Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Why I’ve Tuned Out National Public Radio

Why I've Tuned Out National Public Radio

By John Lyon | September 2019

One day recently, prompted by programming on National Public Radio (NPR), I undertook a penance I had often threatened myself with on similar provocation but had firmly resisted: I listened to an hour of Rush Limbaugh.

Since 1956 I’ve listened to NPR via various state affiliates from Pennsylvania to Minnesota, including 26 years of broadcasts from Madison, Wisconsin. Over those 63 years, I’ve witnessed the steady drift of NPR’s programming downward and to the Left: the expectable, inevitable, massive movement of most institutions in a democracy.

By some fey magic, NPR manages to continue providing valuable programming: classical music; the narration of vital books; generally useful because informative programs about agricultural, medical, and scientific matters; and even news of events. The slant of commentary about events, however, as well as the choice of topics and sociopolitical pitch of most of its talk-show sessions, is obnoxiously slanted and blatantly partisan. It is sheer “progressive” propaganda. And this is particularly dangerous in a republic degenerating into a democracy.

National Public Radio pleads the cause of radical feminism. (Why isn’t this a form of sexism?) It foments racism by offering outrageous examples of it, all designed to demonstrate that nothing white is right. I can’t recall the last time it covered a case of egregious black-on-white or black-on-black violence. Recently, NPR has been treating listeners to endless harassment over “reparations” — even poetry is called to take sides — because some of our ancestors were here when slavery was legal. How does this bring people together in our society? If genuine reconciliation is to take place, then truly monstrous behavior in the past ought not to be forgotten, but it ought never to be emphasized by public media.

National Public Radio plays about with socialism — a discreet, tentative, middle-class, pleading, speaking-in-euphemisms about what is, in fact, revolutionary. In NPR’s scope, policemen, policing, and, above all, any action carried out by ICE functionaries tend ipso facto to be in the wrong; meanwhile, NPR makes celebrities of chosen criminals.

National Public Radio turned the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh into a circus maximus performance, abetting the pre-judged, thumbs-down verdict of social media in the circus minimus. It played to the galleries about the bad, bad Covington High School students’ oppressing and threatening a poor, unarmed, tom-tom beating “Native American,” when it was, in fact, the tom-tom beater who was attempting to incite an outrage.

National Public Radio covers, in the absence of covering the case of the opposite side adequately, and supports the causes of abortion, homosexual, and transgender “rights.” Its editors directly instruct on-air staff how to speak about matters of abortion: reference to “babies” or the “unborn” in the wombs of pregnant women is verboten. As one commentator noted, NPR’s linguistic policing has nothing to do with objectivity; it’s all about shifting public opinion. NPR shoves same-sex “marriage” in our faces, but it lets traditional marriage and other forms of moral restraint fend for themselves.

What is NPR’s warrant for such partisan homiletic and pastoral sermonizing in favor of homosexual and transgender (soon to be trans-species) sexuality? That they are now legal? So, once, was slavery. That they are as “natural” as heterosexuality? But what purchase does the word natural have in our moral vocabulary? It simply means that some people want such practices, and evidently, in our utilitarian-libertarian-individualist land, that is adequate justification for allowing such practices. Recall that “some people” wanted Hitler and were on board with his treatment of Jews. And if I remember rightly, homosexuality was a significant feature of popular culture during the disastrous Weimar Republic that preceded and helped pave the way for the Nazi regime.

It has been cogently argued that the release of social and moral restraint on sexual libido is the dynamo that moves modern secular societies to Left-totalitarian political positions. I say “Left” because religious restrictions tend to be defended by the Right, and “totalitarian” because sexual libido tends to be fissiparous, and some authority must intervene to prevent chaos between orgasms. After all, as the chorus in the 1963 play Marat/Sade intones, “What’s the point of revolution without general copulation?”

National Public Radio’s coverage of the recent rash of mass murders tends to a mechanical and simplistic “solution”: ban guns. It made a hero of high-school anti-gun activist David Hogg because he agrees with this position. But NPR tells us basically nothing about the familial and sociological backgrounds of the murderers or of those persons and factors directly abetting the murderers: police, school officials, family members and other relations, as shown at times via personal expression on the media.

National Public Radio provides us with regular vignettes of composers and performers of various forms of contemporary popular cacophony. It introduces us to each day by noting that it is the birthday of such-and-such actor, actress, or performer. What is our polity, a theater?


The occasion that finally drove me to Rush Limbaugh, however, was NPR’s utterly predictable coverage, via chosen commentators, of the U.S. Department of Justice’s “Mueller Report,” on alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election that saw the rise to power of Donald Trump, and NPR’s determined effort to implicate the President in colluding with the Russians to rig the election.

Now, I have no wealthy friends or relatives and no particular reverence for millionaires. I grew up in a working-class neighborhood in Chicago — Chicago, not suburban Chicagoland. I tend to harbor unkind thoughts about Trump as a person, as I do about the party system that forced us to vote for either him or his equally mendacious alternative. Such is a system in self-destruct mode. NPR’s insatiable desire to do Trump in, however, is simply repellent kitsch. Why must NPR argue ad hominem while paying only passing attention to the social and economic causes his populism encompasses: traditional positions on abortion, sexuality, family stability, and religious centrality, and solid but not exclusive economic nationalism?

I suspect I know why: because they are traditional.

