- the latter is much more shrill
- NPR's listeners are smart enough to know when they're being subjected to the rightwing spin machine
Fortunately, some of NPR's listeners are catching on, though their ombudsman is either obtuse or disingenuous. One listener questions NPRs heavy reliance on think tanks, as they should. As she puts it:
I think that it's time for NPR to give its listeners a full disclosure. Yesterday (December 1) on "All Things Considered," I heard yet another report in which a representative from the American Enterprise Institute gave us, your listeners, his opinion about why there were plenty of reasons to go to war in Iraq and take down Saddam Hussein's regime. I have been hoping that your reporters would spare us from such information from biased groups, such as the American Enterprise Institute, without full disclosure. Does your average listener, for example, know much about the American Enterprise Institute, or what their mission is, or why this institute has worked so hard to get its information fed to the news media, such that it can influence policies in the USA and beyond?NPR's ombudsman seems all too willing, however, to justify nondisclosure by suggesting that they are conforming to the practice of other news organizations and that they had a spokesperson from a "more liberal institution" on anyhow. A few problems with this justification:
- The rationale that "everyone else is doing it" is never a good rationale on its own, especially as other mainstream news outfits are hardly worth aspiring to. For instance, with all of the resources the mainstream print, radio, and television news organizations have, none of them were able to reveal the weapons of mass destruction justification for going to Iraq-- the sole justification of the time--as the farce that we now know it to be.
- The conservative think tanks which NPR gets their commentators from are much more ideologically right-wing than their counterparts like the Brookings Institution. For instance, the American Enterprise Institute's resident scholars are people who embrace deregulation of all sorts. This is a highly ideological viewpoint. The Brookings Institution aims simply to analyze public policy. Ideological totality is a centerpiece of AEI and many other conservative organizations like the also visible Heritage Foundation, which proclaims that its "mission is to formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values, and a strong national defense." Empirical fact-finding is not their purpose: promoting conservative policy is. It is therefore questionable whether one should even equate an institution like Brookings with AEI or Heritage Foundation as ideological counterpats, as NPR's ombudsman does, as the groups have a very different mission.
- Furthermore, as noted by the Washington Monthly, a conservative think tank such as the American Enterprise Institute--by virtue of its desire to be an alternative from the mainstream--allows its fellows immunity from penalties for bad scholarship, which, like the mainstream academy, is by no means foreign to the AEI. However, there are strict enforcement measures along with the compelling specter of a shamed reputation in the mainstream academy. Not so at AEI, despite that its scholarship has been oft-challenged (see again the Washington Monthly article).