Because if those answers aren’t The New York Times, NPR, and Whatever David Brooks Endorses, than the columnist probably thinks you’re some kind of savage foreigner. Brooks took his crazed assault on reason to the Chris Matthews Show last week (where sanity goes to take a break), to discuss public broadcasting. Making case for continued taxpayer support, he channeled his inner Borg and said:
“Here’s the case: You know we have a common culture. If we’re going to assimilate people, if we’re going to be one nation – it helps to have a common culture. There’s some things that do join us. And government has some role in help creating those things, in funding the things that join us. The Smithsonian museums do some of that,” he continued. “I think public broadcasting with shows like ‘The American Experience,’ they give us all something to clue into our history. They join us as a people.”
Brooks wants American ‘culture’ to be a directed, planned process that changes people, that makes them better than they are. But better is inherently subjective, and while Brooks naturally favors what he sees as better his conception of culture inherently limits the ability of other people to make the same choice. Not only that, he is insisting we all pay to support his choice. Such despotic disregard for others is disgusting.
Culture is something we all participate in, and create. It’s a creative, dynamic, and reciprocal process. It’s a churning, growing ball of dough, not the rolling-pin that flattens it out. NPR and PBS are contributors to the vibrant, diverse, and intellectually energetic culture we have, but their not arbiters or gatekeepers of it.
On the broader topic of public broadcasting, well, I just don’t see the point. Taxpayer financing makes up only about 15% of the budget, according to NPR:
The federal investment represents an average of 15 percent of funding for the more than 1,100 public radio and television stations around the country.
Losing federal funding won’t mean the end of these companies, or their programming. There’s obviously a market for their products, so what’s wrong with asking them to compete in it? Between their generous fund-raising and reasonable cuts, NPR/CPB could lose all federal funding and maintain the same standards of quality they do now. Let’s stop spending money we don’t have.