NPR’s intolerant listeners

I  was surprised, but not shocked, over the weekend when I opened my Sunday paper to read that more than a few National Public Radio listeners were upset that a number of conservatives had actually been interviewed by network reporters attempting to plumb conservative attitudes on a variety of public issues. The apparent thrust of e-mails and other missives from listeners was that NPR had no business giving a bunch of “right-wing nuts” access to its subsidized microphone.

NPR, dubbed “Northeast People’s Radio” some years ago by a conservative wag, provides a diet of mostly bland liberal fare to an audience of some 13 million listeners, most of whom are having a hard time deciding whether Hillary or Obama will get their vote this fall. The “Conversations with Conservatives”  included over the course of a few days as part of NPR’s “Morning Edition” a week or so ago didn’t go down very well with an NPR audience that celebrates diversity as long as it doesn’t include conservatives.

These folks don’t even seem to want to know what folks like me are thinking, as they find us so distasteful that they wish we could simply be banished from their consciousness. They know that we’re the enemy, and that is enough. They certainly don’t want to listen to our politically incorrect views during their morning commute, and they seem upset that NPR’s reporters would subject them to such abuse.

Conservatives are different. Bob Novak told me some years ago that he listens to NPR every morning because the absurdity of much of what he hears upsets him enough to keep his combative juices flowing for the rest of the day, but then he doesn’t crave the mellowness so attractive to liberals. Bob, you see, actually wants to know what others think.

Actually, the outrage of NPR’s listeners is important in that it reflects a growing tendency on the left to want to shut the rest of us up lest we contaminate their world and perhaps corrupt the young and naïve. Commercial talk radio has proved especially vexing in this regard. They’ve been unable to compete in this arena and have been examining bringing back the old “fairness doctrine” to force radio stations that air conservatives to give “equal time” to their spokesmen and –women, knowing full well that this would lead to the death of talk radio because no one would listen.

You see, the left doesn’t just disagree with conservatives, but considers the views expressed by conservatives to be so evil that they don’t want to have to be subjected to them and would like to make sure no one else is, either. Thus, global warming alarmists, led by the scintillating Al Gore, consider global warming “deniers” war criminals and wonder whether simply expressing views at variance with their own should be criminalized.

They see public radio as their very own sanctuary, and the thought that an NPR host would allow conservatives to invade it even for a few brief moments is hard to accept. It doesn’t occur to them that news reporters might want to air differing perspectives or that exposure to those perspectives might allow them to learn something about how others think. And it certainly doesn’t bother them that their little fragment of the airwaves exists only because it is subsidized in part by the taxes paid by the very people they wish wouldn’t be allowed to sully it.

On the other hand, the NPR spokesman quoted in the story said the network had only received 60 or so complaints. Now, while it is perfectly true that everyone who does complain can be assumed to be speaking for many who don’t, it might be a stretch on the reporter’s part and my own to suggest that a sample of 60 fairly represents the views of the millions who didn’t complain. On the other hand, they may have been so traumatized they couldn’t bring themselves to do anything but pray they wouldn’t be subjected to further such abuse in the future.

In fairness to the reporters, talk show hosts and producers who work for NPR, I have to say that they usually manage to achieve levels of fairness foreign to their listeners. I have been interviewed hundreds of times over the years by NPR correspondents and enjoy the network’s call-in shows, whose hosts may not agree with me, but are unfailingly fair. They get it, but must cater to an audience that I fear never will.

Keene, chairman of the American Conservative Union, can be reached at Keeneacu@aol.com.

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