Unable to leave well enough alone, Democrats are ganging up on Kenneth Tomlinson, the Republican chairman of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. According to the Washington Post, ranking Democratic Congressmen on the Energy and Commerce and Appropriation committees are calling for a probe of Tomlinson’s modest effort to bring philosophical balance to PBS.
This harassment of Tomlinson may backfire on the liberals. It invites scrutiny not so much of Tomlinson — that he complained about Bill Moyers and promoted two tame conservative-oriented shows (one with Tucker Carlson, the other with the Wall Street Journal editorial board) will strike most Americans as reasonable and long overdue correctives to obvious bias — but questioning of the liberals’ monopolistic control of PBS. The assumption driving the campaign against Tomlinson is that PBS belongs to liberals by some sort of divine right. Why should this be the case? The real issue isn’t, why is Tomlinson trying to correct PBS’s liberal prejudices, but why someone didn’t do it earlier.
The arrogance of the liberal cabal at PBS is incredible. They complain in proportion to their lost privileges. They automatically assume that Americans should feel happy to pay higher taxes to finance what amounts to PBS infomercials for the Democratic Party and the ideological cultural left.
The media coverage of Tomlinson reflects this arrogance of the aggrieved ruling class pining over its diminution (and minor at that) of power at PBS. Starting with the premise that liberalism is synonymous with editorial neutrality and independence, the media cast Tomlinson as “political” while his liberal critics at PBS are treated as “independent.” This drawing of artificial lines is necessary in order to make the story sound compelling. But the story isn’t alarming in the least if people know that the independent critics here are Democrats and liberals who treat PBS tax dollars as their own personal piggy bank for ideological projects.
Under a picture of Bill Moyers, the Washington Post ran the caption: “Bill Moyers’s PBS program is reported to have been monitored for ‘anti-Bush’ content.” That’s supposed to sound very chilling. But what Tomlinson did sounds responsible once you know that Moyers’s infomercials for the Democrats are financed with tax dollars. Didn’t the same press now getting worked up over Tomlinson complain recently about tax dollars going to pro-Bush content (from Armstrong Williams and the like)? If tax dollars shouldn’t go to pro-Bush journalism, by that same reasoning the press should object to tax dollars going to Bill Moyers for anti-Bush journalism. That Tomlinson objected to Moyers’ anti-Bush content isn’t any more threatening to editorial independence than the press’s legitimate squawking about tax-financed right-wing punditry.
The media’s contrived contest of Tomlinson vs. PBS isn’t politics vs. independence, but politics vs. politics. And Tomlinson’s politics (which consists in this case of simply ensuring that a government agency under George Bush’s control adheres to the philosophical balance the law establishing PBS mandated) is justified. He is, after all, a political appointee. The political maneuvering of PBS staffers isn’t justified. They aren’t political appointees.
Democratic Congressmen John Dingell and David Obey, trying desperately to upend Tomlinson before the liberal monopoly at PBS cracks up, have written to Corporation of Public Broadcasting Inspector General Kenneth Konz: “Recent news reports suggesting that the CPB increasingly is making personnel and funding decisions on the basis of political ideology are extremely troubling.” It wouldn’t occur to them that this is an exact description of what PBS under a liberal monopoly has done for decades. It has funded, hired, and programmed according to a liberal ideology since it started. But Tomlinson, a Bush political appointee, hires another Bush political appointee to do work a reasonable person would expect him to do, and that’s a scandal?
All of this is just empty noise, the usual frenzied mau-mauing of the left after anyone encroaches upon their undeserved fiefdoms. If the Democrats want a renewed debate over PBS, fine. Let’s take a look at PBS President Pat Mitchell’s hiring decisions. Mitchell, accorded the status of a dispassionate critic of Tomlinson by the press, is a former documentarian for Ted Turner. How many Democrats has she hired? And perhaps Congress could hold hearings on that PBS programming decision to run “Postcards from Buster,” a cartoon Mitchell aired earlier this year until Bush political appointees (acting so politically, of course) objected, which depicted a third-grade rabbit named Buster visiting post-Howard Dean, civil-unions Vermont for the spring maple harvest, during which Buster learns to adopt all the proper attitudes about familial diversity from a stay with a lesbian couple and their children.
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