The Establishement: NPR, Obama, Corporatism, Parties

I was listening to NPR, as usual, while at work. I think it was during Diane Rehm’s show that I was listening to some guests talk about federal debt and related issues. From what I was hearing, I became so frustrated that I turned it off and nearly vowed never to listen to NPR again.

So, what annoyed me so much?

I’ve become increasingly exasperated with all mainstream media/news (NPR being as mainstream as it gets) and mainstream politics. Everything in the mainstream has been pushed so far right that it’s almost entirely disconnected from the reality of average Americans. Listening to the mainstream media, you wouldn’t even be able to guess how liberally progressive most Americans are (especially relative to most mainstream reporters, pundits and politicians) on the very issues the mainstream media ‘reports’ on. So, where is the liberal bias in the media? Since newspapers have a business section, why don’t papers still have a labor section as they had a half century ago?

My frustration with NPR, in particular, has been growing. About a month ago, I wrote about an example of NPR’s status quo bias. That example was more about a general cultural bias, although one that favored the capitalist ‘management’ paradigm. Last night’s example was more egregious.

The guests seemed to be the average type of person one expects in the mainstream. I realize that means they are, therefore, to the right of the average American, but still I was shocked by how far right they were. They didn’t seem to be right-wingers and yet they were stating far right positions as if they were centrist.

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Let me give some examples.

Here is one that that I’ve noticed again and again. On NPR (and most of the mainstream media), you will rarely hear anyone admit that social security has never and will never contribute to federal debt, although interestingly I’m finally starting to hear it more in the mainstream (years after having heard it in the alternative media).

In fact, even most Washington Democrats like Obama have (for most of the recent years of debate) been unwilling to admit this either, despite it supporting the position they claim to advocate. Obama has the bully pulpit and could push the progressive agenda of protecting the social safety net. He did recently finally admit that social security has nothing to do with the debt, but then he followed that we still need to reform social security because now is the best time to do so. Why does he, after admitting the Republicans have been lying to and deceiving the public, then throw the Republicans a bone by telling them they have an open field to attack social security? He basically promises Republicans that he won’t defend the very cornerstone of progressivism.

The rhetoric that social security has anything to do with the debt is a right-wing talking point, but importantly it has been the talking point of all mainstream media and politics. I even heard Diane Rehm, in the past, talk about this as if it were an indisputable fact. I’ve heard it so many times that I can’t remember how often I’ve heard someone in the mainstream say that if we are going to get serious about balancing the budgets then we’re going to have to talk about social security.

This far right position is the centrist position of the mainstream, even though the vast majority of Americans disagree with this position. Of the mainstream media, only certain people on MSNBC will question this right-wing talking point and call out those who state it as a fact. But the most mainstream of the mainstream media (NPR, CNN, etc) will rarely if ever follow MSNBC’s example. What is odd is that MSNBC gets labeled as far left. Really? Left of what? Almost everything, including the American public, is left of the right-leaning mainstream.

New Poll Confirms Country is Clearly Progressive
Cenk Uygur

When asked what’s the first thing they would do to balance the budget, Americans had an unmistakably clear answer — raise taxes on the rich. It came in number one by a mile, with a whopping 61 percent.

If that wasn’t progressive enough, cutting defense spending came in number two, with 20 percent.

And if all of that wasn’t clear enough, when asked about cutting Medicare, only 4 percent were in favor of it. Only 3 percent wanted to cut Social Security as a way to balance the budget.

Here is another right-wing talking point I heard last night. One guest said that the American public thinks the government is too big. Bullshit! That is fucking propaganda, corporate propaganda at that. Here is some data that shows actual views of the American public (from my post: US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism):

America: A Center-Left Nation

It is one of the most fundamental ideological divides between the left and the right: Conservatives purport to believe that government should be as small as possible and favor market‐oriented solutions to social problems; progressives, on the other hand, see government playing a more vital role in meeting basic social needs, including infrastructure, economic security, education, and health care. As the most recent National Election Study (NES) data demonstrate, clear majorities of the public recognize the importance of a well‐run and well‐funded government to their lives and to the security and prosperity of the country, and, indeed, want it to do more.

On all three of the following measures, the public has moved in a more progressive direction. The number saying the government should be doing more things increased by 9 points from the 2004 study, the number saying government has gotten bigger because the problems have gotten bigger increased by 3 points, and the number saying we need a strong government to handle today’s economic problems increased by 5 points.

Public Opinion Snapshot: The Weakness of Conservative Opposition to Health Care Reform
By Ruy Teixeira

In recent polls, more of the public opposes than favors the health care reform bills in Congress. Conservatives would have you believe that the opposition plurality in these polls is a result of public distaste for a big government takeover of our health care system. Not so. In a December CNN poll, a total of 55 percent either favored the Senate health reform bill outright (42 percent) or opposed it at this point because its approach to health care isn’t liberal enough (13 percent). Just 39 percent said they opposed the bill because its approach to health care was too liberal.

Government is Good

If we are asked about this issue in the abstract, 45% of us say we want “a smaller government providing fewer services,” and 42% say that we want “a bigger government providing more services”– a pretty even split. But then when people are asked about specific policy areas, much larger numbers of people say they support expanded government services. For example, almost three quarters of Americans say they want to see more federal involvement in ensuring access to affordable health care, providing a decent standard of living for the elderly, and making sure that food and medicines are safe. And over 60% want more government involvement in reducing poverty, ensuring clean air and water, and setting minimum educational standards for school. These are hardly the answers of a people who want drastically smaller government.

Here is my third NPR example. On last night’s show, a caller asked: Does Obama genuinely believe in the far right positions he keeps giving into or is it that he has no room to negotiate further to the left? I can’t remember if one of the guests ever gave a direct answer, but the implied answer was that it was the latter. I do recall specifically that a guest described how Obama is playing on Republican’s turf which is what implies that it isn’t Obama’s turf.

I, of course, disagree. Obama is playing on mainstream Washington turf (i.e., right-wing and corporatist) because Obama is bought by the same corporate interests as Republicans. They are all serving the same master(s). It’s not that they are mere puppets. Rather, anyone who doesn’t dance with the one who brought them won’t dance for long. If you don’t play according to corporate rules, you won’t get corporate funding nor get a cushy corporate lobbyist job when you leave office. It’s just a sad fact of life that people are easily corrupted by money, power and fame. Also, we all tend to act according to the interests of those who are similar to us. Politicians tend to be wealthy and so it’s no surprise that they tend to share the interests of the wealthy.

Obama doesn’t fight strongly against Republicans because his own position is much closer to the Republican position than is his position to that of the American public. I don’t know to what degree he agrees with Republicans, but my point is even on those issues he doesn’t necessarily strongly disagree. For God’s sake, Obama is even against gay marriage, a staunch Republican position. Are most Americans against gay marriage? No.

Gay Marriage Opponents Now in Minority

poll from CNN this week is the latest to show a majority of Americans in favor of same-sex marriage, with 51 percent saying that marriages between gay and lesbian couples “should be recognized by the law as valid” and 47 percent opposed.

This is the fourth credible poll in the past eight months to show an outright majority of Americans in favor of gay marriage. That represents quite a lot of progress for supporters of same-sex marriage. Prior to last year, there had been just one survey — a Washington Post poll conducted in April 2009 — to show support for gay marriage as the plurality position, and none had shown it with a majority.

As we noted last August, support for gay marriage seems to have been increasing at an accelerated pace over the past couple of years. Below is an update to the graph from last year’s article, which charts the trend from all available public polls on same-sex marriage going back to 1988.

On a related note, another staunch Republican position is the Tough On Crime policy of which the War On Drugs is an extension. The American people think Marijuana should be legalized, something conservatives have always seen as dangerous to society.

Marijuana Legalization: Poll Suggests Public Support Growing

Data compiled by the Pew Research Center and drawn primarily from the General Social Survey has found a consistent trend towards supporting legalization of marijuana for recreational use, but no poll so far has shown a majority in favor.

In a poll released Tuesday by CNN, 41 percent of American adults said they favored legalizing marijuana, while 56 percent opposed. Another poll, conducted early last month by the Pew Research Center, found 45 percent of adults supporting legalization and 50 percent against it.

[ . . . ] Demographic trends show that the movement to embrace legalization will likely continue: Both recent polls reveal younger respondents as the most likely supporters. In the Pew poll, the majority of 18-29 year olds (54 percent favor/42 percent oppose) and a slim plurality of 30-49 year olds (49 percent support/47 percent oppose) said marijuana use should be legal. In the new CNN poll, about as many respondents under 50 said they supported legalizing marijuana (49 percent) as opposed it (50 percent).

