Written by Earl Ofari Hutchinson for salon.com
The GOP assault on NPR has, as it always had, the sole aim to cower the mainstream media and shove it even further to the right. It matters little whether it defrocks NPR or not, the threat alone, is, as it’s been in the past, enough to make NPR and the CPB submissive, compliant, and non-threatening at best and even better, a reliable mouthpiece for conservative views and an even larger parade of conservative pundits, analysts, and politicians to grace NPR’s microphones.
The NPR saber rattle ploy has worked to perfection in years past. The phony, self-serving, and wholly bogus canard of “liberal bias” that supposedly permeates NPR and the CPB has always been enough to send terror through NPR hallways of saying or doing anything that will raise the hackles of Congressional conservatives. NPR’s hyper-reaction to any whimper of criticism from the right was plainly evident in 2005. That year NPR cited experts in its stories from 239 conservative think tanks dwarfing the 141 experts from liberal think tanks.
Other studies backed up the long standing criticism that the same experts, analysts, and critics that are regulars on NPR are the same experts, analysts and critics that can be heard, seen and read on NBC, ABC, CBS, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and more often than not commercial talk radio. It is the rarest of rarities to hear political views that dissent from the safe, established conforming, Beltway views of politicians and experts.
The ferocity of the conservative backlash to the canning of faux liberal Juan Williams in October sent the terror level rising even higher at NPR. For weeks NPR management cringed at the harangues from Bill O’Reilly, Sarah Palin, and South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint. All screamed that NPR was equivalent to Pravda on the Potomac and that Congress should wash its hand of it.
NPR was now plainly on notice that it would be watched and scrutinized even more for even the slightest hint of liberal taint in its newscasts and commentaries. Now that conservatives had put NPR even more firmly on notice that it had inched it higher on its hit list, it was only a matter of time before it would plop NPR at the top. The dozens of new Tea Party energized GOP House and Senators that took their seats following the November mid-term
Democratic Party shellacking virtually assured that NPR’s alleged liberal bias would again be dredged up as the reason to dump it. That would have happened even without the phony, doctored sting tape of professional rightwing political con man James O’Keefe. NPR’s feeble attempts to placate the GOP barbarians at the gate by showing NPR fundraiser Ron Schiller and CEO Vivian Schiller the door had no more affect on stemming the tide as its boot-out of Senior Vice President Ellen Weiss who fired Juan Williams, and the refusal to pay now former CEO Schiller her 2010 bonus back in January. Weiss’s exit and Schiller’s pay punishment was NPR’s sacrificial sop to the right for dumping Williams. NPR in yet one more frantic effort to pacify its tormentors says it will immediately establish an Executive Transition Committee that will develop a timeframe and process for the recruitment and selection of new leadership.
In fact, NPR could clean house of every top official and its top programmers and it still wouldn’t satisfy its GOP inquisitors. The GOP’s point is not to just change the regime at NPR but to drive home the message that the media is the sole playground for corporate, right of center, views and that anything or anyone who doesn’t toe that line will find no regular place in front of public or mainstream microphones or on the airwaves.
The House will almost certainly vote to defund NPR, and the Senate almost certainly will kill the anti-funding measure. But what it won’t kill is the GOP’s masterful play of the NPR card to Rush Limbaughize the media.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He hosts a national Capitol Hill broadcast radio talk show on KTYM Radio Los Angeles and WFAX Radio Washington D.C. streamed on The Hutchinson Report Newsmaker Hour on blogtalkradio.com and wfax.com and internet TV broadcast on thehutchinsonreportnews.com