Friday, May 20, 2005

Folly at the CPB

Let’s start out by saying it up front – Bill Moyers is a liberal, and proud of it, and there is some question about the government underwriting a particular point of view to the exclusion of others. I don’t have a problem with hearing more thoughtful conservative voices on public TV.

But I have a hard time with the idea put forth by new CPB chairman and Bush man Kenneth Tomlinson that the solution is (apparently) to turn public broadcasting into just another arena for tedious red vs. blue sniping:

"All I'm trying to do is advocate that both sides be fairly represented" in news programs, he said. "There is a perception among a lot of politically sophisticated people that that balance is not always there."

The problem with this “fair and balanced” idea is that it views liberalism and conservatism as polar opposites perpetually at war, and that the best way to handle this is to “balance” both sides – like that Vietnam-themed episode of “Star Trek” where Kirk starts an arms race by equipping one set of primitive alien villagers with guns while the Klingons are doing the same with their neighbors.

Not coincidentally, such a state of permanent political warfare tends to benefit those who have already spent the past 40 years at war - i.e., conservatives.

Obviously in today’s political climate, conservatism and liberalism are at war. But public TV should not be drawn onto that battlefield. It should be insulated from the crass idiocy that passes for political debate these days, among other reasons so it can examine politics and issues critically and intelligently – which is what it does best.