Tuesday, July 31, 2007

NPR imitates Fox

You hate to see a reporter get slapped around by a source, except -- well, except when the reporter deserves it. And you hate to see NPR striving for that Fox News feel, because Fox is what happens when the Weekly World News boinks an unsavory administration, whereas NPR, for all its shortcomings, is the closest thing in American broadcasting to a genuine source of comprehensive news for grownups. Hence this gentle poke in the chops, given unto NPR's Rebecca Roberts by Robert Gallucci of the Georgetown School of Foreign Service.

Roberts's annoying intro to an interesting story:

A friend of mine has two children under the age of 4 and tragically has to fly cross-country with them regularly. They are not ideal companions, so when they act up, she gives them lollipops. It quiets them down, makes her trip easier, but it also rewards bad behavior.

A similar strategy may be playing out with a nation that has long been considered an international bad boy. Libya has been misbehaving of late, but the West rewarded the country this past week with diplomatic and economic lollipops.

We'll stop the tape here while Roberts introduces her guest to point out the sheer Foxitude of it all. The idea that other countries are children, running around irrationally and throwing tantrums while we adults thortfully pursue our national interests, wasn't invented by the U.S. media, but we seem to do better at it than most media systems (or perhaps we're just studied more thoroughly). Anyway, it's a pretty arrogant and stupid way of trying to explain international relations. But back to Roberts:

Libya released these six foreign medical workers who had been held for more than eight years. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says she's hopeful to travel to Libya, have some diplomatic relations with Libya. Same with France, same with the United Kingdom. How wise a diplomatic strategy do you think that is, to reward Libya to some degree for freeing medics who probably shouldn't have been imprisoned in the first place?

Luckily for the audience, the source is a bit more sophisticated than the reporter. Here's Gallucci:

I'd be careful about the metaphor, that what we're dealing with here are recalcitrant children. The international system is not a playground. The stakes are quite high. They can be high in human terms, and they can be high in the way in which states relate to each other when national security is an issue.

In other words, it's cute to write about Ka-Dhaffy Duck and So-ddamn Insane, but that ain't how the world works. The point of a public service broadcast system is not to provide a brie-eating imitation of Murdoch-style jingoism. It's to provide space for actually talking about national security and national interest and how they're interpreted -- even by obnoxious regimes like the Baathists and the Great People's Jamahiriya.

Editors, when you see the playground metaphor, call in the artillery. It skates pretty close to open racism. But more to the point, it falls right into abysmal cluelessness. Please try to do better.


Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

Bravo, Gallucci! Well done, sir.

1:28 PM, August 01, 2007  

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