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Action Alert: NPR Finds Right-Wing Crank to Spit on Howard Zinn's Grave
David Horowitz in ATC obituary with substance-free attack
NEW YORK - When progressive historian Howard Zinn died on January 27, NPR's All Things Considered (1/28/10) marked his passing with something you don't often see in an obituary: a rebuttal.
After quoting Noam Chomsky and Julian Bond, NPR's
Allison Keyes turned to far-right activist David Horowitz to
symbolically spit on Zinn's grave. "There is absolutely nothing in
Howard Zinn's intellectual output that is worthy of any kind of
respect," Horowitz declared. "Zinn represents a fringe mentality which
has unfortunately seduced millions of people at this point in time. So
he did certainly alter the consciousness of millions of younger people
for the worse."
attack contributed nothing to an understanding of Zinn's life or work,
other than conveying that he's disliked by cranky right-wingers.
(Horowitz has been best known in recent years for his race-baiting and
Muslim-bashing--Extra!, 5-6/02; FAIR report, 10/1/08.) He seems to have been included merely to demonstrate that NPR will not allow praise for a leftist to go unaccompanied by conservative contempt.
Needless to say, it is not the case that NPR
has a consistent principle that all its obituaries be thus "balanced."
Take its coverage of the death of William F. Buckley, a figure as
admired by the right as much as Zinn was on the left. Upon his death
in February 2008, NPR aired six segments commemorating him, none of which included a non-admiring guest. In two segments, All Things Considered (2/27/08) presented the remembrances of Rich Lowry (Buckley's successor at National Review), his son Christopher and his biographer Sam Tanenhaus.
One of the All Things Considered segments did include a soundbite of Noam Chomsky debating with Buckley: "No, I don't believe that.... In fact I think that..." But what Chomsky did not believe was unclear, let alone what he actually thought.
Talk of the Nation (2/27/08) featured admirer William Kristol, while Day by Day (2/27/08) had an extended interview with protegee David Brooks. Morning Edition (2/28/08) just quoted Buckley himself.
The celebration of Buckley culminated with Weekend Edition
host Scott Simon (2/29/08), who turned the cause of death into a
eulogy: "Emphysema, such an unseemly thing for a man who was so often
a breath of fresh air."
In fact, there was
much to criticize about Buckley, who was a supporter of, among other
things, white supremacism in the U.S. South and South Africa,
McCarthyism, nuclear war against China and the tattooing of AIDS
patients' buttocks (Extra!, 5-6/08). Reporting his death, however, NPR
didn't think it was worth bringing on a critic who would take a
negative view. Why the same outlet took a different approach when the
subject was an intellectual on the left rather than the right is
perhaps something the NPR ombud could answer.
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FAIR, the national media watch group, has been offering well-documented criticism of media bias and censorship since 1986. We work to invigorate the First Amendment by advocating for greater diversity in the press and by scrutinizing media practices that marginalize public interest, minority and dissenting viewpoints.