Posts tagged NPR

Column on A Blatant Lie at The New York Times

A Blatant Lie at The New York Times

Tibor R. Machan

Nearly every day I check out The New York Times on line and there is no doubt in my mind that the paper is firmly partisan in favor of egalitarian and other mostly Leftist causes, as well as, of course, the politicians who promote them. The paper just the other day editorialized about how fair and balanced are NPR and PBS. Poppycock!

I do not follow NPR–National Public Radio–except when I am on the road driving a rented car, which happens to be quite often. (I call these my masochistic hours because, well, NPR irritates me to no end.) First of all, the fact that it gets money from the government, money extorted from me and millions of other citizens, is an unforgivable vice of the outfit (as it is of any other that takes part in such a policy, such as PPS, various corporations and individuals on the dole, etc.). I would have no interest in any broadcasters using “public” funds to support what they do even if their reporting and other programming were impeccable other then for purposes of keeping my fingers on the pulse of the nation. (Some of the music on NPR stations is, actually, excellent!) But in addition to using extorted funds to support its programming, NPR’s various news and reportorial programs are about as partisan as The New York Times if not more so–say like what is found in The Nation.

Take their “Fresh Air” segment in which one of their highly polished interviewers finds a favored author or other public intellectual to toss softballs to–reminding me of the saying “throwing Christians to Christians” or something. Hardly any scrutiny is shown of those who champion yet another government program promoting some Left of Center or Left Wing program. The books “reviewed” are always friends to statism and on the few occasions that a book is examined with a free market theme, it is confronted with searching questions mostly about how awful it is that freedom makes it possible to neglect the poor and needy and noble causes like the greening of the globe.

NPR’s staff has absolutely no concern about the heavy hand of government except in cases where it is deployed against terrorist suspects or their defenders. NPR’s minimum support for individual liberty focuses mainly on the press, although given its own reliance on government subsidies it understandably doesn’t address the matter in great depth.

Now my exposure to NPR is not continuous, so I am not able to swear to it that the outfit is uniformly partisan in favor of more government, of statism. But my sample is a pretty good one, especially when you add to my exposure to NPR during my pre-iPod years–when, as I have already noted, I liked the classical music, jazz, and blues many of the stations offered, especially when their home was some university or college campus. This, by the way, is another insidious aspect of NPR, its intimate relationship with university and college radio programming where it is beaming propaganda to young people as if it were scientifically established truth.

In America’s mixed political economy NPR is no big surprise and if it were not a matter of corrupting news reporting and commentary, it would not amount to something especially hazardous to the country. After all, so many other institutions–think of virtually all public education, from elementary to post graduate varieties–are infected with the statist point of view! (Arguably the first item on the agenda to turn the country toward greater loyalty to its initial classical liberal politics and culture would be to eliminate its virtually fully socialized educational system.)

Yet contrary to the recent editorial lie in The New York Times, NPR is really quite a corrosive feature of the country. Not only is its nearly one-sided viewpoint statist to the core–more so that Fox TV news is right wing but which notably has plenty of competitors out there; there is also its annoying snootiness. Has anyone ever encountered someone with a Southern accent on an NPR station (apart from some special guest, a novelist or poet from a place such as New Orleans)? I certainly haven’t.

If I am not mistaken much of European journalism is unabashedly partisan and this futile effort to uphold the standard of neutrality in America’s media just makes little sense. People are always involved in taking sides on various topics and to attempt to purge the news medial of this is hopeless.

The one sound way to address the matter of balance is via competition and that is just what NPR opposes from its ideological stance but also has no way of practicing, what with its special advantage of receiving extorted funds from the government!

From the Machan Archives: “Column on Yes, PBS (and NPR), Must Go!”

Yes! PBS (and NPR) Must Go!