Who does Obama agree with, the American people or the Republicans? The Republicans, of course.

Other issues that Obama didn’t support the majority public opinion and instead ‘compromised’ with Republicans:

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There is nothing surprising about this. It’s just the type of positions that almost all politicians take these days.
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It wouldn’t be extremely different if it was a Republican as president. These positions are mainstream Washington positions, mainstream media positions, mainstream corporate positions. This ‘mainstream’, however, shouldn’t be mistaken as the average or majority position. If we had an actually functioning democracy, the mainstream would reflect the majority position and mainstream politicians would represent the majority of Americans. Instead, we have some type of plutocratic oligarchy, whether corporatocracy/soft-fascism or inverted totalitarianism.
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Obama’s positions on all these issues are the standard positions presented on NPR. But what about the views of the majority of Americans? As someone who has regularly listened to NPR for years, I can say that you will rarely hear reported any of the data I’m sharing here. It’s not a secret. The data I’m sharing even comes from mainstream sources such as Pew. There seems to be a disconnect between info known in the mainstream and the info reported in the mainstream. The most rational assumption to make is that most of the time it’s intentional when incorrect or partial information is reported or when information is entirely ignored. I’ve often wondered if all these mainstream media types are trapped in a media bubble, an echo chamber… but I don’t think that is giving them enough credit. These aren’t stupid and uneducated people.
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It does make me wonder, though. Diane Rehm seems well-intentioned. So why doesn’t she usually challenge her guests when they state misinformation? Why doesn’t she point out what the correct information is? Why does she most often just goes along with the talking points? Could it be that she genuinely is oblivious to all the type of info I’m sharing? Or does she think it’s not her job to help fairly and fully inform her listeners?
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Maybe it’s just the structure of mainstream media. NPR isn’t really all that different from corporate media. The ‘Public’ in NPR is very limited because much of their funding doesn’t come from the public, especially not the government that supposedly represents the national public.
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“As its federal funding came under threat,” U.S. National Public Radio increased its ad sales. “Public-radio stations now count 18% of their revenue from businesses, compared with 11% from the federal government.” Corporate “underwriters” include Clear Channel CommunicationsStarbucks andWal-Mart Stores. “More on-air sponsorships are now weaved into programming breaks rather than lumped at the end of each show,” reports Sarah McBride. “And more minutes per hour are given over to these announcements, a sweetener for all concerned because such underwriting is tax-deductible.” The trend was informed by a 2004 report for 21 large public-radio stations, which found listeners disliked on-air pledge drives, but “weren’t bothered by” fundraising by direct mail or on-air underwriting. NPR ombudsman Jeffery Dvorkin admits that listener concerns “about corporate influence on programming as well as the number of messages” are increasing. [6]

Sponsors include:

In 2005 they received $3 million from the Ford Foundation.

Sarah McBride

As much of the media industry languishes in an advertising slump, public radio is on a tear, scooping up new sponsorship by mimicking the tactics of commercial broadcasters. On offer is public radio’s coveted, gold-plated audience.

But the increase in corporate messages is a delicate marketing strategy, since many of those prized listeners gravitated to public stations looking for the exact opposite: an escape from advertising’s constant hum.

These stories mention single payer. I can find no NPR news reports or other shows which actually focused on single payer or on the movement to achieve it.

Why is NPR refusing to report on what 60% of US citizens and the majority of health professionals want?

NPR’s web site provides lists of foundation and individual major donors but not of corporate sponsors. For that list you need to go to their annual reports. The latest report available on line is for 2005. Health and Long-term Care corporate sponsors in 2005 were:

  • $1 million+: Farmers Insurance Group of Companies, Prudential Financial
  • $500,000 – $999,999: Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America, Allstate Insurance Company, Northwestern Mutual Foundation,
  • $250,000 – $499,999: AARP, The Hartford Financial Services Group, UnumProvident
  • $100,000 – $249,999: Liberty Mutual Insurance Company
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I think part of the mess we find ourselves in can be explained by the party system.
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George Washington explained in detail what he saw as the danger of political parties:

They [political parties] serve to organize faction, to give it an artificial and extraordinary force; to put, in the place of the delegated will of the nation, the will of a party, often a small but artful and enterprising minority of the community; and, according to the alternate triumphs of different parties, to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects of faction, rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests.

“However combinations or associations of the above description may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely, in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people, and to usurp for themselves the reins of government; destroying afterwards the very engines, which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

Like Paine, a danger he saw was that a country could develop divided loyalties and the people would no longer see themselves united in a common cause. This would lead to a weakening of liberty because it would spread mistrust and antagonism. One division he foresaw was geographical where parties would prey upon people’s prejudices and xenophobia. Another division had to do with foreign influences.
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In Washington’s time, this made particular sense as a large part of the population had been born in another country or had close relatives still living in another country. A dangerous possibility was of a citizen who had loyalty divided between two nations. This still can be a danger today, but it’s an even bigger issue with globalization. Businesses (as well as business owners and investors) have less national allegiance once they become transnational corporations which are the very businesses that now have the most influence over our politics.
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The parties have become perfect vehicles for corporate interests. This is particularly problematic considering that mainstream media companies have been bought up by conglomerates that often are transnational. So the parties and the media, NPR included, that reports on them is increasingly influenced by the same global plutocracy.
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Anyway, my frustration is that this entire corrupt system gets blamed on liberals.
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NPR liberal? Obama progressive? In what alternative reality?

Man vs Nature, Man vs Man (part 2)

This post is in response to comments that can be found at my last post.
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I don’t know your exact position on this issue, but let me clear about mine. It’s obvious that American society doesn’t offer an equality of opportunity, much less equality of results. Just look at the enduring systemic and institutionalized racism in all parts of our society.
The invocation of the ideology of equal opportunity is too often used as a magical incantation to dispel fear of a world with real equality. It’s not about perfect results, but it’s a sad state of affairs when abstract ideology is used to rationalize away real problems. I noticed this dichotomy within libertarianism. There are deontological libertarians who argue on moral grounds and there are consequentialist libertarians who supposedly argue based on results. The tricky part is that the results argued for are to varying degrees hypothetical since there has never been a libertarian country as far as I know, at least not in the modern era. So, in reality, the consequentialist libertarians are just deontological libertarians who defer into the future the obligation of moral justification. They get to argue for equality of opportunity without having to show any real world results that their ideology leads to even a semblance of equality for actual people living here and now.

You ask “Equality OF WHAT!!” I can respond with Equal Opportunity OF WHAT!! This is the difference. Equality of opportunity is too often an abstraction whereas equality of results can be concretely measured. Equality is something we aspire to even though it is never achieved absolutely. Also, to the extent that equal opportunity is more than mere abstract ideology, it can only be proven by its results. If an abstract ideology never leads to results, it is a less than worthless and possibly dangerous ideology. I think that it would be naive at best to think that most inequality we see today is ‘natural’ in any sense of that word.

Let me speak about Jefferson and Paine.

Jefferson may never have used the word democracy, but at least early in his life he definitely believed in a radical version of direct democracy in terms of direct civic participation and direct political action. As far as I understand it, his vision of democracy was one of an agrarian society which in today’s terms simply means a society of small business owners who simultaneously are producers. Yes, he believed in equality before the law, but his egalitarian vision went beyond that. He helped create a free public university which goes beyond mere opportunity because it is actively redistributing wealth to ensure public education. There is no way to have a govt without redistributing wealth. It’s just in authoritarian govts the wealth is distributed upwards to a minority elite and in democratic governments the wealth is distributed more evenly among the entire population.

However, Paine is more central to my argument, especially considering he was the first to refer to America as a united country and the first to formulate a version of Bill of Rights. Paine didn’t deny we are born with various inequalities, but he observed that most of the major inequalities in modern civilization are created by modern civilization. I’d suggest you read Paine in more detail to understand this position. He describes it in great detail in ‘Agrarian Justice’.

I’d go so far as to argue that the ideas and policies of the Populist and Progressive Eras were rooted in the thinking of the founding fathers.

For example, in ‘Agrarian Justice’, Paine formulated an early version of social security among other proposals of a what right-wingers would call a “welfare state”. Or take the Civil War as another example. Lincoln admired Paine and was inspired by Paine’s advocation of universal suffrage. Paine wanted literal freedom for all to be written into the constitution. Having failed that, it was left to Lincoln to finish the American Revolution that Paine originally inspired. In the terms of our disccusion, I think it’s hard to argue that the federal government enforcing equal rights (beginning with the Civil War and being furthered with the Civil Rights movement) is merely establishing equal opportunity. The government was, in fact, demanding basic results of equality in the real world. The government didn’t just offer slaves the opportunity to work themselves out of slavery.

