On the air one Saturday morning, NPR's Scott Simon claimed sans any hint of humor in his voice: "There has never been evidence that anyone but Oswald shot Kennedy," eliciting a hoot from myself and daylong aftershocks of snickering. Simon, the avuncular propaganda radio host, is a Good German who needs to be working at Radio Liberty, or something...
National Public Radio (NPR) was a good idea when it started. The plan was to have an alternative to the commercial radio, publicly funding it so that it didn’t have to tell lies like the other mass media, dependent as they are for corporate funding from polluters, defense cheats, banksters and other criminals who demand fealty on behalf of the investments of board members, advertising revenue, and of course, the interests of owners.
But a funny thing happened on the way to alternative -- they began to take the corporate money from the same criminals, and were silenced for the money, like all the others.
Today when listening to NPR, perhaps to find out where your tax dollars go, you will hear them soliciting money, proclaiming they are “commercial free radio,” in between commercials for some of the most powerful corporations on the planet.
Corporate sponsors include the taxpayer-bailed-out General Motors, Citibank, and Bank of America. Others include Citgo Oil, Mastercard, Visa, BP Oil, Dow Chemical, and Fox Broadcasting Co. One should ask, “Why would these corporations that only care about profit, at virtually any cost, give money to a radio network?
Throughout the day, NPR’s programs: Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Talk of the Nation, The Diane Rehm Show and others invite guests from the corporate funded think tanks to opine. These people are clearly paid to sell out the American public. Giant transnational corporations always get sycophancy for their investments to the American Enterprise Institute, Heritage Foundation, Hoover Institution, Cato Institute and so forth, and what they expect is obedience to their philosophy of lower corporate taxes and higher corporate welfare, at any cost to the public interest.
I thought it was interesting when researching this piece to see NPR takes money from Fox. Their journalists, Mara Liasson and Juan Williams work for Fox, although Williams was recently fired from NPR for saying that he fears Muslims. NPR has never explained why they hired such a person in the first place, as this was not his first major faux pas.
When Williams worked for the Washington Post, 50 women there complained about his sexual harassment. He has long been associated with the right wing.
Liasson and Williams are on Fox because they share its views. Fox does not hire “journalists” who have an opinion which strays much from that of Rupert Murdoch.
NPR’s Saturday host, Scott Simon, ranted each week leading up to the illegal invasion of Iraq, spreading the lies of the Bush regime as though he were one of their saber-rattling neocons. Since, NPR has been pushing for an invasion of Iran, a small sample here. Since our wars have become privatized, with more contractors than troops, mass media are expected to support the profitable violence in return for funding from the thousands of corporations that dip into the tax dollars for wars and that which euphemistically passes for “defense.”
Heavily financed by health care for profit groups, NPR has all but banned any meaningful mention of single payer health care, probably the most popular form of health care with the masses (who are always disregarded by mass media).
But I have an uncomfortable admission to make about my relationship with NPR. What follows is a tragic death of a friend for which I feel responsible, because of NPR censorship.
Having listened to NPR for decades as it declined from somewhat public interest all the way to completely selling out, I contacted my local NPR program director, Betty Luse, many years ago and asked that she put the program Counterspin on the air so that the public might at least be able to get a glimpse of that which is being censored from them or savagely distorted.
She declined, but I persisted, finally convincing her to sign up for my daily email news service, Liberty Underground of Virginia (LUV). She did, getting the daily email with up to three short news stories and an opinion piece at the end, all censored out of the mass media or twisted by them. It is my plan to expose liberals to this for about two years, after which a light bulb comes on in their head and they understand how the system works, unleashing another informed person on the Corporate Empire.
Sure enough, Betty contacted me after a couple of years had passed and admitted she was a devoted reader of LUV News.
Betty asked what she could do about the horrible censorship problem, and I again suggested she put Counterspin on the air, which she did.
After a few years Betty again asked me what she could do and I suggested she go with Democracy Now! Betty scheduled it, but was fired before it went on the air locally. She was heartbroken, but we became closer friends in the years that followed. She emailed me often telling me she loved NPR very much and wanted badly to be back in radio. Her health deteriorated from the stress.
The official pronouncement of her death did not say she died of a broken heart, but I know Betty loved working at NPR and her firing was a major source of stress contributing to her death. I often wondered had she never heard from me, if she would still be happily working at NPR, without a clue that anything was amiss.
The local station never allowed Democracy Now! to air, and has recently killed the Counterspin program.
A few months ago I was invited to speak at a local theater upon the occasion of the local NPR station killing Counterspin, which was Betty’s NPR legacy. At that occasion, the president and CEO of the local NPR stations WHRO and WHRV, Bert Schmidt, said he was killing Counterspin because it had a “hidden agenda.”
The next day I emailed Schmidt, asking him to send me everything he has on this ominous “hidden agenda,” explaining that I have a journalism degree and have often listened to Counterspin, but have not detected such a thing. Getting no answer, I emailed him again last week asking him for the hidden agenda, but I have not received a reply and must conclude that Schmidt deceived his audience, and has no data to support his claim. Counterspin was killed because it tells the truth, and NPR shrinks from it like vampires shrink from daylight.
It is now just corporate darkness and propaganda at the local NPR stations, and I miss Betty very much. If NPR had one as courageous as she in their management, they might be worth more than a bucket of warm spit.
Jack Balkwill edits LUV News, a free email daily at no cost for sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject “join.” He has written for publications as varied as the little-read English Honor Society’s Rectangle to the millions of readers USA Today.