Friday, January 02, 2009

Q Tips

NPR related comments welcomed.

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

O this is too rich.

Daniel Schorr on "what is behind the conflict":
Iran.
Iran is sending rockets into Israel by proxy.

oy vey.

ellenr

RepubLiecan said...

Apparently Daniel Schorr has finally swallowed the Kool-ade, it's Iran's fault. Has nothing to do with blockading and starving the Palestinians by Israel, the US proxy in the region?

Schorr is a typical example of the misuse of the term analyst. On NPR what qualifies anyone to be an analyst is the ability to repeat conventional wisdom, preferably that pushed by the Bush administration.

Porter Melmoth said...

Well, with all us on-the-go multi-taskers, we need one-word solutions to our concerns.

Iran!

Of course!

What was I thinking??

And the prize-giver said to the prize-receiver:

"Iran."

And everything made sense.

Anonymous said...

I gagged on that Schorr analysis too. What was even more telling was stand-in Ari Shapiro's little tale about his eight years at NPR. Nina Totenberg took him to "party after party" to play their proper role of Beltway courtesans. At one party, he actually got to talk about literature with Justice Kennedy! That was just a perfect encapsulation of everything wrong with our media class.

Anonymous said...

How can I ask this without crossing lines? Sigh... I probably can't.

Among NPR's hosts, reporters and analysts, in terms of religion or cultural background, who is Muslim? Who is Jewish?

Schorr & Scott Simon (formerly Quaker) are Jewish, I know. I would assume that Linda Wertheimer is. Are there Muslim hosts or reporters on staff?

miranda said...

The speculation about the NPR hosts' and commentators' religion is more than a little unsavory, IMO.

I am mighty uncomfortable with the implications of this line of inquiry.

For the record, Jews do not represent a monolithic bloc of consensus on this issue.

Mytwords said...

Yes. I agree 100% with Miranda.

Porter Melmoth said...

Jack Beatty addressed this issue pretty effectively when he said that the western corporate/financial/ media/military/industrial mega-combine is (still) overwhelmingly dominated by WASP men. Scapegoating is one of the things that such powers-that-be love most: it takes all the scrutiny off they themselves, and assigns it to more vulnerable targets.

Anonymous said...

While I agree with Miranda, and the posts following hers, I don't think 'anonymous' intended to offend, or be racist.
It's the 'identity politics' thing.
When people said, 'Gays have the right to be in the military', true, if there is a military than it should be open to all. But the real question should be - what is the nature of the military. Or when people say, 'There aren't enough Black faces on TV'. True, - if White people can get a lot of money for acting like fools, then every one should have the same 'privilege'. But the real question should be - what is the nature of TV?

Likewise, NPR should not discriminate in their hiring against Muslims or anyone else. But the fact is, that if they had a Muslim commentator, he or she would be in the same mold as all their other commentators, so that is not the point.

Imagine NPR having a post-Zionist Jew as a commentator! Now that would be change we could believe in.

ellenr

Anonymous said...

NPR does its level best to parrot Israeli talking points today. They even have a "best-selling author Michael Oren is a senior fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem," who just happens to be " reservist working as a spokesman for the Israeli military" on today. No shortage of Israeli voices squawking the talking points.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=99002584

miranda said...

Perhaps "Anonymous" didn't mean to offend, but anyone with a sense of history shudders to read the words "Who [among them] is Jewish?"

Oh yes, let's find out!

The implication is that anyone who is Jewish is a pro-Israel propagandist.

How simplistic.

There are Jews who support Israel unquestioningly (e.g. Bill Kristol), and Jews who are outspoken critics of Israel (e.g. Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, and many Israelis).

The line of inquiry is not only a dead end, it's patently offensive and inappropriate.

Anonymous said...

thanks, ellenr.

