Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why PBS banned me

By Melanie Morgan

Conservatives have traveled a long and arduous road to get our voices heard, fighting the inherent bias in the media and cultural institutions in our nation. The advent of talk radio, the Internet and cable news channels has allowed more Americans to hear both sides of the political debate, but many hurdles still remain. That fact became clear to me this week on a number of fronts.

One of my employees at the pro-troop, nonprofit group I lead, Move America Forward, was put in an awkward position when his son was asked by the principal of his school to remove the sweatshirt he was wearing. What offensive statement was emblazoned on his shirt? Was it profanity or nudity or an incitement to violence, as so many of our youth today wear imprinted on their clothes?

No. The sweatshirt had an American flag displayed on it, along with the message, "These Colors Don't Run." On the back was this text: "National Support Our Troops Tour" and an accompanying list of cities and dates. That was it. There was nothing political mentioned, no mention of Iraq or Afghanistan or anything else.

According to the principal, the shirt might offend one of the Muslim students, as Muslims comprise 20 percent of the student body at this school. This might help to explain the recent poll that found 1 in 4 young Muslim Americans say they support suicide bombings by Islamic terrorists. Apparently, more than 1 in 4 school administrators also support kowtowing to the demands of radical Islamists. This situation reminded me of the banning of the American flag by an Oceanside, Calif., school following the protest rallies in that city by those supporting illegal immigration.

What is happening to our nation? It's not just children who are being targeted by the liberal thought police. This week, the executive producer for the "News Hour with Jim Lehrer" on the publicly funded PBS network put out a statement declaring that I was being banned from ever appearing on that show again. The ban was issued as a result of my appearance on the program opposite a veteran from Operation Iraqi Freedom who is now an anti-war activist affiliated with the liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org. The anti-war activist and I engaged in a spirited, but civil, debate, with each of us interrupting the other an equal number of times. Both the other guest and I were cordial and cooperative with the anchor, Judy Woodruff.

So, what pronouncement did the PBS producers make against the anti-war activist? None. Instead, Linda Winslow, executive producer for the "News Hour," issued a statement declaring that only I, the conservative guest, would be banned: "Since the program is produced live, we can't do much to eliminate rude guests from your television screen once the segment has begun; what we can do is guarantee you will never see that person on our program again."

Yes, PBS, a network funded by public tax dollars, has decided only liberal voices will be tolerated, and that any conservative who dares to speak up and challenge liberal activists will be silenced.

The silencing of conservatives occurred on other fronts as well. Last week, I told you about far-left British "journalist" Damien Benson, who had declared that he could not in good conscience report on the thoughts or beliefs of those who supported the war on terrorism. Benson explained that those who disagreed with the actions of Sen. Harry Reid and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to surrender in Iraq were undermining the "peace process" there. Apparently, to the far-left reporters in the UK, the "peace process" means surrendering to jihadists and al-Qaida terrorist cells.

After my column exposing Mr. Benson's atrocious censorship appeared, he angrily contacted me and informed me that he would be filing a protest with the American embassy. Yesterday, his line manager, David McDonald, contacted my office to file a protest with me for having the nerve to expose Benson's bias and censorship of conservative views. It's really amazing - liberals have gone beyond censoring conservative views in news accounts; now they make threats against those who dare expose the bias of the liberal media.

Is it any wonder that liberal leaders such as Pelosi and Reid feel so confident in defying American values? Pelosi can travel to Syria to appease terrorist leaders, and Reid can tell our troops that they've "lost," because they know that the media will properly spin their thoughts in such a way as to make the liberals look good and any conservative opponents look bad.

Well, I won't stand back and be silenced. One of the things we conservatives can do is bypass the mainstream media. Thanks to websites such as WorldNetDaily, talk-show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, and cable networks such as Fox News Channel, we have outlets that will allow conservative opinions, considered taboo by the liberal elite, to be heard.


White jazz incorrect

Jazz is the great cultural achievement of America where blacks took a leading role as creators and practitioners, and where blacks and whites and eventually Asians, Latinos, and well, everyone, performed and listened in harmony (literally and figuratively). That era ended yesterday, thanks to the forward-thinking "progressives" of the San Francisco Bay Area. Race is now more important than music, according to authoritative local commentators and practitioners.

Jazz has now fallen to the level apparently requiring affirmative action. The word "tragedy" leaps to mind. We are moving in the opposite direction from a society where everyone is presumed equal and race is an irrelevant criterion. So much for Dr. King's "content of our character" hopes.

