A long post follows. It is worth your time to read-because not everything, contrary to the opinion of many conservative bloggers-can be adequately discussed in just a couple of paragraphs.
The recent incident involving acknowledged reprobate and con man James O’Keefe, who –through a combination of almost criminal deception and conspiracy with other ultra conservative zealots(especially Pamela Gellar)- was able to obtain and edit a video recording that caught Mr. Ron Schiller saying some disparaging remarks about the Tea Party and other things that were not particularly smart to have yourself on tape saying.
Cue the outrage! The usual suspects, immediately swung into action, holding their heads up high and saying how this “proves” NPR and Public Broadcasting is nothing but a bunch of panty-waisted liberal vermin that looks down their noses at “real Murrika!”. Phib had a recent post on his blog-that was more than a little emotional on the subject: “ I’m not sure which I find more disgusting, the anti-Semitism, the Dhimmitude ( what the hell does that even mean anyway?), the arrogance, the smugness,…” Etc, Etc, Etc. Then close with praise for a dipshit “citizen journalist” like O’Keefe who is supposedly “doing the job the MSM used to do”. A cheery head nod, a “tut, tut”, and off to the next task sure in the knowledge of their inherent goodness and high mindedness.
So much that is so wrong with that-and with the attitude of the majority of his commenter’s. Where to begin?
Let’s start with the bottom line up front, it’s not NPR that maybe smug and arrogant-it is the more than arrogant to refuse to recognize who the real villain is in this event. And that villain is not public broadcasting. The second-and equally important point- is that the truth of the event, compared with the first reports, show that the reporting about this particular event are not accurate. In their rush to judgment, and to excoriate public broadcasting, they have ignored the evidence that mitigates NPR and provides much needed context. That’s not surprising, facts are never high on the conservative hierarchy of needs-getting the message out to the uninformed is. What’s unfortunate , to quote James Fallows, “is that it has allowed Fox and its political allies to position NPR as something it is not, and in the process to jeopardize a part of American journalism we can’t afford to lose. “ Especially now.
I guess that makes me smug and arrogant. Oh well, that’s just a cross I’ll have to bear. Some people deserve to be looked down upon. James O’Keefe and his mentor Andrew Breitbart are among that group. If their rotund and rather close minded colleagues in the Tea Party are offended-well -that’s just a bonus.
The Economist has summed up the major issues quite well:
Anyway. Over in America, meanwhile, there are a bunch of smart people who know how this works, too. Earlier this week, they managed to catch an outgoing NPR executive calling the tea-party movement “racist” while talking to two undercover punk-ers dressed up as Muslim advocates of sharia law. In my inbox, Tea Party Nation’s Judson Phillips celebrates:
If James O’Keefe were a liberal, he would be a national hero today. If his targets were conservatives, the liberal media establishment would be falling all over themselves to see what they could offer him.
Again, for a far-right political movement, this stuff is pure gold. The sense of aggrievement felt by tea-party adherents and sympathisers at the accusation of racism is very similar to that felt by PVVers(A european right wing party) at any hint of a reference to Nazism. The involvement of government subsidies provides the hook one needs to turn this into a public issue. The fact that one executive of the organisation says he thinks the tea-party movement is racist becomes the trigger not just for an offensive against an organisation unfriendly to hard-right ideology, but for a further solidification of the us-versus-them recruiting strategy. (“See? The liberal media thinks we’re racists.”)
What is the scandal here? That an NPR employee said something politically charged? Not on the air-but it what was supposed to be a semi-private setting? And that it was more Democratic sympathetic than GOP sympathetic? You will hear views like this—and their mirror image from the right disparaging the progressives and unions—at almost any Washington lunch. It is just lunch. Lunch is where deals are closed. Being the facilitator of deals means you have to put up with a lot:
But we’d last about 15 seconds in the fundraising business if every time a potential donor said something crazy or offensive, we told them to shut their pie hole. When people donate money, they feel even more entitled than when they’re sitting in their home bank-vaults running their fingers through their cash. Rich people love to give their money away, but they’re always attaching strings, and one common string is “You agree with me, right?” Can you begin to imagine the bizarre string Joan Kroc, heir to the McDonald’s fortune established by Ray Kroc, must have flung around the room as she prepared to give her NPR handlers $200 million? Ms. Kroc also gave $1.5 billion to the Salvation Army and assorted millions to peace institutes. Those gifts, plus her support of nuclear disarmament, were clearly designed to raise her dead husband, an ardent Nixon-lover and hard-right-winger, from his grave. (The efforts failed. Ray is still dead. But so is Joan.)
If I voiced my concern over every stupid thing I heard at every meeting I ever went to-I’d get nothing done. Living here in Shopping Mall, one develops a strong tolerance for nonsense.
Then again, there are still moments when I find myself saying, “They can’t really be that stupid,” or maybe, “They can’t really think the rest of us are that stupid.” People who unreservedly believe the word of James O’Keefe have me saying that.
Lets start with the lunchtime conversation itself. Business Insider has a pretty good rundown comparing and contrasting the actual conversation from the full video to the carefully edited version (another Breitbart-James O’Keefe trademark) released. Here is an example of the lack of context from the luncheon:
Schiller’s negative comments about Republicans and conservatives have gotten a great deal of attention.
He clearly says some offensive things, while being very direct that he is giving his own opinion and not that of NPR. Still — a wildly stupid move!
