Why the Pubbies Are Trying To Muzzle NPR

The Bush Administration has brought in a hatchet man, Kenneth Tomlinson, to head the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. His agenda: make National Public Radio toe the conservative line. Here’s a link.

That much isn’t really subject to debate. But here’s my idea about why they’re doing it.

The Pubbie leadership’s media crew (Rove and company) has figured out that with their strong conservative spin machine going in the media, they don’t NEED to control ALL the media, so long as the “objective” medai limit their reporting to that pathetic “he said-she said” style of reporting in which “balance” is assured on any issue by having partisans of both side spin things to their best advantage, without giving viewers any idea where the truth lies, even when one side is spewing lies, half-truths and misdirection by the bushelful and the other is telling the truth by any objective measure.

(Note: in this post, when I say “media” you may assume I mean broadcast media only. The Pubbies pretty much ignore the print media and the Internet because they don’t have the numbers that the broadcast media do, and their fans aren’t the impressionable types the Republicans seek to influence anyway.)

The Pubbies have their pet media – Fox News, the Clear Channel network and all the other hate radio programming on the right, most especially Rush Limbaugh. Any Pubbie talking point, however much of a lie, however DEMONSTRABLY a lie, can and will be taken up by these media and cranked up until the network news and cable channels have to deal with them.

So the mainstream media take them up, but, fearful of criticism from partisans of either side they are unwilling to take a stand on any issue, even the blandest of issues, cowering like an abused spouse who is afraid to say anything that might offend and set off another round of abuse. They fall into the “he said-she said” mode of simply reporting the claims of partisans on either side, without daring to weigh in on the truth or falsity of the claims of either, even when one side’s claims are clearly and demonstrably false. This creates a false equivalency that gives the liars a huge advantage.

And this is what Karl Rove has been relying on to make his disinformation campaigns effective. Rove has the Pubbie spin machine on the one hand, the “abused spouse” media on the other. There is a small number of objective media who challenge bald-faced lies, but there aren’t enough to be heard in the roar of the Pubbie spin machine and the abused spouse media.

The most glaring example of this in the last election cycle – and there were many – was the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth attack on John Kerry’s Vietnam record. There was no equivalence to be had between Bush’s service record in Vietnam and Kerry’s – Kerry served IN Vietnam, on a very dangerious Swift Boat, where he actually did get shot at by Viet Kong. Bush served in the Texas Air National Guard, where he was not shot at, and where there’s strong evidence he was AWOL for a considerable portion of his service. Those are simply the facts. But Fox News, Clear Channel, Limbaugh and the rest of the Pubbie spin machine pushed the Swift Boat crew’s baseless accusations so aggressively that the big networks and other news channels had to deal with them.

Which they did in the “abused spouse” manner, unwilling to argue with either side, just presenting the he-said, she-said of it, as if both sides had claims that were equally valid, when nothing could be farther from the truth. Simply presenting Kerry supporters on one side and Swifties on another created a false equivalence between them that was deeply misleading. And it happened over and over and over again on network and cable news programming so that eventually Rove’s Big Lie acheived its goal of making Kerry’s service in Vietnam somehow seem dubious, as if casting doubt on the severity of wounds received in combat somehow made Kerry an equivalent to Bush, who never saw combat, and very likely didn’t show for his non-combat dutis.

There are objective media like the BBC which didn’t let the Swift Boat Vet’s lies pass unchallenged. And there were liberal media like Pacifica Radio that challenged the Swiftie’s lies as you might expect liberal media to. But neither had any kind of penetration in the American media landscape. Certainly nothing that could challenge the roar of the Pubbie spin machine and the abused spouse media.

The only real nail sticking its head up in the way of this media machine is NPR and to a much lesser extent, PBS. Both made attempts at objective reporting about the Swifties on occasion, looking hard at the factual basis, i.e., the lack of it, of the Swifties’ claims. (They also on quite a few occasions fell into the old “abused spouse” mode of the networks and cable channels.) And they have member states in most major media markets in the U.S. and a lot of the smaller ones. And unlike liberal media like Air America, they’ve got street cred as being an objective reporting source that will tell it like it is.

That’s why Kenneth Tomlinson was put in charge of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. This organization, originally created to shield NPR from poltical pressure, is being used by Tomlinson and his Pubbie masters to pressure NPR to toe the conservative line. They aren’t nearly as popular as network news – note that their objective reporting didn’t make a difference in 2000 and 2004. Still, they’re the biggest threat to the Pubbie spin machine’s dominance of the airwaves, and for that reason they must be put down.

