Tuesday, February 28, 2006

NPR airs Voice of America: Spreading Propaganda. Think Nice Polite Republicans

I have a soft spot for the idea of public programming, for the idea of NPR, but the reality of their programming, and their worn-out on-air personality are making them increasingly irrelevant, and, as far as the news programming is concerned, well, as the saying goes, "you reap what you sow," and currently they are sowing a lot of half-truths and BS.

The latest edition of this downward spiral can be seen in the recent reporting on Haiti, which I overheard. Now, Haiti Action Alerts, via Pacifica Radio, brings some substance to my suspicions:

In another dramatic infiltration of the mainstream press, Flashpoints has learned that Amelia Shaw, National Public Radio's current correspondent from Haiti, is also a reporter with the US government propaganda organization, Voice of America (VOA). By law, VOA is not allowed to broadcast on US frequencies. Shaw's reports have appeared both on Voice of America and National Public Radio in the same 48 hour period. Her reports - very much in line with the US State Department - have tried to suggest that René Preval is a troublemaker, a spoil-sport who was trying to undermine the mostly free and fair electoral process in Haiti. [Source]
Of course, it is illegal for VOA to report in the U.S.. And for NPR, it is disengenuous--if not biased and devious--to bring a VOA reporter's work to a U.S. audience. While Amelia Shaw may have two jobs, her voice and her message are one and the same: not reportage, but propaganda. The same applies to the AP, where a "freelancer for the Associated Press, who is also a stringer for the New York Times in Haiti, is moonlighting as a consultant for the US Government funded National Endowment for Democracy, according to an official at the NED, and several of the agency's grantees." (Important side note: The NED was probably highly involved in the coup against Hugo Chavez. The NED is of the same ilk as the International Republican Institute and other right-wing organizations that supposedly promote democracy but actually promote corporatocracy and militarism. These groups have influence in State and and USAID...)

Anyone who follows NPR closely has probably remarked that they frequently have guests from the Cato Institute, the American Enterprie Institute and other similar groups, and that these groups outnumber "center" and "center-left" thinkers, not to mention actual old-style left wing spokespeople. Numerous studies have proved this statistically (see FAIR and Media Matters).

All this reminds of an episode not so far, far away. In fact it was last summer and I was listening to Day to Day. I had to write them a letter:

Dear Day to Day: I have no problem that Jonathan Last did not like Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith. In fact, I agree. The wooden acting, the hackneyed dialogue and the silly plot are, at best, irritating. However, his review made me, well, uncomfortable. I understand that Mr. Last found the transformation of Darth Vader more interesting than the a light-saber-weilding-pseudo-philosophizing Yoda. However, we should separate falling in love with the character from falling in love with what that character means. Mr. Last's review, which lauds the Empire's order, strength and ability to effectively suppress those that disagree with it is, quite simply, praise for fascism and despotism--yes, the same fascism and despostism that can be associated with Hitler and Mussolini. While I hesitiate to convict by association, Mr. Last's employment at the Weekly Standard only reinforces the idea that his review of Star Wars III was a thinly-veiled piece of propaganda that could have emerged from his magazine. Take for example "The Case for American Empire" in which the Weekly Standard's Max Boot argues that "The most realistic response to terrorism is for America to embrace its imperial role" (10/15/2001, Volume 007, Issue 05). Mr. Last's review was not about the politics in George Lucas' movie, but rather those of today and his own vision of political utopia--one where "messy" civil liberties are less important than order, one where the inherent disorder of any democratic republic (read filibuster [this was when all the discussion about how impolite it would be for Dems to filibuster]) make it somehow less desirable than goose-stepping our way to a well-organized, smoothly operating and, ultimately, despotic empire.

Well, I was lucky and they called me up and I read this on the air. But not everyone will be as lucky. So, are we going to let NPR lead us, with its melifluous yet boring propaganda, towards a post-democratic America? This brings me to my next point. Since we all know that NPR is actually an acronym for Nice Polite Republicans, what do we do? Well, I've pretty much quite listening to them and I've quit giving them money. Perhaps you should too. However, this will lead to a further abasement of NPR by the Right. They will seize on this weakness to make NPR even more of a voice for this administration and for right-wing thinktanks.

Perhaps the better course of action is to write NPR news more often. They do read what you write. More importantly, when you call in to give your yearly contribution, call in during Car Talk or one of your other programs and explain that you want to support the station but NOT the national news division. If this happens in large numbers, the Nice Polite Republicans will notice, for they do care about money.

There are tons of examples like the ones for Haiti, I chose Haiti because it is a blatant example of propagandizing and the U.S. is consitently bashing Haiti for a situation that the U.S. is actually creating by undermining legitimate authorities. You can also look to M. Liasson or Juan Williams for blatant examples of right-wingers posing as centrists.

Anyway, my thoughts du jour.