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Public radio annoys me. It is a bastion of the kind of self-satisfied smugness that I see in most of my lefty neighbors. It is a church of superficial diversity that excommunicates anyone (see Juan Williams) for the sin of Differing Opinion.

Thus, I enjoyed this take-down of NPR:

“NPR doesn’t get a lot of public money.” This endlessly repeated assertion is apparently so important that it appears on NPR’s own website, where it features prominently in the ombudsman’s frequently asked questions page. “NPR receives no direct funding from the federal government,” the network states. This begs the question, of course, of why — if the public money it receives is so minor — NPR and its defenders fight so ferociously to retain it.

The answer appears to be hiding in plain sight, in the networks admission that:

Approximately half of NPR’s funding comes from NPR member stations. In an average year, NPR funds about 45 percent of its operations with membership dues and program fees from member stations.

These member stations are, in turn, subsidized by local, state, and federal tax dollars. The manner in which NPR receives public funding appears, therefore, to be akin to that long-practiced method which in other contexts is known as “money laundering.”

I picture my community organizer acquaintances sputtering objections, maybe that because it is local theft, it is somehow better. Or that, in my enclave something like 80% of the people are in favor of sending tributes to the Church of Public Radio, and that makes it O.K. “It is the people’s voice,” they might say, letting the last word, “comrade,” go unspoken in my presence.

NPR is indeed a voice. The voice of a magic mirror that reassures leftoids that they are as superior as their mommies told them they were.

Put simply, NPR’s reputation seems based largely on aesthetic considerations. Its personalities are articulate and employ a more extensive vocabulary than commercial radio; its programs are professionally produced, with a slickness that conservative media cannot match; and its reporters are generally skilled at sounding calm and objective, even when they manifestly are not. The more one begins to delve into the substance of NPR’s programming, however, the more one senses that the network is neither particularly smart nor particularly informative.

Listening to NPR during a recent ten-day trip to the United States, I was struck by how repetitive, unimaginative, and incurious the network seemed to be. Most of its foreign coverage was provided by the BBC, and generally consisted of what is colloquially called “disaster porn.” Shows like Talk of the Nation largely regurgitated liberal talking points at great length, but not in great depth.

Awesome. Several local faces come to mind when I read, “at great length, but not at great depth.” Maybe they all hang out at Crazy Aunt Coffeshop because that’s they only way they can stay awake for each other.

As for NPR’s more entertainment-oriented programming, the situation is frankly dire. To pick two examples, This American Life is an unlistenable tribute to narcissism and irritating nasal voices, and the game show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me is hosted by a Jack Benny imitator of, it must be said, dubious talents.

Not being a listener, I don’t know about this. I have heard the nasal guy a few times. And one those vacuous blowhards I was thinking of a moment ago could be a stand-in for Garrison Keillor.

On the other hand, I happened onto Car Talk while I was driving home from a convention this weekend. I used to make a point to listen to that show. It is still funny.

Here’s the nut of the whole column:

The truth is, that for its regular listeners, NPR is not simply a radio network. For members of the specific subculture it serves — mostly white, middle to upper-middle class, college educated, politically liberal residents of the coastal regions of the United States — NPR is something approaching a religious icon. They relate to it with the same intense emotions with which others regard images of the Virgin Mary or the sanctified structures of Mecca and Jerusalem, and they will defend it just as passionately.

Yup. Except for the lack of near-by seawater, that’s my neighborhood.


"A new study shows that drowsy driving is responsible for 17 percent of all driving fatalities. That's a lot of blood on your hands, 'Prairie Home Companion.' "

Seth Meyers, Saturday Night Live