18 Mar 2011

“You Will Be Assimilated”

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David Brooks

Dan Calabrese explains why David Brooks thinks NPR must be federally funded.

I sort of like having David Brooks around. He serves as a living demonstration of a lot of troubling things. By the standards of the New York Times and much of official Washington, Brooks is supposed to be some sort of conservative. And that probably tells you everything you need to know about officialdom.

So when MSNBC’s Chris Matthews asked Brooks the other day to make his case for why we should continue to give federal funding to public broadcasting, what could the elitist Mr. Brooks say? He couldn’t say there aren’t enough other choices, since there are thousands of them. He couldn’t defend NPR and PBS against the elitist charge, although, as an elitist himself, he probably has a hard time seeing the problem with that.

So he said this:

    “Here’s the case: You know we have a common culture. If we’re going to assimilate people, if we’re going to be one nation – it helps to have a common culture. There’s some things that do join us. And government has some role in help creating those things, in funding the things that join us. The Smithsonian museums do some of that. I think public broadcasting with shows like ‘The American Experience,’ they give us all something to clue into our history. They join us as a people. They assimilate immigrants and it’s worth a very small amount, and you should see my paychecks – a very small amount that we pay to this.”

Got that? It doesn’t matter that you can get upwards of 1,000 different channels on cable or satellite, or that you can get hundreds of radio stations on XM/Siruis – not to mention your local broadcast stations. Apparently those hundreds and hundreds of offerings don’t effectively “assimilate” you into the “common culture” of America, as defined and approved by snobs like David Brooks.

To really get a sense of where he’s coming from, you need to read more David Brooks, but since you would rather scratch a chalkboard, I’ll sum it up for you. Brooks believes the major division in society today is not rich vs. poor, nor is it liberal vs. conservative, but rather the educated vs. the uneducated. Guess which group David Brooks likes!

So you, the great unwashed, watching wrestling, Dog the Bounty Hunter, Operation Repo or the very worst thing of all, Fox News Channel, David Brooks has a problem with you. See, we have a “common culture,” and it consists of things David Brooks approves of. Stuff you find in the Smithsonian. Stuff you hear at the opera.

Read the whole thing.

It’s fun laughing at David Brooks’ pompous egotism, but his argument is really just more liberal establishment fantasy. NPR does not assimilate anybody. The availability of some Vivaldi on some FM NPR channel makes nobody switch over on the dial from Howard Stern or Rush Limbaugh.

Federal NPR funding is simply a bien pensant gesture expressing our would-be ruling class’s cultural piety and affirming their authority to call the shots. The redneck gas station mechanic in Nebraska may be immune to conversion to membership in a culture that applauds exhibitions of Gay Portraiture at the Smithsonian and that likes to listen to Baroque music in the morning, but he can, by Jingo! be made to pay taxes to support the preferences of his betters.

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SDD

His argument might have more credibility if he and his friends weren’t actively trying to thwart a common culture by promoting multiculturalism.

Ironically, the defunding of NPR would have little impact on public radio stations in the major markets where all those liberals are listening. It would primarily impact the stations in those smaller “redneck” markets.



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