You see, NPR proposes a very untraditional world of dreamed-up human rights. Yet rights are basically claims, and the number of claims that can be made in the name of “humankind” is infinite. (Witness the witless world of endless microaggressions and counter-rights claims on college campuses.) To clamor for the benefit of rights without recognizing that each right necessarily entails onerous duties, enforced by an ever-more-powerful state, is to engage in juvenile pleasure-seeking. It is to abet the process of surrendering control of the asylum to its inmates.

National Public Radio offers us a mentally corseted vision of the way things supposedly ought to be that can only be characterized as the vision of the world as “will and imagination.” In this global Disneyland, we should pretend to be, in the words of political philosopher Pierre Manent, “The happy denizens of a world composed of an indefinite variety of cultures, all equally worthy of the same respect.” Yet, Manent continues, this is nevertheless a “make-believe world in which ideology reigns supreme, since there is no real and sincere experience behind this declamatory respect.”

The world NPR proposes to us, or at least accedes in broadcasting to us, is the world with which Auguste Comte and other more “scientific” socialists propositioned us: a positive, “progressive” humanitarianism. Its dynamic resides in a religion of humanity, which Dostoyevsky foresaw, Nietzsche desperately celebrated, and Lenin instantiated. God being unquestionably dead, man must take His place as the object of worship. Rights replace rites, entertainers (including university professors) hoick up dogma, and party hacks and public-school personnel provide the requisite discipline.

It has been observed, at least since the fifth century B.C., that democracies have necessarily limited lifespans because of an inherent instability exemplified by the fickleness of public opinion on complicated issues such as foreign policy and an internal tendency toward lowest common denominators — e.g., bread and circuses. The chain of causation here has been put variously. As one 18th-century historian detailed it: Democracies can exist only so long as the people have not discovered that they can vote themselves an increase of income from the public treasury, after which such governments collapse through fiscal irresponsibility and the attendant social chaos, which inevitably breeds a dictator. It seems most of the time that it is to add impetus to this decline that NPR’s programming is designed.


One of the most astute, and perhaps the briefest, statements of political philosophy is that of historian Lord Acton: “Power tends to corrupt….” We were given here in this country, or made for ourselves, a republic, with elaborately balanced powers, in which the libido dominandi of one group counterbalances that of another. To this polity the authors of The Federalist pointed out that a majority faction was the great danger and should at all costs be prevented from forming.

It is precisely this majority faction to which NPR’s democratic, progressivist programming plays. One person, one vote. Rearrange states’ voting districts accordingly. Obliterate or sideline the electoral college. Laugh at state particularities that diffuse federal ukases. No perks unless for all (a laughably incoherent statement). Play to the galleries whenever in doubt. Harry Hopkins, one of the architects of the New Deal, is reported to have summed up in popular fashion the program of the Democratic Party under FDR: “We are going to tax and tax, spend and spend, and elect and elect.” So rub our noses in democratic extrement! The People are no less corrupt than the aristocracy or the plutocracy.

But there are more of them.

And with a majority faction, the second, rarely cited part of Acton’s observation is directly concerned: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Who can speak against the “will of the people,” the damn fool Rousseauian “general will”? All we are left with is Benthamite utilitarianism, “the greatest good for the greatest number.” In democracy there is no quality that distinguishes, only quantity. Mathematics becomes metaphysics. Justitial equity, rendering to each his due, is reduced to numerical equality, that is, ex qualitas.


The great enemy of contemporary life is the Moloch of equality. Yes, there are certain treasured ways in which, traditionally, we are all equal: as children of God, as members of the same species, as enfranchised citizens, etc. But equality is not a self-limiting principle. In our time it has become positively cancerous. It has become a reductive move currently traveling under the disguise of di-versity (ironically played out as farce in the theater of the uni-versity: Art thou diverse enough to be admitted to our learned doctore corpore?). Equality is our god, endlessly devouring our own children.

There will always be a worshipful divinity that shapes our ends and justifies our means, for despite our immanent, individualist proclivities, we need some form of transcendent authority to justify force. Consequently, there will always be a state religion. This is, perhaps, especially the case in a nominally secular, democratic state, which has no god to worship but itself, which it solipsistically adores under the divine and indefinable characteristics of equality, progress, and liberalism. And The People are a jealous god, knowing and tolerating no other gods — except as entertainment for the disenchanted, ignorant deplorables.

National Public Radio sails under a false flag. It seems uncertain about flying the skull and crossbones because the strength of its intended prey is still unknown. Why not become de jure what it is de facto: National Partisan Radio?

Rush Limbaugh might not fill the bill for us disenchanted ones, for NPR has the greatest political and social soap opera going: good guys, bad guys, threatened minorities of doubtful virtue, secretly vicious or otherwise corrupt oppressors, and more. But millions of Americans like me have better things to do than listen to such caricatures in NPR’s endlessly repetitive melodrama.

©2019 New Oxford Review. All Rights Reserved.

John Lyon has held teaching and administrative positions at several universities, including Notre Dame, Ball State, Kentucky State, and St. Mary’s (Minnesota). More recently, he taught literature and history at a classical academy in Wisconsin. He has also farmed, raising berries, flowers, vegetables, and apples, and operated a stall at the local farmer’s market in Bayfield County, Wisconsin.

The foregoing article, "Why I’ve Tuned Out National Public Radio," was originally published in the September 2019 issue of the New Oxford Review and is reproduced here by kind permission of New Oxford Review, 1069 Kains Ave., Berkeley, CA 94706.

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