NPR Watch (National Pablum Radio): Profound Analysis of Yemen by Objective Harvard Professor?

If all of us rolled down our car windows at 5 pm on weekdays, we would hear a single great voice booming out across the land as if God himself were thundering from the heavens. In reality it would be countless car radios beaming out in unison “All Things Considered,” sometimes known as “Small Things Considered,” so stunted is its coverage of the news. Such jokes abound, “Boring Edition” at morning commute time, with the whole operation labeled “National Propaganda Radio” or “National Pentagon Radio.” My contribution: “National Pablum Radio.”

But NPR is no joking matter; it reaches over 20 million listeners a week. (Rush claims to reach 15 million, 25% less, and even this is apparently, but not surprisingly, hard to verify.) By comparison, the Wall Street Journal has a daily circulation of somewhat over 2 million, The New York Times a little under 2 million and USA Today about 1.6 million. So NPR has enormous reach and influence in the constellation of the mainstream media. Its drive time “news” programs , “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,“ carried by almost all of its 900 member stations are its most popular fare. How could it be otherwise? The listeners are hermetically sealed in their cars for hours each day at these times.

NPR’s coverage of foreign affairs and of the wars of the U.S. Empire is especially nefarious. FAIR and other organizations dutifully and routinely plod through NPR coverage to document bias, an eminently worthwhile project. But such reports come too late to help immunize the average listener. We need a quick and easy way of seeing through the fog of NPR. Fortunately there is such a way: If we simply stop and think with some care about what we are hearing, we will discover it is the grinding day upon day repetition of imperial propaganda. The key is active skepticism, and we badly need to cultivate it in ourselves and our friends.

Let’s take a recent feature as an example. On April 22, Robert Siegal of Small Things Considered went for deep analysis of the situation in Yemen and the Middle East. He interviewed Nicholas Burns, a “professor” now at the Kennedy School of Imperialism (often mislabeled as the School of Government) at Dear Old Harvard. One might think Burns a non-government source, a good professor seeking the truth. Not so. Burns, before he was put out to pasture in that graveyard of Has Beens in Cambridge, “served” in the State Department at the highest levels under Bush I, the Clintons and Bush II. (At the very end of the feature Siegal hastily adds that Burns is “formerly of the State Department.”)

Here is a central item from this interview, found in full here:

SIEGAL: Where does Washington figure in all of this? Well, we’re going to ask Nicholas Burns. ……

BURNS: You know, I think President Obama has a really tough challenge in the Middle East. There are four states in a period of disintegration, in freefall – of course, you know about Libya, Syria, Iraq and Yemen….. But when you have four states in open civil war, that is a Middle East that we haven’t seen really in a hundred years, since the breakup of the Ottoman Empire at the end of the First World War.

Let’s stop right there. First of all, that there are failed states all over the Middle East is not great insight.

The real question is why the failed states. But does Siegal ask, or does Burns volunteer, where all this instability came from? Not on your life. But we all know the answer. We all know that Iraq and Libya were stable states before the US and its allies bombed them to smithereens and overthrew the regimes there, the one in Libya having at that time the highest Human Development Index in all of Africa. Syria was also stable until the American ambassador appeared in the streets of Damascus joining those calling for the overthrow of Assad, Hillary’s so-called Syrian “moderates,” and until Obama began braying for Assad to go. Obama’s bombing of Syria, however, never commenced, because the British and US public said “no,” and both British Parliament and US Congress, feeling the pressure from below, also said “no.” But beneath the surface, the Yankee destabilization of Syria continued. Finally, Yemen has been the poster child for US drone attacks, which alienated the entire population who then forced out the US puppet president. The panicky Saudi bombing of Yemen backed by the US followed and continues.

So Siegal might have said the following:

SIEGAL: “Good God, Burns, what have you imperial mandarins done? Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost, close to 2 million due to war and sanctions in Iraq alone. How can you live with yourself. Should you not be hauled off forthwith to the ICC, along with your collaborators at State and “Defense”? It is an embarrassment to have a war criminal of your likes on this program. I apologize to my listeners. I will have to consider resigning.”

Of course Siegal did not say that.

What did Siegal say?

SIEGEL: Picking up on your observation that the four countries in the region are in freefall – Iraq, Syria, Libya and Yemen – should the United States be committed to the integrity of these countries if they don’t seem to have the sticking power to hold together?

Here Siegal passes from insipid to astonishing!

Should the US be “committed to the integrity of these countries if they do not have the sticking power to hold together, he asks”? Does he mean the “sticking power” obliterated under US assault? Can a reasonably intelligent listener not discern this perversion of the truth? Of course he or she can. But to do so requires a skeptical, questioning ear. This is the “ear” which we should be cultivating in ourselves. In Eastern Europe the skeptical ear was well developed and it gave rise to reams of ridicule of the offending regimes. We are badly in need of the same.

