Thursday, November 17, 2005

A Nice Drive Spoilt (nearly)

But of course it's not all peaches & cream is it?

Driving across rural Wisconsin Monday I ran across what sounded like an unknown-to-me NPR station, and I paused to listen to a host chatting with a guest about the downfall of PETA. I hadn't heard anything of PETA being in trouble recently and it sounded like news.

Now, public radio is derided regularly by the Right as an organ of the Left ("Are too!" "Am not!"). I don't buy it, but I can see that NPR is a thorn in W's side in much the same way as biology is inconvenient to the Pope. While I'm certainly aware that a dyed-in-the-wool Republican would not find a steady diet of Teri Gross's Fresh Air very nourishing, still I think NPR's news coverage is far, far closer to being balanced than, say, the self-proclaimed "fair and balanced" approach of Fox News. Anyway, the fact that they were going after a left wing standard was not any kind of red flag; you hear all manner of views on NPR.

But after about 30 seconds I could tell, by my rising blood pressure, that this was no NPR. I will paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen: "I know NPR. NPR is a friend of mine. Lady, you're no NPR!" I quickly learned that the appearance of reason and balance was a stupid lie masquerading as a clever ruse pretending to be objective truth. What sounded at first blush like news coverage was, upon closer scrutiny, a quiet little right wing hate rally. "I'm not news," it seemed to say, "but I play news on the radio."

In the 10 minutes I listened before my gasket ruptured, they fixated like a skipping Elmo CD on an allegation of the death of 12,000 companion animals at the hands of PETA. It sounded like a second grade English exercise: you have five minutes to see how many ways you can use the words PETA, 12,000 animals, and kill in a sentence. (I later spent about 30 seconds trying to find some corroboration of the charge, but the only source to fall readily to hand was the site "" Fun.) The contention was that PETA was clearly only concerned about splattering paint and parading around with little coffins; they had these animals killed because they didn't really care about animals at all. Just like we always said. And from this "fact" all sorts of odious conclusions about liberals were duly drawn.

Well, that story is news if it's true, and if the explanation is what they're claiming; I'd want to learn more. But without some kind of dialog and verification and discussion other than the slurping fellatio of self congratulation (which reminds one of the numerous stories about information flow in W's White House) it ends up being shrill and silly, regardless what the set dressing looks like. This reminds me--as I'm flushed further and further from my happy place--of another right wing radio discussion I heard in a crew van in Kentucky a few months back. The angry white man host managed to find the only two African-American men in existence who were willing not only to confess to an allegiance to the Republican party but to claim that Democrats really were hateful racists and ("you're feeling veeeeery sleeeeeeeeepy") any fool could see that the Republican Party is in fact the party of inclusion and racial diversity.

OK Toto, we're back in Kansas.

I despair that so many of the supporters of the current administration seem to be arriving at their worldview by way of this kind of information source. This little radio story seemed to exemplify a recent evolution of tactics on the right, something hand-in-glove with their so-called theory of "Intelligent Design." There was balance in the tone, and in the setting, but not at all in the content. The show was an exercise in preaching to the faithful, with the tacit goal of keeping the fires of hatred toward the zombies of the cancerous left fanned, but clothed in the garments of reason and objectivity (so we could feel good about our hatred). This is disingenuous. It is an attempt to ride the coattails hard-won by legitimate journalistic enterprises, just as I.D. seeks to gain legitimacy by claiming itself to be "science" (even if the Kansas Board of Education has to redefine the word to do it.) This is like putting a coat of sparkling enamel on a warm turd, and we should not shy from calling it such.

I know that the Right has its William F. Buckleys, brilliant people and serious thinkers. So why is it always morons like Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity that get the air time? If there are good, sound arguments for the policies of the Right, why is there no coverage of those arguments by any mainstream media outlet? It could be that the media are all radically left-wing like they claim, just like it's possible to do the calculations to show the sun revolving around the Earth. But I think it's because these are just all really bad ideas. News flash.

And why is the Right filled with so much hatred when they seem to be making progress in yoking the entire planet to this stinky animal?

In the end, the little imitation news interview wasn't the best part! What was really cool was that, at the commercial break, the station turned out to be the local "family-friendly Christian station!" (their phrase) Yeah, you people are about as much like Jesus as a fucking dose of the clap. OK, I'm not a believer; but I'm not one to reject an argument solely because the bearer is wearing a funny hat. I agree with Bertrand Russell that if we all lived as Jesus is portrayed and as he is reputed to have instructed, the world would be a better place than it is. (Not because we would all be using His authority to bludgeon each other, but because the Bible's many authors have over time put into His mouth much of the collective pro-social wisdom amassed by humanity and its many religions.)

It's bad enough to have a guy like Dick Cheney and his dog W using Jesus as a detonator for their grand incendiary social reconstruction, but to see this kind of deception and hatred flowing out of the tap from which so many folks drink makes a fella depressed.

No comments: