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February 02, 2010

My Email to NPR's Ombudswoman

Dear Alicia,

I'm writing to thank NPR for including the views of David Horowitz in its obituary for Howard Zinn. It was very thoughtful of you to do so.

After all, if you hadn't made sure to quote some fringe right-wing crank slagging Zinn, it would have suggested that Zinn's six decades of teaching about how the U.S. functions might be wrong. But since you did include it, you demonstrated once again that Zinn was correct about NPR and the media generally: you're enthusiastic handmaidens of the U.S. government at worst, timid "liberals" terrified to step one inch out of line at best.

So this really was the greatest sendoff you could give Zinn, essentially validating his entire life. Well done.

Jon Schwarz

P.S. Please don't read this on the air, since that would call Zinn's perspective into doubt.

* * *

FAIR suggests that you too write to NPR's ombudswoman here.

Posted at February 2, 2010 03:27 PM

Great letter, Jon! It made my day.

Posted by: cemmcs at February 2, 2010 03:32 PM

Nice one. NPR is good for propelling me out of bed in the morning in a rage. Thanks for listening and passing that on!

Posted by: maryjones at February 2, 2010 03:54 PM

When Anal Roberts died the only person they brought on the air to discuss the dear departed was Pat Robbingsome. Not that there's any double standard there.

Posted by: cervantes at February 2, 2010 04:03 PM

Your 'here' link isn't working!

Posted by: IronButterfly at February 2, 2010 04:19 PM

Thanks, I think the link is fixed now.

Posted by: Jonathan Schwarz at February 2, 2010 04:35 PM

Thanks, Jon! I, too, have sent them a thank you note. I have worked long and hard to tell my friends that NPR was just another piece of the corporate noise machine. All my work was in vain, but NPR has just done more than I could ever do to discredit itself.

Posted by: dplus at February 2, 2010 04:49 PM

Why is liberals in quotation marks?

Posted by: Dennis Perrin at February 2, 2010 06:51 PM

It's a fetish of publicly funded broadcasters - or whatever the hell NPR is - that getting criticised by both the left and the right shows "we must be doing something right". Now the right hates non-corporate media for even existing, so it's only the left that the journos at places like NPR need to proactively piss off to get the infantile and spurious impression of "balance" that gives them the warm inner glow they apparently find a sufficient replacement for taking pride in holding the powerful accountable, informing and educating their audience, or any of the other stuff we're told journalists do for a living. So - Zinn's obit gets a wingnut soundbite while Buckley gets a post-mortem tonguebath.



Posted by: weaver at February 2, 2010 07:23 PM

nice one, Dennis.

Posted by: scats at February 2, 2010 07:38 PM

They could have interviewed Daniel Berrigan with whom Zinn travelled to Hanoi in 1968 during Tet to work for the release of POWs and whom Zinn sheltered while he was on the run. Or they could have interviewed David Horowitz, who by validating Zinn's arguments by speaking ill of him on his death, his reached the highest point of a low life.

Posted by: drip at February 2, 2010 08:40 PM

Unbelievable yet totally expected. I hate NPR.

Posted by: Seth at February 2, 2010 09:41 PM

In fairness to NPR, the only reason they interviewed Horowitz is because Norman Podhoretz wouldn't answer the phone.

Posted by: bayville at February 2, 2010 09:51 PM

I done writ 'em. Which is to say I wrote them. What, d'ya suppose, are the odds they'll address such complaints on air?

Posted by: Michael Hughes at February 2, 2010 09:55 PM

fabulous and hilarious, though calling horowitz a "fringe, right-wing crank" is charitable. He was exactly the kind of guy who was "assigned" to go to work work at Ramparts after they caused trouble for Langley and then become a fan of the Panthers (and accuse them of murder).

Of course, maybe Horowitz was sincere back then when he was a Huey Newton fan and his views just changed 100% over the course of the next decade. After all, people in the 70s commonly changed their views 100% and went from being supporters of the Black Panthers to being farther right than Attila the Hun after hearing just one speech by Ronald Reagan, who made America great again.

On the other hand, maybe. . .

I guess if Zinn was going to be bashed, having him bashed by a professional liar and fraud on NPR was indeed a fitting tribute.

Posted by: N E at February 3, 2010 12:59 AM

One of the joys of living in the UK is that the only David Horowitz we're generally exposed to (at least on the BBC) is the editor of the Jerusalem Post — which is bad enough, but nowhere near as nauseating as the US edition.

