Vivian Schiller, former CEO of National Public Radio, is the latest sacrifice to the Beast’s insatiable appetite. She was fired yesterday because members of her staff did some politically inconvenient things. Conservatives rail against the perceived liberalism of NPR, and with the Republicans now in control of the House and slashing All Things Liberal while driving the budget-cutting scythe, NPR has become a truly juicy piece of low-hanging fruit to sate the appetite of angry righties. So, when NPR’s fund raising chief said some impolite things about the Tea Party — no matter that the secret videotape came from none other than the thoroughly scurrilous playbook of James O’Keefe — both the fund raiser and NPR President Schiller had to go. Apparently, saying that the Tea Party harbors racism is a fireable offense in this ultra-sensitive age of triplespeak. (I am re-reading “Brave New World” right now. Orwell was prophetic!)
The Beast honors the sleazy tactics of guys like O’Keefe while repressing, intimidating and sliming people who have different opinions. Whether the Tea Party harbors racism may be a subject of debate, but surely the articulation of an opinion about the Tea Party, based on readily available facts about the conduct of its members should not be a punishable offense. This is the same Beast that exalts people who cast doubts on President Obama’s birth records, wrongly claim he is a Muslim (as if that were a crime), and looks the other way as the gun culture the Beast loves kills and maims with abandon. The Beast hates Muslims and anyone considered “foreign,” which includes just about anyone of color, an accent, or possibly brown eyes and brown hair. The Beast is drooling over the spectacle of today’s McCarthy-esque Congressional hearings on whether the Muslim community is anti-American. The Beast is now turning its hungry attention to the rights of workers, stripping unions of bargaining rights and slapping teachers around as a way to soften ’em up before the consumptive feast. (Thank goodness the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops has stood up for the rights of workers, a fundamental part of the Church’s teachings on social justice.)
“The Beast” I refer to here is not a particular political party nor is it a specific political ideology (demagoguery is not the same as ideology). Indeed, many loyal Republicans and true conservative ideologues are appalled by the wanton behaviors of The Beast and are desperately trying to control this evolving monster.
The Beast is a dark place in American culture that claims to speak for America while repudiating in its behaviors our most fundamental values. The Beast has little respect for freedom of speech, freedom of religion, equal protection of the laws, the most fundamental notions of justice and equity.
NPR’s Board would have shown a great deal of courage in confronting The Beast by keeping Vivian Schiller on and defending the right of that organization to express its views and opinions like any other news organization. But, afraid of losing more Congressional support, Schiller had to go as a sacrifice to this ugly age of unreason. The excuse is that NPR’s free speech/press rights are different from other news organizations because NPR gets some public funds.
If public funding is an excuse for repressing freedom of speech and press, we’re all in big trouble — higher ed, are we listening?
The Beast will not be sated for long. Its hungry eyes are roaming across the landscape. Who will have the courage to stand against its lethal gaze to preserve our fundamental freedoms?