I also mentioned earlier about some of the policies of the founding fathers. Besides creating public schools, I pointed out the issue of protectionism and subsidies.

The founding fathers weren’t worried about free market rhetoric because they understood on the global scale there was no free market. It wasn’t enough to say businesses had the opportunity to try to succeed. The founders protected American businesses against transnationals, enforcing an opposing unfair advantage to American businesses to counter the unfair advantage foreign businesses had from foreign governments.

Subsidies were another way they manipulated markets. In the case of subsidies for presses, they were manipulating markets for the public good. They didn’t merely offer the equal opportunity of a free press determined by a free market. They guaranteed (or at least strongly encouraged) equal results of having newspapers and other published works widely and cheaply available to average Americans.

You pointed out that the idea of an equal society has been portrayed as a dystopia in many movies. That isn’t much of an argument. Any idea can be portrayed dystopically when pushed to its most imbalanced extreme. I demonstrated this principle by dystopically portraying equal opportunity in terms of slavery. Imagine a society where some people are born free and some people are born into slavery. In this imagined society, some slaves do manage to work hard and buy their freedom. The fact that a few escape freedom doesn’t mean a whole lot for those who remain enslaved. Telling the slaves they have an equal opportunity wouldn’t comfort them.

Here is the crux of our discussion. I don’t know to what extent I do or do not understand your position, but your view as communicated here seems to be a fairly standard and mainstream understanding (actually, a bit right-leaning I must point out; conservatives tend to emphasize equal opportunity – or rather the rhetoric of equal opportunity – over equal results). As for my position, I don’t get the sense that you understand where I’m coming from (which is less standard and mainstream). We apparently have neither a shared based of knowledge nor a common understanding of terms. I realize I read widely at the fringes and so there is no reason I should assume most people would understand where I’m coming from. However, if you do want to understand where I’m coming from (specifically in terms of having a fruitful discussion about the above post), then I’d advise at least perusing some of the following (in particular, be sure to read ‘Agrarian Justice’). Otherwise, I doubt our discussion can go on much further.

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The following include two of my YouTube playlists, some of my previous blog posts, and various stuff found around the web:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PL288BB2A3BB6F2FDD

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?p=PLC463021B7E9402AD

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/08/14/us-republic-dem­ocracy/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/is-classical-li­beralism-liberal/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/thomas-paine-an­d-the-promise-of-america/

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/founding-father­s-and-the-christian-nation/

http://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.­com/2010/10/14/protectionist-a­merica/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrarian_Justice

http://cbelan.free.fr/documents/david_robinson_paper.pdf

http://www.conlaw.org/Intergenerational-II-2-5.htm

http://ijdb.auzigog.com/concept/locke%E2%80%99s-proviso

http://currencycommonsvt.org/2010/08/magna-carta-on-the-commons/

http://books.google.com/books?id=2kx7KiTEZCsC

http://www.ied.info/articles/my-eureka-moment/the-feudal-origins-of-land-titles

http://www.schumachersociety.org/publications/barnes_03.html

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/31-6

http://www.enn.com/top_stories/article/9010

http://www.politicususa.com/en/founding-fathers-liberal

http://www.punkerslut.com/critiques/let_freedom_ring/the_socialism_of_thomas_paine_contrasted_with_the_traditional_values_of_american_conservatives.html

http://preesi.lefora.com/2010/04/14/our-socialist-founding-fathers/

http://www.peoplevstate.com/?p=780

http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/jefferson/jeffrep.html

http://www.educationnews.org/articles/13663/1/Jefferson-on-Public-Education-Defying-Conventional-Wisdom/Page1.html

http://www.servintfree.net/~aidmn-ejournal/publications/2001-11/PublicEducationInTheUnitedStates.html

http://leftlibertarianquaker.blogspot.com/2007/10/john-woolmans-plea-for-poor-chapter-13.html

http://leftlibertarianquaker.blogspot.com/2007/10/politics-as-extension-of-war-by-other.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agrarianism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Henry_George

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgism

http://www.cooperativeindividualism.org/davis_caspar_henry_george_and_geonomics.html

http://commonground-usa.net/kyri7802.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geolibertarianism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fabianism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Distributism

https://benjamindavidsteele.wordpress.com/2010/08/17/toward-a-truly-free-market-w-author-john-medaille/

http://www.desarrollo.net/2010/09/distributist-john-medaille-on-the-role-of-cooperatives/

http://www.medaille.com/distributivism.htm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleoliberalism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Left-libertarianism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_libertarianism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_Democrat

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheldon_Richman

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_Marxism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_socialism

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/The_Anarchist_FAQ_Editorial_Collective__An_Anarchist_FAQ__03_17_.html#toc16

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/The_Anarchist_FAQ_Editorial_Collective__An_Anarchist_FAQ__03_17_.html#toc22

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/The_Anarchist_FAQ_Editorial_Collective__An_Anarchist_FAQ__03_17_.html#toc28

http://theanarchistlibrary.org/HTML/The_Anarchist_FAQ_Editorial_Collective__An_Anarchist_FAQ__03_17_.html#toc29

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Nozick

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noam_Chomsky

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Worker%27s_self_management

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre-Joseph_Proudhon

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mutualism_(economic_theory)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarchist_communism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_Bookchin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Libertarian_municipalism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communalism_(Political_Philosophy)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Civil_societarianism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communitarianism

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kropotkin

Man vs Nature, Man vs Man: NPR, Parking Ramps, etc

This post is about some related thoughts: bias in media, the relationship of society and nature, and the issue of democracy in terms of our present capitalism.

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Based on my experience and research, I think it’s fair to state that NPR isn’t liberally biased… or, at least, not in any clear sense… but  such assessments, of course, depend on how one defines/perceives ‘liberalism’. I’d argue NPR is as mainstream as can be found in that they mostly present a status quo view of the world. I suspect if you were to ask most people seen in the mainstream media (reporters, pundits, politicians, talking heads, etc) and they gave you an honest answer, most of them probably would agree with the types of views that are regularly presented on NPR.

(This ‘mainstream’, however, isn’t the same as the everyday experience and values of the average person. If you want to find something closer to a liberal bias, look at the stated opinions of the majority of Americans.)

Here is an example from NPR. The other day, there was a panel discussion. It was about business use of and government management of public land. As I recall, there were three guests, all mainstream types including someone defending the interests of big business and criticizing too much regulation. They had the typical disagreements one often hears in the mainstream, but they were all basically on the same page about the terms and focus of discussion. For certain, it wasn’t a liberal panel. It was just the old school journalism where two sides of an issue are ‘neutrally’ presented by the host, although done in the non-antagonistic ‘let’s all get along’ style typical of NPR.

Most interesting is what was lacking, specifically in terms of those who claim a liberal bias. Among the guests, there was no left-winger of any variety nor anyone who might agree with left-wing positions; no communists, socialists, Marxists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-primitivists, left-libertarians, hippy environmentalists, deep ecologists, Goddess-loving pagans, social justice Christians, indigenous people, community activists, etc. Among the guests invited, there was no discussion of the poor and minorities most impacted by pollution and environmental destruction, no discussion about the alternatives to our present capitalist system, no discussion about how our society is turning into inverted totalitarianism. The officials/experts who were invited as guests framed the discussion narrowly. It was mostly framed as government regulation vs private profit. there was also some slight secondary framing of local people vs non-local corporations. Framings that were mostly or entirely ignored included: communities vs globalism, public good vs individual good, living ecosystems vs natural resources, humans as part of nature vs humans as separate from nature, etc.

The basic discussion was about how to maximize resource procurement while minimizing environmental destruction. And the basic assumption was of opposition and conflict, of win/lose scenarios where those who lose the most are ignored or rationalized away. There was neither an environmentalist conception of the human species living sustainably balanced within the earth’s biosphere nor a religious belief of humanty as caretaker of God’s Creation. The focus of the discussion was ‘management’ and so the implication was how do we best control and manipulate nature toward our desired ends. What was missing was the possibility of humans not creating problems in the first place that need to be managed.

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I was thinking about how this opposition attitude is common in American society right now. There is the idea that for one person or group to win that others must lose. And there is is the idea that society can only be run well through hierarchies with the only disagreement being which system the hierarchy is organized according to. All of this depresses me.

