Thursday, May 30, 2013

MPBN's False Balance

Re: "Tar Sands Pipeline," Maine Calling, MPBN Radio, 05/30/2013.

This afternoon's edition of MPBN's noon-time call-in show, Maine Calling, focusing on the topic of tar sands in Maine, is a perfect example of how "liberal" NPR routinely utilizes the same corporate media approaches to its brand of supposedly non-commercial journalism.

To begin with I was infuriated when host Susan Sharon asked Portland-Montreal Pipeline President Larry Wilson whether or not he "believes in climate change." (Wilson, for his part, did not truly answer the question, though his equivocating blabber of a response suggests the definitive answer is, no--he does not.)

But whether or not Wilson personally "believes" in climate change is irrelevant. The phenomenon is an undeniable scientific reality. Sharon may as well have asked Wilson if he believes in gravity or if he personally accepts the fact that the earth is round.

This is an example of false equivalency and the media's insistence on giving "both sides" on every issue. This sort of pseudo-objectivity is the same kind employed whenever the media reports on gay-rights or gay-marriage. Despite the rapid and growing societal acceptance that LGBT Americans deserve to enjoy the same rights and privileges as straight Americans, the media still feels the need, whenever reporting on gay-rights, to seek out bigoted, Bible-spouting homophobes in the name of "balance."

There is no longer any doubt among scientists as to the existence of anthropogenic, or human-induced, global warming. Corporate oil barons like Wilson can doubt the planet's warming all they want. It does not change the fact that it is happening, and that it would behoove us to stop burning fossil fuels. By simply posing the question, "Do you believe in climate change?", Sharon reinforces the false idea that there still remains some sort of doubt about it--or that, even if the planet is warming, human activity has nothing to do with it.

The second infuriating moment was when Sharon hung up on a caller. (As the show's name indicates, Maine Calling allows listeners to phone-in and voice their opinions about the day's topic. It is worth noting, not one of today's callers supported the potential transportation of dirty tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada, into the U.S. via the Portland-Montreal Pipeline. Every caller was either opposed to the idea or offered critical comments or questions for Wilson. In other words, if there is "another side" on this issue, that minority has chosen to remain suspiciously silent.)

Essentially, the caller took too long to summarize his comments and Sharon booted him off the airwaves. Now, I understand this is radio and the show has a set time-slot. And yes, the caller was taking a long time getting to his point. But cutting a speaker's mic or literally hanging up on him smacks of behavior one would expect to find on Fox News--not proper, polite NPR. If Susan Sharon--who is MPBN's deputy news director--does not want to take the time to hear all listener comments on a show called Maine Calling, she should, perhaps, find a different show to host--one where she gets to do all the talking. (In fairness, Sharon was filling in for regular host, Keith Shortall, who has been suspiciously absent all week.)

By employing the same false equivalency standards and bullish hosting tactics as the corporate media, MPBN undermines its mission statement of providing an "open exchange of information, ideas, and cultural content."

You can read my full-length post on the threat posed by tar sands oil, here.

In an entirely unrelated matter...

The Portland Green Independent Committee turned in over 3,000 signatures to the City Clerk's office to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana in Portland, today. If enough signatures are deemed valid, the referendum will be presented to voters on this fall's Election Day ballot.

You can read my recent post on why the Greens want to legalize marijuana, here.

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