NPR’s Not-So-Fresh Air

“Fresh Air,” the midday talk show out of Philadelphia and broadcast on National Public Radio, is hosted by Terry Gross, a bookish liberal who tends toward typical NPR fare: Jazz, the Holocaust, poetry and poets, more jazz, and more Holocaust. Her inquisitive but sympathetic tone gives the feel of a comfortable but animated coffeehouse chat.

Like so many of her NPR colleagues, Gross is Jewish, and her guests are also frequently Jewish. For those aware of the extent of Jewish influence in the media, this comes as little surprise.

But the January 24, 2008 episode of her program provided a singularly pungent example of the insular nature of Jewish media influence.

Her guest that day was Jacob Weisberg, the powerful editor of the online journal Slate (an enterprise also heavily dominated by Jews), who was on to discuss his most recent book about George W. Bush. (His The Ultimate George W. Bushisms: Bush at War (with the English Language) offered us the always-amusing “Bushisms.”)

As described by Weisberg, a central theme of his book was an examination of Bush’s Christian faith. As one might expect, it was not a positive assessment. Weisberg accused Bush of being insincere and calculating in his professions of evangelical Christianity. He also accused Bush of being simplistic and unbending as a result of his faith.

The first point may have merit, while the second is an unfair linking of Christian faith with rigid simple-mindedness (a favorite theme for Jews). But what struck me as I listened was Weisberg’s complete license to delve so deeply into Bush’s religion — a delving that, if aimed at a Jew, would immediately be denounced as anti-Semitism.

Weisberg went so far as to describe one evangelical as a “Jesus freak” (listen to hear Weisberg’s defense of the term). One need only imagine the reaction if a Christian commentator made a similarly derisive remark about a fervent Jew.

Later, Weisberg and Gross discussed the causes for the failure of the Bush administration (a failure I certainly wouldn’t dispute). Rigid and simplistic Christianity? Possibly. The overwhelmingly Jewish “neoconservative” movement and its aims? Not mentioned once.

This despite the fact that it is now well known that Jewish neocons were a critical force in producing the pressure and disinformation that led Bush to his most disastrous decision — the decision to invade Iraq. All of these neocons have a very strong Jewish identification, and some of them (e.g., Douglas Feith and Elliott Abrams) are deeply involved in Jewish religious activism and have strong ties to the religious right in Israel. As depicted in Christiane Amanpour’s God’s Jewish Warriors, many of the most aggressively ethnocentric Jews are religious fanatics who are fighting to expand Israel as a Biblical imperative. These fanatics and their neocons supporters have been central to the Bush administration’s effort to restructure the politics of the Middle East in favor of Israel. If one wants to blame religion for the Bush administration’s failures, one could more plausibly blame Jewish religious fanatics.

And on it went: the Christian faiths of Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are, Weisberg boldly noted, valid reasons not to vote for them. Suffice it to say that Feith’s and Abrams’ Judaism won’t even be mentioned, much less offered as a reason to criticize their actions in the Bush administration.

The arrogance was something to behold. It was as if Gross and Weisberg had deputized themselves as psychoanalysts and were subjecting white Christian gentiles to an in-depth couch examination — minus the couch. The two of them spoke as if that entire portion of the population weren’t even there to hear them (and probably many weren’t). And needless to say, Jews and their motivations were not discussed at all.

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Yet in a country where the white gentile population remains scattered and largely oblivious to its treatment by Jews, Gross and Weisberg need not worry about an angry reaction any time soon. Nobody will call for the firing of Terry Gross a la Don Imus or demand that Jacob Weisberg be removed as editor of Slate. And many white gentiles listening to NPR no doubt absorbed the themes pushed by Gross and Weisberg without once considering that they have their own motivations that go beyond mere objective analysis.

America’s traditional majority could use a healthy blast of fresh air, yes — but the fresh air needed is an awareness of the ethnic competition underlying so much of our media content.

Christopher Donovan is the pen name of an attorney and former journalist.