Archive for the ‘NPR’ Category

NPR: cowardice or treason?

Saturday, October 23rd, 2010
Bin Talal and Soros earn their official Car Talk coffee mugs

Bin Talal and Soros earn their official Car Talk coffee mugs

The flap over NPR’s outrageous firing of news analyst Juan Williams won’t go away. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller dug herself even deeper into the manure pit when she said that Williams should discuss his feeling “with his psychiatrist or his publicist — take your pick,” a quip for which she later apologized.

It may be true that Williams didn’t follow instructions about not mentioning his position at NPR when he appeared on Fox. It may be true that NPR management was really uncomfortable about his gig with its sworn enemy. I haven’t seen his contract and I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not prepared to argue about whether they had a right to fire him.

The usual pinwheels are madly spinning that it’s all a right-wing plot, pointing to Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee and Jim DeMint. It’s not a surprise that conservative politicians would take an opportunity to attack NPR, which clearly does have a liberal bias. But raising this point only distracts attention from the main issue.

All of the above is irrelevant except this:

Monday: Williams makes a remark which violates the unwritten commandment that Thou Shalt Not Piss Off Muslims No Matter How Touchy They May Be.

Wednesday: CAIR (and who knows who else) complains. Shortly thereafter, NPR fires Williams, issuing a statement which specifically refers to the remark in question.

Schiller claimed that she hadn’t seen CAIR’s complaint. Of course that doesn’t imply that she didn’t know about it, or that she hadn’t received any calls about it.

She also said that NPR had concerns about Williams for some time. Again, so what? This was what they chose to fire him for.

Barry Rubin argues that the real significance of this event is that the victim was a liberal, showing that the establishment — in this case NPR — actually has a far left, not liberal, orientation. He may be right.

But here is what I think we should take away from this:

Today the West is struggling with radical Islam, which wants to supplant it as the dominant world culture and impose its own mores and legal system. If you think that the principles of the Enlightenment — which, by the way, guided Madison and Jefferson when they wrote our Constitution — represent an advance over those of seventh-century Arabia, then it must be possible to have a public discussion in which you can say that.

When news media allow themselves to be castrated and censor discourse about Islam — and when the arbiters of what is acceptable or not are groups like CAIR, which are associated with radical Islamists — then it isn’t possible to depend on these media to report reliably on the conflict we find ourselves in today.

The problem is not “liberal bias.” There is nothing liberal about shutting down free speech and punishing dissidents. The problem is either that NPR is afraid to allow its commentators to speak freely, or it supports the triumph of radical Islam over the West.

In other words: cowardice or treason.

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Juan Williams and the suppression of free expression

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
Juan Williams. Canned for political incorrectness.

Juan Williams. Canned for political incorrectness.

Yes, I too have an opinion about the Juan Williams affair, even though in the world of blogs, something that happened four days ago is ancient history.

Juan Williams had a job as a ‘news analyst’ for NPR, a news organization that I’ve criticized numerous times (see also here). Williams also appears on Fox News, and had a conversation with Bill O’Reilly on Monday in which he said this:

I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

[The Times Square bomber] said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.

Two days later (and after a complaint from CAIR) he was fired by NPR, which said in an official statement that

his remarks on The O’Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.

Fox News quoted NPR President Vivian Schiller who explained further:

Schiller issued an internal memo on Thursday saying that Williams was fired for violating an NPR principle that states that on other networks “NPR journalists should not express views they would not air in their role as an NPR journalist,” reads the memo obtained by Fox News.

“News analysts may not take personal public positions on controversial issues; doing so undermines their credibility as analysts, and that’s what’s happened in this situation,” she added.

Many comments supporting NPR equated Williams with radio personality Don Imus (who was fired for calling the members of a girls’ basketball team “nappy-headed ho’s”) and compared his remark to “when I walk down the street and see a black person I get nervous,” which they view as clearly racist.

Let’s look at this.

Violent crime peaked in New York city around 1990, and muggings were particularly prevalent. People reported robberies on a regular basis, sometimes in the same place by the same person. The perpetrators were overwhelmingly young black males. Would it be racist at that time and place to say “young black males make me nervous” — or would it just be common sense?

Schiller’s and NPR’s responses do not accuse Williams of racism or ‘Islamophobia’. They say that as a news analyst it hurts his credibility when he expresses a personal view on a controversial subject. The view he expressed is certainly personal.

