NPR Misuing Tax Money?

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Some on the right (e.g. Hot Air) are now attacking NPR for having opinion columnists who make fun of the tea parties (and the truly offensive video at issue was almost two months ago, so it's strange to be seeing this suddenly now). This sounds an awful lot like the idiotic claim of the Obama Administration that Fox News isn't news because they have some conservative opinion people who criticize the Obama Administration more than they criticized the Bush Administration.

There is at least has an argument for distinguishing the two, though. Bill O'Reilly, for example (and this comes up in the Hot Air discussion too), claims that NPR is publicly-funded and therefore shouldn't be doing this, whereas a private media organization is another matter entirely. The problem is that his assumption is false. The facts don't support his distinction. NPR doesn't receive any tax money. They operate entirely based on donations. Local stations can receive tax money to pay for NPR programming, so the network might get those funds indirectly, but NPR as a network doesn't receive any tax money. This particular opinion cartoonist operates on the NPR website, not on the local stations that carry NPR programming, so none of that tax money would be paying for this anyway. If tax money paid for a local public newspaper to run an Associated Press column, and the Associated Press also had an offensive and biased editorial on their website, it would be ludicrous to complain that public funding paid for the biased and offensive editorial. But that's exactly parallel to what's going on in this example.

I've long maintained that conservatives ought to listen to NPR regularly if they get most of their news from right-wing blogs and Fox News. There's no other mainstream media source that gets you as much content in so short a time, and the level of discussion on a lot of their shows (e.g. Talk of the Nation, Diane Rehm) is usually much better than anything you'll find on cable news, even if they don't always spend much time thinking about finding the best or most mainstream conservatives (but at least they beat MSNBC's use of Pat Buchanan as their token conservative on many panels). I do think there can sometimes be certain elitist, secularist, or left-leaning biases to some of it, but you're going to find much more of that in most any other mainstream media source, and you have other biases, some of them truly problematic, in most of the right-leaning sources. It's worth it to conservatives to be aware of the mainstream left's arguments so that they'll not make the horrific mistakes that many of the right make when they're ignorant of the left's arguments or of the facts that the right ignores en masse (as in the present example). I think it's no accident that two of the four most common liberal Fox News opinion panelists work for NPR during the day. They wanted some intellectually-honest liberals who nonetheless firmly defend positions of the left, and they found that with some NPR employees.

I think the attacks on Fox News are reprehensible. I have little good to say about Glenn Beck, and I don't think Sean Hannity has much to say that's very insightful, although I do think he at least means well. Bill O'Reilly is a lot more independent in his thinking than either of them, and I like that, but I don't find most of his comments especially brilliant. But those three are opinion hosts, and opinion hosts give opinions. The opinion hosts on the other cable news networks do the same thing and certainly lean certain ways with their opinions, with no one complaining that it makes the networks somehow magically become not news during their hard news segments. With the exception of the Fox News morning show (which is more like Good Morning America), a silly late-night show (on at like 3am) that I don't know what to make of, and the prominent opinion shows that get the most viewers, the entire Fox lineup is almost exclusively nothing but professional hard news.

Those running the programming to tend to be right-of-center, just as those running the programming on CNN and MSNBC are significantly left-of-center (enough to think Pat Buchanan represents the mainstream right in the case of MSNBC, and no one who is only moderately left could think that). Anything someone might find from the main programming during the hard news hours that turns out to be problematic upon close examination can just as easily be paralleled by items in the hard news time of the other networks that raise similar questions (such as the MSNBC video of a black guy carrying a gun into a tea party rally, which carefully edited out his skin to try to make it seem like it was a white racist carrying the gun in to fuel anti-black racism). Those who tar the network as not news just because of people like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are acting reprehensibly, especially coming from those in prominent positions of civil leadership. (And I have to wonder what Greta Van Susteren thinks of all this. I wonder if she might have voted for Obama but was so disappointed at his failure to keep his reform promises and bi-partisan commitment, along with his vicious attacks on her employer, whom she sees as nothing but professional, that she's suddenly joined in on the strong criticism of this administration, when she's been largely apolitical until about a year ago. Maybe I've got her wrong, but she really comes across that way to me.)

What I'd like the right to see is that they're doing something similar when they pick out an opinion column on a website run by a news network as if it shows that none of the hard news on the network is trustworthy, supplementing that argument with false claims about where the money paying for that opinion is coming from and fostering rage among taxpayers who then get the false opinion that their tax money is paying for it. There are plenty of things to complain about tax money going toward, especially under the current Democratic hegemony's massive profligacy with regard to my children's well-being (all the while claiming that we should all sacrifice short-term for the sake of longer-term good when it comes to other issues). We don't need to make up false tax expenditures to feed the outrage of government waste. Pick some real examples, please. Far more government money goes to what's indisputably far more wasteful than the money that goes to some of the NPR affiliate stations, and none of it goes to NPR as a network, which is where this opinion piece was hosted. This is a stupid argument.

2 Comments

As a fan of NPR, I agree completely. I just saw that video for the first time the other day, and have been lambasted for saying I'm an NPR fan while that video exists.

(In my defense, I mostly listen to NPR rather than looking for opinion videos.)

Anyway ... Diane Rehm is often good, though her show is the one that I find most likely to swerve too far left. On Earth Day, for example, there was no balance on her panel. Paul Ehrlich was there, but no one even called him on the number of predictions he'd made that were completely wrong. Still, it's a discussion show ... not journalism.

So, thanks for this. I'm thrilled to see someone whose conservative credibility is intact defending NPR for a change.

I know a number of conservatives who listen to NPR. My wife listened to it long before I came along, and she's more conservative than me on a number of issues. I know Joe Carter, formerly of Evangelical Outpost and former employee of the Family Research Council and Mike Huckabee's campaign for the presidency, absolutely loves NPR. A guy in my church who's definitely more conservative than me listens to it all the time, although part of that is because he's very interested in local news, and hardly anyone gives better local news than local NPR affiliate stations.

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