Joe Conason explains "Why the Right really hates NPR--with or without Juan Williams," observing that "the right-wing uproar over NPR's firing of Juan Williams" is the product of the same charlatans who have "reliably exploited every chance to damage public broadcasting:"
...not because of any supposed liberal bias, but because they disdain the straightforward, probing journalism that the public network provides every day. What the NPR haters want to see and hear on America's airwaves is the "fair and balanced mentality" of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and Michael Savage and nothing else. After all, they hate CNN, CBS, NBC, and ABC with almost equal passion, no matter how much those networks or NPR bend over to accomodate conservative viewpoints. [...]
Without NPR, we would soon be left with very little on the radio that doesn't conform to the debased worldview of Rupert Murdoch, or that fails to make money for the likes of him.
Peter Beinart defends NPR from Williams' charge that it is "elitist" because it doesn't "compete in the marketplace:"
Yes, NPR is elitist, and it's a good thing too. The people who run the station believe that Americans should know more about what is happening in China and less about what is happening to Britney Spears, which in today's media makes them downright subversive. That's why NPR now has 17 foreign bureaus compared to four for CBS. It's why, according to the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, NPR devotes 21 percent of its airtime to international news compared to 1 percent for commercial talk radio. [...]
And since America is increasingly buffeted by decisions made in other countries, our national ignorance is becoming a threat to our national security. Once upon a time, there was a wing of American conservatism that recognized that there were public goods and cultural standards that needed to be insulated from the whims of the market. Today, that's considered elitist. Flagrant ignorance, by contrast, especially about the rest of the world, is a sign of populism, a sign that you don't think you're better than anyone else. On the right today, Sarah Palin isn't adored in spite of her parochialism; she's adored because of it.
Although I disagreed a great deal with the exemplars of Buckley-era conservatism, I nonetheless recognize the loss of that wing of American intellectualism as a significant one. The American Scene's Conor Friedersdorf has my Quote of the Day:
If you have a network where Hannity regularly comes off as the more learned, persuasive interlocutor, you're not trying very hard to give your audience an accurate view of the world.
As I mentioned back in one of my first blog posts, studies show that NPR audiences are much better informed (and much less mis-informed) than are devotees of other media (especially Faux News and talk radio). Cynics could be forgiven the suspicion that ease of misinformation and manipulation is the root of many anti-NPR complaints.