of Public Abandon.

March 12, 2011

On The September Eleventh, my Bother and I were driving through New York State. Back then I was an ardent NPR listener and likely drove my Brother crazy with my obsessive need for news and round table discussions but I was the driver and the rules are, the driver picks. I always picked NPR. Diane Rehm’s Friday news roundup was something I looked forward to weekly. That week, in particular, I was glued to the radio. Ingesting any and every scrap of just breaking or analytical content.

Till I happened upon Ira Glass and This American Life.
I had naturally heard him before but rarely lingered as his format was not usually my cup of tea. Human interest stories highlighted by his nasal narration. Act One, Act Two.
This day though, I stopped to listen. It seemed, for a moment, he was actually reporting on some affect of the aftermath of the attacks, with a reporter on the street interacting with the public and he in the studio asking questions of her. What I heard, just one sentence and it’s inflection, changed or began to change how I listened to and in the end, quit listening to, NPR.
“Cause it’s the Flag”
When I heard him say it, I could also hear his eyes roll. I heard him tell me that he thought the very idea that anyone would consider the Flag sacred, ridiculous. Silly. Beneath him.
You’ll recall, that week and for some weeks after, the resurgence of patriotic fervor. Everyone was buying and deploying those car window flags. Stickers. In so many neighborhoods, the small brass fixture on the trim next to the door, so long empty, were again employed holding flags.
I admit, freely, I was also swept up by it. Enjoying and relishing the sudden unity and camaraderie, even if borne of tragedy. Ira Glass and his implied derision didn’t quite suit my tastes. It did, though open my eyes, and ears.
I started to hear and comprehend the outstanding assertion that NPR held and practiced bias. I heard Terry Gross badger her guest Bill O’Reilly but tolerate and even encourage his then nemesis, Al Franken. I heard the Ombudsman, assigned investigate that very instance, deny and rationalize the accusation. I began to hear the constant drum beat of America was to blame. I began to turn it off.
I’ve since joined the cacophony of voices demanding the elimination of public funding for, not just NPR, but PBS and the CPB. I am actually enjoying the recent, graphic, demise and public outcry for as much. I sat back and smiled as two figures, with the coincidence of identical name but unrelated, offered related but opposite views on their positions. One to Congress, the other to potential donors. Affecting the disgrace of both.
Just desserts. Please Sir…may I have more?
Laugh it up Ira, you can bet Juan Williams is.

4 Responses to “of Public Abandon.”

  1. mark harrell said

    good one, bro.

  2. K8 said


    you lost me there buddy.

    Yes, shock and awe.

    Emotion, pure emotion, you felt like you were the flag, the flag was everything you love, Ira Glass (with an eye-roll you heard over the radio – I didn’t hear that episode – maybe it was there, maybe you were super sensitive and reading between the lines) Ira Glass hurt your heart by saying the flag is just a symbol, etc.It was a time of high emotion. post 9/11.

    But you stance on public broadcasting – that goes against two main things:

    1) Roland, who you are, I don’t know you personally, but I know you love ideas, you care about books, education, knowledge, history. Am I wrong? What about the arts? Can they all go fuck themselves?

    2) Free speech, free exchange of ideas, even ones you disagree with. Corporations own enough of the media. Shouldn’t people who don’t owe anything to giant corporations get to talk too?

    3) In Canada we have 2 national commercial-free radio stations that many (most? I haven’t taken a poll) of us love. Plus the French version plus a few online stations. We cut back on funding recently which made for a few re-runs but I can life with that.


    • ofreh said

      Darn it. No one ever notices the lil audio player at the top. It’s brief. Go back. Tell me what you hear.
      Public Broadcasting is a wonderful concept. I would be, and used to be, behind it 100%, but if slanted, biased, it does not serve the public, but only a portion. Me, the public, should not be compelled to provide funding if that is the case. It is indisputable, that it is.
      I wish it were otherwise. Public radio would have a great and powerful voice, for the Arts, for the issues, and even more so if, as you contend, they are not beholden to private interests. But, like any other broadcasting, if they pursue an agenda of one colour, they should have to rely on their own devices. That’s not to say liberal views should not be offered, but so should an equal and alternate perspective.
      As to Ira, you are correct, emotions were high. At the time, I simply gave up on his show, not on NPR altogether. It took some time for me to really see how skewed the format was. He just helped me hear it.
      Would you not take issue with having to pay for the same, if the reverse were true? I see Teri Gross, much as you do Rush Limbaugh. Rush pays his own way. Teri should as well.
      “Exchange of ideas” is not on the menu, I’m afraid.

  3. K8 said

    I tried the audio player once and nothing happened so, maybe I’m impatient. Yes I am. And my home computer sucks. I haven’t listened to NPR except TAL on podcast so I don’t know Teri Gross. But I can say that corporations will never support the left, so if that’s your only source of revenue (ie. advertizing) there will not be free exchange of ideas. Just right and really right.

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