N.P.R. and the ‘LIBERAL PRESS’

NPR is often cited by the right as a ‘liberal’ media outlet. I often wondered at this. With all its reports of mom-and-pop businesses grown large, we-started-selling-our-tomato-sauce-and-look-at-us-now . . . real cheerleading for sticktoitiveness, gumption, follow your dream, sell mom’s recipe, all its encouragement to strivers, all its belief in market success, NPR had somehow been declared the enemy of all that is right-thinking and American, the mouthpiece for the socialist elites. What were these people talking about?

I finally realized that it had to do with tones of voice. NPR speakers were helpful, encouraging, and worst of all, KIND. These tones of voice were anathema to listeners who knew where you were coming from by your tone. These humane, gently inquiring voices --- this was how ‘liberals’ spoke. A real conservative was known by his barely contained anger. His voice was hollow inside, ringing with harsh self-idolization on the outside. He was ‘stentorian’. He disapproved strongly . . . of you and whatever you were doing. This tone was comfortable to the ‘conservative’ listener, while the meek-shall-inherit-the-earth mewlings of the pussies at NPR could only have sprung from a spiritual perversion as odious to a conservative as rotten-egg gas to a city plumber. Content did not matter. Tone did.

Plus, when the discussion shows (like Diane Reims) picked a topic, they invited people who actually knew something . . . people with years of experience in the area, people who had written books. This high-info approach is anathema to ‘conservative’ outlets, which prefer to feature speakers who blast away at every policy by constructing a theoretical architecture of subversion, treachery, and liberal-pansy weakness . . . in other words, people who are largely ignorant but can talk a good game that pleases the listeners and keeps them grinding a fist into the open palm and muttering darkly. High-info with a range of opinions --- that’s plainly a liberal concept, and does not need to be supported by federal funding. Pull the plug!

Similarly, I wondered, back in the 70’s and 80’s, how the right had decided the national press had a ‘left-wing bias’. To us left-wingers, the press had a right-wing bias --- their cowardly subservience to knuckleheaded patriotism, their refusal to cover the real stories of Washington complicity in right-wing massacres in Latin America, of Washington orchestration of the terror states across the globe --- knocking democracy aside whenever convenient --- then plunging our brothers and sisters into captivity, and testing new torture techniques on them --- a CIA man always dispassionately observing the results --- their endorsement of the corporate plans for the reorganization of the world and the sucking dry of its resources . . . this was a ‘left-wing bias?’ Truly, the right wing did not know how good they had it, how completely the press hid the aims of big capital and endorsed its projects. The deal seemed to be: we (the press) will say nothing (except the most banal truism) about the big international issues, we will apply no moral standard to the hand-in-glove machinations of capital and the US government, but we will pursue chiselers and grafters and the favor-traders at the local & state level --- in this way we can maintain our moral sovereignty, our vaunted integrity. And for right-wing onlookers, this was way too much. This hurt bad. The press understood the connection between money’s contributions and public officeholders. The press was on to this. And its atrophied pretentions of integrity set right-wing teeth to chattering and rattling as if an ague had possessed them. They remembered when Spiro Agnew had taken the bag-men’s money across the vice-president’s desk AND THE LEFT-WINGERS DROVE HIM FROM OFFICE FOR THIS, WHICH WAS ONLY HIS TRADITIONAL AMERICAN RIGHT AS A WINNER AND A PATRIOT.

So that was the press’ bargain. We are cynical newshounds on the local beat, and mindless patriots beyond the shore. Whaddaya want? We are realists, and we depend on advertising revenue for our paychecks and hometown readers’ support for our subscriptions. That’s why we sit in the bar and drink. When the public howls for blood, we howl too. Check out Gable and Tracy in all those 30’s movies. We have Mike Royko and Jimmy Breslin to dog the local grafters, but overseas we are all sabre-rattlers, General Macarthur our icon, Joe McCarthy our mentor.

There. That’s the last I want to hear of the ‘left-wing media.’ Insofar as the media is fact-based, it is left-wing, because the facts are left-wing --- they tend to support a left-wing version of reality. If you are unable to squinch your eyes shut and deliver the cover story of today, you are left wing.