My friend and I went to see the new X-Men: First Class movie. We were discussing the view portrayed of human evolution and change. It was mostly a view of Social Darwinism (by the way, I’ve always thought it odd how many right-wingers will dismiss Darwinian evolution while promoting Social Darwinism). I mentioned to my friend the thoughts I wrote about above. As a liberal, he of course agreed with me about NPR being a mainstream establishment voice. And we had a discussion on our walk home about the relationship of society and nature.

I told him about some thoughts I’ve had while working at the city parking ramp. In particular, I brought up my wonderings about what kind of vision of the world is implied by the building of large concrete structures in which to store large hunks of mobile metal.

I noticed a pigeon nesting in the ramp and I knew its days were numbered. Management seeks to block all possible nesting sites within the ramp and some of the maintenance workers find great pleasure in ‘hunting’ the pigeons who do manage to find a roost. This mentality is repugnant to me. I understand that animals and humans don’t always cohabitate well, but this situation isn’t ‘natural’ or inevitable. Parking ramps are designed to be ecosystem deserts, to be utterly opposed to all that is natural. But there is no reason to do this other than an ideological paradigm, a worldview that disallows people to envision any other possibility.

A parking ramp could be designed that gave pigeons nesting areas that would keep their poop away from cars and walkways. It could even be designed so that the pigeon poop could be collected and used as it traditionally was used (and still is used in many places) as fertilizer. This pigeon fertilizer could be used as free fertilizer for city gardens or it could be sold in order to make additional profit. That would be a win-win solution. To take this a step further, ramps (or any other structures for that matter) could be designed with habitation for all kinds of animals. Downtowns could be as beautiful to look at as parks filled with trees. And the habitat could help ease some of the environmental destruction that are causing many species to become endangered and go extinct.

What is the advantage of seeing nature as the enemy? There is no practical advantage. It actually goes against the practical benefit of the continued survival of the human species. Yes, we’re talented at ‘managing’ nature, but too often this just means destroying nature. My friend pointed out the conservative position that it shouldn’t be the role of government to spend taxpayers’ money on the liberal agenda of saving nature. My response was that neither should it be the role of government to ensure the private profit agenda of destroying of nature.

– – –

This problem extends beyond just nature. If we perceive nature as lesser than us, then our treatment of nature demonstrates how we wish to treat humans that are considered as lesser than other humans (poor, minorities, indigenous, etc) and how we wish to treat communities that are considered lesser (in terms of legal rights and political influence) than big business. To treat nature fairly is akin to the democratic ideal of treating all people fairly.

The reason I was thinking about democracy was because of an article on The Nation. Here is the article:

Reimagining Capitalism: Bold Ideas for a New Economy
William Greider

And following it is my response:

Our societal problems are caused and contributed to by a lack of democracy. A functioning democracy isn’t just about votes but about participation. In all aspects of society (politics, media, business, etc), power and wealth have become concentrated while wealth disparity and political disenfranchisement grows. Early great thinkers warned against such concentration, but in recent history many wrongly thought such warnings no longer mattered.

A political democracy is meaningless without social democracy (i.e., democratic values such as in the constitution). I don’t know if capitalism’s problems can be solved or if capitalism must be replaced. If there is any hope for capitalism in a democratic society, it will be by capitalism becoming a part of democracy rather than in opposition.

The founders and other early Americans were careful about regulating capitalism. They created protectionism to defend the local economy against transnationals, subsidized presses ensuring a functioning free press available to all citizens, and defined corporations narrowly. The last may be most important. Corporations:

– were only allowed to serve a single project or product, large conglomerate corporations having been illegal.

– could only exist as temporary entities so as to not outlive the people who are responsible for creating them.

– weren’t allowed to participate in politics.

Free market is just another way of saying democratic market. A system, political or economic, can only be free to the extent people involved in the system are free. As some early Americans (Paine, Jefferson, Thoreau, etc) realized, freedom can’t exist without equality (of power and wealth, and of opportunities to fairly earn power and wealth).

Democracy only functions well on the local level where people know the people they are impacting by their decisions and actions. A market can’t be considered free when it impacts people who can’t influence or protect themselves against those (e.g., transnationals) who seek to profit at their expense (including local communities and environments). The more localized democracy becomes the more it becomes direct democracy. Elites mistrust the people, but we the majority need to stop being subservient to the elites in politics and business. The problem is that the system we have now is designed by and for the upper class.

We need a government and an economy that is literally by and for the people:

1) a modernized version of Jefferson’s agrarian democracy (meaning an economy run mostly by small businesses and a society where most people are small business owners);

2) something like what Chomsky describes with anarcho-syndicalism (where businesses are owned, controlled and/or otherwise greatly influenced by the workers and by the members of the community in which the business is located); or

3) a system closer to Germany’s model with strong unions, a publicly trained workforce, high levels of civic participation, well-funded social safety net, community banks, and protected manufacturing.

– – –

Obviously, we live in a messed up society with messed up priorities. We are still operating society according to some very old ideas about human nature, but we are facing very new problems.

NPR: Liberal Bias?

Let me state upfront my own bias. 

Some might perceive me as a progressive liberal far to the left of what is called ‘liberal’ in mainstream media and politics. Right-wingers likely would call me a ‘socialist’. But going by polls most of my positions seem to be more or less in line with the ‘mass opinion’ of the general public (US Demographics & Increasing Progressivism).

I’m not a partisan or an ideological purist. I’m an Independent who doesn’t give allegiance to any specific party, especially not the Democratic Party. In fact, I don’t like party politics in general and I utterly despise the two-party stanglehold. On principle, I refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils because that would still mean voting for evil. I’m more likely to vote Libertarian or Green. I would consider myself a liberal-minded small ‘d’ democrat. I put my value of democracy before all else. I’ve increasingly come to doubt all things ‘big’: big government, big business, big media, big think tanks, big special interests, big unions, big money campaign funding, etc. Grassroots democracy is always the safest bet.

I often listen to NPR while at work, but not because they represent my views. I just find them the least obnoxious of the choices available on talk radio. NPR makes good background noise. Public radio in general (NPR, IPR, BBC, and CBC) keeps me basically informed about the major events going on in the world and occasionally I hear an interesting interview. Unlike most talk radio, the annoying opinionated punditry (especially of the angry ranting variety) is non-existent on NPR. Even at it’s worse, NPR is just boringly bland in sticking so close to conventional wisdom and noncontroversial issues. However, I listen to NPR less and less as the years go by.

So, I’m biased against mainstream media in general. In this way, I’m biased against NPR for the same basic reason I’m biased against Fox News. I’m biased against the mainstream bias that excludes, dismisses, or criticizes alternative viewpoints and sources.

– – –

In this post, I’m responding to the allegation that NPR has a liberal or even a left-wing bias.

I’ve previously touched upon this in a previous post about media in general: Black and White and Re(a)d All Over. I’m not defending NPR. In fact, I’m critical of all mainstream media (i.e., big media owned and operated by big business or, in the case of NPR, funded by big business). It’s true that NPR doesn’t play the partisan punditry game such as Fox News or MSNBC. Instead, they are more in league with CNN. The game they play is defender of the political status quo and mouthpiece of Washington politics. The only bias NPR has is that of Establishment centrism and corporatism.

Some claim NPR is left-leaning. Others claim it’s right-leaning. It all depends on your comparison. It’s to the left of Fox News and to the right of MSNBC. More importantly, I’d point out how it compares to society as a whole. I don’t know if it is to the right or left of center in Washington politics, but admittedly it’s difficult for any news outlet to be much further right than what goes for centrism in Washington. Like most of the MSM, NPR is to the right of the average American, at least in terms of major issues such as health care reform and drug legalization/decreminalization.

This is significant considering that ‘Public’ is literally NPR’s middle name. If NPR doesn’t represent and fairly report public opinion, then whose opinion are they voicing?

NPR rarely has alternative voices, including internationally renown thinkers such as Noam Chomsky. As a liberal, the type of liberal media personalities I enjoy listening to (along with Chomsky: Thom Hartmann, Sam Seder, etc) tend to not be heard on NPR or in the rest of the mainstream media. This is interesting as these people aren’t necessarily radicals. Hartmann, for example, seems similar to me in being in agreement with the American silent majority. These people who are considered ‘far left’ aren’t radical in the way that Glenn Beck or Alex Jones is radical… and yet this supposed ‘far left’ gets equated to the far right.

