How NPR “Covers” Our Obscene Dystopia

Last night, Politico leaked a draft opinion from the Supreme Court — the first time that any early ruling had ever escaped the sacrosanct chambers in the high court’s entire history — that called for the unthinkable: a complete and total overturn of Roe v. Wade (and Planned Parenthood v. Casey). One would think that such an astonishing calumny against women’s rights, the precedents upheld by all justices in the past, and the ostensibly noble practice of jurisprudence would be front-page news for every outlet. One would think that such a significant sign that patriarchal fascism can become a real possibility in the United States would take up every column-inch and every second of airtime. But don’t tell that to the gutless onanistic “minds” at NPR, who took to Facebook with a piece on the Met Gala! Because, as far as NPR is concerned, rich people and what they wear is real news. And women are merely ornamental animals to fuel the next several rounds of vacuous social media speculation. Never mind their rights. Never mind their lives. Never mind their agency. And never mind the fact that all that they bravely fought for in the last several decades is now being rolled back faster than the time it takes to microwave a Hot Pocket.

Let us be clear about why and how NPR is a dumpster fire. It is a radio organization run by toothless conformists with a long history of looking the other way while catering to an increasingly invented audience of “upper middle-class” listeners with oodles of spare time to devour every celebrity offering (when these privileged mouth breathers aren’t busy sucking up air) and, as any audio producer learns from the whisper circles of mailing lists and DMs, regularly in the habit of stifling and “correcting” any original or unique voice to suit its despicably vanilla and anodyne “coverage” of events, which challenges no one and reveals nothing.

It’s no surprise to see that this bullshit outlet — now a pathetic parody of itself — would rather prioritize an obscene display of vacuous spectacle and empty wealth over far more pressing issues such as the erosion of women’s rights, the rise of American authoritarianism, the growing disparity in income inequality, escalating international conflict, and political corruption — all of which are allocated mere snippets. In short, NPR is a fucking embarrassment to journalism and a significant part of the problem. It “serves” the public much as I participate in triathlons — which is to say not at all. These feckless dimwits lunge for the safe and sane. They never take chances. They never rock boats.

NPR’s superficiality is perhaps best represented by the smug and vapid talking heads on Pop Culture Happy Hour, who bray regularly about the most inconsequential offerings on television with a mildly snarky style that feels as antediluvian as the Tamagotchi. As of Tuesday afternoon, Pop Culture Happy Hour “star” Linda Holmes has said precisely fuck all about Roe v. Wade to her 139,000 followers on Twitter. You see, Linda Holmes is living a comfortable life and she’s eked out such a hollow and cozy existence that she’ll never take a real stand on anything. But she does have plenty to say about the Ozark finale, which nobody will give a shit about in twenty years. You see, for myopic mercenaries like Holmes, Ozark counts as real news! Apparently, Holmes’s biggest problem in life is breaking some superficial rule in which she continued to watch a show that she “did not think was actually good because I just wanted to know the ending.” Someone bust out the smelling salts and the fainting couch for poor beleaguered Linda, folks! Meanwhile, the life, liberty, and health of women have become significantly imperiled thanks to extremist justices who were anointed by an orange tyrant and his fawning sociopathic acolytes.

The reason why we have reached this barbaric nadir in our history is not just because highly gullible and treacherous dolts like Susan Collins actually believed (or, more likely, claimed to believe) that Brett Kavanaugh would honor Roe v. Wade, but because frivolous and completely useless lightweights like Holmes, who have never taken a real chance in their sad and miserable lives, continue to uphold the apolitical status quo. I can genuinely imagine Linda Holmes ratting out liberals as they’re sent to the concentration camps in a few years, not long after telling a reptilian autocrat, “Well, officer, she brought up politics at the dinner table!” By remaining silent about the Roe v. Wade overturn, Holmes — much like all NPR employees who say nothing — is among what Goldhagen called “willing executioners.” And these unprincipled cowards are as much of a menace to our culture as the people who take our hard-won rights away. For hell hath no fury like that of the uninvolved.

