The Moment of Truth — March 24, 2001

Pay For It Again?

Hi, I’m mejeffdorchen and welcome to the Moment of Truth, your direct link to something clear in a world of mucky, cloudy and cruddy things.

Yesterday, I turned on WBEZ for a moment, just to see what idiotic noise they were making to try to get people to pledge. It’s one of their non-online pledge drives. What I heard was: Hi, I’m John Lithgow. One reason people don’t contribute to public radio is that they think someone else will foot the bill.

It’s a sure bet that I can turn on WBEZ during the pledge drive and receive instant incentive to switch it off again immediately. This happens at non-pledge-drive times too, but it’s not the ‘00% certainty that it is during the mooching period.

First of all, what does John Lithgow have to do with public radio? Maybe he was on Fresh Air with Terry Gross once or twice, plugging something that already had millions of dollars of publicity behind it. Terry Gross at one time used to have guests that plugged things that needed plugging because they weren’t getting plugged anywhere else. Now she plugs things that are already being plugged by major media corporations. Of course, they don’t need the publicity, what they like is the little cachet Terry Gross gives to their overhyped piece of crap. Affluent liberals who have convinced themselves that they are intelligent and hip can be convinced to sample anything if it gets plugged by Terry Gross. I can think of no other reason that “Just Shoot Me” is still on the air.

The thing is, John Lithgow, I know that somebody else isn’t footing the bill. That is, the affluent left of Bush pseudo-intelligentsia are the someone elses who are footing the bill. But I think if ABC or NBC or CBS or HBO or FOX want their crap advertised on public radio, they should pay for it. Tax them and use the tax money to pay for the all the public resources they use. Like the air waves, the streets, the cops, the army, the labor of housekeeping family members, the nurturing, education and transportation of their employees and customers, and the public space they pollute with their billboards.

For god’s sake, John Lithgow, don’t tax ME! Don’t ask me to pay to rent public property that’s been stolen from me in the first place. That’s like stealing my clothes and asking me to buy them back from you, because, hey, no one else is gonna foot the bill. Here the planet belongs to all living things and to itself, but you, John Lithgow, went and stole that land, and grew that cotton, and enslaved those workers, and closed down the mom-and-pop store to put up your Gap or Banana Republic or whatever, and turned our neighborhoods into little franchise townships. And I already have to pay for that, just to eat and live. And now you want me to pay for the so-called “public” radio you stole? So I can have the luxurious privilege of listening to you advertize yourself?

Why are you trying to tax me? Do you know that I paid more federal tax last year than the Pepsi corporation? I paid something like $2,400. Like about ten percent of my income, after deductions. Pepsi paid zero. Zero federal income tax. Zero percentage of their billions of dollars in profits.

And you, John Pepsi Lithgow, you’re asking me to pay for your advertising? What kind of sick crap is that?

Okay, hey. Life isn’t fair. I know that. Even public radio knows that, it just doesn’t know how to express it in such a way that would spur others who know it to give them money. This is because public radio is in no way a tool to counteract the unfairness of society. It is, in fact, a major perpetuator of the unfairness of society. And the asking of a pledge from the ripped-off public just compounds the unfairness, it’s just a plea for the screwed to screw themselves even more. It’s like saying, Hey, victim, will you victimize yourself further by giving me money to continue victimizing you?

Such twistedness is pretty much par for the course in a society of greed and schizophrenic hypocrisy such as ours. The pathetic thing is that public radio holds itself up to be part of the treatment of that schizophrenia. Which compounds even further the twistedness and perfidy of their moochfest. But public radio can’t actually see itself as the twisted entity that it is. Consequently, it has no power to counteract the argument, “I am not giving to public radio because, as corporations have come to have more of a stake in it, it has become less and less part of the solution to society’s problems.”

I have yet to hear anyone on public radio say, “Now we know you’ve become alienated from us because of our acquiescence to the boosterism of the Gulf War, because of our softball attitude toward government sanctioned greed and violence, because of our lame-o homespun commentaries that sound like ill-executed high school creative writing assignments, and because Terry Gross devoted most of one of her shows to plugging the show, Just Shoot Me. But, listen, if you give to us, at least there will continue to exist an arena of public discourse in which there is a tiny bit greater possibility of something progressive and helpful being communicated. A greater possiblity than in most broadcasting, which makes no claims whatsoever of being socially worthwhile.”

Now if they made that argument, I still wouldn’t give them any money. But maybe I wouldn’t be so quick to click them off. And maybe I wouldn’t be here now on college radio telling you all that only suckers give to WBEZ.

It’s the same conundrum that ensures that the US legislature will never pass any kind of meaningful campaign finance reform. Because, for most of us thinking human beings, the statement “Money plays too big a role in political campaigns” immediately leads to thoughts that, well, money plays too big a role in ALL dysfunctional power relationships. Poor people are more likely to go to jail, to die, to get sick, to be beaten by cops, to be undereducated, to be undernourished. I mean, if you’re gonna start talking about the imbalance of power caused by unequal distribution of resources, you’re opening up the can of worms we in the thinking universe call “the detrimental effects capitalism has on democracy.” And once you open that can of worms, well, you’d better be ready either to entertain some radical ideas, or to sit around stewing in your own bull, trying to bluff the public into thinking you’re working to solve a problem you have no intention whatsoever of even addressing. Guess one which our legislators are gonna do.

The word George Orwell coined for this self-defeating mental activity is “doublethink”. I won’t go into a lengthy explanation of it because I just did. But either congress and public radio and John Pepsi Lithgow are guilty of doublethink, or they’re a bunch of hypocritical liars. Or they’re babbling idiots. Whatever, I still don’t think you should give them your money if you don’t have to. And in the case of public radio, you don’t have to. Because there will always be some affluent self-congratulatorially slightly-left-of–Gingrich sucker to foot the bill.

I’m mejeffdorchen and this has been the Moment of Truth.