Jewish World Review July 25, 2005/ 18 Tammuz,
Free journalism versus government support
Mr. Tomlinson has clearly shown that "political orthodoxy" is not
the ideological monopoly of Michael Moore, MoveOn.org, George Soros
or Al Franken. But those communicators do not have the heavy hand of
government to police public speech in order to help strengthen their
As what George Orwell might have called the Big Brother of the
public broadcasting system, Tomlinson paid $14,700 of public funds
to Fred Mann, a "researcher," to monitor present and past public
broadcasting shows by Bill Moyers, Tavis Smiley, David Brancaccio,
Diane Rehm (of whom Mr. Tomlinson professes to be "a great
admirer"), and even the witty conservative Tucker Carlson. (His
guests too "proved" to be suspect.)
If Mann or another "researcher" is to be paid to do an encore, I
expect National Public Radio's "Morning Edition" a source of many
of my news leads could be included for its illuminating June 20
report of Mr. Mann's methodology for ferreting out leftists.
NPR reporter David Folkenflik noted that Fred Mann "sorted people
who appeared as guests on the shows into three camps: conservative,
liberal and neutral." When Washington Post reporter Robin Wright
showed up on "The Diane Rehm Show," Mr. Mann's investigative
expertise marked her down as a liberal. The proof, according to
Mann: "Ms. Wright's viewpoint was that U.S. intelligence was geared
to fight the Cold War and did not adapt to the new threat of
Worse yet, as Folkenflik added, Tucker Carlson was a host of
interest to Mann because on his show, there were "more liberal
guests than conservatives." Could it be that Tucker Carlson wanted
to make fun of them?
To discover that Bill Moyers, on his weekly hour, was not an admirer
of the Bush administration is like, in the old phrase, "shooting
ducks in a barrel." I was a guest on that show once, citing the
damage that certain sections of the Patriot Act and subsequent
administration executive orders were doing to the Bill of Rights.
But I was also a guest on William Buckley's "Firing Line" when it
was on PBS a program I wish was back there again. And currently,
Wall Street Journal editors and writers can instructively be seen
and heard every week on PBS. Moreover, each night, on "The NewsHour
with Jim Lehrer" there is intense jousting between liberals and
Tomlinson is being so ham-handed in his mission to protect the Bush
administration from dread diversity of ideas that I would think
someone at the White House or among the Republican leadership in
Congress would be at least embarrassed. After all, the president
has said we should pride ourselves that in this constitutional
democracy, our government is "transparent." Furthermore, it is
demeaning to such forcefully articulate administration policy makers
as Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice and John Negroponte to imply
that they need Kenneth Tomlinson to buffer them against contrasting
views on public broadcasting programs.
It is as if George Soros were to become editor-in-chief of the
Long ago, during my unformed youth, I was speaking on a panel as an
anti-Communist (having read Arthur Koestler's "Darkness at Noon"
when I was 15) but wondering about the possibilities of "democratic
socialism." A libertarian on the panel asked me how long I thought a
free press would flourish under any kind of socialist government.
Like a clap of thunder, I was awakened from my fantasy.
Now, under a Republican administration, "public" broadcasting is
being investigated as if we were subject to so statist a government
that we must be insulated from insufficient appreciation of this
administration's virtues. This would be farcical if it weren't
actually happening. But I am grateful to Tomlinson for illuminating
the sticky strings that come with government financial support of
the press which must be free to be free.
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