Wednesday, October 20, 2010


Goodbye Juan Williams, good riddance

by Larry Geller

NPR has terminated its contract with Juan Williams, one of its senior news analysts, after he made comments about Muslims on the Fox News Channel.  [NY Times, NPR Fires Analyst Over Comments on Muslims, 10/20/2010]

What were they waiting for? IMHO, Williams should have been terminated years ago. For example, when he took over Talk of the Nation and summarily cut off left/progressive/ethical callers while letting conservatives dominate the air.

I did complain to National Public Radio (now NPR), but of course it was ineffective. He carried on for whatever number of years he had the program.

This was also a time when NPR joined with commercial media in enlisting generals to comment on the wars.

Ms. Shepard [NPR ombudsperson] said she had received 378 listener e-mails in 2008 listing complaints and frustrations about Mr. Williams.

Yet they were happy to keep him. That says more about NPR than about Williams.

They continue to tolerate Cokie Roberts and distort Israeli/Palestine news coverage. 

I no longer listen to NPR. Haven’t for many years. Yes, their news coverage is better than commercial stations (now, that’s damning with faint praise), but they don’t compare to alternative sources such as Democracy Now and others on the Web.

The other day, trapped in my car without my mp3 player, I did tune in to NPR news. After a report that the Israeli/Palestinian peace talks were failing because Palestine objected to 67 new Israeli settlements, with a tone of blame on the Palestinians because 67 is such a tiny number, I turned off the radio. No, dear NPR, the problem isn’t 67, it’s thousands, including (if memory serves, the latest 1,900). The context necessary for listeners to understand the failure of the talks was completely absent.

I recall that when famed historian Howard Zinn passed away in January, NPR solicited extreme right-wing commentator David Horowitz who said, on All Things Considered, “"There is absolutely nothing in Howard Zinn's intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of respect," among other things. The station apparently received thousands of complaints. But that was the choice they made—they solicited the remarks, edited the sound, and broadcast it.

NPR is supported by all the regional stations including Hawaii Public Radio. A portion of your pledge, if you contribute, goes to pay for NPR programming including news. Yet contributors have no say in the programming either at HPR or NPR.

Contrast that with the Pacifica network of stations, each of which has a local board elected by contributing members. I used to volunteer with WBAI in New York and remember the AFP (Agence France Presse) wire service teletype in their bathtub. It came in in French and the staff translated the news. AFP is kind of the antithesis of Fox “News.”

I’ll post some examples of alternatives to NPR as I have a chance. The idea is to feed our brains with health food, not with crap or pap.

Goodbye Juan Williams, good riddance.

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By only disagreement with what you have written is the way they fired Juan Williams. I think his comments toill O-Reilly were within the range of expression we should allow journalists to make. He admitted to fear of Muslims while flying. I thought that was an honest admission.

Like you, I went from being a big fan of NPR to a person who only listen to it if my iPhone battery is dead. Otherwise, I play Democracy Now, The Best of the Left, KCRW's Left, Right and Center through my car radio. Or, as a guilty pleasure, sometimes AppSlappy.

NPR and CPR both moved to the right during the Bush years, a trajectory they have not reversed so far during the Obama administration. Juan Williams and Cokie Roberts have been part of the problem, people who began as "liberals," but who either moved right or just came out of hte closet as conservatives when the intellectual climate changed.

Shows like "All Things Considered" began as attempts to bring to public notice "things" not receiving adequate coverage on commercial networks. Now, they have shifted to occupy a centrist position abandoned by the other networks who have shifted further right.

PBS used to be called the "Petroleum Broadcast Station" by critics for its pro-corporate underwriting and it was obvious SOME programming was affected. But now, the entire network, with few exceptions, reflects the corporate sponsors agenda. Frontline used o be worth watching forr hardhitting exposes and indepth coverage of the ugly side of US policy and corporate abuses. That is now very rare. Most of their documentaries are toothless.

Bush and his people adopted a conscious strategy of shifting the CPB to the Right. Obama's people are, unfortunately, not the progressives many of us had hoped for. I had argued that his network of appointees would inevitably include some progressives along with corporate shills. But, as Rahm Emanuel made clear when he called progressives "retards," Team Obama cares more about ingratiating themselves with corporate underwriters of their own (campaign contributors) than in "swinging the pendulum" back towards the left.

If he is a one-term president, which is appearing more likely with each failed opportunity, NPR and the CPB will jump yet again further to the right with the next GOP administration.

Thanks for your excellent comment.

There doesn't seem to be any obvious way to reverse the damage done to public broadcasting. Or to lots else, for that matter.

Isn't amazing how fast Hope can crash and burn?

I quit supporting HPR long ago. This year my pledge went to purchase the American ship, Audacity of Hope, which will be caring aid to Gaza in the Spring. I agree that Obama was an unfortunate hoax on "we the people" by the Democratic Party,AIPAC etc.

I think the AIPAC remark is (Somewhat) off target.

AIPAC and the other leading American Zionist organizations were MUCH MORE comfortable with Hillary Clinton than with Barack Obama. Obama had a history in Chicago of supporting Palestine-friendly activists and organizations. As his ambitions went national, he submitted to the AIPAC pressures. But even after his election, his speech in Cairo was very well-received in the Muslim and Arab worlds, while receiving a lot of mean-spirited commentary in the official Jewish echo chamber in the US.

In practice, he has continued the policies of most US administrations and given Israel free reign, only lightly criticizing around the edges to maintain the pretense of remaining an "honest broker."

But AIPAC did not perpetrate a "hoax" on us by supporting Obama.

And, frankly, a LOT of Democrats sincerely believed Obama was able to understand the nature of the crisis facing the country, that the "community organizer" experience meant he understood the need to break the overweening power of the corporations. Or at least, mitigate that dominance. While "the commanding heights" of the Democratic Party nationally are tightly controlled by corporate paymasters, I have found most active Democrats to be more progressive than your average American in their values. And even at the top, the fact that Howard Dean could have become the Chair of the DNC, against the wishes of the corporate lobbyists, shows the Party IS "contested terrain." That Rahm and Obama fired Dean upon taking power shows the fragility of that freedom in the Party. But it does not defeat the evidence that the Party apparatus CAN be used for progressive ends.

Like anything else in this society, it takes constant toil to prevent the total triumph of Big Money. But that is true in every arena of political struggle.

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