Garrison's Friendly Fire at NPR

The following words penned in Time magazine a couple of years ago prove that Garrison Keillor's yarn-spinning knows no boundaries: "[Clinton] can get in high dudgeon about mean-spiritedness, and when the Republicans get feverish and clammy and speak in tongues and handle snakes, he can go out to Omaha and Houston and be charming and graceful...The Republicans are going to be the Party That Canceled the Clean Air Act and Took Hot Lunches from Children, the Orphanage Party of Large White Men Who Feel Uneasy Around Gals."

Now the host of the public radio staple "A Prairie Home Companion" is at it again, this time broadsiding his own colleagues at National Public Radio - for not being sufficiently leftist. What Keillor tells interviewer David Barsamian in the January 5 edition of The Nation that NPR is straying seriously from its party line, anti-Republicanism: "We're all very polite in public radio. But I think we have to speak the truth from time to time. 'All Things Considered' made its reputation on news reporting during the Watergate episodes. They produced a generation of excellent reporters...They've mostly been overshadowed by what I consider to be rather precious commentators, people reminiscing about their childhoods and interviews with artists and writers who one sort of gathers are friends of the reporters."

Keillor said NPR's evening news failed dramatically to report on the GOP-controlled Congress: "I don't know if the reporters at NPR simply don't know Republicans, or they don't know how to talk to them, or what. But this is a crucial story. It goes on under their noses. To ignore that and do little audio documentaries about old ballplayers and celebrate Paul Robeson's birthday and do a documentary on maple syruping in Vermont is just perverse."

This is not small matter to Mr. Keillor. So serious is this perceived loss of soul that he'd just as soon pull the plug on public TV altogether: "I don't think there's any reason for public television to exist anymore, I honestly don't...They are so far from being an important force in broadcasting, and their accomplishments are so far in the past. There isn't anything that they do that can't be done and done better by any one of a dozen cable channels. They've been rendered completely obsolete by cable television...they're a complete dinosaur. What C-Span is now is what public television should have been and never had the wit to do." Please call in and quote Keillor during the next public TV pledge drive.

When Barsamian focused Keillor on the failure of "progressives" to address the average person, Keillor ventured: "I think the left long ago veered away from the labor movement, and that was a terrible mistake. It veered away from the union movement and seized on a lot of symbolic cultural issues that we should have left alone. The main issue is money. That's the main political issue there is."

Ah, money. For leftists like Keillor, the ideological hatred of money as the root of all evil is the concept that truly unites the audience for public broadcasting. In an interview a few months ago in The Atlantic Monthly, Keillor complained that since commercial radio divides the public into market niches, "it's left to public radio to fulfill the great dream of radio as a medium that brings people together and disseminates information accurately and swiftly and creates national bonds of understanding and brings great music and poetry and drama to the far corners of the land. That's what the inventors had in mind. They didn't intend it to be used to sell headache remedies."

Ah, hypocrisy. Don't take Keillor's anti-commercialism too seriously. He certainly doesn't. Check out the "Prairie Home Companion" web site, where you can order almost 30 items of Keillor kitsch, from the "Prairie Home Companion Sponsor Logo Silk Necktie" ($28) to the "Personalized Lake Wobegon Doormat" ($29.95), or perhaps the "Lake Wobegon High School Class of 2015 Onesie" for the Keillor-addled baby ($18). Or see Keillor's show live at the Fitzgerald Theater in downtown St. Paul - tickets can be ordered on the Web or through Ticket Master from $25 to $16.50. Lake Wobegon is a major cash cow for this man.

Keillor's profitable home-spun niche broadcast would seem to be, as the leftists say, more a part of the problem than a part of the solution. Or, to paraphrase Keillor's political analysis, he's the Taxpayer-Subsidized Millionaire Hypocrite with Two Homes Who Pretends to be Uneasy About Money.

Here's a wish for 1998: Long may the left's dreams of socialist revolutions bog down in cutesy, overpriced merchandising.