Friday, November 24, 2006

How Stupid Does NPR Think You Are?

This morning NPR's Inskeep tells us they are going to "examine two things that are said again and again about the Middle East. These are basic statements that turn up in news coverage, not always with much explanation. One statement is about Iran and we’ll get to that in a moment. The other involves Lebanon which is in the news this week."

This seems like a reasonable start to an important topic, but note what comes next--the voice of President Bush breaks in, "We support the Lebanese people’s desire to live in peace and we support their efforts to defend their democracy against attempts by Syria, Iran, and allies to foment instability and violence in that important country."

Bush, Inskeep explains, "was responding this week to the assassination of a Lebanese politician. The politician was an opponent of neighboring Syria and the President, like many officials, mentioned Syria’s attempts to influence Lebanon. That leads to the basic question of why Syria would try to influence Lebanon."

Unbelievably, there is no irony intended, even though Bush helped Olmert and Israel's armed forces virtually destroy 15 years of Lebanese structural and political gains during Israel's 34 day rampage against Lebanon this summer. What kind of mess has Bush-US foreign policy created in the Middle East and why have they done it is the "basic question" that comes up if you have a heart and a brain.

As usual NPR refuses to seriously question the aims of US foreign policy, and so to answer its own biased question, it turns to former US Ambassador to Syria, Theodore Katouff! There is nothing wrong with interviewing ambassadors (the Syrian ambassador was just on the BBC) but they are never independent sources of information (unless they have defected or renounced their professional role). Katouff, actually seems like a thoughtful man, and he genuinely seems to want better relations with people in the Middle East -- but he is a career representative of US foreign policy and has nothing critical to say about this summer's tragedy. Why not consult Josh Landis, Bassam Haddad, Juan Cole, or the intrepid Dahr Jamail?

In this two part series, NPR next is going to tell us about Iran's role in the Iraq conflict and whether they can help stabilize it. NPR opens this part with this blather from Blair regarding Iran: "where the roots of this global terrorism are to be found, where the extremism flouishes." Then to explain the Iranian connections to Iraq, NPR turns to its own Mike Shuster! This is really sad; Shuster has no expertise on Iran, and apparently doesn't speak Farsi or Arabic. From him we get the lukewarm statement that assertions about Iran assisting the insurgency are "questionable" (they are in fact absolutely ludicrous). He also asserts that Iran "could prevail upon certain political figures like Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq to reign in their forces" even though al-Sadr is no tool of Iran , whereas the ruling DAWA party or SCIRI parties are very close to Iran (something Shuster never mentions).

Could NPR be more lazy and unprofessional? Probably...


bluetaco said...

Yeah right! When was the last time Juan Cole was even interviewed, much less invited to offer commentary, on NPR? They prefer types like Fouad Ajami, who can be relied upon to never question US motives. Oh, and that Israeli invasion/demolition job last summer? Its already heading for the memory hole here in America.
Great comment, mytwords. This blog is on my must-read list every day now.

Sandra said...

Thanks for this analysis. I appreciate being able to "get the news" in this way. In Middle East issues (as in many issues) I don't have the background knowledge to follow the developments in an informed manner. Compile my deficit, with the certainty that major media will distort the facts… and you have a formula for a great liklihood that my eyes will glaze over and I'll bury my head in the sand.

I’m not listening to NPR much these days, but I appreciate that you do. Your blog, with the background and analysis that you present with the stories is a great way to get the news. Thanks to you, I have a little less sand in my eyes these days.


menshevik said...

juan cole has been on the lehrer news hr. frequently
josh landis too