Saturday, October 14, 2006
Just about everybody who listens to National Public Radio who is not actually left wing knows that NPR is decidedly left-of-center in its orientation. Even the occasional lefty is willing to admit this. Indeed, Ezra Klein believes that Air America failed because it could not draw sufficient audience from NPR:
The liberal radio market was actually quite crowded, mainly due to the overwhelming popularity of NPR. The impacts of Pacifica and so forth strike me as quite small, but radio wasn't a wasteland for lefties before Franken and Co. signed on -- indeed, nearly every liberal I know listened and listens loyally to NPR. Hell, half of them own NPR gear. And very few of them were looking for something more pugilistic, sharp-edged, or even exciting to replace their beloved public stations.
NPR gear?!? OK, I admit I own one of these, but I didn't pay for it. And anyway, it is catchy enough to draw the occasional comment in the Nassau Street Starbucks.
Read Ezra's entire post, which sharply explains why it is a bad idea for liberals to adopt the political tactics of conservatives:
The nascent progressive movement is trying to replicate a structure that works for conservatives. That's not necessarily the path to take. Liberals need to create a failure-accepting and chaotic funding structure that allows them to develop the sort of vast left-wing conspiracy that's well-suited to and popular among the left-wing.
The left has a tough time of it in the United States, I think, because it is in the minority but does not understand that it is. It dominates universities and the national news and entertainment media. As a result, liberal intellectuals who develop new ideas do not have to test their arguments to the same degree as conservatives because they are much more likely than conservative intellectuals to be surrounded by people who agree with them as a matter of course. Conservative "institutions" were built because by the 1970s conservatives felt that they were frozen out of the national conversation. Liberals should not, as Ezra says, mimic the Heritage Foundation or Rush Limbaugh. Instead, liberals should go out of their way to understand their opponent. They should engage, argue and even hang out with conservatives, and listen to the smart arguments that will be raised against their best new ideas. Only then will they understand how to refine their own arguments into a winning message.
It's still reduces itself to a statistical uphill climb. Over the last 30 years, approximately 20% of voters are self-identified liberals; 33% conservative. No matter how much passion they have, they always face a daunting task.
I'm not sure that self-identification surveys tied to the words "liberal" and "conservative" are of much use. It may be that the word "liberal" has been sufficiently demonized that people are reluctant to use the word, even when they in fact subscribe to liberal political positions.
1. I identify myself as a Neocon, so that's one at least.
2. To avoid cocooning, I listen to NPR on my commute to and from work.
Listening to "Marketplace" last evening reporting on the Chatper 11 filing for Air America, the reporter got quotes from a bunch of no-name academics on why liberal radio has not taken off. Of course they never came close to mentioning that liberals have NPR and don't want a headier brew.
The reporting on NPR remains deeply dishonest on most of the hot-button issues.
I once attended a lobbying training with colleagues from conservation organizations learning to refine our messages and promote effective environmental legislation.
The facilitator asked us to raise our hands if we had listened to NPR's Morning Edition during the past week. A sea of arms waved across the hall. Then she asked how many of us had had an espresso or latte in the past month. Again, a forest of hands responded.
"Well I've got news for you." she said. "You represent about 7% of the American population. You aren't remotely mainstream, nor particularly diverse. You wonder why your message hasn't been effective? Stop talking with each other about it and get to know the what folks who are not like you are thinking about these issues."
Point well taken.
"(Liberals) should engage, argue and even hang out with conservatives, and listen to the smart arguments that will be raised against their best new ideas."
Great idea! I think I'll organize martini bar outings with my liberal friends so they listen to me rant and then pick up the tab.
TH, I give some credence to the self-identification polling because it's remained constant over a relatively long period. But your point is well taken. Voter registration (Dem/Rep) is much more evenly matched, so your skepticism of self-identification may well be merited.
"Instead, liberals should go out of their way to understand their opponent. They should engage, argue and even hang out with conservatives, and listen to the smart arguments that will be raised against their best new ideas."
That's why I post here!
Any centrists out there? How about moderates?
When all I hear is Republican and Democrat or Liberal and Conservative, all I can think is that both extremes have manipulated the Center to appear in one camp or the other.
Is it possible to be for staying in Iraq and still oppose torture and surveillance of Americans without a warrant? Is it possible to be for changes in the Iraq strategy without being considered a cut and runner?
As I visit both types of blogs, I find myself defending elements of each group.
Where have all the moderates gone? Where are all the centrists?
Greenman Tim wrote: "Stop talking with each other about it and get to know what folks who are not like you are thinking about these issues."
Sadly the political left--the force that rose from the ashes of the 1871 Paris Commune, the force that saved America during the Great Depression, the force that picked up freedom's banner during the Spanish Civil War--lost touch with the average man and woman.
The political left in the West needs its own version of the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Someone needs to send many of today's liberals into the countryside to work as peasants for a while.
I guess I'd identify as center right, with a heapin' helpin' of extremism when it comes to civil liberties. I tend to piss people off across party lines with my free market, largely godless stance. Scientists are supposed to be atheists and socialists, but I like Hayek and hate Marx, and while I find myself unconvinced and unaffilliated, I won't engage in being spiteful to believers.
At a somewhat lefty science blog, I was spat at for being a libertarian, suburban dad. I never was able to figure which of the three pissed em off so bad. At another, I was excoriated for being too accomodating to religion, for being largely agnostic, but being willing to give a shout out to all the good I see Christians trying to do.
I get a little sick of all the ideology police in blogdom, frankly. I don't see the need to be an advocate for every point of view that I have- I could never imagine being an evangelical agnostic, for instance. I just try to be rational and honest. If someone I don't generally have common ground with suddenly starts making sense, I find myself obliged to agree. And when they don't, I'm still polite. My southern upbringing demands it.
I listen to NPR for a handful of reasons. First, I hate most pop music, and our local NPR affiliate is all talk. Second, I have aesthetic problems with screaming head news, TV and radio. I prefer more sober, in-depth discussion.
Third, while I concur with the observation that NPR's coverage is left-leaning (I wonder if it is deceptive, as one commenter says, or just deeply ideologically committed), the issues are exposed in a coherent enough fashion that I can use what is said as a jumping-off point. Ultimately, I don't agree with all that they say by a long shot, but the stage for further study is well-set by NPR.
NPR listeners generally own NPR gear via pledge drives, and in most cases I doubt that they pledge just to get the mugs (disclaimer: my wife and I have a few mugs from NPR stations), tote bags etc. Not as weird as owning Factor Gear, IMHO.
Thanks for your reply. I find myself in a similar place. Extremists appear to need to stamp out any dissent. They fear a challenge to their logic and will then 1. belittle your position 2. bag and tag you as the enemy and then 3. launch into a screed about how your kind is responsible for evil in the world today.
I still jump into the fray but I comment less today than six months ago.
I still support human rights causes and oppose torture; support the use of our military to rid the world of evil; support the war on terror and oppose warrantless wiretaps, support eco-friendly initiatives and support nuclear power.
I think adults see the value in all of these views, however, I am not confident that we raise children to become adults anymore. So we end up with one-dimensional people. My way or the highway is a good example of that.
Again, thanks for your reply,