Sunday, April 22, 2007

Pee & B.S.


There might have been an argument for supporting PBS news programs if they could be protected from government financial pressure. But once the Republicans learned that they could wrest journalistic concessions from PBS by threatening its money, PBS changed unavoidably into a government propaganda agency.
During the unified Republican control of the federal government from 2003 to 2006, that PBS reality solidified, best represented today by the "America at a Crossroads" series. PBS is still responding to its Republican masters even though they no longer control Congress.
Given the 3,300 dead American soldiers and the widespread recognition that the Iraq War has been a disaster, what should be said about a corrupt and propagandistic entity like PBS that still is willing to carry water even if its timing is a little off?
What should be done with a news outlet that has demonstrated that it will sell its journalistic integrity for money?
One possibility is for PBS contributors to express their disgust by either cutting off donations or at least demanding back a percentage of what they’ve already given. At least that might show CPB board members and PBS executives that there is a price to pay for selling out journalistic principles.

-- Robert Parry's "Time for PBS to Go?" (Consortium News)

Did you catch any of America at a Crossroads? If you did, our sympathies. If you didn't, consider yourself lucky to have avoided the indoctrination. One thing you grasped quickly is that images would be used throughout to scare and to make stronger points than the words would. A phrase noting that things had changed would lead to stock footage from 9-11. The whole thing played like a nightmare vision of Jerry Falwell's.

Here's where it really gets sick -- you paid for it. With your tax money.

Now PBS has always been accused of liberal and that's largely because of the fact that centrists get mistaken for liberal and because the right has been working the refs for years. PBS wasn't left in the mid-70s. PBS has never been a lefty paradise.

But, in the past, there might have been a better chance at real reporting (not left reporting, not right reporting -- real reporting) could air. Those days have pretty much vanished. (We'd say "were gone" but Bill Moyers' new series starts this week.) In terms of left, once upon a time, the left could have been one of the voices provided every now and then -- while Willie F. Buckley's Firing Line aired week after week.

The right attacked the largely neutral (but right-leaning) PBS and the response was to cater to the right. The right attacks again and the right gets more offerings. This cycle has gone on and on. PBS is now a right-wing offering.

As Betty's long noted, their children's programming is a huge disappointment. Bunnies and bears allow them to avoid issues of racial representation. As Ava and C.I. noted recently, Great Performances is now airing really bad rock concerts that were already available as DVDs before Great Performances got a hold of them. What you get, what's supposed to have you excited and heavy breathing is televised swap meets and Suzi Ormis infomercials.

What you get is a a sort of half-way house for various Republicans as they test their wings for other things.

What you get isn't the news. What you get isn't unique programming. What you get (see Ava and C.I.'s review this week) is justifications for the illegal war all this time later.

What you didn't get was real questioning and exploration of the illegal war. What you still haven't seen is a news program devoted to war resisters who, for the record, meet PBS' government mandate under which it was created.

Instead, you get right-leaning public affairs show, you get bland, generic, inoffensive and lifeless programming and you get a lot of imports -- mainly from England but Canada and Australia get their airtime too.

When NBC had nothing left to lose (in the immediate post-Super Train period), they offered live, televised plays on Sunday nights. The reality is that big names (including Sally Field) leaped at the chance to perform (despite the low pay) and that the plays were relatively inexpensive to air. So Public Television, you might think, would present live plays. No.

It's failing the news, it's failing the public and it's failing the arts. Anyone who doubts the last part should grasp that clip jobs, bits, aren't educating anyone about the arts.

Our own opinion is that PBS has betrayed every mandate it was given. Therefore, we don't just agree with Robert Parry, we'd suggest you take it even further and launch a boycott from now on. But we realize that may be too much for some people. Some people just can't seem to let go of the illusion that PBS is worth having around -- they're usually the same ones insisting that it really is commercial free!

So take Parry's idea and sit out a pledge cycle or two. And if, during that cycle, PBS is under attack and needs your support to demand Congress do something, sit it out. (As Rebecca has long advocated.) Why?

If they learn that the left won't always rush into save their fat asses, PBS might actually start having to offer diversity in their programming, they might actually have to offer a few left shows.

Here's an ugly reality for the left -- to PBS you are the long suffering spouse. PBS will always betray you, will always cheat on your. Why? Because they know you will always take it back. That's why, year after year, it's tilted ever more to the right. It knows the right will pull support otherwise and it knows the left will always rush in to defend it.

What if that didn't happen? PBS might have to start offering programming that served all of the public.

So the next time PBS disappears and all the neighbors are telling you they saw PBS cavorting with the right-wing, chain the front door and don't remove the chain. Tell PBS you're not a doormat and follow up your words with actual action.

Gore Vidal, speaking of what passes for democracy in the United States, is fond of comparing it to a frog in pot of water coming to a slow boil. Little by little, the temperature rises and the frog grows used to it until, finally, the water boils and the frog is cooked.

That's the reality of the left when it comes to PBS. The crap that airs now wouldn't have been accepted in the 70s. However, the 80s and 90s spent a long time warming up the water slowly before it ever came to a boil.

It's time to stop settling. It's time to stop pointing to one program (usually a journalism program and not leaning one way or another) as proof that PBS is still "our friend." It was never our friend but it once did a better job giving viewpoints an airing.

So just consider following Parry's advice and cutting them off for a period.

Don't be their doormat and see if they can get the message. If they do get the message, the response might actually make PBS worth watching.
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