Sunday, October 24, 2010

NPR: Establishment radio (Ava and C.I.)

NPR fired analyst Juan Williams last week for his remarks on Bill O'Reilly's Fox News program.

Juan Williams: Wait a second though, wait, hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals, very obnoxious, you don't say first and foremost, we got a problem with Christians. That's crazy.

No, that wasn't what got him fired.

Juan Williams: I don't know what is in that guy's head. But I'm saying, we don't want in America, people to have their rights violated to be attacked on the street because they heard a rhetoric from Bill O'Reilly and they act crazy. We've got to say to people as Bill was saying tonight, that guy is a nut.

No, that wasn't what got him fired. Before making the points above (and others), he first stated, "I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality. I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America's war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don't think there's any way to get away from these facts. But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all as President Bush did after 9/11, it's not a war against Islam."

When covering the story, most outlets only went with the last quote. (You can watch the video in full at Mediaite.) Juan began the discussion, in reply to Bill O'Reilly's question, by first talking about his own feelings. As is repeatedly stressed in any therapy sessions, feelings just are. They aren't wrong, they aren't right, they just are. We can't control our feelings, we can control our actions. And that actually appeared to be the message behind Juan's full statements.

This seems to be lost -- a lot has gotten lost with the rise of Media Matters which is now calling for the firing of Mara Liasson by NPR or NPR's insistence that she no longer appear on Fox News. Coward Eric Boehlert takes issue with interpretations that he's calling for Mara's firing so we've allowed that he's calling for that or for her to lose her Fox News job. He's calling for her to lose one job, that's for damn sure.

Media Matters has become a crap ass cesspool and Eric is nothing but a little coward who couldn't get to the heart of the 2008 campaign despite having a full book to do so. One boring story after another and he couldn't get to the heart of the sexism expressed throughout 2008 -- first used to torpedo Hillary Clinton's winning campaign (over 16 million votes in the primaries), then used to ignore Cynthia McKinney's run for the presidency and used to destroy Sarah Palin's run for the vice presidency. You didn't find any of those details because Media Matters is a joke, a tired, dirty joke.

Doubt us? Eric Hananoki wrote up a little item trashing Fox for allowing Liz Trotta to be on the air after she "remarked that she wished somebody would 'knock off' both Osama Bin Laden and then-candidate Barack Obama."

Then Eric Hananoki makes the mistake of actually quoting Trotta, "The vast right-wing conspiracy blame has been undermined by her [Clinton's] evasions, by her outright lies, if I may say, by her pandering, by her race-baiting, and now we have what some are reading as a suggestion that somebody knock off Osama - Obama - well, both if we could." No, she didn't express that she wished to kill Barack. She was attacking Hillary Clinton and jumping on the bandwagon -- led by MSNBC including Media Matters heroes Rachel Maddow and sexual prick Keithie Olbermann -- that accused Hillary of calling for or wishing for Barack's assassination. (Hillary wasn't doing that.) We don't agree with what Liz Trotta said but it's not what Media Matters is portraying it as and that, more and more, is the big problem.

Media Matters is the story of a White woman with strong vaginal odor, a closeted gay man ready to come out and a splash of George Soros money mixed in. David Brock was regularly forced to wear a hair-shirt while appearing on Al Franken's Air America Radio program. We defended David against that treatment, called it out. David Brock, for those who don't know, was part of a right-wing echo chamber in the 90s. His sole claim to fame was coining the phrase "a little bit nutty and a little bit slutty" to describe Anita Hill.

Though Anita Hill was back in the news last week, some may not know who she is. She's a law professor. She once worked for the EEOC under Clarence Thomas. Thomas was nominated by George H.W. Bush for the Supreme Court. Anita Hill came forward to testify publicly that he sexually harassed her. David Brock repeatedly lied to destroy Anita Hill -- he was one of many. As one of many, he also was responsible for many lies in many, many attempts to smear then-President Bill Clinton. He is, in fact, the idiot who lifted up the rock that Paula Jones had been living under.

