15 March 2011

Hold me, Robert Siegel, and never let me go

I've been a public radio junkie/devotee/luvah since high school. Yeah, some of the programming is dry and pedantic and predictable, but overall, it's so much more thoughtful and interesting and refreshing when compared to cable and broadcast news organizations. I can't stand Ed Schultz, Glenn Beck, Keith Olbermann, Bill O'Reilly, et al. They're loud ideologues who reflect the worst in us. NPR covers the basics, but always manages to make stories more alive and dynamic.

And so, it's been a tough week watching my beloved NPR endure hit after hit after hit of embarrassment and criticism. Ronald Schiller trash-talking Republicans and tea party activists. Betsy Liley joking around with a Muslim group about hiding their donations from the IRS. And all this while Congressional Republicans and their media echo chamber have been beating the DEFUND THE LEFTY COMMIE SOCIALIST DIRTBAG NPR!!! drum.

NO!!! How could any of this be true? Something wasn't right. This wasn't the NPR I knew. Fight back, NPR! Tell me this is all a pack of lies! Tell me now before I lose faith, before Bill O'Reilly slashes Terry Gross's throat and tarnishes our love forever. Hold me, Robert Siegel, hold me tightly. Wipe away my tears and sing me Joni Mitchell songs until these troubles and the whole world melt away and it's just us. And maybe Michele Norris.

I was in a pretty embarrassing state. I wanted to believe that NPR was perfect and this video was just a hoax, but the evidence wasn't there to back it up. I wanted NPR to lash out at its critics, but that's not who they are. They don't react. They report.

Yesterday, finally, there was some hope. NPR aired a story that looked deeper into the recordings and determined how editing was used to skew the nature of the conversations:

In the review of the NPR tapes, O'Keefe's edited video triggered criticism right from his introduction. He ominously describes the phony Islamic group, saying that its website "said the organization sought to spread the acceptance of sharia across the world." (Shariah is Islamic law based on the Quran, although there are wide disparities in how different Muslim sects and cultures interpret what that entails.)

On the tape, Ron Schiller is then shown and heard creased with laughter, saying, "Really, that's what they said?"

In reality, as the longer tape shows, that laughter follows an innocuous exchange as Schiller and Liley greet the two supposed donors at their table.

"That to us was a signal that they were trying to condition the person watching the piece to feel as though there was assent to these ideas," said Scott Baker of The Blaze. "That was a big warning flag."
Wait. Who's this Scott Baker? He's probably some European socialist who blogs about how great death panels are. Nope. Baker edits The Blaze, a little website owned by some fellow named Glenn Beck. Ever heard of him?

So, instead of firing off a bunch of knee jerk reactions, NPR paused, investigated, involved multiple media perspectives, and reported on the story in a straightforward, objective way.

And that, my friends, is why I love NPR.


  1. http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2010/12/28/conservatives-fear-center-brain/

    I feel like this might interest you?

  2. I've come across this research before, and it makes sense to a certain extent (although I find phrases like "liberals tend towards rosier outlooks" to be somewhat self-serving).

    I think it'd be interesting to have my brain scanned to find out what I'm supposed to be, because I don't feel like I fit into either political labels very well. I feel most people fall into a viewpoint and take an us vs. them mentality toward the world. That isn't necessarily left vs. right, but more me and my people get it while the rest of those doofs are morons. Oh, people.

  3. I miss the People for Free and Independent Political Thinking group.