Astroturf wars, and the battle to defund NPR

    The following video, taken last year during a training session for Tea Party activists in Nashville, is of a young man from a group called the American Majority. His name is Austin James, and, on the video, he can be seen instructing folks how they should go about waging guerilla warfare online by, among other things, poorly reviewing “liberal” books and films they’ve neither read nor seen. The American Liberty Tour, of which this session was a part, was funded by the billionaire industrialist brothers Charles and David Koch.

    I know it’s not exactly scandalous to urge people to give bad reviews to books that they’ve never read. I do find it interesting, however, that wealthy individuals, like the Koch brothers, who have a vested interest in keeping people from, among other things, fighting for more stringent environmental protection standards, have been so damned successful in building this network of teabots to do their bidding both online and off. It’s really brilliant, and I was reminded of it today, when reading about the organized onslaught against National Public Radio in the wake of the Juan Williams firing. I was particularly struck by this sentence in the New York Times: Of the thousands of complaints that have saturated NPR in the wake of Juan Williams’s firing earlier this week, some of the most telling have been from callers describing themselves as long-time “viewers” of NPR who warn that they are going to “stop watching.”

    Of course, NPR has no viewers, as it’s distributed via radio. But the teabots wouldn’t know that.

    As for Williams, I don’t care for the guy, and I find it telling that he’s crawled off to join the ranks of the pseudo-journalists at FOX News, but I think that his firing was wrong. It wasn’t right when the Shirley Sherrod was forced out of her job due to a few quotes taken out of context, and it’s not right here, just because I don’t like the man. The worst part is, it’s giving the far right ammunition to go after NPR, which, like it or not, is one of the last real bastions of journalism in the United States… Here’s hoping they pull though.

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      10 Comments

      1. Posted October 25, 2010 at 8:39 pm | Permalink

        If the federal government would just stop funding NPR, then I could stop having to pay taxes.

      2. donna
        Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:00 pm | Permalink

        who knows? maybe these people do watch their radios.

      3. Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

        I’d have to check, Pete, but I think the portion of the NPR budget covered by federal grants is relatively small. It’s still vitally important, don’t get me wrong, but most of their budget is covered by listener contributions and private foundations… If you have a chance, check out that last link in the post. It will take you to a good article about NPR and their efforts to keep journalism alive in the US, and abroad.

      4. Posted October 25, 2010 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

        And I may have linked to it in my last post about the firing of Juan Williams, but Nate Silver has a good article on the coordinated effort on the part of the right to dismantle NPR. It’s worth checking out as well.

      5. Andy1313
        Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:14 am | Permalink

        Juan’s comments were not taken out of context at all (as were Sherrod’s), and he deserved to be fired from NPR long before due to his choice to provide weak ideological cover to a propaganda outlet for cash. He made a bigoted statement against all Muslims who choose to wear anything that signals that they’re Muslim. The context tells the story.

        If he had said, “I see them in their Muslim garb and I get nervous, AND I know that nervousness is irrational but I can’t help myself…” that would be one thing. But he made his statements to Bill O’Reilly in the context of defending O’Reilly’s conflation of terrorists and all Muslims.

        In the recent past it’s fair to think that all/most terrorists are Muslim, but not at all that anything more than the tiniest fraction of Muslims are terrorists or support terrorism.

        Williams defended and expressed lazy bigotry on a propaganda outlet and deserved to lose his job at NPR.

        http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2010/10/juan-williams-busted.html

      6. Edward
        Posted October 26, 2010 at 9:10 am | Permalink

        Juan Williams was fired from the WaPo for sexual harassment. He’s an ass. If NPR were smart, they would have just not renewed his contract when the time came to do so. Instead they took advantage of this opportunity. They were stupid to have done so. All he did was say that he got nervous when he saw Muslim men on a plane. That’s not a criminal offense. What’s more, the context of the piece makes it clear that he was not defending this action. He wasn’t saying that they should not be allowed to fly. He was stating that he had an issue that he needed to deal with. I wish that more people would admit to their prejudices.

      7. John Galt
        Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

        I like Austin James. The kid has moxie. And he’s enormous for a five year old.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/16/austin-james-tiger-woods_n_614743.html

      8. Andy C
        Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

        Here’s the full video so people can actually judge for themselves.

        http://www.mediaite.com/online/npr-fires-juan-williams-over-remarks-made-about-muslims-on-oreilly-factor/

      9. Susan
        Posted October 26, 2010 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

        NPR gets about 1% of their budget from Congress. But, local affiliates get much more.

        Thoughts on Juan Williams…there’s a reason that old fashioned J-school students were taught not to put themselves into their reporting. It isn’t that they didn’t have opinions. It’s that you can’t express an opinion (especially that vociferously) and then be expected to be taken as a dispassionate analyst a few hours later. It is a wee bit like virginity — you can’t get it back because the circumstances have changed.

      10. Posted October 26, 2010 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        NPR doesn’t get any of it’s money from the Fed. It get’s money through things like the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Center for Public Broadcasting, so really, fleabaggers calls to defund NPR are essentially moot.

        I am positive that they would love to trim away the 2 pennies they give to these programs, so that business can run free and give jobs to anyone who doesn’t have one.

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