Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Does FOX News have a point?

Juan Williams is now with FOX News and not with NPR.  NPR has taken a big hit from most quarters for his firing, and especially for the way he was dumped.

NPR showed some really poor judgment in the way it parted ways with him and may be wrong on the merits.

Whichever way you fall on those issues, the incident raises another issue.

A lot of conservatives are calling for defunding NPR using the argument that taxpayer money should not be used to support a partisan news organization.  Even if NPR can’t really be categorized as “partisan,” should all of us pay for something used by only some of us?

A quick answer is, we do it all the time. 

I haven’t been in a library in years but a little bit of my money goes to support them.  And libraries spend money in ways I wouldn’t – I wouldn’t buy any romance novels.  The City of Atlanta, like other governments, requires 1% of public construction money to be spent on “art.”  I’ve seen very little public art that I like.  I don’t have kids who use schools ... (you get the idea).

There are lots of laws that limit the use of public money for purposes – stem cell research, Planned Parenthood, buying Chinese steel for public construction projects -  that are value driven.

We spend, and limit spending, taxpayer money with the idea that it will result in overall benefit to all of us.  A literate, educated society is a better society.  Art enriches us all.  Buying “American” keeps American people employed.  We shouldn’t mess with God’s plans for us.  Check off the values you agree with.

As a lawyer, it’s distressing to say that these value decisions have nothing to do with law and everything to do with political judgment.  If most people want bad public art, so be it.  If using stem cells to advance medical science breaches a widely held ethical or religious belief,  cut off the funds and explain the results to your children and grandchildren.

If public money for boring classical music and (fill in the blank ____ good ____ bad) news reporting floats or sinks your boat, vote and politic accordingly.


Anonymous said...

I think the internet makes NPR and PBS less important than they used to be.

If you want art, music, and literature, it's available to you; that wasn't true fifteen years ago.

Jeni said...

Frankly, I don't think Juan Williams should have been fired for speaking out as he did. He wasn't endorsing using a blanket judgment against all Muslims dressed in their cultural attire but merely stating this is the flash of thinking that even crosses his mind upon seeing that. And then, his common sense attitude takes over after that little flash of fear. I would be willing to bet that very few of us, since 911m don't or wouldn't have a similar immediate reaction but most of us wouldn't care to admit to that either, would we? I do understand NPR's theory in the firing -well I think I do anyway -but maybe I don't understand some of the stuff behind all this after all. I'll betcha if you asked any black person if they ever get a little "fear flash" when they encounter someone who, to their thinking may look like a redneck, or a big bruiser or well, whatever type of white person you want to plug in there but would they then be accused of being a bigot or racist or would this also then be considered yet another form of racial profiling? I'm not saying it's right when our thought processes flicker in that direction, just saying it probably happens from time to time within all of us -if only just for that fleeting second.