In the Arena


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There’s a line in Greg Brown’s song “Where Is Maria” where he describes someone as “smug as a commentator on NPR.” I was always tickled by that line, even though I knew it to be unfair. As I traveled the world, I kept bumping into NPR reporters who were doing difficult, dangerous work in the most scrupulous manner possible. Watching them, I found myself compelled to turn the dial from my beloved roots-rock station over to “All Things Considered” and “Morning Edition,”  to listen at the appropriate hours, sometimes in awe, to the single best aggregation of on-air reporters extant on American radio or TV.

And so this is very sad. And, let’s face it, it’s also world-class dumbass. I mean, this nitwit Ron Schiller agrees to have a meeting with people claiming to be members of the fictitious Muslim Education Action Center who want to make a $5 million contribution? I mean, he doesn’t google the Muslim Education Action Center? And then he not only sits by as the phony Muslims criticize the “zionist” coverage of the American media, but tries to sell them by peddling various crapulous opinions about the Teasies and so forth that he thinks they want to hear? This is a right-wing fantasy come real. It’s sort of like what Donald Rumsfeld saying “stuff happens” in response to the Iraq anarchy or Dick Cheney ordering up torture was for liberals.

Then, NPR compounds the problem by firing Vivian (no relation) Schiller–who probably should have been fired for firing Juan Williams. Does the NPR board actually think this will staunch the Republican efforts to cut off their funding? Oh please. It just shows a namby-pamby liberal-wussy weakness that plays into the right-wing narrative. What (Vivian) Schiller should have done was fire (Ron) Schiller for being too stupid to breathe–and then invited the conservative/nihilist prankster who pulled the hoax onto “All Things Considered” to describe how stupid (Ron) Schiller was in gory detail, with appropriate tape snippets. And then given assorted conservative yakkers an hour to make their case against NPR–please be specific–and also asked other conservatives like Newt Gingrich, who has had nice things to say about NPR in the past, to comment.

It would be awful if funding for public radio and television were cut off. Both are excellent and we have too little excellence in this world (and especially in this business). I suspect we’re heading in that direction though, which means we have to hope that there are enough excellence-lovers out there to keep the thing afloat. But I’m still shaking my head…trying to wrangle a contribution from the Muslim Education freaking Action Center? There are igneous rocks smarter than this Schiller guy.