The damage he did in the nineties was immense. As the decade came to a close, he declared he'd changed. He was no longer going to be a hit man for the right-wing. He was the subject of an Esquire article and the author of a book, both of which asserted his assassinations were in the past. But from the start, Media Matters saw itself as part of an emerging left wing echo chamber. That was the problem. That was always going to be the problem.

As Barbra Streisand's Margaret tells a Fidel Castro clone in Up The Sandbox, we don't need to become more like you, we only need to be more like ourselves. We're leftists. We don't hide that fact. We don't pretend otherwise. We're outspoken feminists and we're proud of that. We honestly believe that our notions and beliefs can win in a fair debate. They can lose sometimes too. Sometimes because they're poorly argued, sometimes because our take is just flat out wrong. That is what the US is supposed to be about, a fair exchange in the public square, a give and take.

But while we believe that we can win on the merits, others claiming to be on our side don't think so. Take the liars who got on board 'framing' and insisted it was just about marketing a message. No, it wasn't about that. It was about watering down what the left is supposed to believe in. And it was only the latest hula hoop in a long, long line of hula hoops that was supposed to be 'the answer.' It's never the answer.

We win with truth.

Or we don't win.

A debate you won on deceit isn't a win. A point you scored with a factual lie isn't a point you won.

We never needed an echo chamber but certain elements of the left worked overtime to create one. That's how you get, for example, the shameful Journolist. It's how you get talking points pushed by various websites and organized by the White House. (For the record, anyone doing the White House's bidding? You're not independent. Give it up. That also includes anyone married to someone working for the White House whose outlet still lets them cover the White House.) Those who supported Hillary Clinton in the 2008 primaries or just believed in fairness saw the damage the left wing echo chamber could do. Florida and Michigan were trashed with no one defending them. The Democratic Party was supposed to be the friend to the worker but, time and again, the 'independent' media was attacking large portions of the working class. Writers (don't call them reporters) like John Nichols would accuse Hillary of some perceived crime and when it turned out to be true -- but true of Barack, not Hillary -- the same writers would immediately drop the subject. Campaign finance reform is supposed to be one of the left's core beliefs but when Barack broke his promise to utilize public funds, no one said "Boo!"

It wasn't just that Barack was given the nomination, it was that no one in 'independent' media wanted to talk about just how dirty the whole thing was. It was that everyone in 'independent' media (even allegedly honest voices like Paul Street) wanted to ignore the trampling over of the rights and votes of the majority of Democrats. What went down was dirty. What makes even harder to forgive was the refusal of any 'news' outlet on the left to get honest about what went down.

Eric Bohlert will always be a clown and a lying clown because he wrote a book that didn't have a damn thing to add to the conversation. But then, he wouldn't get all that 'blog love' for his bad book if he told the truth, now would he?

The truth was the casualty of the likes of Media Matters. If there was a lesson to be learned by and from David Brock, it was that whoring and lying for partisan reasons (or for any reason) will leave you hollow and destroy your life. Better to be reviled for telling the truth or your truth than to whore.

But that wasn't the lesson absorbed. And it's strange because David Brock the person knows all of this. But David Brock the persona of Media Matters refuses to speak of it.

We're all for fact checking. We're all for calling out imbalances. But we don't believe you play favorites. We don't believe you give one side a slide. If you're a left watchdog and sexism is running rampant, you call it out. You don't say, "Oh, it's our friends MSNBC and Jeff Cohen says we can't attack it because we need an echo chamber of our own!" You don't play that game. In most articles we write, we're calling out a number of people including ones we know, including friends. We're going to be calling out a woman we know in this article shortly. If you're going to do this, if you're going to make the call, you have to be prepared to make the hard call. If you can't do that, you need to find something else to cover.

So FAIR's silence about Keith Olbermann's non-stop attacks on Hillary and various other women? Shameful. Disgusting. They go after Chris Matthews like crazy and try to pretend that makes them 'watchdogs.' It doesn't. Nor does pretending that the increasingly fact-free Rachel Maddow has anything to impart.

