Given that I've been running this blog for almost five years now, I thought I should weigh in on the current NPR and PBS funding cuts issue. As much as I detest how squarely NPR News supports unbridled corporate and US government power, I take no pleasure in seeing a Republican and far-right mobilization to cut off all public media funding. However, I've been unable to bring myself to sign on with the current campaigns to support NPR and PBS funding, and so I'm posting the following, hoping it will spur debate:
NPR, It's Just Not That In To You
Many progressive and liberal activists have probably received emails from MoveOn.org and FreePress.net exhorting them to, respectively "Sign the petition to save NPR and PBS" and "Sign our letter now and urge your member of Congress not to play politics with public media."
Leftists and progressives make bold claims about NPR reporting. In 2009 Megan Tady of In These Times, referring to NPR, wrote, "Public broadcasting provides some of the country’s most hard-hitting journalism....Public media produce some of the best reporting and programming on radio...." In 2010 FreePress President, Josh Silver, asserted that "Public media like NPR play a crucial role in America, providing original, in-depth journalism..."
Unfortunately these claims have no basis in reality. The painful truth is that - like the national Democratic party and the Obama Administration - NPR's signature news shows - Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition Saturday/Sunday - relentlessly exhibit nothing but contempt for leftists, progressives, and antiwar and social justice activists while constantly airing reports that bolster US militarism, corporate power, and legitimize radical rightwing ideology and movements. If you doubt me, I have assembled almost five years of evidence on this blog. For skeptics, I'll offer but a few examples that are the rule not the exception.
I didn't even mention the well-known cases of NPR's refusal to call torture torture, or how NPR smears leftists when they die.
Chris Hedges recently derided liberals because they "make passionate appeals to work within systems, such as electoral politics, that have been gamed by the corporate state. And the result is to spur well-meaning people toward useless and ultimately self-defeating activity." And such are these worthless drives to save NPR and PBS funding. Notice that the campaigns to save NPR and PBS funding make no demands and insist on nothing more than the status quo.
It is a shame that organizations like MoveOn, which claims 5 million members, or Free Press are not tying the campaign to save government funding for public media to demands that NPR offer more diverse and critical journalism. The campaigns of these organizations should mobilize their members and supporters to contact their local NPR stations and demand that NPR news programming be improved within a year or be dropped. This demand should be backed by a pledge to cut off membership support if these modest demands are not met.
Glenn Greenwald recently made an astute observation about politics in Washington: "There's a fundamental distinction between progressives and groups that wield actual power in Washington: namely, the latter are willing (by definition) to use their resources and energies to punish politicians who do not accommodate their views, while the former unconditionally support the Democratic Party and their leaders no matter what they do."
Progressives have a choice with public media: produce journalism that challenges the powerful or use their resources and energies to punish them. That is a campaign I could sign on with.