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Apr 28 2012

NPR propaganda

Although I listen to NPR regularly, I never forget that its reporters too are the products of the filtering process that ensures that only a limited range of opinions is even considered, and that they will not see some obvious hypocrisies even if they stare them in the face. While the best NPR reporters, such as Daniel Zwerdling (whose in-depth features are excellent), Nina Totenberg (legal affairs), and those who deal with internal matters and soft features are worth listening to, others who deal with national politics (Don Gonyea and Mara Liaison) and defense and foreign affairs (Tom Gjelten and Dina Temple Raston) might as well be considered outright propagandists rather than reporters, last two being especially atrocious.

I was reminded once again of this when Gjelten did his periodic song-and-dance routine with his “Oh my god! Iran is trying to kill us all!” alarmist rhetoric about the possibility that that country will wage cyberwar on the US or give that technology to groups like Hezbollah. This is as preposterous as the idea that they will wage nuclear war on the US or Israel but that does not deter Gjelten from delivering these somber warnings. Interestingly he did not even mention that just the previous day, there was a report that a cyberattack had disrupted the Iranian oil industry. Who was behind it? The US media is unsurprisingly not that curious to find out. But it seems reminiscent of the Stuxnet virus that attacked Iranian centrifuges some time ago, for which the US and Israel publicly bragged about being behind it.

In other words, it is the US and Israel who are waging cyberwar on Iran, not the other way around, though Gjelten conveniently ignores that fact in his report.

Then we had the other report by Don Gonyea about Obama righteously condemning Syria for tapping the phones and internet communications of its people and using that knowledge to suppress dissent. You would never guess from Gonyea’s report that the Obama administration has created the most massive eavesdropping operation in history that sweeps up all our communication and uses that information to harass people engaged in perfectly legal activities, while cracking down on whistleblowers with a vengeance. It is also creating a massive facility to store all the data it is gathering on us.

The best propaganda media does not do it all the time because then it becomes too obvious and people discount it. It works best when done occasionally by people who have so internalized the system’s values that they don’t even realize that they are propagandists and would be shocked and offended if accused of being so.

3 comments

  1. 1
    Frank

    I am also a regular NPR listener, and I will take them any day over their mainstream media competitors (Nina Totenberg, for example, is excellent). But I agree that their political reporting is mediocre.

    NPR in general, and Gonyea and Liasson in particular, seem to be obsessed with presenting “both sides” of every political issue. Even when one side is objectively wrong. I can understand this to a point, given that they are regularly portrayed as a left-wing mouthpiece by Republican politicians, but I wish they would have more backbone in reporting the truth in political matters. To your point that these values have been internalized, Dina Temple-Raston’s title is “Counterterrorism Correspondent”. Is such a position really necessary?

    I also find Barbera Bradley Hagerty’s reporting to be overly generous to the religious institutions she covers. I have a habit of turning the volume down whenever she comes on.

    That being said, I think NPR is, on balance, a valuable institution, and I will continue to support it (through WCPN in Cleveland).

  2. 2
    Pierce R. Butler

    I gave up on NPR sometime back in the ’90s, after listening to the entirety of a fairly long (~10 mins) report on the politics of Colombia that managed to never mention the paramilitary death squads there which target union activists, intellectuals, and anyone else who speaks out against the Army, local elites, and multi-national corporations.

    Such an omission could not have been anything other than deliberate.

  3. 3
    Corey

    Thank you for giving a voice to objections i’ve had for quite some time regarding NPR. They are alternative news the way post-grunge was alternative music; people think it’s alternative because it is mass marketed that way.

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