In the above we're not talking about websites like The Confluence. Certainly websites like that argued for reality. And we like Riverdaughter but that doesn't mean we don't criticize her. [Disclosure, we do not know Riverdaughter. We did agree with Ty that we needed to be delinked from The Confluence and supported Ty's call on that due to postings at The Confluence which went against everything we believed in. We know Ty asked nicely to be delinked and then Riverdaughter turned it into a huge drama.] And sometimes, she's just ignorant of what she's writing about.

Last week, she shared that she thought Juan needed to be fired and she also called for the firing of Mara. We don't agree with either of those calls. That doesn't make her ignorant. That's her opinion against ours and may both compete in the public square fairly.

But here's where she's ignorant, any time she needs to go back further than the year 2000. It is ignorant beyond belief to write the following:

Juan Williams parked himself on NPR during the Bush years. That’s when I really started to notice him on NPR. It was about that time that Congress appointed some Republican operative to the head of the corporation for public broadcasting and severely cut the budgets of CPB programming. Eventually, NPR was pretty much on its own, getting underwriting from companies that specialize in 'Wealth Management". The tenor of the reporting changed and Juan Williams was one of the leaders of that change.

The late great Molly Ivins was warning about the changes at NPR as far back as the eighties and about the corporate underwriting that Riverdaughter only noticed when George W. Bush occupied the White House. It's been an issue the left has (rightly) called out since the seventies. Riverdaughter lives on an ahistorical plane -- and that we call out.

For those who don't realize the long history of corporatism at NPR, we'll offer this by the aforementioned Cohen and Norman Solomon:

With the health reform debate heating up, you might think National Public Radio is a good place to hear analysts offering a wide variety of views. After all, NPR is not sponsored by insurance firms, drug companies or other special interests with a direct stake in the debate.

To which Riverdaughter might say, "That proves my point! In 2009, NPR was doing just that, refusing to cover single-payer!" Yes, they were. However, Cohen and Solomon's column that we're quoting from? Published May 25, 1994. And never forget that in 2000, NPR launched a war against community radio (and the Clinton administration and Congress sided with NPR).

NPR is not left and NPR is not right. It is the mirror of an administration unless Congress breaks with the administration. If the majority of Congress breaks with an administration, you get two establishment views in contradiction with one another covered. That happened after the 1994 mid-terms, after the 2006 mid-terms and may happen after the 2010 mid-terms. But it is not two slices of opinion, it's two slivers of a generally agreeing establishment that get to speak. Or haven't you noticed that the ridiculous Marketplace is inescapable on NPR but there's no Workplace or any regular focus on workers' issues?

[Ridiculous? That's not opinion, that's fact. When a Marketplace interview with Elmore Leonard refuses to address the book Leonard's just written because the host instead wants to tell Leonard what sort of book he should write and, when the author says he's not interested, continue telling him he should write it, pitch to him what it should be about and hector him for not being interested, we've entered into ridiculous territory. We look forward to Kai Ryssdal next pitching his dog-eared script to Martin Scorsese insisting a feel-good family picture is just what Scorsese 'needs' to do.]

It's best reflected in the voices heard from in the lead up to the Iraq War. You didn't hear the voices of peace. You heard people who wanted to go to war one way, and people who wanted to go to war another. You heard them over and over on NPR show after show. And if you support war -- especially illegal wars of aggression -- you were well represented. If you opposed that war, you may as well have been invisible. Why was it so? Because Bush wanted war and the the Democrats -- as a group -- in Congress went along with it.

It wasn't left or right. It was establishment.

