To the editors:
Glenn Garvin makes a lot of on-target observations about NPR: its yuppie smugness, its proclivity for middlebrow mediocrity disguised as “alternative” broadcasting, its ill-conceived pretensions to elitism (this, after all, is the network that broadcasts the New Age idiocy of New Dimensions and professes to find Will Rogers-like qualities in Garrison Keillor) [How Do I Hate NPR?, June 25].
Still, Garvin mars his argument with bias–just as he accuses NPR of doing. Conservative logic always astounds me: bombing Iraqi citizens into the Stone Age, or allowing corporate withdrawal to decimate U.S. cities like Youngstown, Detroit, or Chicago, is apparently just the inevitable result of realpolitik, technological progress, or savvy business practice–while allocating money (even, dare I say it, tax money) to educate inner-city children is “social engineering.”
Likewise, although I agree with Garvin that unchecked governmental power is dangerous (and that the left can be maddeningly disingenuous about that danger), I’d submit that unbridled corporate power is at least as bad. In fact it may well be the most serious long-term threat facing our society today: witness the private-sector obstructionism that’s made the U.S. the only developed nation except South Africa to have no public health care system; the proliferation of life-threatening travesties like cigarettes, unsafe cars, and the Dalkon shield; the above-mentioned decimation of cities; the spiritual pollution of U.S. culture by rampant materialism.
I fail to understand how an alternative as admittedly mild-mannered and moderate as NPR can send such shocks of outrage (or is it fear?) through conservatives. NPR does, in fact, interview tax revolters; they do present the opinions of “pro-life,” as well as pro-choice, advocates when reporting on legislative abortion debates; they made at least an attempt to present the perspective of the Asian merchants in Los Angeles (and other cities) in the wake of the Rodney King riots last year. Yet because they sometimes suggest that there are angles of vision other than the ones pushed by commercial media, people like Garvin feel that maybe they’re more of a waste of our tax dollars than redundant nuclear warheads and S&L bailouts.
I remain loyal to NPR–despite its excesses and occasional silliness–for one primary reason: it gives you room to think. Most television and radio programming is a cacophonous nightmare of screaming commercials, high-speed soundbites, and nonstop visual/auditory overkill. Such wall-to-wall stridency deadens the mind and pollutes the soul. However smug and self-righteous NPR’s features may sometimes get (and hey, Glenn: let’s both of us back off from criticizing anyone for letting their pieces get too long–we write for the Reader, remember?), the absence of commercial noise and the leisurely pacing of the programs allow one to listen, digest, and come to one’s own conclusions in an atmosphere conducive to intellectual activity.
Garvin has done just that, and he’s decided he doesn’t agree with NPR’s position on a lot of issues. Good for him–and thank God we’ve got a network that values ideas to the extent that it encourages us to think our way to that kind of carefully considered reaction. I’ll pay my tax dollars to support that, anytime.
David G. Whiteis