Monday, March 21, 2011

Hidden Tape Emergency

House Republicans held an emergency session on HR 1076, the NPR funding cut. What was the emergency?

A hidden camera captured NPR executive Ron Shiller saying that NPR would be better off without federal funding. But that’s not all. Shiller also ripped into the tea party movement as a bunch of “gun toting racists,” adding “and not just Islamaphobic, but really xenophobic.”

Republicans have had NPR on their agenda for years and a phenomenal and bogus tape by James O'Keefe became their next big deal. O'Keefe claims to be acting in the tradition of undercover investigative muckrakers. But the GOP’s new majority seized O'Keefe’s misleading editing, distorted quotes, and untruth and promoted it as gospel. The emergency was on.

Here is an interview with O'Keefe.

As I wrote on Blogcritics, when you can listen to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity for free, who needs NPR? It reaches 33 million listeners through its member stations, with its 36 bureaus and offices around the world, and local coverage produced by more than 270 independent NPR member public radio stations across the country. Republicans hate that. In the House of Representatives they voted their conscience, and this tells us everything we need to know.

It’s not about the money. It is all about the content. The GOP doesn’t like NPR content because they are focusing on a small percentage of it that they disagree with. I am sure Rush Limbaugh agrees with me.

The left politics or right politics argument that is being bandied about is referred to as the False Dichotomy Fallacy, which excludes anything in the middle. The majority of NPR programming is neither left nor right. NPR stations broadcast programs ranging from A Prairie Home Companion and The Thistle & Shamrock to Car Talk and Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me. The news programs Fresh Air and All Things Considered must drive the GOP nuts.

There is nothing like a tempest in a tea party pot, which is what the new House majority seems to be all about. Their emergency meeting on NPR funding is just one of many items on a growing list to stuff that they know is doomed to successful failure. There are health care bills they know they can't pass, abortion bills they know they can't pass, climate bills they know they can't pass, and budget bills they know they can't pass.

The voters that elected them must really be impressed with the amount of time, money and energy their House GOP representatives have spent on defending the Defense of Marriage Act, recklessly accusing Muslim Americans of disloyalty, and pushing culture-war bills related to vouchers, English as the 'official' language, and 'In God We Trust.'

NPR's funding would have been an issue whether or not O'Keefe made that tape. Senator Saxby Chambliss agrees about that, but also says, “You know, an awful lot of conservatives listen to NPR. It provides a very valuable service.” The Georgia Republican also thinks that “total elimination of funding is probably not the wisest thing to do.” He is being politically kind.

Other than NPR stations, radio is owned by the right. Television is owned by the sponsors. That’s why journalism and television have become as oil and water. Television journalism has become an oxymoron. The reason is that television is show business.

“Mack, guys like you [journalists] are like icing on the cake. We don’t really need you,” the Sales Manager of WJCL TV, Savannah, said to me after I got pulled off of a story I was working. “If it doesn't sell beer or cars, it doesn’t go on the air.”

As to news presenters, they are their own little institutions. They are actors playing the rolls of journalists. They are talking hairdos. The scripts they read are becoming more and more shallow, almost vapid. Their script writers are too lazy to use Google.

Incidentally, if you think that one broadcast or cable news organization is any better than another, please think again. Aside from NPR and PBS, all other “self-respecting news organizations” ask themselves two basic questions. Does it sell beer? Does it sell cars?

O’Keefe’s productions sell both.

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