We were appalled in 2001 and 2002 to hear the sucking up to Bush that happened over and over. By the same token, the little war against Republicans that Terry Gross was allowed to conduct from November 2009 through December 2009 disgusted us. Strangely, Alicia Shepard -- NPR's ombudsperson -- ignored that. Claimed she couldn't comment on Fresh Air. Despite the fact that she had before, despite the fact that a previous ombudsperson once made his entire column about Fresh Air. That was the Bill O'Reilly interview and Republicans controlled the White House and the Congress when O'Reilly walked out on Terry so NPR scolded her publicly.

The current establishment is a Democratic White House and Democratic Congress (in both houses). Which is how a lot of things took place in the last two years without official objection and without anyone calling it out. It's why, despite the fact that a few years back, NPR was worried about the monitoring of programs such as The Diane Rehm Show by a Bush administration flunky, they've pretty much thrown balance out the window.

Which is how you ended up with not just the firing of Juan Williams last week, but a minefield of embarrassments for the CEO and president of NPR. Ruth documented this last week in three posts:

Don't like something on NPR? According to CEO and president Vivian Schiller, you don't contact the ombudsperson, you just don't listen. National Public Radio is only for those who agree with Vivian. (Vivian is the person we know that we would prefer to ignore in this article; however, we can't and we won't pull punches.) Vivian had no idea how elitist her remark sounded. She still needs to issue an apology for that remark.

After Juan was fired, Vivian fostered an anti-Juan climate. This allowed a Friday piece to run as "Fox Rewards Williams With $2 Million Contract." That's snarky and it's offensive. NPR realized that and they changed it after they published it. They changed it (to "Fox Gives Juan Williams $2 Million Contract") and failed to issue a correction, clarification or note that they had changed it.


Where is the ombudsperson?

If you change a headline, if you change any detail of a published story, you need a note explaining you made changes. But that snarky attitude? Vivian displayed it publicly. She declared that Juan's opinions were something that should be kept between him and his analyst or publicist. She stated that public the day after his firing. She stated that publicly to a room full of journalist.

Someone lost a job -- something many Americans fear currently -- and there's the person in charge of everything -- the president and CEO -- mocking him in public, making light of his firing. It was disgraceful. Yes, she issued an apology, but it really doesn't matter. That remark begs the question of whether or not she's fit for her job. It was insulting to Williams, it went beyond the pale of anything an employer should say and it was just tacky.

Tacky may not be deleting Juan's NPR page where NPR extolled him for 'wisdom' and much more but it is certainly tacky to delete the list of his stories filed over the years -- which, NPR has done.

Vivian likes to publicly pretend that Juan was expressing his opinion and that's not allowed in an analyst. Barbara Walters, among others, has publicly scoffed at that line of argument.

Was Juan offensive? To some people he was, to some people he wasn't. Was it a fireable offense?

We think a fireable offense for an NPR employee would be disrespect for the listeners. Vivian's already demonstrated that, of course, however, we're not talking about her.

We're talking about Tom Gjelten who is billed as an NPR reporter. And who demonstrates disdain whenever he appears on The Diane Rehm Show. It's there that close listeners can hear him laugh at callers. He's especially tickled by those with non-US accents. In fact, someone saying they were French on Friday's broadcast -- after he'd already trashed the French -- caused him to giggle-snort yet again. It's not professional. (One panelist who joined Tom in laughter at a caller earlier this year was not aware that the microphones picked that up -- especially evident if you listen with headphones -- and when confronted by us agreed the behavior was unprofessional.)

He insults listeners to the show and gets away with it?

Really, Vivian?

Really, Alicia?

On Friday's show, a caller with a British accent asked about the figures for Afghanistans killed that Tom had been tossing around and whethere they were verified. Tom got very angry and snapped that (a) he got those figures from NATO (as WikiLeaks proved this week, militaries lie) and (b) NPR has a reporter in Afghanistan! One reporter's able to confirm deaths around the country?

No, it didn't make sense but it yet again let Tom come off as a hot head. He can't handle the people, that becomes very obvious very quickly.

Can't handle the people? Can't even see 'em. That was obvious on Friday's All Things Considered when Tom wanted to 'report' on WikiLeaks.