Yoshi's jazz club, a very prominent jazz venue in Oakland's Jack London Square entertainment district has, in the words of the San Francisco Chronicle, been "shamed" by its failure to judge the worth of jazz musicians on the color of their skin, instead of the content of their artistry. The managers of Yoshi's jazz club said Friday that issuing a 10th anniversary CD with no African American musicians was "a huge mistake" and "a major oversight." In the wake of complaints by some African American musicians and community leaders, the club issued an apology and withdrew the disc. Here is where Yoshi's now says it went wrong:

Kajimura [the club's owner] and Yoshi's artistic director Peter Williams attributed the botched CD to haste and expediency. "This was done on the spur of the moment, and we didn't have a lot of time and research to put into it," said Kajimura. Yoshi's began working on the project in late March to mark the club's 10 years in Oakland in May.

Eight of the 10 tracks, from four different musicians, came from Concord records, one of the world's largest recording labels. The other two came from San Francisco radio station KFOG's archives. "That was the easiest, quickest thing to do," said Williams. "We assumed Concord would have the most music recorded live at Yoshi's."

The crime, then, is in failing to regard skin color as a major criterion.

Williams said race and ethnicity are "things that I just never think about when I'm booking the club. It always comes out that we have a great mix. I'm very comfortable with what we've done."

Apparently in this day and age, especially in the "progressive" Bay Area, one must always devote time and effort to racial bean-counting and careful allocation of everything on the basis of race. It doesn't matter if your business is a small one (Yoshi's is not exactly a multinational conglomerate, despite its international prominence and importance in the world of jazz), race must always be considered an important standard for judging every decision. Colorblindness is a crime.

Yoshi's was following the old way of thinking in jazz, and now that old way is judged bad by the leading lights of the Bay Area. As Matthew May reminded us yesterday, in the old days (you know, the era of Jim Crow), black and white jazz musicians were indifferent to race. The only criterion was, "Can he play?" Today, the "enlightened" minds demand a racial consciousness that puts the old apartheid regime of South Africa to shame.

In the realm of jazz, the monumental contribution of African-Americans to world culture, blacks are now relegated by "progressives" to the status of fragile, weak outsiders, so uncertain of their own merit, so lacking in standing that they require special consideration and support lest they fall between the cracks. A protected species, in other words. I had always thought blacks were not just in the front of the bus, they were in the driver's seat when it came to jazz. Now, blacks have been moved to the back of the jazz bus. Ironies abound in the decision of Yoshi's to withdraw its original 10th anniversary compilation CD.

When the new CD is made, [Williams] added, it will include African American musicians recorded live at Yoshi's on such labels as Verve, MaxJazz and Blue Note. That will involve more elaborate negotiations for rights and licensing fees.

Translation: the new CD is going to cost more. So much for making high quality jazz available to the widest possible audience. Can jazz really afford to lose any more listeners?

Yoshi's had sold about 500 of the 1,000 CDs it began offering on its Web site last month. The disc, the first made by Yoshi's, was not distributed to stores.

Translation: about 500 lucky jazz fans now have an instant collector's item, all but certain to skyrocket in value. Question: what becomes of the unsold CDs? Are they now so offensive that they must be shipped to the nearest landfill to become solid waste? If so, the clever garbage truck crew has a nice little gold mine on their hands if they spot the valuable trash. So:

Are we going to hear cries that the CDs must be destroyed? After all, if they are so somehow harmful that they must be withdrawn, then isn't it an act of "racism" to recycle them through unofficial channels? Should they be treated the way Hitler treated books by Jews, and burned in a public bonfire? If so, someone please call Al Gore and tell him about the pollution that will result. Or maybe Yoshi's must go to the expense of hiring a shredding machine, to protect the world's from the sounds of melanin-deficient jazz musicians.

Running a jazz club is never a route to fortune. I don't know the state of finances at Yoshi's, but I suspect that the financial blow of junking 500 CDs, along with the extra royalty costs and other expenses associated with a new affirmative action version of the 10th anniversary disc, are material, as they say in the world of financial reporting. If Yoshi's were to quietly sell the 500 politically incorrect discs on ebay (at the moment of writing this piece 68 jazz CDs recorded live at Yoshi's are on sale at ebay), the "shame" could actually become a minor financial bonanza. I would certainly a pay handsome sum for one of the forbidden discs, as they mark a historic turning point - the moment when blacks became a protected species in the world of jazz.

