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Unplug government media

Posted By Michael Ackley On 02/28/2011 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.

It is only natural for defenders of government programs to cite the wondrous results of taxpayer largesse.

Sometimes the identity of the defenders is surprising. For example, Nat Hentoff stands up for the federal funding of public broadcasting. I admire Nat Hentoff. He is a peerless defender of the Constitution in general and the First Amendment in particular.

But I can’t buy his arguments in favor of publicly financed media. He cites such fine programs as the Public Broadcasting System’s “Frontline,” which he praises as a program that “singularly continues – and often exceeds – the penetrating journalism standards of CBS’ Edward R. Murrow.” He calls the program “utterly free of political correctness.”

He notes as well the PBS series on John Adams “that should have been shown and studies in every school in this country.” And he says he knows “of no other news source equal to [National Public Radio] in tracking government … contempt for our Fourth Amendment protections … ”

The columnist’s arguments were amplified in a recent Washington Post article by public radio executives Laura R. Walker and Jaclyn Sallee, who claimed that CPB acted “as a journalistic firewall between the government that provides … funding and the public media journalism it funds.”

They wrote, “Public radio and television stations are important sources of information in their communities. This is all the more significant given the contraction in journalism.” And, like Hentoff, they cite great works of public broadcasting, like programs on “Acadian country fiddling shared by communities in Maine and Louisiana” and “independent music scenes in Seattle, Minneapolis and Philadelphia. …”

“Public broadcasting,” they say, “belongs to the American people.”

And so it goes with any threatened government program. Once established, such programs develop constituencies. It doesn’t matter if you’re talking about public broadcasting or midnight basketball. Threaten to cut the funding and out come either the lists of accomplishments or stories of the pathetic beneficiaries whose lives will be destroyed by program cuts.

But publicly financed media exist – always – under the peril of becoming part of a “ministry of propaganda.” The firing of NPR’s Juan Williams gave ample evidence of this. The impulse to censor can be suppressed for a time, but ultimately will appear.

As for the “contraction in journalism,” there isn’t any. As the old media – particularly print newspapers – languish, the new media burgeon. That you are reading this is proof of the fact. The only media that truly “belong to the American people” are those unattached to the government umbilicus.


About free speech: The Washington Post weighed in on a case in the Golden State, saying members of the Muslim Student Union should not be prosecuted for disrupting a lecture at the University of California, Irvine.

The Post gets our Soft-Boiled Egghead Award for editorializing that the students, already disciplined by the university, should get off with a warning because “no threats were uttered, no violence ensued and each of the protesters appeared to exit the hall without resistance when campus security approached.”

One must assume the editors of the Post would be similarly lenient if non-violent demonstrators blocked their loading dock.

Come to think of it, Soft-Boiled Egghead honors could be shared with Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who defended protesters who blocked traffic to express disapproval of laws affecting illegal aliens.

Lopez asked, “Should anyone have to spend a single day in jail for participating in the proud American tradition of nonviolent civil disobedience.” Clearly, he forgot that our martyred exponent of civil disobedience, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., taught that even nonviolent lawbreaking carried consequences, and arrested demonstrators should accept those consequences without complaint.

It’s back: Once again California’s Legislature is contemplating a law that would force public schools to tell children about the sexual proclivities of various historical figures. Make that, the sexual proclivities of homosexual historical figures.

Why anybody’s sexual appetites should pollute a public-school curriculum is beyond me. Further, the bill is problematic because there is a propensity in the homophile community to attribute divergent “lifestyles” to every noble or accomplished historical figure, from George Washington to Albert Einstein.

However, if this bill must become law, let it at least mandate some balance. E.G., Discussion of World War II should note the homosexuality of Adolph Hitler’s Brown Shirts, and speculation that Hitler himself was at least “questioning.”


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