NPR is a Positive Force in Media, But It’s Time For Steve Inskeep To Grow a Pair   Leave a comment

NPR: The Myth of the Left Wing Media

January 13, 2014

I live in a world where people believe a lot of stuff.  I don’t mean the world world. I’m talking about the world of California. Northern California. Mendocino County. Stand in one place long enough and you’ll be drawn into regular conversations with people who “know for a fact”. . . .  It doesn’t matter much what the topic is, someone here always “knows for a fact”.  That’s the way they usually open the line of discussion.

For example, I’m told that the American government is dropping chemicals on us everyday. Those lines in the sky aren’t “contrails”, i.e., water vapor from the engines of commercial jetliners. In “truth” they’re “chem-trails” with toxins dropped by military aircraft since, as they know, no commercial aircraft are allowed to fly over Mendocino County. Ever! They also know that Wi-Fi causes flu, cancer, arthritis, bone-marrow depletion, asthma, rickets, tennis elbow, the heartbreak of psoriasis, and others, although the complete list is classified, of course. And, by the way, Smart Meters are the Frankenstein-like spawn of Wi-Fi. Fukushima, we’re informed, has increased radioactivity in Point Arena, California ten-fold (or twenty-fold, or ninety-fold). Of course they have no empirical data on pre-Fukushima levels but state with authority the increased danger based on readings from their Johnny Quest Geiger-counters . Roy Scheider’s doppelgänger is regularly seen hovering in one of the black helicopters from Blue Thunder, reporting back to the NSA. Fluoridation of drinking water is not a Commie plot anymore but an American government plot. The programming and reporting of National Public Radio is controlled by corporate America (or Fox News, or worse, if there actually is something worse than Fox News). Those of us who visit or live in Mendocino County quickly realize that there are so many crises, and so little time. For the laid-back life that outsiders believe is Mendocino County, the reality is there’s no certainty who believes in what. But the world outside of Mendocino County believes we practice group-think, and that we’re all as far left as it gets. Like every generalization, there’s always just enough truth to be believed, sometimes even about NPR.

I like NPR, but one of the truths that many of my neighbors put forth is that National Public Radio is anything but a left-wing bastion of liberal thought and/or news. They’ll tell you, rather, that NPR is a formerly great liberal-leaning media outlet that today is owned, co-opted, and programmed by the middle, the middle-right, or “corporate America”. Some actually believe that it’s secretly a division of Fox News. As I said, warts and all I like NPR, but as with most things I have my favorites and my less-than-favorites. But I’m certain NPR has not yet succumbed to the whims of George Will, Bill O’Reilly, Beelzebub or any of the other seven princes of Hell. But there are days. . . .

What drives some of the crazy thinking about National Public Radio are some reporters and some reports, in which case I could easily paraphrase Henny Youngman: take  Steve Inskeep. Please. Inskeep regularly drives me crazy with his incessant groupie-like “interviews”. God-forbid he ever challenges anyone about anything. On today’s “Morning Edition” listeners were fed one of his “let the subject say anything s/he wishes” interviews; the object of Inskeep’s adoration was former Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Gates, as most people know, is on the stump flogging his book Duty. I don’t care that he hammers President Obama or Vice President Biden in Duty. Politics is, after all, a contact sport. But his unchallenged assertions about Biden’s wrong choices, wrong decisions, general (and absolute) wrongness are another matter. Take a look at this excerpt from today’s NPR Transcript:

INSKEEP: I’ve taken too much time on this part of the discussion, but I want to ask one more question and then move onto a couple of other things and then let you go. The one more question is this: Why did you write that Vice President Biden, in your view, has been wrong about every major foreign policy issue for 40 years? That’s a pretty scathing line.

GATES: Well, two things. First of all, I think it’s fair to say that particularly on Afghanistan, the vice president was my — he and I were on opposite sides of the fence on this issue. And he was in there advising the president every day. He was, I think, stoking the president’s suspicion of the military. But the other side of it is, frankly, I believe it. The vice president, when he was a senator — a very new senator, voted against the aid package for South Vietnam, and the — that was part of the deal when we pulled out of South Vietnam to try and help them survive. He said that when the — when the Shah fell in Iran in 2009 — 1979, rather — that that was a step forward for progress toward human rights in Iran. He opposed virtually every element of President Reagan’s defense buildup. He voted against the B-1, the B-2, the MX and so on. He voted against the first Gulf War. So on a number of these major issues, I just — I frankly, over a long period of time felt that he had been on the wrong — he’d been — I think he had been wrong.