NPR gives a platform for views that are considered mainstream (meaning the political center of the ruling elite: political elite, business elite, intellectual elite, think tank elite, etc). What NPR typically doesn’t do is challenge this mainstream status quo or invite guests on who will challenge this mainstream status quo.

In fear of being called ‘liberal’, some have argued that NPR bends over backwards in the opposite direction:

http://mediamatters.org/blog/2010/02/04/why-is-npr-so-darn-liberal/160061

In its obituary marking the death of iconic liberal activist and historian Howard Zinn, NPR allowed right-wing hater David Horowitz go off on the recently deceased: 

“There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn’s intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect,” Horowitz declared in the NPR story. “Zinn represents a fringe mentality which has unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time. So he did certainly alter the consciousness of millions of younger people for the worse.”

That brought a deserved rebuke from listeners, who were encouraged by FAIR. NPR’s ombudsman thenlooked back at how the radio network handled recent obits of other political players, who were all conservatives [emphasis added]: 

NPR was complimentary and respectful in memorializing [Bill] Buckley, who died in 2008. The network was equally nuanced in remembering pioneering televangelist Oral Roberts(who died in December) and Robert Novaka conservative columnist who played a key role in the Valerie Plame debacle and who died last August. NPR’s obituaries of these men did not contain mean-spirited, Horowitz-like comments.

There is one particular study I found interesting which claims to have measured a very slight liberal bias to NPR. What was interesting was what was being measured:

http://blogs.forbes.com/jeffbercovici/2011/03/22/science-settles-it-nprs-liberal-but-not-very/

A caveat: The Duke team’s results don’t directly get at the ideologies of the entities themselves, only at the makeup of the networks that surround them. “We would say that our estimates relate to the perception of a given entity,” Sparks says. “However, for the purposes of our paper and possibly for thinking about the media, perceptions may be what is actually important.”

It’s an odd thing to measure perception. Whose perception is being measured?

I noticed the article gave a clear description of its bias: “The only surprises were how far to the left some mainstream entities, such as Katie Couric and the Washington Post, fell (although that would be no surprise at all to those who think the entire mainstream media is shot through with liberal bias).” This must be understood in context. One could equally say: The only surprises were how far to the right the entire mainstream media, such as NPR and Fox News, fell (although that would be no surprise at all to those who think the entire mainstream media is shot through with conservative bias).

Think about it for a moment. Where do you always here that the mainstream media is liberal? You hear it in the mainstream media. If the mainstream media were actually liberal, they wouldn’t constantly attack each other as being liberal and constantly deny their liberal bias when attacked.

So, in the context of mainstream media, NPR is perceived as ‘liberal’. That isn’t surprising. In the context of mainstream media, the stated public opinion of the American majority would be perceived as ‘liberal’. However, since the mainstream media controls the narrative of public debate, those who control the media (i.e., big business) controls the public perception. The real liberal bias is to be found among average Americans who are the silent majority. The more the media has become concentrated the further it has become distanced from average Americans. Most Americans get their news from the mainstream media and, as one would suspect, most Americans perceive themselves as ‘conservative’ despite their tending toward liberal and progressive views on key issues.

Perception, when controlled and manipulated, isn’t an accurate and fair measure of reality. Yes, as people like Chomsky understand, the propaganda model does work.

In this particular case, one must ask: Who is trying to control/manipulate the perception of NPR being liberally biased? It’s the conservative mainstream media.

There are a couple of relevant points.

First, since the entire mainstream media is far to the right of the majority of Americans and since the conservative mainstream media is far to the right of the center of mainstream media, then this accusation of liberal bias is originating from sources that are radically far right. So, it’s an issue of who is categorizing according to which labels and what is motivating their choices.

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2897

There have been notable recent attempts to study think tank coverage, including a problematic study by academics Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo (see Extra!, 5–6/05) and NPR’s analysis of its own use of think tanks (NPR.org, 12/14/05). NPR ombud Jeffrey A. Dvorkin only listed eight think tanks, and counted Brookings and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (which has Henry Kissinger on its board) as “left” think tanks. (There are no centrist think tanks in Dvorkin’s universe.) Even thus stacking the deck, Dvorkin still found a 239–141 advantage in citations for the right—a result that he said, puzzlingly enough, shows that “NPR does not lean on the so-called conservative think tanks as many in the audience seem to think.

Second, the sources (such as Fox News) making this accusation of liberal bias against NPR are measured as being less reliable sources of info than those they are making accusations against:

http://www.pipa.org/OnlineReports/Iraq/IraqMedia_Oct03/IraqMedia_Oct03_rpt.pdf

The extent of Americans’ misperceptions vary significantly depending on their source of news. Those who receive most of their news from Fox News are more likely than average to have misperceptions. Those who receive most of their news from NPR or PBS are less likely to have misperceptions. These variations cannot simply be explained as a result of differences in the demographic characteristics of each audience, because these variations can also be found when comparing the demographic subgroups of each audience.

It isn’t necessarily helpful to think of media in terms of right vs left. The news, for the most part, is about profits.

Even NPR has increasingly become funded by corporate money (far more than any government funding). Profit or not, it’s a fact that the media has become increasingly concentrated. A few corporations have been buying up the media for decades. NPR, and other public radio, also has been growing in a similar fashion taking up the place that used to be filled with locally owned and operated radio stations. To the degree there has been a bias, it’s the bias of big business (which tends to be the same bias as that of conservatives or at least right-wing conservatives; and it should be noted that many right-wing conservatives incorrectly believe they represent both the average conservative and the average American).

Furthermore, the data shows that politicians and political activists are more polarized in their rhetoric than are most Americans. There is a minority of partisan true believers and these people will always see the media biased against them.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hostile_media_effect

The hostile media effect, sometimes called the hostile media phenomenon, refers to the finding that people with strong biases toward an issue (partisans) perceive media coverage as biased against their opinions, regardless of the reality. Proponents of the hostile media effect argue that this finding cannot be attributed to the presence of bias in the news reports, since partisans from opposing sides of an issue rate the same coverage as biased against their side and biased in favor of the opposing side.

Presently in the US, the right is more radicalized than the left. It’s for this reason that we most often hear the allegation of a liberal media bias rather than the opposite.

Most Americans, on the other hand, aren’t radicalized. The average American, like the average NPR listener, is moderate. However, the issue is made complex for the reason that present-day American liberals are more moderate than present-day American conservatives (more moderate, for example, in being the demographic most supportive of compromise and the demographic most supportive of government no matter which party is in power). This means there is much more crossover between liberals and moderates (in recent history, liberals have tended to disavow the radical far left).

http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2011/03/25/moyers_winship_npr

For one, when we described the right-wing media machine as NPR’s “long-time nemesis,” it was not to suggest that somehow public radio is its left-wing opposite. When it comes to covering and analyzing the news, the reverse of right isn’t left; it’s independent reporting that toes neither party nor ideological line. We’ve heard no NPR reporter — not a one — advocating on the air for more government spending (or less), for the right of abortion (or against it), for or against gay marriage, or for or against either political party, especially compared to what we hear from Fox News and talk radio on all of these issues and more. [ . . . ]

So what do conservatives really mean when they accuse NPR of being “liberal”? They mean it’s not accountable to their worldview as conservatives and partisans. They mean it reflects too great a regard for evidence and is too open to reporting different points of views of the same event or idea or issue. Reporting that by its very fact-driven nature often fails to confirm their ideological underpinnings, their way of seeing things (which is why some liberals and Democrats also become irate with NPR).

The most interesting part to me is how many of NPR listeners aren’t liberal and especially aren’t far left-wing:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704050204576218543378702266.html

The facts show that NPR attracts a politically diverse audience of 33.7 million weekly listeners to its member stations on-air. In surveys by GfK MRI, most listeners consistently identify themselves as “middle of the road” or “conservative.” Millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio.

The right-wing media may attack NPR, but that doesn’t necessarily imply that the average conservative has any complaint:

http://mediamatters.org/research/2011/03/11/npr-is-fair-conservatives-and-media-critics-def/177500

Media critics and conservative commentators are responding to the recent controversy over NPR by praising the network’s reporting. In addition, some Tea Party activists say that NPR’s coverage of their group has been “fair.”

Even so, those who run NPR often seem clueless in thinking that appeasing the right-wing media will end the attacks:

http://www.fair.org/blog/2011/10/07/you-cant-take-politics-out-of-the-public-broadcasting-debate/

In the When Will They Learn? department, incoming National Public Radio president Gary Knell seems to suffer from the same misunderstanding that has plagued public broadcasting executives for years.

NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik reports that Knell says he hopes to “calm the waters a bit” at NPR after recent political controversies, and to “depoliticize” debate over the future of public radio. Knell is quoted saying, “It’s not about liberal or conservative; it’s about fairness…. We’ve got to make the case we’re delivering a fair service.”

Sigh. It’s as if he doesn’t see the road behind him strewn with efforts to “depoliticize” the public broadcasting debate, which is code for appeasing public broadcasting’s conservative enemies by adding more right-wing content and censoring things they might not like.

But the thing is, politicians are political, and some of them want there to be no more publicly funded…anything, but certainly not broadcasting, which they demonstrate by voting to zero out its resources every chance they get. No matter how calm the waters are.

For the rest of the post, I’ll offer from various sources more evidence against and discussion about the allegation of a liberally biased NPR.

– – –

http://www.dailyfinance.com/2011/03/24/guess-whos-making-money-npr/

Debates over whether NPR has a vendetta against conservatives, though, miss the larger issue of the network’s financial strength. NPR says its finances have rebounded. NPR makes most of its revenue from program fees and dues that stations pay to broadcast its programs. Its second-largest source of revenue — and one of the reasons for its financial success — is that it allows corporations the chance to reach the its well-heeled audience through sponsorships, which it says has enjoyed “strong growth” over the past decade.

http://nprcheck.blogspot.com/2012/06/lights-out.html

As journalism it is worthless: nothing more than an echo chamber for the views of the powerful interests and forces that control this country – large US and multinational corporations, departments and agencies of US military and foreign policy, and the national Republican and Democratic parties, etc.  As an organization, NPR never challenges or confronts the myth of US goodness in foreign policy, the belief in US exceptionalism, the supposed benefits of capitalism and market ideologies. 

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2012/02/28/147594827/ralph-nader-and-whether-npr-ignores-progressives

While the political right has been beating the drum for years that NPR is too liberal, Nader says that is not the true picture at all. He says that it is progressives on the political left, like him, who are being excluded from NPR’s airwaves.

“Progressive voices are not heard on NPR with the frequency of voices representing more corporatist and conservative opinion,” Nader said. “And progressive voices should not be confused with liberal voices and lumped into the same category for any frequency analysis.”

According to Nader, what NPR considers a liberal perspective is really middle-of-the-road. Among his examples are well-known Democrats like President Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Progressives, he said, exist farther to the left on the political spectrum. They support things like a Medicare-type single-payer system for all Americans, and not the health care compromise passed by Congress.

Nader does make at least one good point. Academic studies in recent decades have repeatedly shown that the country’s political right, more than the left, is so peopled by true believers driven by principle that they reject political compromise and stay on message with such a strong voice that it attracts great media attention and exaggerates their real weight in the populace.

So who are some of these progressives on the left that Nader says are being ignored? Some are old war horses such as Jim Hightower, Gloria Steinem, Frances Fox Piven and Cornel West. But others are younger political players. They include Kevin Zeese and Robert Weissman. Nader gave a list, quickly scribbled; it is not exhaustive.

“Most of the Liberals in Congress voted for the Patriot Act and its renewal,” Nader said, citing another policy differentiator. He said progressives more than liberals also want to dramatically increase minimum wage and decrease the country’s military involvement abroad.

http://www.onthemedia.org/2011/mar/25/does-public-radio-have-a-liberal-bias-the-finale/transcript/

On story selection, NPR is more international in its focus, clearly. You are gonna hear somewhat more about policy. You are gonna hear somewhat less about political argument. Does that represent bias? Ultimately, I think these questions of bias may be in the eye of the beholder.

[ . . . ] Well, do I see proof of bias in the story selection? No. Do I see evidence in our tone studies that prove a liberal bias? No. Does this prove that NPR is not biased? I can’t say that. We don’t have tone for every topic. In the end, it’s very hard to establish, even if someone were to identify who’s on the air and what their political affiliations are. If you have a lot of people from one party on and the questioning is very tough, that goes one way. And if you have a lot of people on and the coverage are a bunch of softball questions, that goes another way. Bias, in the end, is often a matter of whether things are phrased in ways that I agree with or disagree with. In the end, you’re not gonna persuade anyone with data.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NPR_controversies

Allegations of ideological bias

Allegations of liberal bias

A 2005 study conducted by researchers at UCLA and the University of Missouri found Morning Edition to be more liberal than the average U.S. Republican and more conservative than the average U.S. Democrat. At the time Morning Edition was comparable to the The Washington Post, the CBS Morning ShowTimeNewsweek and U.S. News & World Report.[4] Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, a progressive media watchdog group,[5] disputes the claim of a liberal bias.[6] 

Allegations of conservative bias 

A December 2005 column run by NPR ombudsman and former Vice President Jeffrey Dvorkin denied allegations by some listeners that NPR relies heavily on conservative think-tanks.[7] In his column, Dvorkin listed the number of times NPR had cited experts from conservative and liberal think tanks in the previous year as evidence. The totals were 239 for conservative think tanks, and 141 for liberal ones. He noted that while the number of times liberal think tanks were cited was less, in addition to think tanks the liberal point of view is commonly provided by academics.

In 2003, some critics accused NPR of being supportive of the invasion of Iraq.[8][9]

Allegations of bias against Israel

NPR has been criticised for perceived bias in its coverage of Israel.[10][11][12][13] The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), a pro-Israel American media monitoring organization based in Boston, has been particularly critical of NPR. CAMERA director Andrea Levin has stated, “We consider NPR to be the most seriously biased mainstream media outlet,” a statement that The Boston Globe describes as having “clearly gotten under her target’s skin.”[13] NPR’s then-Ombudsman, Jeffrey A. Dvorkin, said in a 2002 interview that CAMERA used selective citations and subjective definitions of what it considers pro-Palestinian bias in formulating its findings, and that he felt CAMERA’s campaign was “a kind of McCarthyism, frankly, that bashes us and causes people to question our commitment to doing this story fairly. And it exacerbates the legitimate anxieties of many in the Jewish community about the survival of Israel.”[14]

Allegations of elitism and the status quo

A 2004 FAIR study concluded that “NPR’s guestlist shows the radio service relies on the same elite and influential sources that dominate mainstream commercial news, and falls short of reflecting the diversity of the American public.”[15]

Noam Chomsky has criticized NPR as being biased toward ideological power and the status quo. He alleges that the parameters of debate on a given topic are very consciously curtailed. He says that since the network maintains studios in ideological centers of opinion such as Washington, the network feels the necessity to carefully consider what kinds of dissenting opinion are acceptable. Thus, political pragmatism, perhaps induced by fear of offending public officials who control some of the NPR’s funding (via CPB), often determines what views are suitable for broadcast, meaning that opinions critical of the structures of national-interest-based foreign policy, capitalism, and government bureaucracies (entailed by so-called “radical” or “activist” politics) usually do not make it to air.[16]

Defenders’ rebuttals

Supporters contend that NPR does its job well. A study conducted in 2003 by the polling firm Knowledge Networks and the University of Maryland‘s Program on International Policy Attitudes showed that those who get their news and information from public broadcasting (NPR and PBS) are better informed than those whose information comes from other media outlets. In one study, NPR and PBS audiences had a more accurate understanding of the events in Iraq versus all audiences for cable and broadcast TV networks and the print media.[17][18]

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704050204576218543378702266.html

With those values in mind, let’s consider the fundamental question: the accusation of “liberal bias” at NPR, which drives many critics calling to eliminate its federal funding. It’s not my job as a reporter to address the funding question. But I can point out that the recent tempests over “perceived bias” have nothing to do with what NPR puts on the air. The facts show that NPR attracts a politically diverse audience of 33.7 million weekly listeners to its member stations on-air. In surveys by GfK MRI, most listeners consistently identify themselves as “middle of the road” or “conservative.” Millions of conservatives choose NPR, even with powerful conservative alternatives on the radio.

http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/polisci/faculty/groseclose/Media.Bias.8.htm

Another somewhat surprising result is our estimate of NPR’s Morning Edition.  Conservatives frequently list NPR as an egregious example of a liberal news outlet.[27]  However, by our estimate the outlet hardly differs from the average mainstream news outlet.  For instance, its score is approximately equal to those of Time, Newsweek, and U.S. News and World Report, and its score is slightly less than the Washington Post’s.  Further, our estimate places it well to the right of the New York Times, and also to the right of the average speech by Joe Lieberman.  These differences are statistically significant.[28]  We mentioned this finding to Terry Anderson, an academic economist and Executive Director of the Political Economy Research Center, which is among the list of think tanks in our sample.  (The average score of legislators citing PERC was 39.9, which places it as a moderate-right think tank, approximately as conservative as RAND is liberal.)  Anderson told us, “When NPR interviewed us, they were nothing but fair.  I think the conventional wisdom has overstated any liberal bias at NPR.”  Our NPR estimate is also consistent with James Hamilton’s (2004, 108) research on audience ideology of news outlets.  Hamiltonfinds that the average NPR listener holds approximately the same ideology as the average network news viewer or the average viewer of morning news shows, such as Today or Good Morning America.   Indeed, of the outlets that he examines in this section of his book, by this measure NPR is the ninth most liberal out of eighteen.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5053335

Tallying the Think Tanks

NPR often calls on think tanks for comments. But NPR does not lean on the so-called conservative think tanks as many in the audience seem to think.

