Laptop bombardiers take over NPR


A recent car trip to Maine and back refreshed my acquaintance with NPR. I was shocked. It’s become amazingly jingoistic. There used to be a pretense, at least, of ‘balance’; but that’s all gone.

I was gobsmacked, in particular, by a program called America Abroad — just the title seems to call for some unpacking, doesn’t it?

The particular segment I listened to was one long propagandistic infomercial for intervention in Syria, complete with alarming booms and bangs in the background — bad, dictatorial, tyrannical booms and bangs, not at all like the humanitarian booms and bangs our friendly bombs(*) produce. And of course there was the obligatory Israel stooge presented as an ‘expert’. In this case, that role was played con brio by one Michael Abramowitz, the ‘Director of the Committee on Conscience, which conducts the genocide prevention efforts of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’.

This Holy Joe may perhaps be another customer, since there’s nothing interesting about him on the Web, except that he has gone into the family business; his father was the once-notorious Morton Abramowitz, a real permanent-government type, who did the Foreign Office dirty work of presidents from Carter through Bush I, and then retired, like a dim-sighted but sharp-toothed old moray eel, into the crevices of the foundation sector, and from thence contributed his own fangs to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.

‘America Abroad’ has quite a list of sponsors, which pretty much tells the tale. Personally, I don’t know whether I’m happier about the Qatar Foundation or the National Endowment for Democracy.

Somebody — not me — needs to do a job on the show’s guiding spirit, one Madeleine Brand. I don’t think I have the right cultural background. I’ve spent time in Southern California, but I don’t really quite get it.

(*) A tip of the Father Smith biretta to Sir John Betjeman for one of the good Father’s favorite poems.

12 thoughts on “Laptop bombardiers take over NPR

  1. I wonder if the kids even listen to NPR anymore. People my age do–late twenties-early thirties; Radio Lab and This American Life if nothing else. I can’t really tell, but I’m optimistic the Internet has distracted them away from it… or they’ve simply–and sensibly–been put off by the stale smell.

  2. I don’t watch TV or listen to the radio any more, so it’s always a shock whenever I’m exposed to the horseshit after being away from it for so long. As it happens the recent cold weather froze the cd player on my car stereo so I found myself tuning into NPR. Nothing has changed much there from what I can see. Same crappy jazz music between segments, same drony, middle class WASPy NPR voices, same pretentious, middle class bullshit. They have largely dropped the pseudo-liberal facade for a somewhat muted liberal-friendly fascismo, but it was like that the last time I checked in.

    For the half hour I could tolerate it before opening the window for a blast of sub-zero air, some chipper dipshit was extolling the virtues of Shinzo Abe, and how he has been great for Japan’s economy. Yeah he is trying to remilitarize the country but hey, you can’t have everything.

    Tenno Heika Banzai! How come we don’t have cool battle cries like that for our wars? We get some syrupy, liberal humanitarian intervention techno-acronym like “R2P!” delivered in that noxious NPR drony monotone.

    • I still watch a ilttle TV in limited doses, the “news” channels, mostly; I kind of have to, because that’s where I get a lot of my cartoon ideas. I also like to catch my favorite old movies on TCM, but I don’t know if that really counts as “watching TV”.

      I blew off radio long ago, around 1990ish, not so much due to NPR’s failings, but because mainstream rock’n’roll radio had gone totally down the toilet, and there were — and still are — no decent college stations around my city playing any interesting rock’n’roll. I never did listen to NPR except for every New Year’s Eve in the mid ’80s through early ’90s, when they’d broadcast the Grateful Dead’s annual New Year’s Eve show. I avoided it otherwise as even back then, they annoyed the hell out of me with their our-shit-doesn’t-stink vibe, and their announcers’ pompous, officious, snooty liberal intellectual tone.

      Once in a while, I get a short jolt of NPR while in the car with my wife — owing to my rotten sense of direction, she does most of the driving, so she gets to pick the radio station or CDs — and, like you, I found it a horrific experience. She always puts on WAMU out of American University, one of DC’s two local NPR stations, noted for its endless bluegrass marathons, and I’ve had the misfortune to catch ilttle bits of:
      Prairie Home Companion, arguably the most boring radio show ever broadcast. How the hell did this manage to stay on the air for so long, and why is it so popular? Who the hell listens to that, anyway — liberal intellectual types who want to feel like they’re down with the proles? I feel as if I have to take Thorazine to wake up after hearing about ten minutes of that crap. The wife, of course, adores it.
      This American Life — This Rich-Assed White Liberal American Life, more like. I must’ve suffered through at least half a dozen episodes of that while riding in the car, but the one that sticks in my memory the most is one about the trials and trevails of being a mixed-race lesbian at Harvard, or some shit.
      Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, a hokey old-skool quiz show that requires that you actually listen to NPR news in order to get the answers right. God, there’s just so much to hate about this — the smug tone of the announcers, their lame jokes about Republicans… I want to knee that show in the groin and spit on it. I want so much to hurt Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me, but I’d never be able to hurt it as badly as it hurt me.

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