INSKEEP: Did you have any moment when writing this book or preparing to publish it of wondering if you really wanted to make all these remarks about a sitting president, particularly while a war is still underway?

Take Gates’ response apart and consider Biden’s position and questions Inskeep might (should) have asked in response:

  • GATES: “Well, two things. First of all, I think it’s fair to say that particularly on Afghanistan, the vice president was my — he and I were on opposite sides of the fence on this issue. And he was in there advising the president every day. He was, I think, stoking the president’s suspicion of the military.”
  • I WISH STEVE INSKEEP HAD THEN ASKED THIS QUESTION (IWSIHTATQ): Why wouldn’t, why shouldn’t Biden or anyone else be suspicious of a military that, in Biden’s generation, cavalierly played with battlefield statistics to make the Vietnam war effort seem successful? Then there’s the Bush/Cheney administrations predictions on the ease of a war with Iraq and the military’s acquiescence:  February 7, 2003: “Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy: ‘It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months.'” * March 4, 2003: “Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a breakfast with reporters: ‘What you’d like to do is have it be a short, short conflict. . . . Iraq is much weaker than they were back in the ’90s, when its forces were routed from Kuwait.'” * March 11, 2003: “Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in a speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars: ‘The Iraqi people understand what this crisis is about. Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberator.'” * March 16, 2003: “Vice President Cheney, on NBC’s Meet the Press: ‘I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. . . . I think it will go relatively quickly, . . . (in) weeks rather than months.'”
  • GATES: “The vice president, when he was a senator — a very new senator, voted against the aid package for South Vietnam, and the — that was part of the deal when we pulled out of South Vietnam to try and help them survive.”
  • IWSIHTATQ: Mr. Gates, South Vietnam could not survive its own corruption and the discredited “Domino Theory” played itself out.  Vietnam was a civil war, little more. Some have described the “aid package” as hush money to ease some consciences in the District who knew that our ally, South Vietnam would collapse regardless of aid. Wasn’t the Vice-President prudent in suspecting that throwing more money at Vietnam would have solved nothing?
  • GATES: “[Biden] said that when the — when the Shah fell in Iran in 2009 — 1979, rather — that that was a step forward for progress toward human rights in Iran.”
  • IWSIHTATQ: America’s friend, the Shah, was another ruthless Middle-Eastern leader. Placed on the throne by the CIA, the Shah created the Savak, Iran’s dreaded secret police. Phillip Agee wrote “. . .  the [Central Intelligence] Agency set up the SAVAK [secret police], trained its officers, supported that murderous institution in every way possible”. The Federation of American Scientists concluded that “. . . SAVAK torture methods included “electric shock, whipping, beating, inserting broken glass and pouring boiling water into the rectum, tying weights to the testicles, and the extraction of teeth and nails.” Mr. Secretary, Mr. Biden’s assessment was reasonable regardless of the 1979 revolutionary outcome. Why would America support the Shah when he tortured his own citizens?
  • GATES: “He opposed virtually every element of President Reagan’s defense buildup. He voted against the B-1, the B-2, the MX and so on. He voted against the first Gulf War.”
  • IWSIHTATQ: Mr. Gates, it’s fair to reflect that President Reagan’s administration never saw a defense appropriation as unreasonable, a new weapon as anything but a good thing, and illegally trading with Iran as a justifiable means to an end. Opposition to war and to runaway defense spending is, for many within the American government, unacceptable. Why shouldn’t we be suspect of runaway spending? Did the founding fathers wish that everyone in congress always support everything a president does, everything he wants?

GATES: “So on a number of these major issues, I just — I frankly, over a long period of time felt that he had been on the wrong — he’d been — I think he had been wrong.”

In reality, Inskeep never challenged Gates but instead returned to the topic of whether Secretary Robert Gates “. . . really wanted to make all these remarks about a sitting president, particularly while a war is still underway?” As a news reader or program host, Inskeep is passable. As a reporter or interviewer, Inskeep is a consistent disappointment. Gates is already on the wrong side of history and Inskeep can’t find the cajones to challenge him. Hey, Steve. Try asking a tough question. Don’t let the “guest” spend his time spinning history, getting away with half-truths and innuendo even if deep down inside you agree with him.  Gates is trying to sell books. You’re supposed to be part of the real media. Time to grow a pair Steve.

David Steffen

© David Steffen 2014

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