Turning Off NPR (National Government Radio)
I haven’t watched the U.S. network news for years. Occasionally I stumble back across Lester Holt or one of the other stuffed shirts giving me the totally predictable and realize nothing has changed. But I’ve listened to National Public Radio, and its Minnesota affiliate, MPR. Now I find myself more and more turning it off. It is really National Government Radio (“NGR”) but tries to convince some listeners to pay for it. A very small sliver actually funds it. Very clever, that, pretending to be the ‘people’s station!’ Only 16% of the money comes from government funds and a smaller amount from listeners. Most of the money is from the ubiquitous foundations, grants, investments, sponsorships and station programming fees. I.E. brought to you by businesses – corporate executives of whom also sit on the Board of Directors. It is not actually ‘public’ by any estimate.
NGR is the soothing version of propaganda. It’s like warm milk, if you like that kind of thing – full of bovine antibiotics and growth hormones, fed on corn instead of grasses – but hoping you don’t notice. Dulcet tones, reasonable personas, familiar voices, low-key propaganda. The same vanilla stable of ‘reporters’ and commentators fill the mics year after year. I almost can’t tell them apart. Scott Simon is a name that comes to mind – Mr. Smooth, a friendly light-weight who proclaimed after 9/11 that even pacifists must support ‘the war on terror.’ Sylvia Poggioli – someone whose mission it was to report everything the Pope did – and not much more. She is a far cry from her anti-fascist father, and that must be what happens when you go to Harvard. Cokie Roberts, a neo-liberal commentator who slides between ABC News, “This Week With George Stephanopoulos” and NPR with ease. She is the daughter of Hale Boggs, a Louisiana Democrat. Shields & Brooks, the non-dynamic duo being paraded as the limits of acceptable opinion on NGR and on TV’s Public Broadcasting System (also known as the “Government Broadcasting System (GBS).” You are allowed two parties and two views, according to NGR. Commentators from every corporate think tank in Washington are a regular feature, from the Brookings Institution on down. As any review of ‘think tanks’ shows, nearly all of them are in the pocket of some powerful business interest.
Whether it is the need for ‘no fly zones’ in Syria (getting ready for Hillary!), the evilness of Russia and China, the ‘stupid’ people who voted for Brexit, avoiding Bernie Sanders or just about any government position you can name, you know where they stand, now and in the future.
NGR was notorious for its support for the oil wars in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Iraq, and still toes every single government position, in spite of what its own reporters sometimes dig up. Coverage of any opposition to Israeli invasions of Gaza is limited to short interviews with PLO figures, or a small ‘personal interest’ story, all to ‘balance’ their real position. They banned the word ‘torture’ when referring to Bush’s ‘enhanced interrogation’ – something only U.S. networks did. They advertise themselves as presenting ‘only the facts’ to dupe listeners into a pretense of ‘objectivity,’ but as anyone who has studied journalism know, no outlet can claim real objectivity, least of all these pretenders. The cultural coverage seems to be part of the ‘fluff’ designed to hide their political positions, even though its middle-brow and vapid content can be painful on its own. Their early morning book sessions seem designed to dig up literature that is as entertaining and marginal as possible.
NGR (and the GBS) are the prime propaganda vehicles aimed at liberals. After a while, the only way to handle NGR is with satire. “Mourning Edition” and “Some Things Considered” are their flagships. Some of the most dreadful programs now? Christa Tippit wrecking early Sunday mornings with her ersatz ‘thoughtful’ religiosity, hoping liberals can be lured back into the pews. “The Splendid Table” with Lynne Rosetto Kasper, an upscale glutton’s guide to cooking and obsessing over food too much; “The Puzzle Master” with Will Short – needlessly thoughtful NY Times puzzles, for those of you who don’t live in Manhattan; “The Dinner Download,” trivial shit Millennials can talk about when they have nothing to say at a party. It all screams ‘white middle class’ to the point of irrelevance.
Shows like ‘On the Media” and “Planet Money” occasionally ask on-point questions, but they never really nail the cow. The propaganda view of U.S. media or capitalism are not mentioned by either – though both hover in the backgrounds like unmentionable ghosts. Now that “Car Talk” is gone, and the post-Lutheran Lutheran and creaky singer Garrison Keillor edging into the night, perhaps we can see NGR for what it really is - warm, but poisoned, milk. So do this experiment. Every time you hear some right-wing, faux ‘centrist’ commentary on this station, turn the radio off. Wait 5 or 10 minutes, turn it back on again. Pretty soon you won’t be listening much.
August 29, 2016