They Don't Do This In Gitmo

Roger Kimball, in a post about playwright David Mamet’s political maturation (as expressed in a Village Voice article), hillariously eviscerates NPR:

…How often I have felt that smile-tightening, fist-clenching, epithet-spouting anger rising up when confronted with NPR. (The New York Times has a similar effect on me: it’s gotten to the point where even its typeface sets me on edge; a glimpse of their logo is enough to make me change seats on the train.) What is it about NPR? I’ve often wondered. Do they send their commentators to a special elocution class where they learn to inject an emetic combination of smugness and pseudo-concern into every syllable? Does anyone really enjoy listening to the non-dulcet strains of Robert Siegel or Noah Adams or Cokie Roberts? Just typing the names makes me break out in a slight sweat as that horrible jingle that accompanies “All Things Considered” starts echoing in my memory.

In fact, the sound effects of the show, from the timbre of the announcers’ voices on down, are one of the most repellent things about it (apart from the content). Particularly loathsome, I’ve always thought, is NPR’s method of treating the exotic. You know, they send a reporter and sound crew to some godforsaken country where Something Bad Has Happened (usually, we’re meant to understand, because of something the United States is alleged to have done, or failed to do) and start recording the chickens and goats running around in the village where 85 percent of the population under 15 has just been massacred or something. Your hear the chickens and goats in the background, then the NPR reporter comes on, explaining that Geewampimubba is a 37-year-old unemployed cripple whose … well, you know. That’s bad enough. But the fiendishly horrible bit is yet to come. For the next thing you know, the poor fellow is chattering on in his native language while, with a few seconds’ delay, an NPR translator give it to you in English. Even thinking about it makes me feel sick.

So I know what Mr. Mamet means about NPR. Here’s a quick association-test. I say: “Garrison Keillor.” Admit it: the very name makes you feel queasy, doesn’t it? It does me. That cringe-making folksiness; dulcimers; powder-milk biscuits… . Stop! They don’t do this in Gitmo: why is the American public subjected to such torture every week?

Here’s David Mamet’s piece. An excerpt:

The Constitution, written by men with some experience of actual government, assumes that the chief executive will work to be king, the Parliament will scheme to sell off the silverware, and the judiciary will consider itself Olympian and do everything it can to much improve (destroy) the work of the other two branches. So the Constitution pits them against each other, in the attempt not to achieve stasis, but rather to allow for the constant corrections necessary to prevent one branch from getting too much power for too long.

Rather brilliant. For, in the abstract, we may envision an Olympian perfection of perfect beings in Washington doing the business of their employers, the people, but any of us who has ever been at a zoning meeting with our property at stake is aware of the urge to cut through all the pernicious bullshit and go straight to firearms.

I found not only that I didn’t trust the current government (that, to me, was no surprise), but that an impartial review revealed that the faults of this president—whom I, a good liberal, considered a monster—were little different from those of a president whom I revered.

Bush got us into Iraq, JFK into Vietnam. Bush stole the election in Florida; Kennedy stole his in Chicago. Bush outed a CIA agent; Kennedy left hundreds of them to die in the surf at the Bay of Pigs. Bush lied about his military service; Kennedy accepted a Pulitzer Prize for a book written by Ted Sorenson. Bush was in bed with the Saudis, Kennedy with the Mafia. Oh.

And I began to question my hatred for “the Corporations”—the hatred of which, I found, was but the flip side of my hunger for those goods and services they provide and without which we could not live.

And I began to question my distrust of the “Bad, Bad Military” of my youth, which, I saw, was then and is now made up of those men and women who actually risk their lives to protect the rest of us from a very hostile world. Is the military always right? No. Neither is government, nor are the corporations—they are just different signposts for the particular amalgamation of our country into separate working groups, if you will. Are these groups infallible, free from the possibility of mismanagement, corruption, or crime? No, and neither are you or I. So, taking the tragic view, the question was not “Is everything perfect?” but “How could it be better, at what cost, and according to whose definition?” Put into which form, things appeared to me to be unfolding pretty well.

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