Et Tu, NPR?

The Polytropos clan was on the road back from Michigan earlier today; right around 4:00 we were pulling out of Breezewood, just a couple hours from home. “Perfect timing!” I thought to myself as we tuned in to NPR for _All Things Considered_. It had been a pretty busy week and I had missed most of my daily news fixes on the radio.

Twenty minutes in, I was thoroughly disgusted. Naturally the leading coverage was on the Democratic National Convention, but the first story was all about security issues there, not the Convention itself. In that story, a delegate they interviewed talked about being in “fear mode.” Both she and person who interviewed her treated that as being pretty much normative; the unspoken assumption was that the same constant state of agitation that had many people in D.C. looking to the sky for cropdusters in October 2001 should still be in effect today. Where is this fear coming from? Not from the constant stream of terrorist attacks on our soil that have plagued us since 9/11. It may have something to do with “Homeland Security’s Color-Coded Harbinger of (Potential) Doom”:, which jiggers up or down to the tune of ominous warnings, but little more. And it certainly has something to do with a constant stream of news stories about security concerns — this latest barrage about the conventions being only the most recent example.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for caution, and for the courage and gritty determination to win out against the people that attacked us three years ago. But the time is long past for fear — as “Jim noted”:, it’s unseemly (and it’s the second time this month I’ve referred back to that particular piece of his, with good reason). If Kerry stands up on Thursday and speaks out against the culture of fear that the current Administration is content to foster, he’ll have won not just my vote but my confidence.

That first story ticked me off a little, but it was the second one that really had me steaming. It was about — and remember, we’re talking about top-of-the-hour news here — the questions an ESPN reporter asked John Kerry about baseball, and whether he had “waffled” in his responses. It was the stupidest thing I’d heard on NPR in a good long while, especially because there wasn’t anything particularly waffle-y about his comments on the Red Sox and the DH rule and Pete Rose. They were all perfectly good answers, actually, so a piece with an already-vapid topic got even sillier trying to make it stick with inappropriate material. Not that this should come as a surprise, since the waffle-meme is a manufactured notion that the media has embraced — proof positive that, as George Lakoff notes, the Republicans are “winning the frame game”:

The worst part is, NPR is usually where I go to get _away_ from news coverage that makes me want to bang my head against the wall. At least there’s CSPAN for the convention speeches . . .