Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Fallacy of NPR

by Jesus A. Rivas

Most free minded people, and liberal thinkers resort to National Public Radio (NPR) for their news and we often take their reports for truly fair and balanced, showing both sides of the issues. However, a closer inspection would reveal how the news is always biased towards one side and often omits critical information, perhaps not as blatantly as other news sources, but still, far from the real accurate news. Consider the atrocities committed by the occupation forces in Iraq at the Abu-Ghraib prison. Shortly after the news came out, the Bush administration labeled them as "prisoner abuse" and that was the only term that NPR used to refer to them thereafter. Now, let's see what constitutes "prisoner abuse" in the English language? Prisoner abuse would be something of the likes of shoving them around, kicking them on the rump--, that kind of treatment. To have a prisoner, shackled and treating him/her this way would be wrong and we would be right to label it an "abuse of prisoners". Placing electrodes to someone's genitalia and giving him electric shocks is torture and it cannot be labeled anything else. If you label those kinds of atrocities as "prisoner abuse", it really condones the action and allows the perpetrators to soften the atrocity and underplay what really happened. Among the hundreds of times (or perhaps thousands) that the reporters from NPR have referred to these atrocities in the Iraqi prison, we would be hard pressed to find a dozen times in which the reporter from NPR press called it torture.

If we continue our analysis we see that NPR is consistently guilty of similar biases around other issues. For instance, it is not difficult to find reports about the Iranian president, the leader of Hezbollah or any other Persian or Arab officials. Notice how religiously NPR ends the report reporting with the statement that such person "does not recognize the right of Israel to exist". If the reader is a NPR listener, I am sure s/he can recall hearing this statement countless times; quite often towards the end of the report as a "take home message". Now, can we recall any broadcast in which the reporter mentions that Israeli officials do not recognize the right of Palestine to exist? This is quite an omissions, not only for the frequency with which it happens but also because Israel's attitude towards Palestine is at the core of all the problems of the Middle East (Carter 2006), yet NPR's "fair and balanced" reporting hardly ever (if any time) points out that Israel's government commits the same fault as the Muslims leaders with regard to recognizing the other party's right to exist.

The reader probably thinks that even though NPR may not be perfect, it is a hell of a lot better than other news media. While it is true, it does not change the fact that NPR is presenting us with biased information. It is also true that by being less biased we are less likely to doubt what we hear and less likely to seek better sources of information, thus creating a distraction that serves the agenda of the main stream media. The other part that many people do not know is the darker side of NPR, that lobbies in order to stunt the growth of other community radio operations that may be their competition for local audiences. While I was involved with Knoxville First Amendment Radio (KFAR) we knew that our main obstacle in getting a license to broadcast with higher power was the local NPR station preventing us from getting the permits. Understandably, if there were a high power community Radio they would compete for audience (and donations) with WUOT. So, not only is NPR not doing their job of giving the people fair and balanced news, but also by their sole presence (and active lobbying), they are preventing the people from getting more complete news.

Taken from the article, "What is wrong with pain killers, NPR, the Democratic party, and Conservation Biologists."

About the Author:
Jesus A. Rivas is a biologist from the Universidad Central de Venezuela. His research interests include natural history, ethology, and conservation. He has been working for a number of years in the study of behavioral ecology and conservation of large tropical reptiles of the llanos of Venezuela which is his homeland. He obtained his Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee (Laboratory of Reptile Ethology). He taught for one year at Boston University, made TV documentaries for National Geographic Television as a field correspondent and continues to make independent film documentaries. He is currently Assistant Professor in the Department of Math and Natural Sciences at Somerset Community College in Somerset, KY. He is also a prolific writer on social and political matters.


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