Monday, April 7, 2008

The demise of PBS

A decade ago (can it really be that long ago?) some members of Congress were displeased that PBS was not fostering a “party line”, a sound ideological tone. They sought to “starve” PBS into submission or elimination by progressive budget cuts, some of which caused public outcry and reversal.

Now, what could not be done by starvation has been accomplished by infiltration. Wherever the “country” (read government) has an “enemy”, the programming assumes a posture that “our” position is correct, and the “other” is—bad, malignant, intransigent, obstreperous—take your pick. This applies primarily to external foes, although when the subject comes to labor organizations, that generality may not be correct.

Whether the “foe” is Iraq, Hamas, Iran, Venezuela’s Chavez, or some other group or leader who disagrees with American policy, the editorial assumption is that “our” position is fair, rational and right. Why can’t the rest of the world see that?

No, it is not Fox News, nor even CNN. And, in interviews and panels, some effort is made at “balance”. Therein is the lie.

The impression that PBS has become a mouthpiece for a “party line” was confirmed for me by an article by Alison Wehr of “If Americans Knew” ( She describes a screening of a new PBS series, “America At the Crossroads”. In one segment of the series a panel of “experts” is interviewed by Robert MacNeil. The spectrum of opinions ran from those who thought all Muslims were terrorists, to some (on the “other end”) thinking that “some” Muslims were “good”, usually those willing to condemn the “bad” ones.

Worse than that unrepresentative sample, an entire segment is devoted to Richard Perle, a leading “neo-con” whose cabal pushed for war with Iraq and is now pushing feverishly for war with Iran. The title of the segment is "The Case for War: In Defense of Freedom," which Ms. Wehr rightly observes “seems to indicate a perspective that few facts would support.” She also writes that the film was produced by his (Mr. Perle’s) associate Brian Lapping.

It turns out that the current head of CPB is Cheryl Halpern, former chairwoman for the Republican Jewish Coalition who “currently sits on the board of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (a spin-off of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee),” [a major advocate for “pro-Israeli” policies in Washington] and her husband is a member of AIPAC.

To suggest dual or divided loyalties on the part of such persons, or Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, Norman Podhoretz, William Kristol or other neo-conservatives seeking to make or shape policy will undoubtedly bring howls of objection. The real tragedy is that such people advocating for Israel within the United States don’t see any conflict of interest! And that is the greatest of tragedies, for where war with Iraq, and now Iran, are concerned, there is a great deal of difference between what Israel sees is good for itself, and what non-“neo-con” analysts see is good for the United States.

Fortunately this is not about “anti-Semitism”. To their credit and applauding their courage, many (perhaps more that half of) American Jews deplore Israeli policies and the neo-conservative influence on American policy. The persons and organizations are literally legion. But their voice is not heard by AIPAC, JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), or the ADL.

And, truth be told, not all neo-conservatives are Jewish (—but they are all Zionists, advocating policies promoting Israeli domination over her neighbors and native Palestinians.

No, this is about the neoconservative hijacking of a useful institution, an institution entrusted with informing the American public. The body is still there, the “mouth moves and talks”, but—like a person possessed by an alien spirit in a sci-fi thriller—the message is no longer that of a detached analyst. It speaks the message shaped by the powers moving its mouth.

What could not be accomplished by “starving” PBS, has been accomplished by an infiltrative cancer.

Requiescat in Pace


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