FACT. Compare that to how many times Noam Chomsky has been on NPR. Come on right wing demagogues count it up.

Third, just because someone has an opinion doesn't mean they can't run a fair and balanced network. NPR employees can and should have opinions. Unlike at Fox, however, these opinions don't get in the way of fair and balanced if weak as water (thank you Mrs. Slocum) coverage. Again, relative to this weak as water comment, let me note how many times Chomsky, a major analyst of American foreign policy, has NOT been on NPR.

To tell you the truth I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that a nation moved by the irrational, parochial, greedy, self-righteous, and narcissistic rhetoric of the states rights articles of confederation right wing crowd doesn't deserve something as good as an emasculated American public television and radio. Americans, for all their freedom of speech rhetoric, don't give a shite about freedom of speech when the rubber really hits the road. They are for freedom of speech only when it doesn't offend their sacred prejudices. Bah humbug.

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