Such reportage is hawked every day by Siegal and the other snake oil peddlers holding forth on the airwaves of NPR. In the face of this, “Do not believe everything you hear on the radio” is sound advice. Let us ask ourselves when listening to reportage from afar on NPR: Is the obvious being omitted – until it is forgotten? Is the “expert” in fact a member of the ruling imperial elite, whether in government or in one of the imperial think tanks? And is there context and history being offered? (NPR pats itself on the back incessantly, especially during fundraising, claiming that its listeners are superior beings and that it offers “depth,” “context” and “questioning.” It does nothing of the sort for foreign affairs, as one can readily see in this exchange. )

With a skeptical stance the propaganda melts away and NPR is neutralized. Such neutralization may be a matter of life and death, since the imperial mandarins and their media lackeys are hell bent on driving us into an ever more disastrous course, one that may lead to WWIII.

This writer would like to focus regularly on examples of NPR’s misdeeds and propaganda. We need an NPR Watch – desperately. So if you encounter a news atrocity, send it to this writer with your comments. And please include the transcript, both quote and URL, along with comments.

John V. Walsh can be reached at

16 thoughts on “NPR Watch (National Pablum Radio): Profound Analysis of Yemen by Objective Harvard Professor?”

  1. The very least they could do is give it an accurate name. It is not National PUBLIC Radio. It is not PUBLIC Broadcasting System. It is National GOVERNMENT Radio and GOVERNMENT Broadcasting System. If the government wants to be in the radio and TV business, so be it. But don't hornswaggle the true "public" out there by pretending to be what you are not. The people who work their surely don't want "Government" to be in the name of their endeavor. No, no, we are servants of the "public" and we are "independent journalists" Meanwhile, their pay checks come from the Government and maybe they get a bonus if enough people get turned on by cute little animals to send some gifts during the quarterly fund drives. Why are they so reluctant to call it what it is – the Government Broadcasting System?

    1. its what the roman's called their state, Res Publica, Imperium, Saeculum, Civilitas

    2. Sorry, no.

      NPR is Corporate Propaganda Radio. Haven't you noticed the endless stream of advertisements? Of course, NPR is so fraudulent that they still insist that ads are not ads – they are just innocuous greetings from corporate sponsors who donate to charity out of the kindness in their hearts.

  2. Agree Sam. I listen to that station often and am often angered by the blatant boot licking of the state and obfuscation of truth when it comes to the state. Thank goodness I have a discerning ear so as not to succumb to the falsehoods they spew.

  3. I've said it before, elsewhere, but I vividly remember a repulsive segment Robert Siegal did during the 2007/08 economic meltdown, which involved visiting an actual street somewhere called Main Street (because people keep talking about Main Street–so what is this Main Street?–harhar). This, instead of bringing in any voices opposed to the bailout. The list of economists I would like to have heard would not be the same list a libertarian would pick (probably not at all), but either way, the range of economic opinion expressed on NPR during the heyday of the economic crisis was extremely narrow.

    NPR watch sounds like a good idea, but I don't think I have the stomach for it, especially where Siegal is concerned. That vocal tone of utterly bogus "reasonableness."

  4. Coverage of the Ukranian freedom loving martyrs was pretty awful as well. It's hard to drive down the road and hear the propaganda and not scream at the radio. On the other hand the BBC is just as bad.

  5. National Piss-Poor Radio is a national disgrace. It panders to officialdom, and never allows anti-Establishment opinion.

  6. early indoctrination

    this media betrayal is the main fare for every college student who begins accepting the imperial propaganda mixed with organic stories from small towns, grass root fund-drives classical and jazz. The image of the best, mixed with the beastly news of daily conquest

    1. Would you expect any other outcum…????? The billions in aid we gave them leveraged into ownership of these organs…. It's their time now……. until it isn't… That is what this world conquering onslaught is about….. and the surveillance too…. Clamping the lid down so tight that not one peep of protest or hint of challenge arises… EVER It's "never again" gone paranoid skitzo…. It's all in on minority leadership…. Minority rulership and minority priorities, and I'm not talking about African Americans….. They are the hirelings, selling America and Americans down the Detroit river of deathstar desolation….Oakland Saint Lewis, Newark, Buffalo…. The Colin Bowels and the Candy Prices with their anthrax mushroom clouds… and our "O" lookin forward. Not back to the event that changed our world to Bizzaro as Mr. Raimondo so clearly extrapolates….. Lets not forget Victoria handing out toll house cookies to the fascists in Maidan… Tweak the thermo-nuclear bear….. Oh the fun… and fuuuk the Europeans too while yer at it…. Half our Fed tax or more goes to extermination and extermination research, planning , and buying everyones assistance world-wide… untill this round cums to a fiery close

  7. NPR and Public Television, particularly in the sphere of international politics, are co-opted by the standard American bias i.e. only reflects UIS thinking. This it seems is hampered by a strong underlying sentiment of 'jingo' in the American character, through which world affairs, and commentary, thereon are filtered. "My country right or wrong" is an appropriate motto for public media, as even contrarians are limited to either retrospective vision or the constraints of imputed treason. Even gadly Noam Chomsky regularly diverges from his topic to remind those listening how great America is and how far along it has progressed. The notion of 'we're not as bad as we used to be' doesn't excuse what America's doing in the world to-day. Public media is light years from saying anything like that.

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