We finally have the right idea about public broadcasting in
the air. The New York Times reports that there is now a serious
call in Washington for the total abolition or privatization of
this wholly inappropriate government supported, partially tax
funded medium of Left wing propaganda.
Actually, I don’t care how Left wing any national medium
happens to be, so long as I am not forced to pay even a penny for
its upkeep. There are dozens of very prominent magazines with
a Left wing editorial policy – The Nation, Progressive, Mother
Jones, Utne Report, The New York Review of Books, to name only the
more prominent ones. In the fields of both popular and scholarly
publications, the Left still holds prominent sway, despite all the
talk about the “collapse of Socialism.” But no one is forcing me
to subscribe – I do so, when I do so, because I am interested in
just how wrong intelligent people can be.
PBS and NPR – National Public Radio – in contrast, are massive
broadcast ventures, supported and partly funded by the federal
government, from taxes going to, e.g., the Corporation for Public
Broadcasting.
Contrary to what many conservatives complain about, it is not so
much the lack of balance in the programming that is so insidious. It
is that there exists a first amendment medium that people in this
country are forced to pay for.
Of course, it is undeniably true that both PBS and NPR are run
for the sake of spreading socialist ideology. These people, contrary
to what The New York Times keeps doggedly repeating, are not liberals.
A Liberal believes in, for example, civil liberties and equality of
opportunity, a free press and fairness, among other things. Liberals
lean toward socialism mostly in economic matters. The editorial tone
of nearly all PBS and NPR programming is radically socialist and, more
recently, fascist – especially when it comes to environmental and
feminist matters.
PBS runs innumerable opinion programs, beginning and ending, of
course, with all the opportunities Bill Moyers gets for airing his
pious laments about the universe. Moyers is no liberal but an agitator
for the position that everything that is wrong with the world is due
to the United States of America. His repeated intoning about what
“we, in this country, are doing to …” is so tiresome that I simply
cannot watch him, even when he interviews people I regard interesting.
PBS’s several interesting round table programs on various facets of
our legal system is also very biased toward the left liberal agenda.
The leaders of these discussions, whose panels do manage to be balanced
- if you believe that there are only two viewpoints in America worth
telling the viewers about – are nearly all Harvard law professors and
their orientation tends always toward leftist moralizing. There are
no communists, libertarians, Muslims, Moonies or any other theorists
who don’t fit the mainstream balance, outside of some militant
feminists and multiculturalists on these programs. And, more importantly,
no one outside the Eastern educational establishment ever appears on
them – which, frankly, annoys me, who teaches at a southern university
no one at PBS ever thinks of inviting to appear on their programs.
There are fine things, too, on PBS. And who knows, maybe it does
full justice to the intellectual market place, so balance need by no
means be the standard by which to judge it.
It is only because PBS is a government created and (partially)
funded monopoly that I fully support those who are calling for its
abolition. I would be even more enthusiastic if NPR got the axe – it
has the most whiny, openly Left wing editorial tone among all mainstream
media efforts. Its staff have just one voice, that of the smooth,
velvety Eastern intellectual. (Just listen and try to find someone
with a southern, Bronx or foreign accent, outside a few guest essayists.
But then the same phenomenon would not bother me much if found on ABC,
CNN or A&E, since I am not made to spend a dime of my life on those.)
Let us get the government out of at least one major and very
sensitive industry. There should, in short, be the same policy in
government toward media as there is toward religion – it should neither
ban nor establish any denomination, regardless of its content. Let
all geniuses in the industry like Bill Moyers and Nina Totenberg find
a job on the open market – surely there are plenty of media outlets
now. I look forward to not seeing Bill Moyers, say, on the Discovery
Channel, or, per chance, on Nick at Nite!

Column on America’s Pravda & Izvestia

PBS & NPR, America’s Pravda and Izvestia

Tibor R. Machan

It is a feature of American culture that’s most upsetting though hardly anyone makes much of it at all. Indeed, I know several avid defenders of the free society who make regularly and eager appearances on National Public Radio and I have to confess that I myself have appeared on one or two Public Broadcast Service programs when allowed to make a pitch for a society that would have no such things, partly government funded TV or radio network.

