This Sunday morning's report on John McCain's commencement address at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University did something that really bugs me about NPR (and the mainstream media in general). It completely decontextualizes an event and doesn't inform about core issues. The NPR piece mainly looks at current perceptions of McCain in South Carolina in light of his expected political bid for the White House in 2008. It mentions McCain calling Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance" back in 2000 but doesn't explain at all why he would make such a statement. Wouldn't it be helpful to provide a little background on the public statements of Falwell and Robertson (one could find a wealth of seriously intolerant statements from both of these guys)? NPR could also have mentioned the extremely dirty tactics[a, b] (suggesting he was gay, that he was anti-veteran, or that he had fathered unacknowledged children) used in South Carolina in 2000 to undermine McCain's run for the White House (tactics in which rightwing evangelicals were implicated).
Finally, toward the end of the piece it was mentioned that McCain's appearance not only upset some conservatives at Liberty University who consider McCain too liberal, but that his coming appearance at the New School was upsetting some students who consider him too conservative. This supports the silly idea that if you are upsetting liberals and conservatives then you must be getting it right--as if factual events and truth lie in some shifting middle ground between left and right. Couldn't NPR interview a few of the leaders of the New School protest to ask what it is they don' t approve of about McCain's record? Then we can decide what we think. How McCain is perceived may be important to him and his campaign advisers, but I could care less--I want to know what he has done, how he has voted, and what he has said on record.