Thursday, February 04, 2010

A Wolf in Shepard's Clothing - Savaging Zinn Again


(my apologies to real wolves)

I had to post on the Ombudsman's repulsive write-up on NPR's Howard Zinn slander. Alicia Shepard's words pretty much speak for themselves so here they are in order of appearance:
"Horowitz, 71....is also founder of Students for Academic Freedom, a national watchdog group that promotes tolerance of conservatives on college campuses.
[That is some serious tolerance.]

++++
"Many critics pointed to NPR's even-handed coverage of William F. Buckley, "a figure as admired by the right as much as Zinn was on the left," according to FAIR, which gave its members talking points and urged them to contact the Ombudsman.
NPR was complimentary and respectful in memorializing Buckley....The network was equally nuanced in remembering pioneering televangelist Oral Roberts...."
[It's interesting how Shepard conflates giving praise and respect as "even-handed" and "nuanced." She also manages to get a dig in at the NPR critics as being nothing but unthinking FAIR zombies repeating its talking points.]

++++
"Obituaries are news stories that place a person in time and history -- not tributes. For this reason, Zinn's obituary did need to mention that he was controversial and that some historians were dismissive of his work. But, several professional obituary writers said, Horowitz's harsh comments about Zinn were not appropriate."
[How Shepard squares "not tributes" with NPR being "complimentary and respectful in memorializing Buckley" defies logic. She also pulls out the reliable NPR cudgel of vagueness (i.e. some) in claiming validation from those anonymous historians dismissive of Zinn's work.]

++++
"Adam Bernstein, the Washington Post's obituaries editor, also heard the Zinn obit.

....'It seems to me your story would have been better to get a more-neutral authority who expresses why Zinn was influential and helps the reader/listener understand why many scholars -- not just conservative firebombers like Horowitz -- felt Zinn was not a force for good in academia.'"
[The vague cudgel of "some" is now the sledgehammer of the anonymous "many": "many scholars...felt Zinn was not a force for good..." It's also clever - and cowardly - how Shepard slips this in by way of quoting someone else.]
++++
"After the flood of emails, I asked Sweeney [NPR managing editor] to take another listen.

He agreed the Horowitz quote is harsh in tone. 'That doesn't undermine the legitimacy of using his point of view,' said Sweeney. 'If there is a problem with what Horowitz has to say, it's that he's allowed to wield a sharp tongue without providing any justification or evidence to support his words: more heat than light.' "
[See, it was a legitimate point, just should have been backed up by evidence - which Sweeney fails to mention does not exist!]

++++
"I also asked Alana Baranick, author of "Life on the Death Beat: A Handbook for Obituary Writers," to listen to the story. She wrote obits for the Cleveland Plain Dealer for 16 years. She thought it was fair to use Horowitz to balance out leftist academic Noam Chomsky, who said "Zinn had changed the conscience of a generation."

"If I had been doing that NPR obit, I would not have cited Horowitz or Chomsky," said Baranick. "I would have looked to less controversial figures for comments. [Quoting] historians, who are not considered political activists, would have been more appropriate."
[This is the kind of idiocy that the NPR Ombudsman consults for advice. As if Horowitz "balances out" a quote from Chomsky. And as if being political activists disqualifies a historian from being taken seriously. Especially given that part of Zinn's legacy was as a scholar and an activist for such radical things like civil rights for Black folks.]

++++
"Critics are right that NPR was not respectful of Zinn."
[Respectful?! I could care less about "respectful." If there is truth to a criticism of someone who dies, let's have it - what else is news for? No, the problem is that NPR news aired completely dishonest and unsubstantiated slurs against one of the leading American historians who was also a decent and progressive activist - but when any rightwinger or Christian fundamentalist kicks the bucket, NPR is there to provide "nuanced" "complimentary and respectful memorializing" while refusing to document their shortcomings - something any journalist worth her salt could do both thoroughly and respectfully.]

14 comments:

goopDoggy said...

Wow, I gotta say my read of Shepard's second doing in of Zinn missed much of the nefarious rhetoric that MTW caught here. My critical acumen for detecting propagandizing innuendo barely holds a candle to MTW. MTW wields a surgeon's scalpel to dissect and unpack the false insinuations like no other.

Can we get Murrey a syndication with say Salon or some higher profile outfit to raise visibility? Then we can continue this obscure blog as a team knowing that the leader is carrying the flame to burn the back sides of the seats of the power elite.

John Duffy said...

Excellent analysis.

pamela said...

Beautifully done, MM. I couldn't bear to look too closely at it, as I am still in a state of shock about the whole matter. Where I come from, ideologically, Zinn was as "controversial" as Grandpa (and as beloved), so I was surprised to see him painted as a fire-breathing loon. But I shouldn't have been, in that he was influential and his message was a threat to power.

Anonymous said...

She thought it was fair to use Horowitz to balance out leftist academic Noam Chomsky,"

Can NPR claim that, "Fair and balance[d]"?

I thought Fox had a copyright...

Great job dissecting Alicia Shepard's dissembling (dis[of Zinn]ambling?)

