I listen to a lot of NPR. The radio station I listen to airs pretty much every NPR show imaginable, and I like listening to “All Things Considered” while I pull dinner together or putter around the house cleaning. Most of the time, I more or less like what I hear. I think that sometimes the reporting isn’t always very good, or terribly interesting, but I sometimes learn neat stuff, and I’ve been introduced to some interesting books/concepts/people through NPR segments, which is kind of the point of news, in my opinion.
But, every now and then, NPR fucks up. In a major way. And then I have to write them an angry letter. I’d say it happens about once every two or three months. I’m washing dishes or cleaning leeks, and I’m frozen in place in horror and awe, and then I dash to the computer and head to the NPR feedback page.
So, there was a segment on Morning Edition last week, obviously meant to coincide with the coverage of the California Supreme Court hearings on Proposition 8, which was unbelievably offensive and irritating. It’s about the backlash from Prop. 8, and the ways in which the LGBQT community has been dealing with it.
One, NPR insisted on saying “gay marriage,” rather than “same-sex marriage,” which is really my preferred term, since lesbians like to get married too. And, in the last paragraph of the article, the reporter uses the phrase “witch hunt” to describe the decision made by “gay rights activists” to avoid patronizing businesses which supported Prop. 8. As Dan Savage said in response, “Civility requires me to patronize businesses owned by people who finance uncivil campaigns that succeed in stripping me of my civil rights.”
Let’s unpack a few things here. First of all, “gay rights activists” is not really the best term to use, because this is about a lot more than gay rights. “LGBQT rights activists” might be a better term. Or hell, just “the LGBQT community.” The whole screams of scare tactics, with the reporter raising the spectre of the scary gay bogeyman who is out to tear society apart. The article repeatedly suggested that acts of violence were occurring, conjuring up an image of an angry mob, but it didn’t provide any concrete examples of said “violence.”
Second of all, making a conscious choice to choose not to do business with people who are opposed to your equal rights is not a “witch hunt.” It’s a simple decision to avoid patronizing a company which you do not agree with, and numerous activist groups and individual people make this choice every single day, including conservative groups which exhort people not to spend money at companies which support “the liberal agenda” with foolish things like benefits for same-sex partners. If NPR is going to attack LGBQTs for deciding not to give money to companies which directly oppose their equal rights, then it should be going after anti-choicers who attack greeting card companies, and the sundry others who use this very common tactic to make a political point and retain their own self integrity.
Information about political donors is made public for a variety of reasons. Accessing public information and using it to make informed choices as a consumer has absolutely nothing in comparison with, say, accusing your neighbor of being a witch so that someone will hang her and you can take her property when it’s forfeited to the government. Do you see how there’s a subtle difference there? The Secretary of State did not “publicize” the information, it was simply made available, in accordance with the law.
This article makes it sound like crazed and violent gays are running amok across California, and that’s simply not the case. I’m glad to see NPR being called out, repeatedly, in the comments for this kind of incendiary, unhelpful reporting. This is the kind of thing I expect from Fox News, not NPR.
I’m not totally happy with the way that the LGBQT community handled Prop. 8 and its outcome. I think that an insightful, well-researched piece talking about some of these issues would have been really interesting to hear. Instead, the reporter decided to venture well into the realm of the kooky and nonsensical, all without interviewing a single LGBQT person to get some contrasting information or positions.
Shame on you, NPR.