But if Yoshi's were to salvage its investment in this way (and thereby be able to host more jazz musicians - "more than half of the musicians who play Yoshi's are African American"), what are the odds that it would be denounced as a racist act? With people like Glen Pearson, an African American musician and College of Alameda instructor, waiting to pounce, I'd say almost a certainty. Here's what Pearson had to say to the Chron:

"If Yoshi's is calling this an oversight, then maybe there needs to be a larger discussion about the dynamic of what jazz is all about."

Silly me, silly Yoshi's. We thought jazz was about music. It turns out that it is about racial grievances.

This sad tale hits me in the gut because of a bit of personal history. Growing up in Minneapolis, which was in the 1950s a metropolis with very few black residents, the first black person I ever really met and sat down and talked to as a child of about 11, was a jazz musician, the great Eugene Wright, best known as the bassist in the Dave Brubeck Quartet in its "classic" phase. His kindness and consideration toward me, a youthful jazz fan and son of a former jazz vocalist, made a huge impression on me, both for his musical artistry and for his wonderful friendly and engaging personality. Race simply wasn't an issue, and in the 1960s that was a pretty rare experience. Gene, along with the upbringing my parents provided, set my racial template to "everyone is the same." Evidently, even in jazz, that way of thinking is obsolete. And I cannot describe how sad I feel about it.



Comment by Jeff Jacoby

The detailed survey of American Muslims released by the Pew Research Center last week attracted considerable attention, the polarized nature of which was reflected in the headlines of Washington's two daily newspapers on May 23. "Survey: US Muslims Assimilated, Opposed to Extremism," the Washington Post cheerfully proclaimed. By contrast, the Washington Times grimly announced: "Young US Muslims back suicide attacks."

As those headlines suggest, the Pew results were put through the political spin cycle the moment they became public. Liberals tended to focus on the upbeat finding that most of the nation's 2.3 million Muslims are blending successfully into the American mainstream. Conservatives were more likely to home in on the troubling evidence that a minority of American Muslims, especially among those under 30, defend terrorism and support radical Islam.

But the news that Muslims in the United States, two-thirds of whom were born abroad, are assimilating in the American melting pot and happy with their lives here should be welcomed by Americans left *and* right.

According to the Pew survey, 72 percent of US Muslims rate their community an "excellent" or "good" place to live, and 71 percent believe in the American work ethic -- you can get ahead in America if you're willing to work hard. More than six in 10 see no conflict between a devout Muslim and living in a modern society, and 62 percent say it is acceptable for Muslims to marry outside their faith. (Under Islamic law, Muslim women may not marry non-Muslims.)

There's more good news. "With the exception of very recent immigrants," Pew notes, most Muslims "report that a large proportion of their closest friends are non-Muslims." A plurality (43 percent) believes that "Muslims coming to the US should try and adopt American customs, rather than trying to remain distinct from the larger society." An even larger plurality (49 percent) says that mosques should "keep out of political matters" and not "express their views on day-to-day social and political questions."

All of which is reassuring evidence that the assimilative traditions and institutions in American life are still doing their job. It is good to see that the old American paradigm of *E Pluribus Unum* encompasses Muslims, too. Even better that it is doing so despite the identity-group politics and disdain for assimilation so fashionable among the politically correct.

Unfortunately, the good news in this survey doesn't neutralize the bad. And the bad news is that a small but alarming minority of American Muslims readily express support for jihadist terror and its perpetrators.

Asked whether suicide bombing and other forms of terrorism that target civilians can be justified "to defend Islam from its enemies," 78 percent answered "never." But 1 percent said such massacres can "often" be justified, 7 percent said "sometimes," and 5 percent said "rarely." Another 9 percent declined to answer. Among younger Muslims, the numbers were even worse. Only 69 percent flatly condemned all Islamist terror. More than one in four -- 26 percent -- endorsed jihadist murder in at least some circumstances.

Equally distressing: 5 percent of US Muslims have a favorable opinion of Al-Qaeda, while 27 percent refuse to give an opinion. Support for Osama bin Laden's lethal network is actually higher among US-born Muslims than among immigrants -- and highest of all among black American Muslims.

Who was responsible for 9/11? Only 40 percent of American Muslims will acknowledge that Arab terrorists committed the worst terrorist attack in US history. An astonishing 60 percent either deny that Arabs were involved or decline to answer the question.

