On Media / Pop Culcha

Jewish World Review Feb. 13, 2002/ 2 Shevat, 5762

NPR's goof is boon
to its critics

By Binyamin L. Jolkovsky

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- AN NPR ombudsman is providing a group of grassroots activists with the means to organize against his network.

Jeffrey Dvorkin, in an effort to answer charges by Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby that the tax-payer subsidized network has "blacklisted" terrorism expert Steven Emerson from its airwaves, forgot to "bcc," or "blind carbon-copy," his response to dozens of angry letter-writers who bombarded the network and, in turn, were provided with each others' e-ddresses.

Now, the critics have begun to strategize in an organized effort to fight what they see as another example of liberal bias by the network.

Politically conservative and Jewish groups regularly charge NPR as being anti-Israel.

Mr. Emerson has repeatedly come under attack from Islamic groups.

All day yesterday, virtual brainstorming sessions -- many of them quite lively -- took place, as arm-chair media watchdogs exchanged missives.

"This is an example of the Internet at its best, a spontaneous type of town hall meeting of e-mails, with people communicating their mutual distrust of NPR's motives and supporting each others' efforts to make the taxpayer-funded stations accountable for blacklisting Emerson," Helen Schwimmer, a member of MATCKH, Mothers Against Teaching Children To Kill & Hate, told JewishWorldReview.com

In his Feb. 7 column, "A curious silence on public radio," which was syndicated nationwide via The New YorkTimes news service, Mr. Jacoby noted that Mr. Emerson enjoys a reputation as one of the nation's foremost authorities on terrorism and international terror cells, with some of the nation's most important newspapers turning to him for context and comment.

The same is true of TV networks the world over. On these shores, NBC recently hired Mr. Emerson as a terrorism analyst, featuring him on ''Today,'' ''Dateline NBC,'' and ''Hardball.'' Last month he was also the subject of a profile on the CBS-TV show "48 Hours."

As far back as June, 1997, Mr. Emerson predicted another World Trade Center bombing and on May 31, 2001 he warned: "Al Qaeda is ... planning new attacks on the US.... Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups ... have silently declared war on the US; in turn, we must fight them as we would in a war.''

In 1994, Mr. Emerson produced "Jihad in America," a shocking documentary that aired on PBS and won a slew of prestigious awards. He has also testified before Congress on numerous occassions.

Still, the terrorism expert, whose "American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us," was just published by Simon & Schuster, has not appeared on NPR since 1998.

In his column, Mr. Jacoby cites a letter from an NPR producer, Ellen Silva, to Ali Abunimah of the American Arab Action Network. Of Mr. Emerson, she wrote, "You have my promise he won't be used again,'' adding, "It is NPR policy.''

Responding to Mr. Emerson's supporters, Mr. Dvorkin, the ombudsman, denied this was the case. "NPR does not ban or boycott anyone," he wrote, adding that the policy was confirmed to him by network's Vice President of News, Bruce Drake.

Mr. Dvorkin continued: "It is true that Mr. Emerson has not been on NPR since 1998. It is arguable as you say, that there may have been occasions when he should have been on, but NPR wasn't alone among various media in not airing Mr. Emerson's message. Even so, I don't believe that NPR's listeners have been less well served because of that, especially since September 11."

That's because "in the area of Terrorism alone, NPR identified 44 experts who would assist the listeners in understanding this issue."

Mr. Jacoby was unavailable for comment at press time.

"If stupidity and dishonesty were crimes, Dvorkin would be serving double life sentences," Mr. Emerson told JewishWorldReview.com

Binyamin L. Jolkovsky is Editor-in-Chief of JewishWorldReview.com Comment by clicking here.


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