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In Defense From 'State-Affiliated' Label, NPR Makes Claims That Do Not Hold Up

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AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File

It was with equal parts of pettiness and amusement that Elon Musk continued his provocation of the media outlets. Following his move to strip The New York Times of their blue-check certification, next, he had the account of National Public Radio (NPR) briefly bearing the tag as being "US State-Affiliated Media." The move was followed by an alteration to Twitter that removed NPR from the exemption of its stance on what qualified as a media outlet under that definition. 


This label rankled many in media circles and especially bothered the NPR brass. The President and CEO, John Lansing, came out with a statement in opposition to this designation, defending the honor of the network and making pronouncements about their independence: 

We were disturbed to see last night that Twitter has labeled NPR as ‘state-affiliated media,’ a description that, per Twitter’s own guidelines, does not apply to NPR. NPR and our Member stations are supported by millions of listeners who depend on us for the independent, fact-based journalism we provide. NPR stands for freedom of speech and holding the powerful accountable. It is unacceptable for Twitter to label us this way. A vigorous, vibrant free press is essential to the health of our democracy.

This is all expected from a network head, but at the same time, his defense struggles to hold up to scrutiny. While it can be argued that NPR is not officially "state-affiliated," it would be hard for the biased outlet to deny effectively it is not state-supportive. NPR has a history of very left-leaning positions. But the defenses offered by Lansing stand out because they are quite easily shown to be hollow claims. Let us just take a look at them independently. 


Stands for Free Speech 

Maybe as far as their own right to free expression, but NPR has not only shown a desire to have limits on others, it has openly touted this position. On one episode of the broadcast analysis program "On The Media," we were treated to a wave of free speech criticism. It involved the writer of "Free Speech Is Killing Us" and a professor who wrote "The Case Against Free Speech: The First Amendment, Fascism, and the Future of Dissent." There was also the Director of the Dangerous Speech Project, as well as a philosopher who looked ahead at the dark portent of free speech in our future. 

The approach was that if you opposed the practice of censorship, you were, therefore, a free speech absolutist. Of course, there had to be the invocation of tried Nazi speech case in Skokie. Andrew Morantz addressed this in a curious fashion: 

If you restrain Nazis from speaking in Charlottesville, how do we defend against a slippery slope into more and more and more government restrictions? I'm fine with that slippery slope argument. I just don't know why, if you're worried about the slippery slope that comes from restricting Nazi speech, why aren't you worried about the slippery slope that comes from letting Nazis speak? 

To answer him (since the host did not), it is because that slope on one side restricts everyone going forward. On the other – allowing Nazis to speak – there is less of a slope because their critics and opponents are also allowed the freedom to speak. There is no counterpoint when the government is granted the chance to silence anyone of its choosing. 


This was a full hour dedicated to the ills and pratfalls ahead because of the dangers of free speech absolutism. These were learned and expressive guests who had varying concepts of how limiting free speech should be. One notable problem: There was no voice given to anyone promoting free speech. 

Holding the Powerful Accountable 

This is quite the laugher, given the proclivities of this network to hold those in contrast to their left-tilting narratives accountable, yet willing to grant leeway and give voice to those they favor. This slant was on full display last month in a case of a trans individual being evicted and ultimately taking their own life. NPR's "social justice reporter" was in full-throat sympathy for their plight, highlighting the strains trans community members endure. Meanwhile, the reporter avoided the detail this person shot an officer during the eviction process, something that had to be altered and added in the report when called out on it...days later. 

These sympathies are clearly on display with the Biden administration. Just recently, they did not criticize Biden's economy being tough on families; instead, they criticized the end of the SNAP program making things tougher. When Biden's attorney general was grilled in Congress, "All Things Considered" never considered covering his disaster of a performance. 

Of course, any and all claims of holding the leadership accountable are completely blasted into confetti by NPR boasting about refusing to cover the Hunter Biden laptop story, calling it a waste of time for their listeners. "Holding back damaging information" is the way to describe their approach to the Biden administration. 


Vigorous and Vibrant Free Press Is Essential 

As Lansing trots out this tired chestnut that power brokers in the media love to use but rarely adhere to, it calls to mind the typical leftist hostility toward Fox News seen on the regular at NPR. Try to find another news outlet coming under this much focus by NPR talent. 

The network enthusiastically gave air time to the founders of the group Check My Ads, which states it's looking to decry disinformation, but whose actual goal is to have Fox News bankrupted by having their advertising stripped away by pressuring companies to pull their promotions. Not only is this a hostile approach from one news network toward another, but it is also a stupid approach, considering how much NPR relies upon corporate donor revenues. 

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