Monday, May 23, 2011

You Can't Buy Objectivity

[issue date 3/16/11]

I love liberalism. I love liberals. I married a liberal. Almost all of my best friends are liberals. But sometimes liberals can be horribly wrong. Let’s try to understand why!

A fantastic example of liberals off the deep end is seen in the current liberal hand-wringing over the fate of National Public Radio. I have had multitudinous liberal friends plea that I sign on to petitions to stop the federal defunding of NPR. This is wildly strange.

I won’t get started on the details of what defunding NPR really entails, such as the fact that NPR actually doesn’t have dedicated federal funding to speak of. We all know what we’re talking about is a principle of a thing. “Why, how dare they...”

Let’s visualize an average liberal and try to walk him through the decision whether to sign on to such a petition. For the sake of concreteness we should give our average liberal a name. My conservative friends clamor for “Ivan.” No offense intended, but, they’re all a bunch of out-of-touch freak buckets who think they’re reincarnations of Joe McCarthy or Roy Cohn. Like Reagan, they spent the 1980s in a delirium. They think The Rights of Man was written by a Russian. So I’ll call my average liberal “Steve” instead.

Steve keeps NPR on in the background at all times, only turning it down during Car Talk. Steve likes to get high while listening to Fresh Air. Steve has noticed that NPR news coverage has not been as liberal lately as it was during, say, the Carter Administration. But he clings to NPR anyway because it isn’t shrill conservative talk-radio à la Limbaugh or Glenn Beck.

Someone comes racing up the road on a horse and shouts, “The Tea Baggers are coming, the Tea Baggers are coming,” and, “They’re marching on Washington and planning to withdraw government funding for NPR!” What do you do Steve?

At first Steve thinks, “Oh no, if the last remaining liberal radio channel is not funded by taxpayers, our political perspective and our very way of life is threatened! I must stop this!”

Steve is quick to adjust his reasoning and insists that he couldn’t support government funding of NPR because it is liberal -- he knows that would be wrong. He knows the taxpayers can’t be expected to support biased news. Instead, he insists, he wants NPR to continue to be subsidized because all the other channels are biased.

In other words, Steve’s position, in essence, is, NPR should be funded for not being conservatively biased. More precisely, he believes that the only radio we will have, if NPR loses government funding, will be entertainment radio or conservatively biased radio.

It’s easy to feel that fear and run with it, isn’t it? Sure it is. Let’s all breathe deep, and draw that fear in. Draw that fear in through your 5th Chakra, and now down deep to your first chakra, and now let’s bounce it, bounce it good and hard, and see if we can’t get it to blow your Crown Chakra clean off.

How realistic is Steve’s fear?

Who cares? The government doesn’t have any business funding a radio network just because you or Steve are afraid that unbiased radio won’t happen.

There is in fact no way, whatsoever, that continued government funding can maintain unbiased news at NPR. The fact that its funding comes from taxpayers can’t be a guarantee of objectivity.

We have to resist setting government priorities based on gut fears. That got us two wars and Homeland Security and a never ending budget crisis that is feeding conservative talk radio far more than the trickle of dollars NPR gets is worth.

On the other side, how stupid is it that conservatives would cut off funding for NPR on the grounds that a funding desperate NPR has gone begging for money from Middle Eastern sources? “Oh no, let’s not give them any more money, they’ve been begging.” Where have I heard that before?

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