If Tomlinson and his cronies succeed, the Pubbie spin machine will have something less like a grip on American media, and more like a stranglehold.

What’s really bizarre is that NPR is just about the only place you can hear conservative voices actually speak intelligently about something. They have Cato and Heritage and Club for Growth people on all the time, and instead of being the screaming hacks just trying to attacknylze things, they hold interesting discussions about their points of view.

But apparently, that’s not good enough. You see the only way not to be liberal-biased is if you have one or two out and out right wing pundits pushing a message plus a journalist (who we all know must be a leftist!) who basically stays shackled to the objective tenets of journlism and isn’t generally pushing a message.

The conventional media is only a ‘abused’ spouse as long as they claim to be objective. If they came clean and admitted that they have a agenda, or at least a political leaning they would be free to report whatever they wish. It is their lie of objectivness which is hindering them.

  1. Has there ever been an NPR host who spoke in favor of making abortion illegal?

  2. Has there ever been an NPR host who spoke in favor of abortion rights?

  3. Has there ever been an NPR host who spoke in favor of a flat tax?

  4. Has there ever been an NPR host who spoke against a flat tax?

  5. Has there ever been an NPR host who spoke in favor of strict constructionism?

  6. Has there ever been an NPR host who spoke in favor of the “living Constitution?”

  7. Has there ever been an NPR host who spoke in favor of stopping affirmative action programs?

  8. Has there ever been an NPR host who spoke in favor of continuing affirmative action programs?

I believe that the answer to the even-numbered questions is “yes.” Cites upon request.

I believe that the answer to the odd-numbered questions is “no.” Of course, I cannot cite this… but someone could DISprove it with a cite. Attempts are welcome.

I need to expand a bit on a point.

The conventional media is not lying to us so much as lying to themselves. They want to believe they are objective and it is very hard to admit to themselves that they are not. As long as they are in denial the alternative media will continue to grow, and I suspect Bush will continue to take advantage of the situation.

If you are trying to portray NPR as liberal Bricker, you have a tough road ahead. Right now they have three ombudsmen who regularly go through their reports for signs of bias. Two of them were added during the current administration. Last report from them I saw, which are available on the NPR website, there wasn’t any.

I would also like to add my pledge of support to Apos and his post. NPR is really the last bastion of intelligent political discussion from either side of the aisle. We would lose much more than we would gain if NPR were to disappear.

I was interviewed by NPR, last year.

I believe that the questions asked of me, my real answers and the edited answers the show presented, and the resulting entire piece, was tilted anti-Bush and sought to marginalize the Knights of Columbus.

(I believe that the ombudsmen are taking the position that certain issues which I would characterize as liberal are in fact centrist, reasonable, and unbiased.)

Here is the transcript - I have removed my real name.

There were thousands of supporters inside, and less than a dozen protestors outside. The report suggests an equivalence by interviewing one of each. The commentary was devoted to rebutting or qualifying each positive claim about Bush and the Knights.


But I’d also like the context, if I might, and a solid explanation for why those comments constitute a journalistic bias.

NPR may or may not have a liberal bias (it doesn’t, it’s just that the US has veered hard right and NPR hasn’t caught up), but it’s sure as hell the smartest non-print news source out there.

If there’s a more centrist source of news that contains as much insight and as little sensationalism, I’d like to hear about it. Seriously, the commercial media may be more balanced, but who the hell cares if all the talk about is Micheal Freaking Jackson.

Oh, and NPR has Car Talk. That Tom and Ray, they crack me up.

Chile, please!

I actually remember when this was aired.

Most of the transcript presents the pro-Bush position, correct? Doesn’t the anti-Bushie who’s interviewed also express distaste about Kerry? Wouldn’t that make the overall story anti-Kerry too?

For it to be fair and balanced, according to you, multiple pro-Bushies would have had to have been interviewed. Maybe ten pro-Bushies to one anti-Bushie. And what would this accomplish? Wouldn’t the end result of the five-minute story lean towards Bush? As a reporter, wouldn’t I worry about the redundacy? NPR doesn’t only present information. It is supposed to entertain. “I like Bush” said a million times simply is not entertaining.

That you think that transcript is evidence of bias rather than deliberate impartiality is amazing, dude.

I have never heard of an NPR host presenting any position. I’ve heard plenty of guest 'talking heads" espounce the “odd” number positions, yes. Can you name an NPR host (do you mean someone like Bob Edwards or Terry Gross?) who’s in favor of those things and regularly expresses those views on their show?