It has been endlessly reiterated that the great majority of Muslims are peaceful, moderate, and no threat to anyone. That is assuredly true. It is also true that a minority of Muslims espouses radical and dangerous beliefs, and that some of them are prepared to translate those beliefs into violence.

A few Muslim men, mostly Saudi, were all it took to murder 3,000 Americans and wreak billions of dollars in damage on 9/11. A handful of Muslims, inflamed by jihadist teachings, sufficed to carry out most of the Islamist atrocities of the past 30 years. A minority can commit great evil -- especially when it lives amidst a majority that doesn't challenge its hateful ideology and confront those who promote it.

In the Pew survey, only 8 percent of American Muslims said terrorism in the name of Islam is often or sometimes justifiable. But 8 percent of 2.3 million Muslims is 184,000 people who support suicide bombings and beheadings in at least some instances. That is not a trivial threat. And it cannot be effectively suppressed unless the moderate Muslim mainstream actively repudiates and anathematizes Islamist ideas.

Like all cancers, the malignancy of radical Islam starts small. Happily, the American Muslim body politic has the strength and resources to defeat it. The question is, does it have the will?

Efficient use of time incorrect

Richard Wiseman, professor of the public understanding of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire in England, has done another of his `wacky' behaviour studies. This time he's researched the speed of walking in 32 countries - and he has concluded that our legs, and therefore our lives, move too fast. This discovery has got cultural commentators guiltily confessing that `the Universe's metronome ...has enslaved me', and others admitting that they have become `addicted' to BlackBerrys or `doing two things at once' (1). Such dramatic responses to a study into the speed of walking, alongside green campaigns such as the slow food and slow travel movements, show that many consider the pace of contemporary life to be dizzily spinning off the milometer, and set to send us all into physical and spiritual turmoil. So, are we all living far too `fast lives', and would we benefit from slowing down?

The walking study forms part of Wiseman's latest book, Quirkology. Wiseman is known for his earlier research into off-the-wall topics like superstition and smiling, but it is his work on the pace of life that has really captured the media's attention. His study asks, `Is your speed of life too fast for your own good?'. The answer is `yes' if you are a dreaded Type A: `impatient, excessively time-conscious, and finds relaxation difficult.' It is far healthier, apparently, to be a Type B: `don't tend to get stressed by the hustle and bustle of modern-day living.' (2) [That Type A/B typology and its health claims have long ago been discredited. See here]

Significantly, the professor acknowledges that if you're a Type A, `This might help you be productive'. But he warns that there is a high price to pay: `your relationships and health could suffer as a consequence.' On the surface, this may be a study of speedy walking and what it reveals about our apparently stressful speedy lives. Yet if we took our anthropologist goggles off for a moment, we would realise that dashing along the pavement is not the act of a crazy automaton species. Rather, walking quickly is about saving what some perceive to be valuable time. Often we do things quickly in order to preserve and expand our relaxation time.

This is the paradox that the pace-of-life experts miss: speed and efficiency are not simply part of a vicious cycle on the `hedonic treadmill'; instead they are often about freeing up time to use as we wish. Yet even this spare time we create is not spared the hectoring of today's slow-living lobby: psychologists and green moralisers also wish to colonise and set in slow motion our personal, private spaces.

Wiseman's results showed that the pace of life is now `10 per cent faster than it was a decade-and-a-half ago'. He argues that a lot of this speeding-up is `technology-driven': `What's amazing is that these days you press send on an email and if someone hasn't responded in 10 minutes you think "where are they?"'(3) No doubt there is some truth in that - but is this really a sign of childish impatience, or part of a desire simply to get things done? Listening to Professor Wiseman and other speed-cynics, you would think that the adult population is now a collective victim of Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD). Previously reserved for badly-behaved or loud children, the ADD diagnosis appears to have filtered into everyday language and consciousness: we're all now considered to be fidgety adult toddlers, suffering information-overload and over-stimulation from an aggressive bombardment of stimuli, be it advertising, computer games or rolling news coverage.

Behind all the concern about speedy living, there seems to be an overarching disgust for convenience and our apparently `quick-fix culture'. The anti-speed lobby postures puritanically against ease, comfort and consumerism; it seems to loathe these things because they allow people to do lots of different things at once and to get news, information and music (via iPods) on demand. Today, it seems, it is more ethical to shop, cook and travel slowly rather than in a hurry. Consider the issue of cooking.

