6.27.2005

a chorus of deep throats

Emails have been arriving regularly from armchair activists gasping about the impending death of PBS and NPR. I've been a bit blase about it, not because I don't care about those cherished, semi-non-commercial media outlets, but because I felt the senders were barking up the wrong tree.

The last time the "save public television" rallying cry was heard, Reagan was cutting everything that could be perceived as social spending, no matter how miniscule a slice of the bloated budget pie. But this isn't a funding issue. It's strictly an ideological one - part of the right's overall movement to shut out any voices of dissent or diversity, and gain total control over The Message.

Yesterday, in "The Armstrong Williams NewsHour," Frank Rich put it in context.
HERE'S the difference between this year's battle over public broadcasting and the one that blew up in Newt Gingrich's face a decade ago: this one isn't really about the survival of public broadcasting. So don't be distracted by any premature obituaries for Big Bird. Far from being an endangered species, he's the ornithological equivalent of a red herring.

Let's not forget that Laura Bush has made a fetish of glomming onto popular "Sesame Street" characters in photo-ops. Polls consistently attest to the popular support for public broadcasting, while Congress is in a race to the bottom with Michael Jackson. Big Bird will once again smite the politicians - as long as he isn't caught consorting with lesbians.

That doesn't mean the right's new assault on public broadcasting is toothless, far from it. But this time the game is far more insidious and ingenious. The intent is not to kill off PBS and NPR but to castrate them by quietly annexing their news and public affairs operations to the larger state propaganda machine that the Bush White House has been steadily constructing at taxpayers' expense.

. . .

As the public broadcasting debate plays out, there will be the usual talk about how to wean it from federal subsidy and the usual complaints (which I share) about the redundancy, commerciality and declining quality of some PBS programming in a cable universe. But once Big Bird, like that White House Thanksgiving turkey, is again ritualistically saved from the chopping block and the Senate restores more of the House's budget cuts, the most crucial test of the damage will be what survives of public broadcasting's irreplaceable journalistic offerings.

Will monitors start harassing Jim Lehrer's "NewsHour," which Mr. Tomlinson trashed at a March 2004 State Department conference as a "tired and slowed down" also-ran to Shepard Smith's rat-a-tat-tat newscast at Fox News? Will "Frontline" still be taking on the tough investigations that network news no longer touches? Will the reportage on NPR be fearless or the victim of a subtle or not-so-subtle chilling effect instilled by Mr. Tomlinson and his powerful allies in high places?

Forget the pledge drive. What's most likely to save the independent voice of public broadcasting from these thugs is a rising chorus of Deep Throats.
I agree. To rally a "save PBS funding" campaign is to miss the forest for the trees. This is much worse. Read the whole essay.

3 comments:

G said...

This is much worse.

I'm waiting for them to find a way to shut down blogging, or even the Internet itself, to quell leaked information and growing voices of dissent.

Cynic's musings of course, and realistically won't happen (global not national), but sometimes we're driven to wonder. Wouldn't exactly come as a shock if some such measure was taken.

Watching the flag-burning issue closely. Will have a bearing on the future freedoms of America, which in turn affects us next door directly.

You know those old B-movies where chimps are the ones running the country? This is what happens when you put Curious George in charge.

L-girl said...

You are so right. It is much worse.

They would have shut down the internet long ago if they could get away with it, or at least severely restrict it as in China. It's got to be such a thorn in their craw that we have this freedom - and we can organize.

The flag-burning nonsense surfaces like clockwork here, but is always struck down as unconstitutional. That doesn't mean it won't pass one day. Epecially with so much other stuff going on, even the most active citizens can't be expected to fight on all fronts at once.

I think even after I am in Canada I will continue to support the ACLU. Someone has to fight this shit.

G said...

Many of us here support the ACLU for the sole reason that what happens South of us sets an example for what leaders here can get away with, should they choose.

There is a constant fear within Canadians that if an American administration is allowed to get away with dirty deeds ... will our government see that as a possibility for their own course of action? Hasn't happened often here, but it is a legit concern.

BTW, the Canadian equivalent of the ACLU is the CCLA.