I’d really like to have cites.

You’re kidding, right? Is this your very first experience with the news media? They gave a whole story devoted the the chanting cheers of the K of C and then noted a single protestor. OK. However, the American Catholic vote was not “thousands” to “dozens.” It was 52% Bush vs 47% Kerry (.pdf) which is pretty much the “equivalency” that you disdain, even though the story was tilted toward playing up your meeting.

That is not liberal bias. If anything, it is giving undue weight to a group that is hardly a source of serious power or representation in the overall Catholic community (despite good works that many of its chapters perform and the political clout it carries in a relatively few diocese).

Then that is just as likely your bias showing as it is theirs.

I do love my NPR. But my libertarian side does flinch at making folks pay for a service they aren’t using and that’s not exactly essential for the common good. I wouldn’t mind if they did give up federal funding, for both that reason and to escape attempts at government control.

But, in order to do that they’d either have to go commerical (which brings control form the sponsors and a mad race for ratings) or become totally dependent on listener support. I just made my pledge. Got myself a travel mug and a chance to win a Ford Prius. You should pledge too, if you’re a listener. If you do listen and don’t pay, you’re a dirty thief and Jesus hates you.

Bricker’s opinions about the bias of NPR are not shared by the overwhelming majority of its listeners, as surveys clearly indicate. Any news organization would be proud to have such confidence from its listeners. It could be true that the vast majority of listeners are wrong about NPR’s bias. It could be true that the omsbudsmen are not doing their jobs. But I would suggest that the far, far, far likelier possibility is that Bricker is biased.

I would be very pleased if NPR was able to get along without any CPB support, and I suspect that it could. But I don’t think the Pubbie assault on it would end there. They would go after corporate sponsors of NPR if they didn’t have any govenment purse strings to pull. Probably not with government intervention. They’d have big bucks supporters who do biz with firms that support NPR go to them and say, “Look, you know those NPR guys are against business. I can’t do business with you if you’re going to financially support a network that is out to hurt all of us.”

Don’t think it’ll happen? Look at how quick the Bush Admin. was to have lobbyist shills appointed to important posts and using undue influence, like that EPA guy screwing over the EPA’s scientific reports. They have no shame, no sense of fairness whatsoever, no problem with anything at all to achieve their goals.

For the Pubbies, the issue with NPR isn’t that it is biased. The issue is that it ISN’T biased … toward them. Until they have NPR singing in tune with the Pubbie spin machine, or they’ve destroyed or marginalized it, they won’t stop.

I’m a big fan of NPR and I do agree that it is America’s most intelligent news/discusion forum. It is, however, clearly biased and anyone who doubts that is kidding themselves. All Things Considered is anything but. For example, following on Bricker’s theme, I remember during the 2004 campaign All Things Considered discussion Kerry’s address to NAACP they went to great pains to paint the NAACP as non-partisan :rolleyes:

Well, being against government funding for NPR is pretty consistent with libertarian principles as I undersand them. I do not agree with those principles, if you can describe a desire to let a wealthy oligarchy rule in the U.S. and everywhere as “principles.” But being against fundign NPR with government money is such a no-brainer wrt to libertarianism that I should think the only reason a libertarian would find the discussion interesting enough to comment on, would be if they actually supported government funding for NPR.

Fact, NPR is biased. ALL news media is biased. It can’t be helped. By default, the mere choice of subject matter is biased. The next bias (of the subject) is the premise for why the information is presented. Publicly funded news and entertainment programs are unique in that they do not answer to public approval yet they are a mandated tax.

There seems to be a perception that public broadcasting is somehow above the fray of media bias. Just because a station plays Mozart, Ella Fitzgerald and BB King does not make its news programs some kind of intellectually superior product.

I am not against NPR as an institution because I support PBS. However, that is a matter for the public to decide. If the public does not wish it, then it should not be funded at the point of a gun. I’m not sure if NPR is currently funded (in part) through individual contributions but that is certainly an alternative that can be used as both a method of funding it and a barometer to it’s success. The use of tax money should reflect public support.

Before I would accept that as an indication of bias, I would have to see whether they present Right To Life as non-partisan. After all, both at the national and state levels, Right To Life has always made a point of insisting that it is non-partisan, depite the fact that it actively worked to defeat anti-abortion Democrats in the 1970s and 1980s.

I would think that unless a group identifies itself as being either liberal or conservative, it would be proper journalism to not identify them as being partisan. Just my thought on the matter.

Magiver, if it is a “fact” that all news media is biased, you are more than welcome to prove it.