In recent years, a slow food group has emerged as a `resistance movement to fast food'. It started in Italy but it has spread and grown exponentially: it now exists in 100 countries and has 83,000 members. The movement encourages people to grow their own produce, within their own `eco-regions', and to take their time both with the production and the preparation of food. However, look a little closer and the slow food movement's central philosophy is less about celebrating lengthy marinades and more about looking snootily upon the fast food-scoffing masses: `We consider ourselves co-producers, not consumers.. [We were] founded in 1989 to counteract fast food and fast life, the disappearance of local food traditions and people's dwindling interest in the food they eat.' (4)

Dwindling interest in what we eat? In fact, people seem more obsessed than ever with their diets. Yet this notion that we just put any old grub in our mouths without thinking it through - just as we allegedly allow ourselves to be bombarded with 24-hour news and information without filtering it - captures a central prejudice of the slow-living lobby: that people have become automatons, rushing around and doing things without thinking about the consequences.

Elsewhere, it is now assumed that the slow shopper is an ethical shopper. Ethical shoppers boast about their leisurely consumer antics and brag of `browsing' independent bookstores rather than simply clicking on Amazon and getting their tome in the post the next day. Articles in Sunday newspaper supplements frequently praise the beloved second-hand emporiums over the ruthless book chains, arguing that it is more pleasurable to buy a book in a small dusty shop rather than in a supermarket-style massive bookstore. Yet online book sales figures contradict this picture: such sales continue to rise, as vast numbers of people opt for the convenience of buying reading material online rather than in an old backstreet store. Again, we can glimpse an elitist grain in the slow-living lobby, for whom the masses' methods of buying stuff - what they refer to as `frenetic' or `hysterical' shopping - is inferior to the slower, calmer consumer experience (5).

There is also a slow travel movement. Instead of rushing to fly in the skies (which of course causes pollution) slow travellers make a virtue of crawling around the globe and being the `right kind' of tourist, as `it's not just how we get there that's important.but how we behave when we're there.' (6) In other words, slow travellers are not like the vulgar hordes who go on cheap breaks. A key tenet of today's green behavioural law is that you should take part in gentle leisurely travel, in order to minimise your carbon footprint: such travel is apparently physically pure, in the sense that it is `stress free' and uncontaminated by speed.

Now even Japan, the emblem of fast lane living, has places like Kakegawa, which proudly declares that it is a `Slow Life City'. `Slow Life Cities' have been built in response to what is described as `international speed sickness'. Carl Honor,, author of In Praise of Slowness: Challenging the Cult of Speed, argues that `the global affliction of the hurry virus has afflicted every corner of the planet'. So now speed is seen as a disease, a `virus', which is making us ill. This looks like an updated version of the old religious idea that fast and `selfish' living is morally wrong and those who partake in it will be struck down.

The demand that we should be inefficient for ethical reasons is a demand for us to leave the `rat race'. That term has been dusted down and relieved of its 1960s, teenage-angst associations with `the man' or `the system'; it now enjoys pride of place as the major descriptor of contemporary living. Popular culture titillates us with invitations to escape the city and buy a house in the country; to escape into a rural idyll or a slower lifestyle abroad. In the various celebrations of slow living today, we are effectively being sold the fantasy of a slower life as the answer to individual and social problems. Instead of asking how everyday life might be improved further, and made more joyous and fruitful, greens and others say: `Just slow down, forget about it..'

The pace police's obsession with work-life balance effectively turns old-fashioned labour dynamics into psychological issues. What was previously described as alienation or workplace exhaustion is now presented as a poor lifestyle management or the fault of a dangerously manic disposition. And so the solution to work problems is discussed at a psychological level, too: it is not to demand better pay or conditions, but rather to slow your life down in order to make yourself feel calmer and, apparently, happier.

The lifestyle gurus offer a false sense of empowerment with their prescriptions to `chill out'. Feeling lacklustre? Stuck in a pointless job? Blame your materialistic impulses, slow down, search your inner self for answers. In truth, speed and industriousness can reap their own rewards, if they are fired by worthy ambitions. Speed is about packing more into life - and therefore the rejection of speed looks to me like a rejection of the dynamic possibilities of life itself. Of course, advocating speed for its own sake, Jeremy Clarkson-style, would be as banal as embracing the new slow ethos. But if pace means embracing technology that allows us to have more free time in which to relax, experiment or even try to realise new collective possibilities, then bring on the speed sickness. There is much to be gained from operating in fast forward.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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