Balancing Pacifica

Kucinich talks of bringing back the “fairness doctrine”; probably it won’t go anywhere, but it reminded me of how much we listen to NPR, how wonderful and how irritating it is.

The left seems awfully worried about the right’s AM dominance, but for years, while we hauled our kids around to lessons and when I was running the shop for 16-hour days, the local public station played in the background. When she was in junior high, my middle daughter wrote a poem to Martin Goldsmith. It wasn’t a school girl crush, but rather about the pleasure she felt in the music he introduced, in his voice, in the peace those lovely string quartets brought to her radio every night. His show, Performance Today, is now hosted by Fred Childs and with her out of the house, I go back to my more regular fare. Still, it provided a wonderful experience, even for someone as musically illiterate as I am.

My youngest daughter is in training at the local alternative station – she and her friends want to put on a show that plays local bands, reads local poetry, and, in general, is true to that station’s mission. Its motto is “the left end of the dial done right.” Besides shows devoted to Dr. Demento and eighties music, listeners can find a wide range of opinions – from the BBC to Pacifica to a show put on by The Nation. Even Austin wasn’t giving Jim Hightower (America’s #1 Populist) an outlet for a while, but he’s on this station. Not surprisingly, the ratings aren’t high.

My point is – if the left has something to offer, we listen. The tone and slant of All Things Considered or Morning Edition is pretty far to the left, but the content of much of what these shows do has less to do with their politics than a genuine curiosity about people. Sure they don’t always seem to know much about fly-over territory and religion; their take on American history can be simplistic and seldom celebrates heroism. And yes, they are supported by all of our taxes. All in all, however, they wear well. Today, a charming interview with a violinist who plays Bach cheered me on my way home.

And it seems to me if we are going to start doing much with the fairness doctrine, then the left might lose one of its real tools. We’re relatively conservative, but we generally have on one of three stations – the local public, the local access one, or the local country. Two of those would have to be considered on the left by any honest listener (though irritating as Terri Gross can be at her worst, her best can be good and she never reaches the state of, say, Democracy Now). It is the country station, of course, which is very careful to not indicate political preferences. Its hourly ABC news slants to the left; however, they play Toby Keith a good deal more often than The Dixie Chicks.

So, a real relationship with the community – such as drawing teenagers in to do their own program – and damn good interviews & thoughtful hosts in the other can lead to an audience that doesn’t agree politically. As I’ve become more political, I’ve got to admit, NPR irritates me more than it used to and I listen less often. But I suspect that I stayed with a much more leftish take on current affairs for years because I liked the rest of what they did; thus, that was where I got much of my information. And I thought, well, they are a little slanted but surely this is the truth. I have more doubts, but suspect most of the time, it is still the truth. It’s just that there is so much out there & they select truths that fit their patterns – patterns I no longer see as quite so valid (about politics, the war, childraising, religion, etc.).

If the “fairness” doctrine really went into effect, it is more likely to divide us than unite us. If it didn’t count such stations, it would be grossly unfair. But a station that is capable of beguiling us into listening even when we don’t agree politically is likely to gain at least a hearing from the opposition; one that, like Air America, preaches not just to the converted but to the converted fanatic is only helpful in raising a mob (and if their popularity is any indication, it would be a very small mob indeed).

And, if Kucinich dreams of a left Rush Limbaugh, I think of a right All Things Considered.

9 thoughts on “Balancing Pacifica”

  1. Kucinich is dangerous to this country. I base that on this little exchange he had with Hugh Hewitt:

    HH: If after we left, a Rwandan-style genocide, of which Robert Kaplan in the Atlantic Monthly has warned, began, would you support the return of American troops to stop that genocide?

    DK: Well, but wait. Before I entertain that scenario, 650,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, according to the Lancet Report, 650,000 excess deaths during the period of the war. I mean, we already have huge casualties taking place. The United States presence hasn’t stopped it. As a matter of fact, our occupation fueled the insurgency.

    HH: Do you believe the Lancet Report, Congressman?

    DK: I’m sorry?

    HH: Do you believe the Lancet Report?

    DK: Absolutely. I mean, a survey…you know, I held a briefing on it, at which we questioned people about their methodology, and their methodology was solid. And for that matter, the administration has deliberately underreported civilian casualties. That was one of the criticisms of the Baker-Hamilton Report. So you know, we don’t…I don’t think the American people really know the extent to which the Iraqi people have incurred enormous casualties.

    HH: So if an even greater amount of violence began, though, after we exited, a Rwandan-style…

    DK: Well, you know, you can raise the specter of Rwanda, but the fact of the matter is, you know, the U.S. is an occupying army here. That’s why the insurgency has fuel.

    HH: Should we have stopped Rwanda, though, Congressman?

    DK: I’m sorry?

    HH: Should we have stopped Rwanda when we had the chance in the 90’s?

    DK: I think that what we needed to do then, in the 90’s, and what we didn’t do, is to strengthen the process of international law, and strengthen the United Nations. And the United States does have a role to play with the international community, but Hugh, where I would take issue with our policy is that these strategies of preemption and unilateralism and first strike are dead ends.

    HH: But once that kind of killing starts, and let’s stay fixated on Rwanda for a moment, if a Rwandan-style genocide begins, should the United states intervene to stop slaughter like that, Congressman Kucinich?

    DK: We should not act unilaterally, because it traps us. We can’t be the policeman of the world.