But you may be surprised to learn, that in the raw video, Schiller also speaks positively about the GOP. He expresses pride in his own Republican heritage and his belief in fiscal conservatism.
4. The “seriously racist” Tea Party
NPR exec Ron Schiller does describe Tea Party members as “xenophobic…seriously racist people.”
This is one of the reasons why he no longer has a job!
But the clip in the edited video implies Schiller is giving simply his own analysis of the Tea Party. He does do that in part, but the raw video reveals that he is largely recounting the views expressed to him by two top Republicans, one a former ambassador, who admitted to him that they voted for Obama.
At the end, he signals his agreement. The larger context does not excuse his comments, or his judgment in sharing the account, but would a full context edit have been more fair? See what you think.
By comparing the unedited footage with the version widely circulated, the analysis concluded that that Project Veritas’ editing of the tapes was “questionable” and “deceptive” enough to be “unethical” by journalism standpoints.
Wow! I am completely shocked that someone who sucks Breitbart’s dick mentored at the feet of Andrew Breitbart would do such a thing!
What is surprising, however, is who did the video analysis. It was completed by The Blaze, the news and opinion site founded by Glenn Beck. Wonder how long it will be before it comes down. ( No I will not link to it-as a matter of principle- it was founded by Glenn Beck).
I have a hard time with moral outrage about what the NPR personnel said without moral outrage about what is clear deception and potentially illegal actions. NPR at least took action against its own employees-who disciplines Breitbart and his clones?
No one it appears-and they get away scott free with what can only be described as truely loathesome conduct.
When you support acts like this, you are no longer simply encouraging a particular point of view, you are saying- by your consent- that you have no issues with people engaging in unethical and potentially illegal acts for the sole purpose of destroying a person’s professional livelihood. Andrew Breitbart does not have a “right” to that. Anymore than I have a right to beat the sh*t out of James O’Keefe. ( Much as I would like to).
In closing, I think it would be worth remembering that Public Broadcasting fills a need-and provides a service. When the Congress cuts off funding-its not just people they don’t like that they are screwing over, it will be their own constituents. Contrary to the idea that Phib and a lot of others want to tell you-NPR and Public Radio in general has a pretty broad based audience. Certainly more so than Fox News.
Second, Ron Schiller’s a fundraiser, not a news director. NPR keeps a high, thick firewall between its successful development office and its superb news division. They want it that way because they have a tradition of wanting to get their news reporting right. As James Fallows wrote a while back about the Juna Williams firing:
In their current anti-NPR initiative, Fox and the Republicans would like to suggest that the main way NPR differs from Fox is that most NPR employees vote Democratic. That is a difference, but the real difference is what they are trying to do. NPR shows are built around gathering and analyzing the news, rather than using it as a springboard for opinions. And while of course the selection of stories and analysts is subjective and can show a bias, in a serious news organization the bias is something to be worked against rather than embraced. NPR, like the New York Times, has an ombudsman. Does Fox? [I think the answer is No.]
One other factor affects my view of NPR. There are jobs where people are mainly motivated by the hope of big money. (Finance in general.) There are jobs where the main motivation is job-security. And there is a category of jobs where, as absolutely everyone recognizes, it makes a tremendous difference that “employees” care about something beyond pay, hours, and security. Teachers. Soldiers. Doctors and nurses. Judges and police. Political leaders, if they want to be more than hacks. And, people in news organizations. …..I have felt privileged to work at the Atlantic through, now, three decades because, among other reasons, I know that every person in every job is doing everything possible to make the magazine the best it can be. Everyone is personally embarrassed if there’s a mistake in the magazine, or if we cover a topic — and someone else does it better. In the news business, this is the spirit that characterizes any first-rate operation, from CBS News in its glory days to the Washington Post of the ‘All the President’s Men’ era to today’s great magazines (New Yorker, NY Review of Books, many others) and broadcasts (eg PBS News Hour) and, yes, web sites. I have seen enough of NPR’s operations to know that it has the same spirit.*** Most people there don’t make a lot of money. Their compensation (as with a lot of people in journalism) comes partly in enjoying what they do, and partly in being proud of being on this team. Alumni of NPR — reporters, producers, and hosts who learned their skills there — are all over the journalistic establishment.
We don’t have so many first-rate institutions — in general, and especially in journalism — that we can afford to let one this valuable be delegitimized. Its leadership made a mistake in its handling of Juan Williams, but people who care about the news environment should recognize how much it has done right and defend it against the current cynical attack.
And finally-this culture of “gotchaism” is nothing more than a race to the bottom. When James O’Keefe does things like this, it will spur someone to pull a retaliatory prank. And so and so forth. It leads no where good for either side. There is actually a double standard in place now-whenever someone at NPR does anything that offends the Fox Nation, somebody gets fired. When Roger Ailes calls NPR executives Nazi’s-all he got was a bonus. Its wrong and it has to stop.
To borrow a line from Animal House, ” They are going to nail us no matter what we do”-so NPR might as well develop a spine.
But for all its flaws, consider an America without public media. Consider a society where the distortions and dissembling would go unchallenged, where fact-based reporting is eliminated, and where the field is abandoned to the likes of James O’Keefe, whose “journalism” relies on lying and deceit.
Those folks are right-and those who support O’Keefe and Breitbart are wrong. Nuff said.