Actually, I wrote a long reply to Miranda, citing Norman Finkelstein (who is a personal hero to me), Chomsky (another hero) and others, and noted the lack of critical responses or commentary in the liberal blogosphere except for many excellent Jewish bloggers such as Yglesias, Ezra Klein, Glenn Greenwald, and so on... but deleted it after wrestling with the whole topic and the potential for offense and misunderstanding. I certainly don't feel that anyone who is Jewish is a pro-Israel propagandist. Absolutely not. But come on, there are many Jewish voices at NPR, and I can't think of any Muslim or Palestinian reporters or hosts at all. To inquire as to demographic imbalance or inquire as to potential bias is NOT antisemitism. I can understand why these questions, by someone posting anonymously in a blog, can be seen as offensive; you don't know me, my intent, or my perspective beyond the comment I posted. And there has been a history of antisemitism in this country, although it has been eclipsed by racism against Muslims and Arabs in recent history. (And not so recent history.)

Still: if this were an Indian radio network reporting on the Chinese-Tibetan conflict and a large percentage of the reporters and hosts were of Chinese origin and there were NO Tibetans at the station, this imbalance and the potential for bias would be a fair issue. If NPR reports on African American issues and there are no African Americans reporters or hosts at the network (which is not the case) then this would be worth inquiring about. American Jews represent 2 - 2.5% % of the US population, what percentage of the hosts and reporters are Jewish? People of Muslim faith represent a similar percentage(there is debate about the actual numbers), and how many are on staff at NPR? Does this disparity affect coverage of Israeli and Palestinian issues? Would it be irrational to ask? Is it racist or antisemitic to even ask? Can we not ask these questions because of fears of antisemitism and pretend that potential biases do not exist?
And these issues are not confined to NPR on this topic. (ie, Why was Michael Oren on NPR this morning and on CNN and so many other cable shows this weekend, waxing heroic?)

Certainly "naming names" as my first comment did WAS an error and was (unintentionally though foolishly) offensive. My intent was to find out the degree of this demographic imbalance and its potential for bias in reportage on the Gaza... situation. If there was an equal percentage of reporters and hosts of Muslim and Jewish faith (as opposed to the current make up), do you think the stories and reporting would be the same as it currently is?

[MyTwords has my permission to delete this if he finds it offensive or inappropriate for his excellent blog. Not that he needs it, of course.]

Porter Melmoth said...

It's good to see the above points being argued in a civil and thoughtful manner. Anti-Semitism will always be a controversial topic, and it needs thoroughness rather than quick statements.

As the Israeli writer Maxim Ghilam said after the Six Day War, 'Israel has lost its soul'. Is it retrievable?

Many in the American media (whether ethnically Jewish or not), don't seem to do Israel any favors by some of their commentary. Speaking of that waste-of-time Bill Kristol, I've heard him actually say that he doesn't know much about Israel because he doesn't live there and he doesn't want to. He enjoys the luxury of yapping about Israel in a detached way, while spreading distortions about a subject he admittedly knows little about. A perfect ongoing opportunity for people who aren't necessarily anti-Israeli to think, 'what's Israel really trying to do?' or some such, and suspicions deepen. And the next jump is often into anti-Semitic waters.

And yes, Noam Chomsky has always been a voice of reality and reason. He has the wisdom not to get sidetracked away from the essence of a given issue. We need him more than ever.

I have always tried to be sympathetic to the Israeli populace themselves, who live under the perpetual gun of their own Neocon-dominated government, (imagine having a Bush Administration in perpetuity), who ostensibly operate under the motivation of self-defense, but whose gestures consistently exacerbate already explosive situations. For so long the underdog of the region, Israel has yet to find the wisdom to transcend its past.

As for NPR, if they offered a more learned perspective to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, especially when it is at its most acute, rather than their refined stenographic approach, they might actually become a worthwhile source instead of being the objectionable subject of the arguments placed in this here blog. Highly unlikely, though, as we surmise.

PS: Trite/Trivial Dept: It's that voice - that metallic, through-the-drainpipe voice that's all-wrong for radio. Ari's voice. Another good reason to switch off.

miranda said...

I appreciate your articulate point of view, Anonymous.

I wonder, though, if the NPR point of view originates with corporate "on high" rather than from the ethnic loyalties or identities of the individual employees.

