I really didn’t want to do this. I really didn’t want to add to the hype that surrounds video pervert and propagandist James O’Keefe. But subsequent developments that have resulted from his escapade make it impossible to refrain from reiterating what is a much bigger problem than O’Keefe or a couple of bureaucrats at National Public Radio.
Ron Schiller, a fundraiser for NPR is the latest victim of O’Keefe’s Borat-like practice of pseudo-journalism. In a hidden video sting, O’Keefe captured Schiller saying that…
“The current Republican party, particularly the Tea Party is fanatically involved in people’s personal lives and very fundamental Christian. I wouldn’t even call it Christian. It’s this weird evangelical kind of movement. […] not just Islamaphobic but xenophobic, and they are, they believe in sort of white, middle America, gun-toting, I mean it’s scary. They’re seriously, racist, racist people.”
Setting aside the fact that that is indisputably true, what is more important to note is that it is irrelevant. Schiller is a fundraiser, not an editor. He had zero influence on the stories NPR broadcasts or their content. His private statements may have been indiscreet for an organization that is presently being attacked by Tea Party Republicans, but they play no role in NPR’s operations other than this effort to solicit a contribution. And analysis of NPR’s reporting shows that it has been exceedingly fair with regard to the Tea Party.
However, with only the video of a known liar and convicted criminal to go on, NPR responded by repudiating Schiller’s comments and terminating CEO Vivian Schiller (no relation). How is this different from the travesty that saw former Agriculture Department official Shirley Sherrod fired from her job over a similarly fraudulent video that was also heavily, and deceptively, edited?
Nevertheless, another allegedly progressive enterprise has kowtowed to a right-wing propagandist. If nothing else, this proves that the media is dominated by conservative forces who consistently control the narrative. Contrary to the spin from the right, NPR is anything but liberal and often it serves only to validate the dishonest mainstream press. They’ve had two correspondents working as paid contributors to Fox News. How many have they had on NBC or Democracy Now? And NPR’s Mara Liasson continues her employment, even after Fox News CEO Roger Ailes called them all Nazis.
The myth that public broadcasting is liberal has got to be buried once and for all. The Corporation for Public Broadcasting is headed by Patricia de Stacy Harrison, a former chair of the Republican Party. And has everyone forgotten the irrepressibly corrupt Kenneth Tomlinson who was the chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and was run out of office just ahead of an indictment? Perhaps the Republicans in congress are right and defunding should be explored more seriously. I simply can’t continue to make excuses for these agencies that are too often used as political pawns without fulfilling their mandate to serve the public.
Even if NPR was disposed to unload Schiller, they should have waited a few months so that O’Keefe couldn’t hang another trophy on his wall. They are empowering a dangerous and dishonest cabal of right-wing activists and they seem to be completely oblivious and irresponsible. And to what end? Do they think that firing a couple of patsies will mollify their critics. All they have to do is listen to one of their harshest critics on Capital Hill, Republican Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who said that, “Our concern is not about any one person at NPR.” These folks are out to destroy those whom they perceive as their progressive opponents and they will settle for nothing less. Yet the victims of this political massacre are behaving like battered spouses who are certain that the beatings will stop as soon as they no longer deserve to be beaten.
This reflects the moral buckling exhibited by the White House every time someone is targeted by conservatives or Fox News. Just ask ex-administration personnel like Shirley Sherrod, Van Jones, or Yosi Sergant. Did any of those terminations elicit a truce from the right? You have to wonder why liberals always seem to get the boot for off-the-cuff indiscretions while conservatives remain at their post to continue their deliberate insults and hate speech. Why is Vivian Schiller now unemployed when she didn’t have anything to do with the offending remarks, but Roger Ailes is still running Fox after calling NPR Nazis? And why is NPR correspondent Mara Liasson still working for Fox News? And why does Glenn Beck have a job at all? (But let’s not get into that bag of nasty right now).
It needs to noted that the cheesy tactics of O’Keefe should never be given credibility. First of all, he has personally been exposed as a liar and a crook who deceptively edits his videos. And the process of acquiring his stories is devoid of credibility. It is relatively easy to sucker some chump in an organization of thousands to say something stupid, especially if he isn’t aware that he is being recorded. That puts him at a distinct disadvantage where his interviewer is able direct the conversation and to carefully phrase everything that is said, but the subject will be less guarded and more candid, not realizing that his words will be chopped up and used against him.
We need to strengthen our resolve against these sort of attacks. We need to support those who represent our values, just as those who represent the right are supported by their GOTea sippers. We have to stop being cowed into submission because we think someone on the right might not like something. They aren’t going to like anything we do anyway, so why bother attempting to placate them? What we really need are more leaders like those in Wisconsin who are unafraid of standing up to criticism and standing up for principles.
I agree with Eric Cantor. Our concern is not about any one person. It is about courage and commitment and loyalty. If we can’t get that from the folks at NPR or members of congress or the White House, then we need to start looking for it somewhere else. Our agenda is America’s agenda and that makes it our obligation to fight on. And we must never, EVER, allow jerkwads like O’Keefe, or his patrons at Fox News, to steer our course.