But is it controversial that terrorism by radical Muslims in the name of Islam is frequent and bloody today? I don’t think so, no more than saying that New York’s muggers were predominately young black males. These are just facts.

‘News analysis’ is something between straight news and opinion. I haven’t succeeded in finding a definition of it, although almost every media outlet claims to do it. An analyst, I suppose, would take the factual story provided by a reporter and explain how that story might develop, what its relationships are to other stories, why it is important (or not), and ultimately how it might affect people’s lives.

It’s hard enough for a news reporter to keep his interpretation out of a story. Could an ‘analyst’ make the value judgments, extrapolations, and even guesses that are essential to his job without letting his personal opinions show? I don’t think so, and of course NPR’s analysts do it all the time — and guess what, so do their news reporters.

There is something about Williams’ comment that crossed a red line at NPR. What was it? Here are some of the explanations people have offered:

  • NPR is obsessed with political correctness for ideological reasons.
  • NPR is uncomfortable with Williams appearing on Fox News.
  • NPR is afraid of CAIR.
  • NPR is afraid of some large contributors. George Soros recently gave them $1.8 million. Since their donor list is not public, it’s possible — actually, I would bet on it — that it receives recycled Arab petrodollars, too.
  • NPR is following what Daniel Pipes calls ‘Rushdie rules’.

I don’t know for sure which of these explanations may be true. Probably all of them.

I do know that in the US today, free expression about the subjects of Islam, Islamism, and both violent and nonviolent jihad is strongly discouraged.  This comes from the top, with both the Bush and Obama Administrations issuing guidelines that restrict the way government spokespersons can talk about these things.  NPR and my own local newspaper, the Fresno Bee, seem to have adopted the same approach.

I want to one more quotation, to which I can agree from personal experience.

Most people would not call Williams a right-winger. Overall, it seems to me that he has “called them as he sees them,” and the fact that he could work for both NPR and Fox supports this. He made this remark last year, also to O’Reilly:

When I say something that doesn’t hold to the orthodoxy of the far left, they are far more vicious and personal, ad hominem…than anything on the right.

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NPR ignores its own watchdog

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

You may recall that I ripped NPR a new, er, antenna, a couple of weeks ago because of their over-the-top bias against Israel. I pointed out that their reporter

  • used the Emotive Bias Technique to ensure that the Arab side of the story would stick with the listener while the Israeli side would be forgotten,
  • used the Selective Omission Technique to mislead without explicitly lying, and
  • quoted false statements without comment or challenge.

I sent a link to the local Public Radio station — which, by the way, was in the middle of one of its periodic schnorrs fund drives. I pointed out that NPR gets a great deal of funding from the local stations and that maybe they would clean up their act if the stations complained. I wasn’t surprised when I did not even get a “your opinion is important to us” in return, because I’m sure the local management is quite happy with NPR’s ideological slant.

I also sent it to NPR. They did send a response, and although it was boilerplate that did not relate to my specific concerns, it’s worth a further look. After saying that “there’s no room for bias in our organization” and drawing attention to their code of ethics, they add,

…in an effort to continually monitor the way we cover the Middle East, NPR has hired a freelance researcher to conduct quarterly reviews of our coverage. The reports are prepared by John Felton, a former foreign affairs reporter and NPR foreign editor who covered international affairs and U.S. policy for more than 30 years, and submitted to NPR’s ombudsman.

So I looked at some of Felton’s reports. While he claims that NPR coverage is fair overall, many of his specific reports are damning. For example, here is one about a story aired in March 2009 (emphasis is mine):

In a March 26 piece for Morning Edition [Eric] Westervelt reported on several allegations that the Israeli army used excessive force during the war. Westervelt’s piece centered around two reports in the Israeli news media: A March 21 report by Israel’s Channel 10 quoting an Israeli officer, in briefing his soldiers, as expressing little or no regard for the lives of Palestinian civilians; and reports in [left-wing papers — ed] Haaretz and Maariv on March 19-20 quoting Israeli soldiers as citing accounts of unprovoked killings of civilians.

