by Joe courter
I will confess to being a news junkie. My drug of choice has particularly been National Public Radio, Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Diane Rehm, Fresh Air. The former two I go back decades with. The latter two not as long.
For the most part we got along great, but now, well, things are changing. Some of the change is me, but a lot is them. When we need depth, they’ve gone shallow. When things have gotten serious, they’ve gone frivolous. Maybe I am being too harsh, asking for too much, but dammit, they used to at least try. Now it is all “gee whiz, what will happen”… no history, no holding people and past administrations to account.
The U.S. overthrow of the elected Mossadegh government in Iran by the CIA in 1953 helped set in motion the rise of Islamic fundamentalism. The brutal Shah we installed destroyed all the Left opposition; political, labor, student groups, so that all that was left as opposition was the Fundamentalists. It was they who overthrew the Shah, and then they further suppressed the Left once they took power. Their victory over the Shah inspired further growth and it began to spread; this is the roots of the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan in the 80’s,who the US empowered. The Soviets had invaded in order to stop this rise of Fundamentalism from spreading into their southwestern regions. Instead, with US aid, the US intentionally gave them their Viet Nam.
Flashing forward, regarding the Fundamentalists that the U.S. fights against now, they grew first in Afghanistan as the Taliban, who were a reaction to the brutal, corrupt warlords the US built into a powerbase to drive out the Soviets. The instability the U.S. invasion of Iraq caused has only multiplied the volatility of the situation.
But how would any news listener of NPR today, or many other mainstream sources ever make these historic connections? How many people know that Iran is a many centuries old country that has never attacked any other country, while Iraq is less that 100 years old, created by the WWI victors as a means of gaining control of oil? That Pakistan was created in 1948, with lines drawn over tribal
areas bordering Afghanistan?
My biggest fear is not climate change, or pollution, or even the proliferation of weapons of more and more deadly capability. It is ignorance and apathy, two maladaptive behaviors that our education and infotainment industries seem committed to. Why? Because it is both profitable for them, and it keeps the powers that be in place, unchallenged by an aware and motivated populous.
It is this nation that is driving so many policies and practices that are having a negative impact on so many around the world. Yet look at the people our broken electoral system is putting into power. Good people are hesitant to run given the funding needed and rancorous, negative campaign ethos, and gerrymandering has made it difficult for progressive, enlightened candidates to win. It is more like, as a sign said at a #BlackLivesMatter demo a couple months age, “the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.”
Which is partly why I am so disgusted with my old friend NPR. They used to be a voice that would challenge corrupt power. Now they have transitioned to a bland, neutered version of their old self. Am I still a listener? Yes. But our relationship has changed. I’ve been listening to other voices, and becoming increasingly aware of my own political evolution as well. Within me is a storm of discontent, frustration. Maybe I was naive back decades ago, when I had trust in NPR, but I don’t remember the sense I have now of them intentionally being so lame, and so willing to pander to the right-wing points of view. So now I find myself talking back to my radio, and occasionally just snapping it off.
It is a lesson for us all: to be better informed as citizens we need to seek better sources of information. As Terry Anderson pointed out at the SpringBoard dinner,* we have many other options to know what is going on. We can tap into the internet, and find direct reporting, read newspapers from other lands, find dispatches from reporters on the ground in Sudan, Yemen, or wherever. It is up to us, we have
this giant brain at our fingertips. Shame on us if we don’t use it.
* Technical problems kept the Iguana from a report on the SpringBoard speech this month. We hope for a detailed report next issue.