Well yesterday I caught Fresh Air, the popular interview show on NPR and reflected that the same evasion is at work there. Terry Gross's show says that it's a "weekday magazine of contemporary arts and issues," but I went back through the Fresh Air archive over the 10 weeks since the Snowden story broke and only found glancing references to the case. None to Bradley Manning, and scarcely a word about the Arab Spring and the crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. (If I missed anything, I urge readers to inform me; I'll amend.)
So what are the contemporary issues? The politics on the show are of a banal or backward-looking character, to liberal generational triumphs of yesteryear. Anti-authoritarian politics, activist politics, human-rights politics all plainly make Terry Gross uncomfortable. She avoids them.
Generally speaking, the show is about television. She spends 47 minutes interviewing voice-over artists. She can't get enough of "Breaking Bad" or "showrunner" Jenji Kohan of the TV prison drama "Orange is the New Black."
The show's politics are assertive when they concern a time when things were black and white:
"Journalist Seth Rosenfeld spent three decades pursuing government documents about the FBI's undercover operation in Berkeley, Calif., during the student protest movements in the '60s. His book details how the FBI 'used dirty tricks to stifle dissent on campus' and influenced Ronald Reagan's politics."- Advertisement -
Or when the issue is not culturally divisive:
"New York Times correspondent Elisabeth Rosenthal is spending a year investigating why American medical bills are so much higher than in other developed countries."
Or when nobody really cares:
"A new investigative report from Reuters special enterprise correspondent Scot Paltrow details how the antiquated and error-ridden payroll system for the U.S. military is erroneously cutting soldiers' paychecks and causing terrible hardship."
Or its cultural politics, and diversionary:
"Bracing For Google Glass: An In-Your-Face Technology....
"William Masters and Virginia Johnson became famous for their studies of human sexuality."
On June 19th, Gross did address Snowden -- the case has "stirred great controversy" -- but the treatment was off-topic, and appeared from the summary to offer a justification for the abuses Snowden exposed:
"Shane Harris, an author and journalist who covers intelligence, surveillance and cybersecurity for a number of publications, says that the revelations about the NSA from Edward Snowden are nothing new, and that such programs have a significant recent history in the United States."
In fairness to Gross, who I regard as a very smart person whose political views have been undermined by generational complacency and the need to please a crowd, there were these more serious bits. July 22:
"As the Cairo bureau chief for The New York Times, David Kirkpatrick has covered events in the region since January 2011. He says that the toppling of the democratically elected Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi throws the changes of the Arab Spring into question."
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