Westervelt’s piece also quoted Yehuda Shaul, director of a leftist veterans group, Breaking the Silence, who said he had interviewed soldiers who told similar stories of abuses of civilians during the war. In addition, the piece dealt with allegations that the army’s chief rabbi and his aides had encouraged soldiers to show no quarter when dealing with Palestinians. Finally, the story cited Human Rights Watch allegations that the Israeli army improperly used white phosphorous as an illuminating device, injuring innocent civilians when the phosphorous descended to the ground…

Although I am glad that NPR brought this story to its listeners’ attention, I do have concerns about this particular piece:

– The piece relied heavily on Shaul’s accounts without telling listeners that he is an active, vocal campaigner against Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories. Shaul is far from an unbiased source. While the information Shaul collected might well be true, he had an agenda in making this type of information public. Listeners should have been told more about him and his agenda.

– The central element of the Israeli atrocities allegations came from a February 13 meeting of Israeli veterans of the Gaza war held at the Yitzhak Rabin pre-military preparatory course at Oranim Academic College in Tivon. Haaretz, and later Maariv, published stories on March 19-20 based on that transcript. Israeli soldiers told several stories, including accounts of the unprovoked shootings of an elderly Palestinian woman and of a woman and child. Westervelt cited both incidents but did not make clear (as additional Israeli media reporting had found prior to March 26) that the soldiers recounting these incidents had not witnessed the events and had only heard about them.

– In the days after Haaretz first broke the story (on March 19) about Israeli soldiers accusing colleagues of committing atrocities, subsequent stories in the Israeli news media began to cast doubt on some allegations. The Jerusalem Post, YNet news, and other Israeli news organizations quoted soldiers as disputing both the specific atrocity accounts and the general idea that soldiers had disregarded Palestinian lives. Westervelt’s piece, however, did not mention any of these subsequent reports, which emerged before the piece was aired.

Westervelt’s piece did quote an Israeli army spokesman, Major Avital Leibovich as saying the alleged atrocities were under investigation and suggesting that the soldier’s accounts were “hearsay” [the effect was to make the IDF appear evasive — ed].

Five days after the piece aired, the army’s judge-advocate general closed his investigation into misconduct allegations during the war, saying the newspaper reports were based on “hearsay” and had proven to be false. The soldiers who made the allegations had not actually witnessed or participated in the events they had described, the judge-advocate general said. Several human rights groups protested the ending of the investigation and suggested it was a whitewash.

Westervelt reported the closing of the investigation in a [short –ed] news spot that aired on March 30.

In short, the NPR reporter parroted accusations of murderous atrocities made by highly biased sources — sources which he should have known were biased — and then NPR aired the report after the horrific allegations had been shown to be false!

I well remember my fury when I woke to hear this dishonest story, and posted this: “NPR’s shocking lack of journalistic integrity“.

But apparently the NPR brass doesn’t pay attention to Felton, because they keep doing the same thing, again, and again, and again.

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Why I have a problem with NPR

Monday, June 14th, 2010

The following is on its way to the program director of KVPR, my local Public Radio station.

Dear Jim,

As you might remember, I stopped supporting your station in 2006, after becoming outraged at NPR’s biased coverage of the war in Lebanon. But a couple of years ago I “rejoined” because, after all, I listen to it.

So here’s my latest complaint (you can read a few of my previous ones here, here, here, here, and especially here).

NPR provides arguably the best, most complete radio news coverage widely available in the US. But it consistently portrays events in the Mideast with a steep anti-Israel tilt. And since one of the most important sources of funding for NPR is the fees paid by local stations, those of us who have a problem with NPR also have a problem with the local stations.

For example, this morning’s newscasts carried a piece by Peter Kenyon, reporting from the Egyptian side of the border between Egypt and the Gaza strip.  Kenyon slanted his story in several ways:

  1. He used the Emotive Bias Technique to ensure that the Arab side of the story would stick with the listener while the Israeli side would be forgotten
  2. He used the Selective Omission Technique to mislead without explicitly lying
  3. He quoted false statements without comment or challenge

Let’s look at some of it.

DEBORAH AMOS (host): The Gaza Strip doesn’t get many high profile visitors since the Islamism group Hamas took over three years ago and Israel imposed a blockade. But the territory is now back in the spotlight. International pressure has been building on Israel to end, or at least ease, the blockade. The head of the Arab League Amr Moussa was in Gaza yesterday to express solidarity with the people of Gaza. NPR’s Peter Kenyon traveled to the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, and sent this report.

PETER KENYON: Gazans were heartened by Amr Moussa’s visit and were glad to hear him repeat the Arab Leagues call for lifting the blockade.