[5/9/2022 UPDATE: In fairness to Holmes, she did finally say something in a thread involving Danielle Kurtzleben on May 6th, 2022 — a good four days after the Supreme Court draft opinion was leaked. But she largely complained about how exhausting it was to say anything — as if anyone presently on the involved front lines isn’t exhausted! Exhaustion doesn’t mean that you stop fighting. And when human rights are on the line, you don’t show up four days late to the debate.]

The Feeble and Completely Pointless Thought Experiment of Roger Simon

It is a well-documented fact that Twitter turns the finest minds of our planet into simpering and sophist children flicking inconsequential 280 character bagatelles into the digital ether and that these portentous pronouncements are often misconstrued as High Thought, if not The Truth, about The Way Things Are in Today’s World. And even though I accept the deplorable trolling and the gormless groupthink, and the fact that nobody seems to offer pushback or nuance or a charitable consideration of another viewpoint, nothing could quite prepare me this morning for the lethal combination of hubris and stupidity that I discovered in this tweet from Roger Simon:

Now Roger Simon is not some doddering dude yelling some crazy lager-fueled bullshit at the top of his lungs in a bar. He is the bestselling author of Show Time. He was a long-running columnist at Politico. He has a history of legitimately provoking thought, such as this subtly trenchant piece on how the right-wing media caused a repulsive furor after exposing private messages sent through Ezra Klein’s Journolist.

But here, Simon has clearly lost his marbles, capitulating to the worst “hot take” tendencies that desperate self-appointed pundits retreat to when they’re trying to file six thoughtless blog posts each day that get people outraged and thus tweeting about it in high histrionics. It stands against the kind of journalism that Simon purports to stand for.

I certainly want Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg to live as long as possible. But what rankles me about this tweet is how it epitomizes everything that I detest about a certain strain of magical thinking that has increasingly come to replace reason: (a) the guilt-laden plea to donate one day of your life for the greater good (and thus the “better” person), which in and of itself implies that the 10,000 people sacrificed their day weren’t going to live a meaningful day in the first place, thus mitigating the selflessness, (b) the refusal to accept that something as grief-enabling as death is a process of life and thus an existential reality that we all have to accept, which causes us to become stronger and more empathetic to our fellow humans, and (c) the warped “solution” to the troubling Supreme Court situation, cemented by the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh swinging the high court into a 5-4 tilt to the far right, involves Ginsberg hanging on for dear life and that this is the only apparent idea to preserve a politically balanced high court for the next few decades.

The trolley problem is a thought experiment. Plutarch’s Ship of Theseus is a thought experiment. Hell, even The Man in the High Castle is a thought experiment. In all of these cases, the speculative proposition causes us to think about something tangible in our thoughts and our everyday lives. In the case of the trolley problem, we have to come to terms with the morality of whether killing one person to save multiple lives makes us complicit in the singular death. In the case of Plutarch, we are asked to consider whether constantly replacing the rotting parts of a ship ad infinitum means that the ship can indeed be the same as it was when it first started out. In the Amazon television series, we see how 20th century American life under a hypothetical Nazi victory reveals dark quotidian parallels to the world we live in today, causing us to reexamine whether our tacit acceptance of consumerism and comfort might share some qualities with the same vile impulses behind death camps and slaughtering the weak.

But Simon’s proposition has no such larger moral philosophy, much less any realist allegory, in mind. His proposition was so condescending and badly considered that it provoked anger and befuddlement from the left and right. And this sort of nonsense disheartens me. Once again, we have someone who should know better trafficking and even reveling in stupidity (just read his replies on his Twitter feed). And it serves to uphold my thesis that everyone on Twitter — even a seemingly distinguished veteran journalist — inevitably succumbs to the cloying attention-seeking asininity that is systematically tearing this nation apart and preventing us from finding real solutions to very serious problems.