And as for NPR, it's been 10 years since I determined never to send them another penny, and I haven't regretted that for one moment since.

Posted by: NomadUK at February 3, 2010 06:11 AM

I wrote to them too, suggesting that if they wanted to bash Zinn, they could have gotten our own N E to do it. He could have explained that Zinn was politically irrelevant, because all he did was write books about ancient history, which nobody/everybody cares about, and do/not do a lot of activism, and the Holy Spirit hadn't moved him to see that Bush/Cheney were really behind 9/11. So expect a phone call soon, N E.

Posted by: Duncan at February 3, 2010 10:31 AM

1)I sent them a note - with my real name attached.

2)I believe that considering NPR part of the "non-corporate media" is false consciousness - the commercials are less obtrusive, but NPR is as much a part of the MICFiC* as ABC, CBS, etc.

3)One NPR show that missus charley, m.d. and I continue to listen to with pleasure is "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me". Our NPR station is also our source for Garrison Keillor's show.

We just don't listen to the "news" on it anymore.

*M ilitary
I ndustrial
C ongressional
Fi nancial
C orporate Media Complex

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at February 3, 2010 03:37 PM

Wow! I'll definitely write to NPR at that link.
Zinn deserves support.

I gave up listening to NPR during the Bush/Kerry election cycle.

NPR had on 3 Republicans, two Democrats and One Indie. But funny thing --of the
non-Republicans, only one was for Kerry.

They are an atrociously slanted pieces of Muck. At least most people understand Fox News for what it really is. But NPR comes wrapped up in the banner of "Alternative" - and that banner is not one it deserves.

Posted by: Elise Mattu at February 3, 2010 03:55 PM


I actually know some very nice NPR reporters, and one even asked me about Peter Dale Scott's 9/11 book once, seemingly in earnest, but I just told her to keep her job and not worry about that stuff, not that she wouldn't have figured that out on her own quickly enough. I don't want to be unemploying anybody with small children, even if they are "health" reporters anyway.

Lovely misses N E (I want to be as smart and witty and seemingly big-spirited as mistah charley, phd someday, so I'm emulating him)--she knows even more journalists than I do, mostly of the "mainstream" type, what with there being more paid jobs in that, at least until recently. She is, OMG, a liberal--eek! And I suppose that's sort of what I am too, I guess, since I'm not a troutskyite or a Baptist, though I have read The Revolution Betrayed and some other Trotsky (no 'u' for me!) and little smidgeons of Marx and Lenin and Gramsci and Bakunin and Luxembourg and Horkheimer and Adorno and Marcuse and Lichtheim and, yes, Chomsky and Zinn, to find IDEAS. I know 'idea' is a four-letter word, but it's really not one of the bad ones, so don't be too scared of them. After a while, you get used to them.

And Duncan, I urge you to keep at the comedy. You do make me chuckle, and to be fair-minded, your wit is pretty good, though I have to tell you, your style does remind me of Dennis Miller. If you just give your politics a little tweek--and that's an old tradition--you might make some money with that sort of schtick. Just ask David Horowitz!

Posted by: N E at February 3, 2010 06:36 PM

The text of my email to the NPR Ombudsperson

Zinn obituary notice with Horowitz spitting on his grave

Your including David Horowitz to trash the late Howard Zinn, when NPR's extensive coverage of William F. Buckley included no critical guests, shows once again that Zinn was right about The Way Things Are.

As he stated, there are two very basic lies about the U.S. that Americans are told again and again and again, in school and by the corporate media -

In foreign affairs, the US always acts altruistically;

There are no classes, and therefore no possible class conflicts, within our own country.

Your reporting always manages to reinforce these myths.

Posted by: mistah charley, ph.d. at February 3, 2010 06:53 PM

Thanks for the encouragement, N E. I will keep working on the comedy; I hope to become the Jon Stewart of my generation.

A couple of thoughts, though. One: if paying attention to Peter Dale Scott's work were so dangerous, how did he get his 9/11 book published by the University of California Press? It ain't Doubleday, but it's not Regnery either. And I guess that Noam Chomsky's citations of Scott's work, here for example, help to explain why Chomsky has become politically irrelevant.

Which, along with Jon's main post here, brings me to two: Since your arguments are usually based on ad hominems ("Be happy") and misrepresentations of the people you criticize, your appearance on NPR shouldn't hurt an NPR reporter's career any more than David Horowitz's will. It even appears that, like Horowitz, whose appearance on NPR secretly validated Zinn, your comments here are intended to discredit the Kennedy assassination and 9/11 theories, by suggesting that those theories have nothing to support them but falsehood, innuendo, and misreading of your ostensible sources. So keep up the good work!