Mr. AMR MOUSSA (Leader of Arab League): (Through translator) The position of the Arab League is clear: the siege must be ended. The Palestinian people deserve to be supported, not only by the Arab states, but by the whole world now.

KENYON: But on the Egyptian side of the Rafah border yesterday, international support wasn’t translating into much more than a trickle of Gazans making their way into Egypt. Those who did make it through, like Mohammed Awul Anane(ph), said the rest of the one-and-a-half-million Palestinians in Gaza were watching their economy and their society suffocate under the Israeli sanctions.

Kenyon and Amos have suggested that the “trickle” of traffic is due to the Israeli blockade. But this is the border with Egypt. What is omitted here is that Egypt has also closed its border with Gaza, because Hamas is aligned with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood, which is trying to subvert the Mubarak regime and install a radical Islamist one. These are the same folks that murdered Anwar Sadat for trying to make peace. This counts as selective omission.

The listener is also left with the assumption that Gazan society is ‘suffocating’, because  a Palestinian says so. But actually there is a huge amount of international aid reaching Gaza, plus a vibrant smuggling economy. Nobody is suffocating, but Kenyon doesn’t comment on this false implication.

Mr. MOHAMMED AWUL ANANE: (Through translator) How can I describe it? There’s no other word for it but tragedy, a tragedy. People are living as if they’re already in their graves.

KENYON: Israel defends the blockade, saying it has no intention of letting Gaza’s Hamas rulers acquire new weapons and military-style fortifications so they can resume firing rockets at southern Israeli towns. Israeli officials have also defended their decision to send an elite naval commando unit to raid a Turkish-registered aid ship two weeks ago. The raid left eight Turks and a Turkish-American dead and sparked an outcry that has evolved into mounting international pressure to at least ease the blockade and perhaps allow in items such as cement and steel to help rebuild Gaza’s shattered infrastructure.

This is wonderful! First, notice how the Palestinian complaint is put in the mouth of a real person, who speaks with emotional intensity, while the Israeli position is presented in one dry sentence. It’s a paradigm case of the Emotive Bias Technique.

Now look at the statement about the interception of a Turkish ship attempting to break the legal blockade of Gaza. Kenyon omits the most important facts about the incident, which are that the Israeli boarding party was viciously attacked by a group of thugs who boarded the ship separately from the other passengers, who did not undergo security checks, who were well-organized and armed with pipes, knives, axes, slingshots and other weapons, wore gas masks and ceramic vests,  who took over the upper deck of the ship and attempted to tear the Israelis to pieces as they landed (you can read more about it here and here or watch the video here).

Saying that the raid “left eight … dead” obscures the fact that the Israelis acted in self-defense — the dead were killed while trying to commit murder. That’s one hell of a selective omission!

The piece continues:

KENYON: Twenty-five-year-old Mohammed Howaja(ph) has a slightly dazed look as he steps onto the Egyptian side of Rafah. It’s the first time in his life that he’s set foot out of Gaza, he says, and he’s off to Alexandria to study law. When asked how he got approval to leave, he said as with many of his fellow travelers, he paid someone off.

Mr. MOHAMMED HOWAJA: (Through translator) Five times this month I tried to get a permit, and each time I was turned down. Finally, I brought money. I paid in order to come out.

KENYON: When asked how many Gazans would leave if they had the chance, he immediately said all of them. And it was hard to tell if he was joking.

Keep in mind that this is the Egyptian border. He paid Egyptians, Hamas people, or both; not Israelis. And we are not sure that he wants to leave because of the blockade: maybe he’s secular, Christian, a Fatah supporter, gay, or any number of things that would make life under Hamas quite literally impossible.

It concludes:

At the moment, support for the Palestinians of Gaza seems to be on a rare upward trend, while analysts say Israel is looking increasingly isolated. Israel’s defense minister canceled a trip to Paris – in part, officials said, because of difficult questions he might face. But as far as 35-year-old Palestinian Essam Ellion(ph) is concerned, Gazans have a long and forlorn history of trying to live on kind words of solidarity, and it’s not working.

Mr. ESSAM ELLION: (Through translator) As far as I can tell, it’s just empty talk, just words piled on words. I’m without hope right now. There’s nothing real, nothing we can touch or see on the ground when it comes to ending the siege.

KENYON: These Palestinians who have just walked out of a tiny, overcrowded coastal strip where 80 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day, say that kind of pessimism may be one of the few things growing in Gaza these days.

