The Useful Idiocy of NPR
NPR is running a series of articles about the growing anti-war movement in the U.S., in between their on-going series covering both the growing homeschool and Christian men's small group movements.
(I call that the Woodlief Test, by the way: say something obviously out of keeping with reality, in order to let people's reactions make your point for you, i.e., "what, NPR running a series on Christian men's small groups? Are you smoking crack?") I'm sure there's a literary term for it, but I could never keep irony, synecdoche, etc., straight, so I call it the Woodlief Test.)
So no, NPR isn't running a series on the latter two movements. It is running a number of reports on the anti-war movement, however, and I suspect -- given the level of idiocy among the interviewees -- that this is really the work of some closet hawks. I first realized the effectiveness of this tactic -- letting the idiots speak for themselves -- while watching Louis Farrakhan be interviewed on one of those late-night news programs. My first thought was that it was shameful to give such a vile person a platform, especially when there are black religious leaders with many more people in their congregations. But soon Farrakhan was talking about space ships coming to rescue blacks from Earth, and about not having any problem with the Jews (this sounds much friendlier, actually, in English than in the original German), and it struck me -- thousands of people now see first-hand that this man is an idiot, and that the people who associate with him are idiots as well.
So where I once thought that disproportionate interviews of Left-wing idiots was solely attributable to Left-wing bias among journalists, now I'm not so sure. The biggest enemy Dick Gephardt ever had, for example, was the simple reality that he looks like the offspring of a carnival freak and an albino lizard, with the mannerisms of a crooked mortician. So the more TV time he got, the better. Likewise for these twits I heard interviewed yesterday, who are seeking to recreate some romanticized version of the Sixties, or at least to score a little weed and tail at the anti-war march.
Let's begin with the words of a sophomore interviewed at a peace rally, who hails from some no-name college that probably should long ago have been converted into a landfill:
"I'm like, opposed to Bush because, like, I don't feel that he's tried all um, um, like alternatives, and like, I think he won't agree to, like inspections, and that he won't oppose, um war."
First, I suspect there is a secret campaign to revoke the 26th Amendment, and that its primary strategy is to put microphones in front of twenty year-olds. Perhaps a cultural anthropologist reading this can enlighten me, but I'm not sure if there has ever been a case where a society with language has morphed into a society without language, and I'm curious to know whether ours will be the first.
But that is another matter, and the interesting points about the student's comments are that President Bush, of course, has agreed to inspections, and that this was common knowledge well before the peace rally at which said student was interviewed. Her out, I suspect, is this word "feel," which should be stricken, upon penalty of expulsion, from the vocabulary of every college student. It may be the case that President Bush in fact has agreed to weapons inspections, but we shouldn't let this get in the way of our feeling like he has not.
Plus, there's this really cute guy named Jeremy, and like, he's totally going to be at the rally, so, like, get off my case, mkay?
The interview next turned to a meeting of a Chicago neighborhood chapter of ACORN, known variously as a community activism organization and as another mechanism in Jesse Jackson's shake-down portfolio. A woman at the meeting asked whether the chapter should speak out against the war, and then answered her question by noting that, among other things, "the dollars from our community are going to pay for this."
Now, I could be wrong, but I suspect that there won't be a net outflow of dollars from her community any time soon. What's more, she should probably be careful about arguing the principle of local sovereignty over tax dollars, lest she see the funding for teen centers, soup kitchens, and midnight basketball -- the things that serve as "community" any more in inner cities -- dry up and head for Bolingbrook.
A man in the ACORN group chimed in to push her point further, asking, "What kind of message does it send to say that we don't like this man (Hussein) and so we are going to kill him? What kind of message is that?"
The message, of course, is that getting on the wrong side of the U.S. government and its citizens can very likely get one killed. This seems like a message worth reinforcing, and Hussein a deserving object lesson.
The dolt continued: "We see all this gang violence, and this is where they get it, they get it from our warmongering leaders."
Right. Little Johnny isn't busting caps in the 'hood because he had no father or mother or preacher or teacher worth a darn, no, he's slinging slugs because Ronald Reagan sent troops into Grenada. Johnny may not be able to spell his own last name correctly, but he's socially conscious.
Finally, the report brought us news from a teach-in being held in a college town (the name is irrelevant, because they all tend to be the same town). It featured an activist who travels around the country doing teach-ins, when he isn't in Iraq expressing solidarity with people who have no choice but to voice opposition to U.S. intervention. His voice evoked the image of a spindly man with a neat beard, wearing a tweed jacket and open-toed Birkenstocks over dark blue socks knitted in some third-world hut, bought during an excursion paid for by a Ford Foundation boondoggle. He sounded like the kind of guy who marries an unhappy stringy-haired woman with an M.A. in sociology, and who fathers one unhappy child and makes him read Hegel and Foucault. You've met this guy before -- you've heard him holding forth in line at the Ann Arbor Starbucks, you've seen him teaching an undergrad section at Berkeley -- it's always the same guy, and yesterday his wisdom was being carried by NPR.
He was preceded by a painfully articulated question from a student in the audience which, after much deletion of "likes" and other verbal placeholders, and insertion of proper grammar, went something like: "what else are we supposed to do, given that Hussein has not disarmed, and shows a willingness to use weapons of mass destruction?"
The activist responded, "I agree with you that Hussein's behavior is unacceptable, but Bush's behavior is also unacceptable, and I'm here tonight to talk about that."
Yes, Hussein's behavior is unacceptable. A time-out -- of a duration approved by the section on responsible child-rearing of the American Psychological Association -- for troubled little Saddam. Barring a time out, unfortunately, this activist doesn't have much to offer, because meeting with force the danger represented by Iraq is also "unacceptable." Thus Bush's behavior is treated as morally equivalent to Hussein's, and the judgment of the activist, this unelected, unaccountable, unopposed activist, is elevated to a wisdom that transcends global politics.
This isn't really wisdom at all; it is merely a form of mental gymnastics performed for an uncritical audience. It is expression rather than critical thought, and it survives only because opinion in college circles has become truly that -- opinion that is clung to without analysis. If these are the best and the brightest that colleges have to offer, American taxpayers may well have reason to start demanding refunds. Fortunately, they are neither the best nor the brightest, which is perhaps what qualifies them for airtime on NPR.
NPR: an unwitting tool of subversion in the conservative arsenal. The communists always had their useful idiots, so why shouldn't we?
Posted by Woodlief on November 26, 2002 at 09:20 AM