During a weekend where a casual listen to National Public Radio programming repeatedly, er, repeated that the economy double-dog-is in recovery, and Mitt Romney is probably doomed, I got to hear the network ask itself and its listeners: Is National Public Radio biased?
This was the question addressed by NPR’s “On The Media” over the weekend.
The program, hosted by Brooke Gladstone and Bob Garfield, with some help from NPR’s Ira Glass (host of “This American Life”, which probes the obsessions of America’s white liberal upper-middle-class), ran the question a couple of different ways – listen at your leisure – including via some people who believe NPR is conservative.
Of course, bias is hard to measure, especially if you camouflage it as carefully as NPR does.
But here’s an easy example: when Brooke Gladstone refers to the conservative response to NPR’s firing of Juan Williams, she referred to the response as “the Fox outrage”.
Because naturally Fox News – dog whistle as it is for liberals - is the voice of all of American conservatism, right?
Better example: in the program, Gladstone plays a piece (while interviewing a “conservative volunteer”) in which an NPR reporter asks a commentator “if the country can afford” a tax break for corporations building domestic factories.
Gladstone’s reposnse: “there was a conservative response!”
And on one level, that’s true. But on another? The question itself could only come from someone with a purely “progressive” perspective; the idea that money exists first as government revenue, then as the property of those who earn it, is a purely liberal one.
A reporter who was truly detached from any politics might have phrased the question “so what’ll that do to tax revenue?” rather than “can we afford…” with the implied “to spend money via a tax cut”.
Listen to the whole thing. Feel free to comment.
But when you do, remember; on NPR, the economy is perking right along, and the polls show us Mitt Romney – who, incidentally, favors cutting NPR funding – has already lost.
PS: We must be between legislative sessions at the state and national level; Gladstone pointed out that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting receives 2% of its funding from the government. That’s the same thing Minnesota Public Radio says – when we’re between sessions. That changes, of course, the moment there’s a serious challenge to public radio funding in the legislature, when the message changes to “look at all the misery that will befall this state if the funding is touched in any way”.