Israel’s Defense Minister, Ehud Barak, canceled his trip to Paris not because of  the possibility of “difficult questions,” but rather because anti-Israel activists were planning to embarrass him by filing trumped-up “war crimes” charges against him in French courts.

Regarding the long-suffering Gazans, keep in mind that all Hamas would have to do to end the blockade (it is not a ‘siege’, there is plenty of food, medicine, etc. getting in) is to stop the continuous attempts to infiltrate and tunnel into Israel in order to kill Israelis and take hostages, to stop firing rockets into Israel — yes, they are still doing that — and last but not least, release Gilad Shalit, who has been held incommunicado in an underground bunker by Hamas for four long years.

Jim, I think this makes it clear why I have a problem with NPR. I am suggesting that you and the station take it up with the network, because they certainly don’t care what I think.

But I hope that you do.

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NPR anchor displays shocking ignorance

Sunday, July 26th, 2009

NPR anchor Robert SiegelI was making a salad for dinner on Thursday (July 23) when I heard the following, on the NPR program “all things considered”:

The Israeli Ministry of Education has banned reference to the Arabic the word ‘nakba‘ from Arabic-language Israeli textbooks. The word ‘nakba‘ means ‘the catastrophe’ and it resonates for millions of Palestinians; it’s the word that they use to describe the creation of the state of Israel, when millions of Palestinians became refugees at the end of the 1948 war.

The anchorperson, Robert Siegel,  should know better, being an alumnus of one of the best high schools in New York, Stuyvesant HS. Of course he also went to Columbia University, where — if he were a student today — he could take courses from tenured professors Joseph Massad, who decries “the renaming of ‘Palestinian rural salad (now known in New York delis as Israeli salad)’ as an example of Israeli ‘racism'”, and Nadia Abu El-Haj, who — while rejecting “a positivist commitment to scientific methods” and accepting a methodology “rooted in … post-structuralism, philosophical critiques of foundationalism, Marxism and critical theory and developed in response to specific postcolonial political movements” — still expects us to believe her contention that Israeli archeologists deliberately falsify findings to show a Jewish provenance in the land of Israel.

To get back to the story, only about 650,000 Arabs became refugees in 1948 (reasonable estimates range from 550,000 to 700,000). The millions who today claim refugee status have ‘inherited’ it from their parents, or simply claimed it in order to get on UNRWA’s dole.

There is much to say about refugees, more than I can present in a blog post. Here are a few things for you and Robert Siegel to keep in mind when you think about Mahmoud Abbas’ demand that all 4.5 million have a ‘right of return’ to Israel:

  • The “1948 war” actually began in 1947 when the Jews accepted the UN partition resolution and the Palestinian Arabs chose to fight. It intensified in 1948 after Israel declared independence and was invaded by armies of five Arab nations. In other words, the Arabs bear responsibility for starting the war.
  • Of the Arab refugees from Israel, there were those that left in anticipation of war (many from of the upper classes of Arab society), there were those who left in response to exhortations from the leadership, there were those who fled as a result of exaggerated atrocity stories (e.g., the Deir Yassin incident in which about 110 Arabs were killed, many of them combatants, and nobody was raped), there were some that fled actual fighting, and there were some — a minority, mostly from hostile villages — who were actually expelled.

Israel launched a “build your own home” project in the 1970s that allotted a half dunam of land “to Palestinians who then financed the purchase of building materials and, usually with friends, erected a home. Israel provided the infrastructure: sewers, schools, etc. More than 11,000 camp dwellers were resettled… before PLO, using intimidation tactics, ended the program.” Israeli authorities contended that had the program been allowed to continue apace, “within eight years every camp resident could own a single-dwelling home in a clean and uncongested neighborhood.” Joel Bainerman, “Permanent Homes for Palestinian Refugees,” Christian Science Monitor, May 26, 1992.

  • UNRWA, the UN organization created specifically for the purpose of supporting Palestinian refugees, provides welfare services which encourage population growth and dependency without moving in the direction of providing permanent homes for refugees — precisely the most destabilizing policy imaginable.

That’s just a beginning.

The ‘nakba‘ concept is part of the Palestinian story that the situation of the refugees today is all Israel’s fault, which Israel should remedy by committing suicide. You can understand why the Israeli Ministry of Education doesn’t want to pay to print textbooks that promote this point of view.

The salad I was making? It was an Israeli salad.

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