Marquette Warrior: Intolerance at National Public Radio, and in the NPR Audience

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Intolerance at National Public Radio, and in the NPR Audience

It’s not that surprising that National Public Radio fired Juan Williams. The organization, and it’s listeners, have a long history of bigotry toward Fox News. Actually, they have a history of intolerance toward virtually all those who disagree with them.

Two examples.

From the Huffington Post, March 2009:
NPR has asked Fox News not to identify its news analyst, Juan Williams, with NPR branding when he appears on Fox News because of outrage among its largely liberal listener-base. And Fox News has happily agreed to do so.

NPR Ombudsman Alicia Shepard wrote Wednesday that in 2008 she received 378 “complaints and frustrations about things Williams said on Fox,” including claims that Williams “dishonors NPR” and is an “embarrassment to NPR” and that “NPR should severe [sic] their relationship with him.”

Recent listener complaints have centered around Williams’ comment that Michelle Obama could be a liability to her husband. . . . [emphasis added]
That’s right. The liberal listeners of NPR were “outraged” that Williams had the temerity to appear on a network that they hate. And say some things they disagreed with.

Of course, on Fox Williams is pretty much the liberal. But he’s not a dogmatic liberal whose opinions are always predictable.

Of course, Williams is not the only NPR person who has come under fire. Also from the Huffington Post:
NPR asked its leading political correspondent, Mara Liasson, to reconsider her regular appearances on Fox News, where she is a paid contributor, Politico’s Josh Gerstein reports.

Gerstein reports that “Liasson was summoned in early October by NPR’s executive editor for news, Dick Meyer, and the network’s supervising senior Washington editor, Ron Elving” about concerns they had over Fox News’ programming and its changes since President Obama had taken office. They asked her to spend 30 days watching the network; she obliged, and “reported that she’d seen no significant change in Fox’s programming,” Gerstein reports.

The timing of NPR’s request coincided with the White House’s battle against the network.

An NPR spokesperson refused to comment specifically about Liasson, telling Politico, “As part of our ongoing work we have internal conversations about talent appearances all the time that are part of our regular editorial evaluation.” The spokesperson added, “There’s no relationship between the White House’s criticism of Fox and any discussions about Fox that we’re having.”

A Fox News spokesperson said, “With the ratings we have, NPR should be paying us to even be mentioned on our air.”
It’s a reality of contemporary liberalism: liberals simply can’t stand that people are allowed to say things they disagree with.

While not every liberal is intolerant, intolerance is now very much mainstream among liberals. We see it in attempts to shut up people who want to participate in political campaigns, attempts to shut up conservative talk radio, and speech codes on college campuses.

The reasons are various, but the fundamental problem is that liberals are simply much more able than conservatives to isolate themselves from the mainstream. They had college professors who were virtually uniformly liberal or leftist. They enter occupations (like academia or journalism) where pretty much everybody thinks the same way. They segregate themselves in neighborhoods (like Milwaukee’s East Side) where most of their neighbors think the same way. They get their news from the mainstream media, from NPR and from a highly selected bunch of leftist web sites (Daily Kos, Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo).

Isolation breeds narrow parochialism, and that breeds intolerance of dissenting opinions.

Modern liberals aren’t the first nor the only people this has happened to, but the combination of intolerance and political power among today’s liberals is particularly dangerous.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

NPR doesn't "tolerate" people on the other team. Its good to see the conservatives standing up for tolerance.

Marquette ever fire anyone for being on the other team? As Marquette's chief apologist I thought you'd be too busy to branch out, but it seems you can type really fast.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

First. To treat Fox "News" as anything other than propaganda is just plain stupid. I'm not sure that by calling themselves "News" they are not guilty of consumer fraud.

Second, how do you feel about people like Helen Thomas who criticize Israel? I've never seen you defend their "free speech rights." You will, of course, say you do ... but you've never written a post bewailing their firing.

You might also note that NPR strongly discourages its personnel from attending partisan functions. For instance, they have forbidden their personnel to attend Jon Stewart's rally.

You might deny this, but Fox news is a partisan station; to be accurate, it is sheer propaganda.

All that said, I don't think NPR should have fired the guy, and I personally would have responded differently.

But be honest: Your own bias against Muslims and "liberals" is the only thing at work in your post ... you don't care two-pence for free speech when people voice views that you don't agree with; if you did, you'd post about.

7:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just for clarification, are you saying liberals do all these awful things but conservatives do not?

Conservatives don't get their news from media sources they agree with (like Fox News, conservative talk radio, or the Drudge Report)?

Conservatives don't live in similarly thinking neighborhoods and enclaves?

Conservatives don't rail against speech they disagree with?

I'll concede that academics tend to be liberal, but at my undergrad institution (an R1) the faculty split 60/40 or 55/45 in the 2000 election (Gore over Bush) so its not like the whole of academia is overwhelmingly liberal. Plus most professors try to keep their personal political views out of the classroom (that has been my experience-both at Marquette and elsewhere.)

I would say conservatives can isolate themselves from the "mainstream" just as well as liberals can. (Although I imagine you think conservativism is the mainstream. That seems to be characteristic of both sides--each perceives themselves to be part of the silent majority being railroaded by extremists on the other end of the spectrum.)

Also, yes NPR listeners complained about Williams going on Fox and didn't want him to mention his association with NPR. But why do you think Fox "happily agree[d]" to hide Williams association with NPR? Perhaps because its audience hates/is prejudiced against NPR and wouldn't want to listen to someone from NPR on their "fair and balanced" network? You don't think people write into Fox demanding that they stop giving voice to the liberals they do allow on their network as a counterpoint?

You paint with broad strokes, Dr. McAdams, and you make these sweeping generalizations. You seem to be saying all these characteristics are unique to liberals but, it seems to me, they clearly affect both sides.

10:41 AM  
Blogger RagingProgressiveMKE said...

Its seems to me that an organization has the right to fire anyone for any reason in America, when conservatives support broader rights of free speech at work I will go to bat for Juan Williams as well.

9:42 AM  
Blogger John McAdams said...

Its seems to me that an organization has the right to fire anyone for any reason in America

Sure, but people have a right to do all sorts of things that are bad, intolerant, bigoted, etc.

9:27 PM  

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