It was almost as if NPR were running an anti-fundraising drive, trying to alienate anyone to the right of Clarence Darrow.
I mean, goodness knows they’ve already tried their hardest.
Quite frankly, I’m assuming liberals tune in for the same reasons I owned albums from bands with names like the Jesus Lizard and Atari Teenage Riot when I was a kid: It may be wholly unlistenable, but it alienates the kind of person with some modicum of sense who might have to be in the same vicinity while you listen to it. In my case, we’re talking about parents and teachers; in liberals’ cases, anyone to their right who prefers their radio with hosts who sound like they’re doing it awake.
First, in an interview published Aug. 27, the taxpayer-funded radio network’s “Code Switch” podcast interviewed Vicky Osterweil, the author of “In Defense of Looting,” a book that makes exactly the argument its title might suggest.
Some choice Osterweil quotes from the NPR podcast:
• Looting can “demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free.”
• “When I use the word looting, I mean the mass expropriation of property, mass shoplifting during a moment of upheaval or riot. That’s the thing I’m defending. I’m not defending any situation in which property is stolen by force.”
• Progressives are against looting and rioting because of their “anti-Blackness and contempt for poor people who want to live a better life, which looting immediately provides.”
Oh, dear. It didn’t help that the interview was wholly uncritical as well. The network quickly, publicly backpedaled, and “Code Switch” added a disclaimer saying that it “did not provide readers enough context for them to fully assess some of the controversial opinions discussed.”
A week and change later, author Jason Stanley appeared on “All Things Considered” and dealt with an equally uncritical interview that was every bit as revolting.
Stanley isn’t suggesting you steal things. He’s a Yale University philosophy professor and author of the 2018 book, “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.”
If you guessed he wasn’t appearing in a vacuum, you’d be right: He was there to inform us that the United States is “losing our democratic status.”
In the write-up of the interview, NPR first noted that fascism has featured prominently in American public dialogue since the term was introduced — which was true. The network mentioned it was invoked frequently during the presidencies of Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — again, true.
What you can probably infer from this is that it’s an accusation made frequently, in overheated circumstances and when someone who’s to the right of, say, George H.W. Bush (who was only out-of-touch and mean to the poor, according to the left) is in the White House. Perhaps that would be reason enough to discount Stanley from the outset.
But, no. Third paragraph: “Historians have noted similarities between Donald Trump and Mussolini since before the 2016 election. Some of the racial justice protesters this summer have said they are fighting fascism in the form of President Trump. And the presence of antifa — anti-fascist — protesters at some demonstrations has upped attention to the word.”
Oh, dear, again. So apparently, our taxpayer-funded radio broadcasters are telling Americans that our president is like Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini. It’s totally not them saying it, though — it’s those historians. Their hands are clean.
Also, there’s a face-value acceptance of antifa demonstrators as being “anti-fascist” because that’s what the name says. If NPR takes these things at face value, I’m assuming no one there has ever had a problem with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” right? He’s simply doing what the slogan says, folks. Except that one is arguably true whereas antifa being “anti-fascist” is demonstrably false, unless your version of anti-fascism involves street-fighting, vandalism and intimidation.
On comes Stanley, whose working definition of fascism is “a cult of the leader who promises national restoration in the face of humiliation brought on by supposed communists, Marxists and minorities and immigrants who are supposedly posing a threat to the character and the history of a nation.” (Serendipitous, that.) You can probably guess where this is headed.
What’s changed since 2018, the NPR hosts wondered?
“Well if someone described to you, ‘Here’s country X. The leader of country X claims that he is going to remain in power for many years beyond what is legal. He sends federal forces in to quell largely peaceful protests for racial justice in his country. His attorney general seems dedicated to him over the rule of law. The major political party that controls the courts and most of the government has, as their entire platform, devotion to him,'” Stanley said.
“What would you think about that country? Where would you think the direction of that country was headed? I would think that country was losing its democratic status, especially when it had a history of voter suppression and the highest incarceration rate in the world as background conditions.”
So, we have Trump’s joking about serving more than two terms, his sending federal forces into cities that refused to protect federal property, the popular liberal belief that Bill Barr is just a fig-leaf for the many illegal treacheries of the Trump administration, and the idea that the GOP has turned into nothing more than a cult of personal adoration. (Except for Mitt Romney, who I’m guessing Stanley temporarily feels is a swell guy.)
NPR compared Trump to Mussolini, while Stanley compared him to the KKK when talking about conspiracy theories.
“Conspiracy theories destroy an information space. The goal — fascism is based on a friend-enemy distinction, so you’re either with them or against them. The enemy is the enemy of civilization. What it does is it destroys the information space,” Stanley said.
“It makes you think that even if your guys are corrupt and lying, it is because [the leader is] facing a mysterious cabal that is controlling things that are trying to foment a race war. This is the basis of the Ku Klux Klan ideology.”
As Breitbart’s Penny Starr noted wryly, “The NPR interview did not mention the Democrat Party’s connection to the KKK.”
This isn’t entirely true, though, since Stanley kind of alluded to it while missing the point on his final answer, regarding “what gives him hope.”
“[The U.S.] is the home of anti-fascist resistance — not just our soldiers in World War II but our intellectuals and journalists and nonviolent protest movements and revolutionaries here who have confronted our own racial history that so influenced Hitler,” the author said.
“So we have the seeds in this country of the evils that were the foundation of many anti-democratic regimes, but we also have the flowers that stopped them.”
Growing up, we used to listen to @npratc at dinner. It structured my family life. I learned anti-fascism from my parents, especially my father, who passed away 16 years ago tomorrow. So I’m especially grateful for this interview with @MichelMcQMartin https://t.co/byxZSb33FG
— Jason Stanley (@jasonintrator) September 7, 2020
Well, there’s quite the dog-whistle, proudly linking “anti-fascist resistance” to the Greatest Generation. It’s interesting to note, however, that when he talks about “our own racial history that so influenced Hitler,” he’s talking about the Jim Crow-era South.
What party controlled it back then? I do wonder. And yes, I understand they’ve moved away from that in the years hence — as has pretty much every moral individual on the face of the planet.
As with Osterweil, this interview was a safe space for Stanley to talk about our inexorable slide toward fascism under Trump. The full 10-minute interview is no better. Your taxpayer dollars at work, again!
We’re constantly told that the federal monies spent on NPR (our tax dollars) represent only a small part of its operating budget, while supporters of public radio still wail like stuck hippos whenever anyone moves to revoke that funding. It’s well past time for the network to make a choice whether it wants to keep that money or direct its editorial content — particularly given the sharp left angle at which it skews.
To the extent that NPR wants to have guests on who say looters “demonstrate that without police and without state oppression, we can have things for free” or that Trump bears uncanny similarities to Benito Mussolini and the KKK, it can certainly do what it wants if it operates on its own dime, underwritten by corporations and pledge drives.
As long as these extreme claims are being underwritten by the American taxpayer, however, the taxpayer has every right to be incensed, no matter how soporifically those strains of thought may be presented.
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