Unfortunately, what NPR really needs is yet another ombudsman to keep the current "Ombudsman in an Edgar-suit" (Men in Black) in line.

of course, the chance that this second ombudsman would be real (ie, anything more than a shill) would also be zero, so that would mean "ombots to infinity and beyond".

Anonymous said...

'That doesn't undermine the legitimacy of using his point of view,' said Sweeney. 'If there is a problem with what Horowitz has to say, it's that he's allowed to wield a sharp tongue without providing any justification or evidence to support his words: more heat than light.' "

That pretty much sums up what is wrong with all mainstream news today.

it is not based on truth. In fact, truth has nothing to do with it.

It's all about "airing different viewpoints", no matter how false they may be.

As long as you 'balance" one view "from the left" with one view "from the right', you have done your job as a "journalist".

Worse still, news organizations actually use this balance ruse as a weapon to further their own agenda.

it allows them to claim themselves 'above the fray" even when one of the views that they aired was completely false or even libelous (which in many cases was actually by design).

"Fair and balanced" has not only become an excuse for sloppy journalism, but (worst of all) has become a cover for dishonest, unehtical journalism.

GRUMPY DEMO said...

Not much to add, well written and thoughtful, . . . now for something completely different:

Just two more points:

No. 1 "Keyes declined to be interviewed" - I'll bet.

I can't imagine why Keyes an African American reporter who let a White Right Wing Race-baiting smear artist denigrate a WWII combat veteran who was an early civil rights advocate, declined to be interviewed?

I seems to me at NPR Dr. King's "dream" has been achieved.

No. 2 Noticed that the Ombudsman hasn't responded to your challenge of her statement "some historians were dismissive of his work."

The (not an)Ombudsman can't or won't cite who "some historians" are? "Some people" believe she's just pulling stuff out of her, . . . "almost 30 years' experience" as a journalist.

Seems to me the Ombudsman is using someone's talking points.

No.3 (I'm not counting).

Every time NPR gets caught in it's Right Wing hackery, (see Alicia's defense of a prior Gay smear piece: Supports of Prop 8 where being persecuted by Gays.) she trots out the "balance" argument.

She using Kenneth Tomlinson's TALKING POINTS when he attempt to politicize Public Broadcasting, he was merely bring "balance to NPR." The depressing thing to me, is not that W and Rove politicized CPB, it's that so many of it's employees have rolled over Alicia continue his legacy.

GRUMPY DEMO said...

Well, I shouldn't post before my second cup of coffee.

Hey, kids for fun how many times can you say:

"White Right Wing Race-baiting"

as fast as possible.

Nate Bowman said...

Great job MM. And I thought I'd covered everything.

: )

goopDoggy
Love your post. And I agree.

Anon
dis[of Zinn]ambling!!!!

Grumps
Excellent points. I hope you left them there, too. Else I will post them and you will be one of my "sources".

Have you joined the team yet?

Anonymous said...

The Cleveland Plain Dealer, the hallowed newspaper cited by Shepard as a beacon of journalistic integrity, employs its own Ombuttsman, whom they call, with non-ironic Orwellian precision, the "Reader's Representative." He's a management mouthpiece, and each of his bellicose columns defending the terrible decisions made by his employers is an unintentional comic masterpiece.

biggo!pinko!fuzzio!bunnio! said...

Yah, FAIR just sent out Rapunzel's typically tamped-down response. Guess she did kinda grudgingly concede. Sorta.

Woody (Tokin Librul/Rogue Scholar/ Helluvafella!) said...

There is not a single, legitimate, academic venue in which David (W)Horowitz would be adjudged a sufficiently distinguished scholar to attack Zinn as he did on NPR.

Anonymous said...

The irony is that the ombutts[wipe]man at NPR is actually worse than the "journalists" she is supposed to be keeping "honest".

NPR listeners would be much better served with NO ombutts[wipe]man at all.

Anonymous said...

This was the best graphic ever(I would put ever in bold if I could recall how!)and MyT you've had some great ones.

Grumps, I'd say it was rather brilliant, especially before coffee.
Being a big Blackadder fan, I'm so glad you have kept him. That was , in my eyes, the best series ever and I still get sad when I recall him walking off to WW1. How nice it would be for one more revival that would have him come back. Of course that would defeat the point of the tragic loss of life in that war. Oh well.

Back to the Zinn smear. Wasn't it incredibly obtuse for Keyes/Sweeney et al, to make Zinn's obit controversial,as I hope they are smart enough to know they did.
The people really paying attention to the obit, or any obit, are people that either cared for or respected that individual. Of course there are those that knew of him and disliked him not maintaining the whitewash of history but they are imo, a small fringe group.
I could go around and ask a few conservatives and if they knew of Howard Zinn, probably wouldn't notice his passing.
They, Keyes/Sweeney, either were idiots to have chosen to smear him with mostly his admirers paying attention, provoking the deluge of criticism,
OR
they were tossing a bone to the radical right, freaky fringe hate groups that Horror itz represents.

Maybe it was just sloppy "journalism" that reflected the prevailing mindset at CPB/NPR.

I just wonder if they actually regret it or only upset that their smears weren't more subtle. hmmm
G.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.