Here’s the tally sheet for the number of times think tank experts were interviewed to date on NPR in 2005:

American Enterprise – 59

Brookings Institute – 102

Cato Institute – 29

Center for Strategic and Intl. Studies – 39

Heritage Foundation – 20

Hoover Institute – 69

Lexington Institute – 9

Manhattan Institute – 53

There are of course, other think tanks, but these seem to be the ones whose experts are heard most often on NPR. Brookings and CSIS are seen by many in Washington, D.C., as being center to center-left. The others in the above list tend to lean to the right. So NPR has interviewed more think tankers on the right than on the left.

The score to date: Right 239, Left 141.

There may be other experts who are interviewed on NPR who present a liberal perspective. But they tend to be based in universities and colleges and are not part of the think tank culture. That seems to be where most conservative thinking on the issues of the day can be most easily found. Journalism in general — including NPR — has become overly reliant on the easily obtained offerings of the think tanks.

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=1180

Liberal bias?

That NPR harbors a liberal bias is an article of faith among many conservatives. Spanning from the early ’70s, when President Richard Nixon demanded that “all funds for public broadcasting be cut” (9/23/71), through House Speaker Newt Gingrich’s similar threats in the mid-’90s, the notion that NPR leans left still endures. 

News of the April launch of Air America, a new liberal talk radio network, revived the old complaint, with several conservative pundits declaring that such a thing already existed. “I have three letters for you, NPR . . . . I mean, there is liberal radio,” remarked conservative pundit Andrew Sullivan on NBC’s Chris Matthews Show(4/4/04). A few days earlier (4/1/04), conservative columnist Cal Thomas told Nightline, “The liberals have many outlets,” naming NPR prominently among them. 

Nor is this belief confined to the right: CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer (3/31/04) seemed to repeat it as a given while questioning a liberal guest: “What about this notion that the conservatives make a fair point that there already is a liberal radio network out there, namely National Public Radio?”

Despite the commonness of such claims, little evidence has ever been presented for a left bias at NPR, and FAIR’s latest study gives it no support. Looking at partisan sources—including government officials, party officials, campaign workers and consultants—Republicans outnumbered Democrats by more than 3 to 2 (61 percent to 38 percent). A majority of Republican sources when the GOP controls the White House and Congress may not be surprising, but Republicans held a similar though slightly smaller edge (57 percent to 42 percent) in 1993, when Clinton was president and Democrats controlled both houses of Congress. And a lively race for the Democratic presidential nomination was beginning to heat up at the time of the 2003 study.

Partisans from outside the two major parties were almost nowhere to be seen, with the exception of four Libertarian Party representatives who appeared in a single story (Morning Edition, 6/26/03). 

Republicans not only had a substantial partisan edge, individual Republicans were NPR’s most popular sources overall, taking the top seven spots in frequency of appearance. George Bush led all sources for the month with 36 appearances, followed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (8) and Sen. Pat Roberts (6). Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Secretary of State Colin Powell, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer and Iraq proconsul Paul Bremer all tied with five appearances each. 

Senators Edward Kennedy, Jay Rockefeller and Max Baucus were the most frequently heard Democrats, each appearing four times. No nongovernmental source appeared more than three times. With the exception of Secretary of State Powell, all of the top 10 most frequently appearing sources were white male government officials.

SIDEBAR::
The Right Stuff: NPR’s think tank sources

FAIR’s four-month study of NPR in 1993 found 10 think tanks that were cited twice or more. In a new four-month study (5/03–8/03), the list of think tanks cited two or more times has grown to 17, accounting for 133 appearances.

FAIR classified each think tank by ideological orientation as either centrist, right of center or left of center. Representatives of think tanks to the right of center outnumbered those to the left of center by more than four to one: 62 appearances to 15. Centrist think tanks provided sources for 56 appearances.

The most often quoted think tank was the centrist Brookings Institution, quoted 31 times; it was also the most quoted think tank in 1993. It was followed by 19 appearances by the conservative Center for Strategic and International Studies and 17 by the centrist Council on Foreign Relations. The most frequently cited left-of-center organization was the Urban Institute, with eight appearances.

Diversity among think tank representatives was even more lopsided than the ideological spread, with women cited only 10 percent of the time, and people of color only 3 percent. Only white men were quoted more than twice, the most frequent being Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (8 appearances), Michael O’Hanlon of Brookings (7) and E.J. Dionne, also of Brookings (6).

http://www.radiosurvivor.com/2010/12/27/radios-fall-part-two-nprs-liberal-identity-crisis/

So would Republican presidential hopefuls agree with him, that a more diverse NPR would be a better use of public funds? Do the elephants care about the quality of news that’s accessible in the peanut gallery?

Or are they grandstanding and whipping up ill-informed Americans into a frenzy in the name of Muslim-bashing? Despite a desperate need to change course in the Middle East,  this fall the GOP laughed all the way into office as NPR war reporters joined up with the rest of the subservient national press to please the Pentagon with their favorable coverage.

Listen critically to NPR’s reporting of US foreign policy and you will hear selective storytelling shining favorable light on CIA activities, and so-called experts providing dodgy history lessons on Afghanistan. While popular anchors parrot unsubstantiated claims about Iraq, and others kiss up to conservative politicians, commentators smirk their way through reactionary antagonism of whistle-blowers.

To me, it is no wonder that the anti-Iraq War invasion contingent of NPR’s audience seems so totally placated, four elections later.

It’s debatable whether those at the top of the right-wing echo chamber are in fact willfully misleading their audiences when it comes to funding radio with tax dollars. Either that or they’re afraid of what they don’t understand as usual.

Public radio station revenue is mostly made up of individual and business contributors, with less than 6% coming from direct federal, state and local government funding combined.

funding combined. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) funds barely 10% of all public radio budgets. NPR itself is funded mostly by member station programming fees and corporate sponsorships, and receives no government funding for operation costs. http://www.onthemedia.org/transcripts/2011/03/18/03

BROOKE GLADSTONE: [ . . . ] As we waded in, we realized it’s incredibly complicated. Look no further than the terms themselves. What is bias? What do we mean when we invoke the word “liberal?” And even defining “NPR” is fraught.

First up, bias. It’s a moving target. In his 1986 book The Uncensored War, communications professor Daniel Hallin drew a simple diagram depicting three spheres in journalism. They’re called Hallin’s Spheres. Picture a doughnut. The hole in the doughnut is the sphere of consensus, and here are issues and views we can all agree on – democracy is good, slavery is bad, all men are created equal. Here truths are self-evident and journalists don’t feel the need to be objective.

No, that’s reserved for the doughnut itself, the sphere of legitimate controversy. Here’s where the bulk of journalism takes place – gun control, interest rates, budget matters and abortion, issues on which reasonable people can disagree and where journalists are obliged to present both sides.

Outside the doughnut lies the sphere of deviance, limbo, where viewpoints are deemed unworthy of debate. The pro-pedophilia position, for example, does not get a hearing in mainstream media.

But Hallin created his spheres in the 1980s, before FOX News and MSNBC, the rise of talk radio and the blogosphere. Certain views that a generation ago would have been relegated to the sphere of deviance – for example, questioning the birth certificate of the President of the United States – Hallin says have now forced their way onto the doughnut.

DANIEL HALLIN: When I made my diagram there was only one set of spheres, let’s say, and everybody kind of agreed on what they were. The boundaries might get fuzzy. But now I think our media have become fragmented and pluralized so that you have different sub-communities that have different ideas of where the boundaries lie, right?