". . . what the Pentagon spokesman said . . . He described these . . . Now, the Pentagon says . . .

Golly, the Pentagon's so lucky to have Tom to repeat their every mood and utterance. But what did other people think?

SIEGEL: And reaction to the release today?

GJELTEN: Well, the Pentagon is, understandably, very angry, as they were when the documents from Afghanistan were released. They said this decision to release them was made cavalierly. They do point out - and I can't say I disagree - that the period in Iraq that these documents covered was already very well chronicled. They say it does not bring new understanding to those events. Again, they emphasized the danger to U.S. intelligence that may be raised from the release of these documents.

What was the reaction? And Tom's going back to the Pentagon. That's he's already covered. Might peace activists have a reaction? Might attorneys working on torture cases have opinions? Might human rights groups have opinions?

All Tom spat up was what the Pentagon jerked off into his mouth.

Were we Vivian, we'd be much more concerned with a Tom Gjelten than with a Juan Williams. But that is NPR. "What's the reaction" may be the question but the NPR answer will always be a government source.

In 2006, Juan Williams would never have been fired. It was a different administration. Juan's big crime wasn't what he said, it was that he said it when a Democrat was in office. As if to back that point up, many are whining about a comment he made -- apparently in jest -- comparing Michelle Obama to Stokely Carmichael. Though Juan apparently meant it for laughs, we don't think anyone being compared to Stokely is an offense. He's a historical figure who accomplished a great deal. Yes, Juan mocked the sitting First Lady and you better believe that's NPR offense.

NPR is not left radio, it's establishment radio. And it has a knee-jerk audience that you saw all last week offering excuses. For example, there are calls by some Republicans to cut NPR's funding. And that funding is approximately $90 million dollars.

Some lefties rushed forward to tell you NPR hardly got any money from the federal government! They'd prove it by offering you a percentage -- __% of its budget is how much comes from the federal government! Or they'd insist that NPR got no tax payer monies!

$90 million is not small change. Especially in a bad economy. It is insulting for whores on the left to pretend that it's not a significant amount of money. (It is an ant and the military budget is a fleet of tankers by comparison, yes, but $90 million is still a significant amount of money.)

NPR gets tax payer monies. Whether they were trying to lie about that or not, we can't tell. The whole NPR process is confusing to many. The $90 million goes to individual stations who carry NPR programs. So the argument by some on the left last week was that NPR doesn't receive tax payer monies. That's a lie.

Let's illustrate: We are XNPR out of Portland, Oregon. We just started up and we're going to carry various NPR programs. As a result, we'll have to pay a percentage to carry those programs, we'll have to pay NPR. How much we pay will be based on our listener size. We are spending the money on local programming -- which is cheap (get honest, it's all a bunch a call in shows, very few NPR stations do local newscasts) -- and we're turning a huge amount over to NPR to carry their shows. (This is why, as we've noted before many times, NPR friends tend to get very mad when we note PRI programs. Every PRI program carried by an NPR station means less money for NPR.)

Our opinion is that Juan Williams didn't deserve to be fired. Our opinion is that he was in a hostile work environment at NPR as evidenced by their vanishing of him, by claiming he was "rewarded" and by the remarks of NPR's CEO and president. He was a target long before he made those remarks. Mara is currently a target which is why we're now walking away from Media Matters forever more. They're actively working to get Mara fired. We never needed a Media Matters. We needed a watchdog, we need plenty of those. But we didn't get that. We got a Democratic Party organ making often dubious calls in attempts to work the refs. That doesn't advance a damn thing. But that's the reality of an echo chamber: When everyone's working the same page, when everyone's reciting the same talking points, individual thought's gone out the window. And that advances nothing.


10-26-10 Ty note: With Ava and C.I.'s permission, I have added "White" before woman in the pargaraph on Media Matters. Some e-mailing were asking if it was a reference to Anita Hill? No, it was not. It's a reference to a White woman who is there at the birth of Media Matters.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
Poll1 { display:none; }