When I first left Hungary, in 1953, and came to live in the West, I settled for a while in Munich where my father and stepmother worked for Radio Free Europe. This outfit was partly American government–CIA–funded, beaming programs into Eastern European, Soviet bloc countries and supposedly countering communists propaganda. But at heart the idea of the American government doing this turned out to be a paradox since what is wrong with communist countries is precisely that they place everything in society under state control, including broadcasting the news, educating the young, doing science, entertainment or athletics. That is just what is supposed to be so different between communism and capitalism; yet here was RFE doing just what the communists were doing, entrusting government with broadcasting. (I recall how eager I was at one point shortly after I came West to have the American government give massive funding to Olympic hopefuls so they would defeat Soviet athletes and show how much better American athletes can be than Soviet ones, not realizing for a good while how paradoxical this was–sports should not be the purview of government in a genuine free country.)

Yet, what we have had in America and many Western countries for decades on end is, you guessed it, virtually the same thing as they had in the Soviet Union and its colonies, namely, government run radio and TV, just like the two government published and managed “newspapers” in the USSR, Pravda and Izvestia, not to mention all their other media. Instead of showing a confidence in the institutions that emerge spontaneously in a free country, from the initiative of free men and women, Americans abandoned the principles of their system to mount a counter-offensive. Let’s defeat communism by becoming, well, partly communist! What a self-defeating policy that is.

These days a good example is PBS’s broadcast of Professor Michael Sandel’s lectures on justice from Harvard University. Sandel is smart and erudite but at heart a propagandist for a planned society, only in degrees different from what the most earnest of the Soviets had hoped for (but, of course, couldn’t bring off because of how it contradicts human nature). There is, of course, nothing objectionable about Harvard broadcasting Sandel’s lectures at its own expense but there is decidedly something wrong with Sandel getting even partial government funding for his partisan lectures. He is not a teacher who gives an fair and accurate representation of different ideas of justice but someone who subtly nudges his students and audience in a particular ideological direction.

Am I exaggerating in considering Sandel a propagandist, albeit a subtle one? Well, here is how he handled Aristotle’s political philosophy.

The ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle defended a fairly intrusive type of political system in which the government or state–although some dispute this interpretation–aimed at making people good. OK, this is a pretty standard rendition of Aristotle but in laying it out one needs to make note of the fact that it may well miss something vital about justice. This is that very likely no one can really make people good–that task needs to be everyone’s own (other than those crucial impeded). Human goodness is arguably something every individual has to bring about for himself or herself. Otherwise it is nothing but regimentation and what we get is perhaps good behavior but clearly not morally virtuous conduct. Aristotle, probably somewhat influenced by the experience of the extreme tyranny of the city state of Sparta, accepted the idea that people can be forced to be good. This is what the classical liberal ethos has corrected about ancient political philosophy–human beings need to choose and cannot be forced to be good!

Now Sandel gave no mention of this problem with Aristotle. He made it appear (by failing to discuss the point) that whereas Aristotle had a noble concern with human goodness, the more recent tendency in (especially American libertarian) political philosophy to restrict the power of government and leave citizens to their own resources when it comes to living a morally good life was inferior to it. But it isn’t. Classical liberals pay plenty of attention to human goodness but they realize it cannot be engineered! Communitarians and welfare state liberals to the contrary notwithstanding, people cannot be forced to be good! It is a distinctive element of human life that people’s goodness must be their own doing not that of behavior modifiers, brain-washers or the bureaucrats.

To make it appear that this approach to politics fails to promote human goodness is a distortion. That is why I call Sandel’s lectures propaganda. If they were fair-minded, by presenting this kind of critique of Aristotle and others who want to force us to be good, it would be educational. And by being put on PBS, a partly government funded TV network, the lectures come very close to resembling what the citizens of the Soviet Union and its colonies received from Pravda and Izvestia.