Posted by: Duncan at February 4, 2010 10:34 AM


Jon Stewart is definitely a much better role model than Dennis Miller, so good for you. Keep your aspirations pure.

I didn't say Peter Dale Scott's work is dangerous. It's only dangerous for an NPR reporter (or other mainstream journalist) to start thinking that way. Although lawyers aren't far behing, journalists seem to live in the most ideological world around, and if they contaminate it with too much reality they'll get fired.

As for Scott, I think he only sells about a tenth of the copies that Chomsky does. The Road to 9/11 is a great resource on recent US history, especially with regard to some prior scandals that don't get sufficient attention leading into the Reagan years, but the book is fairly tame on 9/11 itself because not enough information is available to prove bold claims.

Chomsky isn't politically irrelevant. That's an overstatement I don't think I quite made, and I retract it if I made it. But his ideas aren't exactly in danger of having a significant effect on American politics either. The left needs to regroup, and has needed to regroup since the right abandoned overt racism as its marketing program thirty years ago. Chomsky started writing a long time ago, and the world has changed enormously since then. Hell, I'm half his age and the world has changed enormously in my lifetime. As I've said a billion or so times, Chomsky is admirable, but he isn't right about everything.

That "be happy" remark seems to have annoyed you, but saying "be happy" to you after you lambasted me wasn't exactly what I call an "ad hominem" by me. Don't call me names if you want me to refrain from cheekiness. I'll play nice if you play nice.

But your last paragraph again suggests that playing nice isn't what you're after. That last charge that I'm looking to discredit my own point of view is just silly. How devious of me and the NSA!

Posted by: N E at February 4, 2010 11:23 AM

Posted by: Louis Proyect at February 4, 2010 03:55 PM

Louis Proyect's article is good.

In looking around at the press reaction to Zinn's passing, I just discovered that he had read and praised David Ray Griffin (though he certainly didn't say Griffin was right):

"David Ray Griffin has done admirable and painstaking research in reviewing the mysteries surrounding the 9-11 attacks. It is the most persuasive argument I have seen for further investigation of the Bush administration's relationship to that historic and troubling event."

— Howard Zinn

Sorry, Professor Zinn, that I didn't give you credit for that.

Posted by: N E at February 4, 2010 07:04 PM

N E: "Chomsky isn't politically irrelevant. That's an overstatement I don't think I quite made, and I retract it if I made it."

Your comment of January 16, 2010 07:14 PM: "He seems more politically irrelevant than ever, so much so that he isn't even considered subversive, and if the point of simplifying ideas is to give them mass appeal, that hasn't worked for him. I recommend telling people the truth and seeing where that goes, even if the truth is complicated."

I don't quite believe that you retract this statement, since you go on to repeat its substance in the newer comment right after "retracting" it. It's the same distortions and falsifications that you do routinely. I especially like that bit about wanting to tell the truth even when the truth is complicated, since you have a very simplistic view of history and politics. I notice also that you have no sense of humor or irony, which indicates that you didn't even get Jon's sarcasm in the current post.

Posted by: Duncan at February 8, 2010 11:11 AM


You're pretty good at reading for "gotcha" snippets, but all this bickering about my opinion of Chomsky is silly. In some ways I think very highly of him, in some not. The sun certainly doesn't rise and set because of him. Something doesn't become true just because he says it.

If you don't care to think about what Peter Dale Scott has to say, and you don't care to consider what William Pepper has to say, then you don't. If you don't think it really matters that much whether the National Security State killed JFK, okay. If you don't think they also killed MLK, okay. If it doesn't matter who killed RFK, okay. If you think the military is really apolitical, okay. If you think the truth about 9/11 isn't worth investigating more than just a little bit, okay. If you think "Truthers" are all crazy because somebody purporting to be one of them pissed off you and the feiry Chris Floyd with comments at his blog, okay. If you think Obama has complete control of the executive branch and is responsible for everything going on, okay. I disagree with all that. Give me your ideas. That's all I'm interested in. Saying that I have simplistic ideas about politics is easy, and I have noticed that you have adopted the old Roman tactic of trying to accuse me of having the vices that I dislike. (The Romans were sneaky as well as vicious.) So I think maybe you're just trying to irritate me. But if you explain how my views are simplistic, I'll consider it.

Posted by: N E at February 8, 2010 06:02 PM