As we have seen amply demonstrated, there are right-wing anti-affirmative action African Americans (Clarence Thomas, anyone?), anti-Israel Jews, Muslims critical of Islamist extremism, on and on. So I contend that ethnicity is not destiny when it comes to accurate and balanced reporting.

Something else is governing the coverage in the mainstream media, including NPR.

Anonymous said...

"So I contend that ethnicity is not destiny when it comes to accurate and balanced reporting."

I completely and totally agree.

"I wonder, though, if the NPR point of view originates with corporate "on high" rather than from the ethnic loyalties or identities of the individual employees."

I actually think that you're correct here, or rather, that there is a confluence of factors and that this plays a major role. I also think that much(or most) of the bias is due to the relatively unconscious or unreflective adoption of a particular narrative of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, something absolutely ingrained in the US media and in American popular opinion. And that this is reinforced by ethnic sympathies and familiarities (again, I'm struck by the sheer number of Jewish hosts and reporters at NPR, it's pretty remarkable when you think about it). Finally, I think that the lives of any host or reporter who provides reports that are too sympathetic to the Palestinian plight or too critical of Israeli oppression and occupation would have their lives made into a kind of hell by both management and listener outrage. (look at the enormous personal and professional price Finkelstein has paid, for example)

Still, I think that if there were hosts or reporters who were from Gaza or the West Bank, or who had family members or extended family members living there currently, the perspective from NPR on this crisis would be very different (obviously).

Finally, thanks for the the reply. I have been very apprehensive about returning to this delicate and difficult subject after my first comment came off so badly.

ericblair said...

The "too many Jews" meme is a non-starter.

Anonymous said...

I repeat: it is not a matter of ethnicity, it is a matter of what is your mind and your character. NPR could have all Muslim commentators, and if they had the npr mindset [and there are conservative Muslims] then the change would be zero.

Similarly we have an African-American president. A lot of people think this means African-Americans will benefit.
ho ho ho.

ellenr

eric blair said...

Yes, so let's please stop with the "Jewish-controlled media" stuff, viz.:

"I'm struck by the sheer number of Jewish hosts and reporters at NPR, it's pretty remarkable when you think about it)."

Anonymous said...

Whether NPR's biases are determined primarily by the hosts or the hosts are determined primarily by the NPR (management) biases, it is certainly valid to question how the ethnic makeup of an organization might affect the way it reports (or does not report) stories.

That is particularly true if the organization purports to be a "public" one (like NPR) and that makeup does not reflect the makeup of society as a whole.

Let's face reality here, for a moment, shall we? Whether we admit it or not, ethnicity does affect one's opinions on subjects that are dear to one's heart. And the enthnic makeup of an organization can have a profound effect on biases of the organization.

That's reality and not even a particularly profound observation.

And PS: It gets really tiring to read charges (even implied) of "anti-Semitism" and/or "racism" when someone simply poses the above question about ethnic makeup.

That is just so much BS in my opinion. People typically resort to that when they wish to put an end to discussion outright.

bob said...

Right on Anonymous! Indeed it is a valid question! Case in point, today's lead story about the assassination of a Palestinian leader almost a month ago in Dubai. See http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/8520247.stm I thought, "Gee, I listen to NPR News AM and PM every day and don't remember any such story." A search at npr.org for "Jan 20 assassination Mahmood al-Mabhouh" and alternative relevant search terms gives zero hits! This story is still front page news all around the world (see BBC article links) and a lot of criticism is directed at the state of Israel. Yet, not ever a word on NPR News. Hmmmm... kinda strange.

A google search leads one to believe that about 2.2% of US population is Jewish. Would anyone like to browse the names of folks who are named employees of NPR and create their own estimate of percentage Jewish? Oh, SURELY there couldn't be any linkage between these two topics! Surely these good folks (and they ARE good folks) couldn't be showing some sort of cultural bias in their reportage.

Of course, to discuss this topic has been declared as an admission that the person opening the discussion is bigoted. I wonder where that bizarre idea got started? Most people would characterize my social/political views somewhere between progressive and far left. So much for that theory. The true bottom line for me is that I just don't like censorship, no matter how good the folks are who are doing it. I agree with Anonymous that this is a completely valid topic for discussion!