    HH: So even if…

    DK: You know, we can act unilaterally in defense of our own nation. As a matter of fact, I voted for the United States to defend itself with, right after 9/11. But I voted against the Iraq resolution, because there was no proof that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, had the intention or capability of attacking the U.S. You have to look at each case as it exists. We invaded Iraq. They…I feel we violated international law in doing that.

    HH: Congressman, do you…

    DK: I mean, there is a role for the U.S. to play, but it’s not as the cop of the world.

    HH: Congressman, do you know what the Quds forces are?

    DK: (pause) I’m sorry?

    HH: Do you…are you aware of the Quds forces?

    DK: What are you talking about?

    HH: The Quds forces from…they’re an arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Are you familiar with them?

    DK: (pause) Go ahead.

    HH: Are you? Because I don’t want to pursue it if you’re not.

    DK: Well, go ahead. I want to hear what you have to say.

    HH: Well, they’re operating in Iraq. Does that concern you?

    DK: I think that we need to get the region involved in stopping the insurgency. And the way you do that, the first step you take, is to take away the energy that the insurgency is gaining from the occupation. Look, Iran…you know, we should be concerned about any nation feeling that they can advance their interests through the chaos and civil war of Iraq. And the way that you do it, you have to have a political settlement. We cannot solve this militarily. Most…and many generals who believe that.

    HH: Pop quiz, Congressman. Do you know who the supreme leader of Iran is?

    DK: (pause) You’re talking about the religious leader?

    HH: Yes.

    DK: I can’t tell you the name off-hand.

    HH: And he’s made…do you know who the president of Iran is?

    DK: We’re talking about Ahmadinejad?

    HH: Right.

    DK: Yeah.

    HH: Do you think that they are intent on dealing with us? Or do you think, or do you believe what they say, Ayatollah Khamenei and President Ahmadinejad, when they talk about the confrontation with the West? Do you take them at their word?

    DK: I think that we need to talk with them. And I think that you know, I think dialogue is essential here, and I think the person…I’m just remembering the…Khamenei, I think his name is.

    HH: Yeah, I just said that.

    DK: The supreme leader that you’re talking about. And we need to be in touch with the leaders of Iran. We cannot look at…the fact that we are Americans. I mean, we’re a courageous nation. We should never…President Kennedy said it in his inaugural. We should not negotiate out of fear, nor should we fear to negotiate. And we need to be able to reach out to these countries, even if we disagree with them, and are opposed to everything they stand for.

    HH: But if they don’t want to talk…let me ask it this way. Do you think they genuinely hate Israel? And that their threats against Israel are real?

    DK: Well, first of all, let it be said, I’m a staunch supporter of Israel.

    HH: I know that, but do you believe their threats?

    DK: …and their survival. We’ve got to have a context to this discussion, and the context is I support Israel, I suport its survival, and I also think the U.S. policy doesn’t help Israel here.

    HH: But do you think Khamenei and Ahmadinejad believe what they say about Israel, that it will be gone in a flash?

    DK: I think what Ahmadinejad has said is very cynical. I don’t think that he’s…I don’t think that he could possibly believe that the Holocaust didn’t occur, but that he says it is hurtful.

    HH: No, but do you think he intends harm to Israel, in the manner that he has described it? Are you familiar with his statements?

    DK: I…listen, I think that we need to make sure that he understands that it’s not acceptable for him to give threats, directly or indirectly, to Israel.

    HH: I know that, but do you believe that he believes what he says?

    DK: I think we need to talk to him, to have him think differently. I’ve got a different approach.

    HH: Congressman, last question, last question. Do you think that Iranian fanatics applaud every time you come on television and talk this way?

    DK: You know what? I’m hopeful that there are people throughout the world who believe that war should not be an instrument of policy, whatever country they’re in.

    HH: But what about the fanatics? Do you think that you represent to them the soft underbelly of America?

    DK: You know what? I’m from the neighborhoods of Cleveland. It would be wrong to mistake what I stand for.

    HH: Congressman Dennis Kucinich, we look foward to having you back…a lot.

    End of interview.

  2. “if Kucinich dreams of a left Rush Limbaugh, I think of a right All Things Considered.”

    Yes. We need a Right EVERYTHING. ATC is totally achievable with either no slant or a somewhat Righty slant. I think it could be very popular.

  3. Public radio: 1/4 of the time I’m shouting at the “news” (analysis, really), 1/4 of the time I’m bored, 1/2 the time I’m entertained.

    And, although, as a free market capitlist, I feel a bit guilty saying so, I like the station and would miss it were it gone.

    I’m fond of saying (I don’t think it’s an origonal thought, who….?) the public radio station is like the the crazy old anunt in the attic – eccentric but charming.

  4. Would a right-slanting All Things Considered play as much of that Guatemalan flute music?

    Let’s cut back on that a bit, shall we? I listen to NPR all the time, although if often infuriates me. But would a right-wing ATC be able to make money? Cuz the lefties already have the public tit all tied up. Or would the fairness doctrine ensure that the taxpayers pay for a righty ATC?

  5. I wonder how Matt Lauer would justify his job under a Fairness Doctrine. It almost makes the idea acceptable.

  6. Fairness doctrines…

    I hope you realize that the liberal media’s idea of a Fair exchange of ideas would go from Nancy Pelosi on the left all the way over to Pat Buchanan on the right?

    Way back in the late 80’s/early 90’s, what was the monetary value of the resources Ted Turner spent trying to make Buchanan the “image” most people had of “the right,” anyway?

  7. Would a right-slanting All Things Considered play as much of that Guatemalan flute music?

    It’ll be more like Charles Johnson’s Friday Night Playlists. Right now it would be all Michael Brecker – until the end of the week, at least.

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