So a generation ago, the questions whether Obama can legitimately be president, this would have been rejected both by elites in Washington of both parties and by the media as just absolutely outside the proper bounds of political debate, and it would have been excluded. Today there’s just a lot less consensus.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: So Hallin’s doughnut has been blasted into crumbs by a confluence of voices. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but where does that leave NPR?

DANIEL HALLIN: NPR, like, actually, quite a few of the mainstream news organizations in the U.S., I would say still adheres to the old-style journalism that tries to stick to the center and tell both sides. But I think that this is a period in which it’s harder to do. I think it’s much more difficult to legitimize.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: What do you mean it’s more difficult to legitimize?

DANIEL HALLIN: Well, you could convince people that you were in fact being neutral by sticking to a point in the center between Republicans and Democrats and giving them both a hearing in an earlier period. Nowadays that just doesn’t work as well because different segments of the population have different ideas of where the center really is, of what’s a legitimate political point of view. So I think that all of the news organizations that try and stick to the old-fashioned patterns of journalistic professionalism, they’re all a little bit on the defensive.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: How do you think mainstream journalists should respond to the fuzziness of the sphere of consensus, the sphere of legitimate debate and the sphere of deviance, that which should not be discussed?

DANIEL HALLIN: At what point would we decide that global warming is not really a legitimate subject of controversy anymore? Because the truth is within scientific communities it’s not. Within the political public sphere there’s still a big controversy about it. And that is somewhat troubling, that gap.

You know, in many cases I think it’s going to be the right decision for a journalist to say, we’re aware that the science says that there’s not a controversy here and we are going to refuse to treat this part of it as though it were controversial. I think that that’s a responsible decision. I think it’s politically risky as well.

BROOKE GLADSTONE: Daniel Hallin teaches at the University of California San Diego. Based on the remark we just heard, he’ll be labeled by some as a liberal. The word is applied broadly now to big-L Liberal politics and small-l liberal values, even liberal science, to the point where the word “liberal” itself means almost nothing.

And what does NPR mean? For most people, NPR is whatever they hear when they tune into public radio. But NPR itself produces or editorially oversees very little of that content. It’s directly responsible for Morning Edition, All Things Considered, the weekend equivalent of those shows, and Talk of the Nation. It also distributes shows produced elsewhere – On the Media, Diane Rehm, Fresh Air and so on.

And then there are the shows that NPR neither produces nor distributes that are among public radio’s most popular – This American Life, Marketplace, A Prairie Home Companion. And finally there are the local shows produced by public radio stations everywhere. But does it even matter when most of the bias debate coalesces around federal support, the bulk of which goes to stations?

http://anoteinthec.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/on-media-the-counter-narrative-on-bias-at-npr/

http://www.fair.org/extra/best-of-extra/dioxin-experts.html

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2012/03/30/149717982/christian-is-not-synonymous-with-conservative

http://www.npr.org/blogs/ombudsman/2011/04/22/134229266/what-to-think-about-think-tanks

 

 

Cookie Monster, My Personal Hero

Cookie Monster, My Personal Hero

Posted on Nov 15th, 2008 by Marmalade : Gaia Child Marmalade
Cookie Monster has made several appearances on tv over the years.  Early versions of him started off in commercials.  As we know him now, he has been on some tv shows and he was on NPR once

I remember hearing him on NPR being interviewed by Elizabeth Blair.  It was a good interview considering that it was radio and Cookie Monster’s humor is largely physical.

More recently, I saw the Cookie Monster on the Colbert Report and Colbert handled him very well.  Cookie Monster came on the show with a new message.  He now realizes that cookies are a “sometime food”. 

I just came across his appearance on the Martha Stewart Show.  Of course, Martha Stewart was trying to show him how to make cookies, but she had no concept of how to relate to him.  She seems to lack any sense of playful humor and Cookie Monster wasn’t making it easy for her.  The funny part is how Martha Stewart initially tries to relate to him by petting him.

In case you’re interested, here is a visual presentation of Cookie Monster’s life from the Muppet Wiki:

The Evolution of Cookie Monster (1966-present)

Image As seen in Year Notes
The Wheel Stealer puppet 1966 Cookie Monster, first known as the Wheel Stealer in unaired commercials for General Foods’ Wheels, Crowns and Flutes snacks.
IBM training film “Coffee Break Machine” and
The Ed Sullivan Show
1967 This version of the puppet retains his teeth and is greenish-blue in color.
Munchos commercials 1969 Arnold, a smaller, younger-looking version of Wheel Stealer puppet, appears in the Munchos commercials. The puppet has lost its teeth and is closer in color to the Cookie Monster that will premiere on Sesame Street.
Sesame Street
Season 1
1969-1970 Cookie Monster, back to his normal size, gets his name and trademark blue color on the first season of Sesame Street.
Sesame Street
Season 3
1971-1982 In the third season of Sesame Street, Cookie’s eyes are moved slightly higher on his head, further away from his mouth.
Sesame Street 1982-present Cookie’s fur is fluffier, and the size of the googly pupils has been adjusted.
Access_public Access: Public 4 Comments Print Post this!views (251)  

Nicole : wakingdreamer

about 17 hours later

Nicole said

i had no idea how much he has evolved! i feel like breaking into “C is for Cookie, that’s good enough for me” :):)

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

about 23 hours later

Marmalade said

I didn’t know anything about Cookie Monster’s past until I came across the Muppet Wiki.  I like how he originally preferred to eat machinery.  He must’ve eaten too much hard crunchy machines because he then lost his teeth.  This led to his lean years where he shrank and began changing colors.  Fortunately, he discovered the healing powers of cookies and found new passion in life which eventually led to his present fame and fortune.

Cookie Monster’s life is certainly admirable.  Its difficult for a monster to make it in this world.  That said, I don’t mean any offense to Cookie Monster’s singing ability, but I’ve always had a fondness for Ernie’s “Rubber Ducky” song.

Nicole : wakingdreamer

1 day later

Nicole said

no offense taken, Cookie is no Pavarotti 🙂 and I will always have a very warm place in my heart for Ernie’s Rubber Ducky song. One of the all time classics of Sesame Street.

And – I’ve missed your zany humour. Hugs!

Marmalade : Gaia Explorer

2 days later

Marmalade said

The Rubber Ducky song is one of those tunes that is permanently stuck in my head.  There are worst songs to have in your head.

Zany?  Oh, I guess.  My zany side has to come out eventually.  My zany side is always there, but it doesn’t always get expressed.  Even when depressed, my sense of humor keeps me balanced.

News Sources: Viewer Knowledge

The Pew Research Center

What Americans Know: 1989-2007
PUBLIC KNOWLEDGE OF CURRENT AFFAIRS LITTLE CHANGED BY NEWS
AND INFORMATION REVOLUTIONS

I only glanced at this article on poll data, but it is quite interesting.  The Daily Show and the The Colbert Report are at the top ranking of informed viewers (along with the major newspaper websites).  The Fox News Channel is at the very bottom keeping company with the Network morning shows, but the O’Reilly factor is above average.  O’Reilly Factor looks like a haven for intelligent people on Fox News and is at the same level as NPR.

What interests me most is that this justifies a recent comment I made.  I was explaining my criticisms of Glenn Beck’s criticisms about the mainstream media he is a part of.  I said that Comedy Central represents me more than all of the tv news combined.  As I’m a proponent of being well informed, I would seem to be correct in my faith in Colbert and Stewart.

One criticism of this poll is that it seems to be testing people on factoids rather than on comprehension and insight. Being informed about factoids doesn’t mean someone is able to think critically about the issues and come to an objective conclusion.  For example, NPR has a format where they spend lengthy periods of time doing in-depth interviews about specific issues.  Also, NPR spends a lot of time on human interest stories which does inform the listener about other perspectives which I think is important, but this kind of knowledge wasn’t in the poll.  Plus, NPR is more including a mix with entertainment and fiction author interviews.  That isn’t exactly comparable to the O’Reilly factor.

Also, I want to know where the viewers were informed.  For example, viewers of The Daily Show are highly informed and they get a fair amount of info from the show, but I imagine they tend to be a demographic that seeks many other sources of news.  There is a difference between a viewer who actively seeks out knowledge to inform themselves and the viewer who more passively absorbs all of their info from a more limited number of sources.  The ability to spit back factoids does not intelligence make.

I want to know how the different viewers interpret the data.  A viewer may be well-informed, but either repeats the interpretation of the news reporter/commenter or else has a highly biased understanding.  Which set of viewers had the widest understanding by considering multiple perspectives?  Which set of viewers was best at manipulating the data to rationalize their preconceived beliefs?