Opinion » Bill Cope

De-Braining America

Where Sesame Street meets Tobaccy Road


Sorry, but everything I will say in the next 1,000 words, I've said before. I hate that. It gets tiresome as hell having to make the same old arguments to the same old issues for the same old reasons, over and over and over. I would love to see some new concerns, new controversies, new ideas to brighten up our national stage. I would absolutely love to be a part of a healthy, unstagnant society, a society that was moving forwards instead of backwards-or worse yet, moving nowhere like a crazed dog chasing its own tail. I would love to have new things to think about. I have a suspicion that when a culture has nothing more on its mind than an eternal rechewing of the same old cud-as it is with any feeble nursing home resident whose mind can not venture beyond his own imagined past-the end may soon be near.

But as long as those senile and obstinate codgers of conservative orthodoxy keeps expelling the same old withering gases, I and others like me must keep responding to their rancid effluence. If that image isn't quite graphic enough for you, picture it this way: Conservatives fart-continuously, loudly, and it smells to high heaven-and who's gonna strike the match if not for liberals?

(Actually, I have never said anything quite in that way before. But essentially, it's what I've always considered liberals to be ... society's torch-bearers. Until now, though, I was never sure what good the flame was for.)

This week, the particular flatulence I refer to is the renewed assault on the Corporation for Public Broadcasting by those busy, busy sphincters of the right, whose unquenchable thirst for absolute control over the public's thought patterns is beginning to look like a George Romero movie: brain-eating zombies ... get it? ... who grow increasingly agitated and brazen as long as there's even one alert, discerning individual walking the Earth not yet undead.

For the time being, last week's attempt to lobotomize PBS and NPR by cutting a quarter of their federal budget failed. But don't fall asleep, Frontline fans, Lehrer lovers and All Things Considered admirers, for the danger is far from over. As long as these boneheads hold power, they will seek to bring the likes of Bill Moyers, Buster Baxter and the Teletubbies to heel. And puh-leeze, don't be so naive as to believe this has anything to do with balancing a budget. That $100 mil Congressional GOPoids tried to slash from public broadcasting wouldn't even raise a ripple in the river of cash flowing out of tax coffers to Republican-friendly money pits like Haliburton.

Nope. The ideologues only use funding as a threat to coerce the other half of the country into marching to their own stunted ideology. They want CPB on a tight leash-or better yet, put to sleep-simply because anything that doesn't drive straight and narrow down the not-so-super highway of the conservative creed becomes a natural target for the Bush collective. They cannot tolerate anything that expands horizons, broadens perspectives, deepens understanding or heightens sensitivities. Think about it ... while you still can: These people consider Toby Keith a real musician, believe that NASCAR races are truly entertaining and that Ronald Reagan was a great president. So is it any wonder they distrust anything that illustrates how far behind they are on the intellectual curve?

And of course, their standard tactic is to accuse any institution that doesn't slouch to their low-brow level of being a bastion of liberalism-be it universities, public schools, Hollywood, the French or public broadcasting-then to demand that institution contaminate itself with an overwhelming share of their own ditto-head dogma.

But like everything else the right has all wrong, they have the CPB all wrong. The real question isn't why public broadcasting has such an affinity for liberals, but why liberals have such an affinity for public broadcasting.

Look, are we supposed to believe that when Nature presents one of those fine features on, say, a coral reef environment in the South China Sea or the life of wild mustangs in Montana, the producers set forth with a leftist agenda to fulfill? Does an articulate, well-worded Fresh Air interview mean Terry Gross is out to show George Bush and his apostles what the English language is supposed to sound like? Does Victory Garden mask some plotting progressive's intention to claim flowers and vegetables as blue-state domain? Or when Great Performances stages Don Giovanni or a Mahler symphony, is it a purposeful, elitist slap in the face to the Republican pro-wrestling/monster truck-loving fan base?

Get serious. Public broadcasting is what it is simply because it's run by intelligent people (or was , until Bush-bullyboy Kenneth Tomlinson was appointed to the driver's seat), and intelligent people produce intelligent programming. It's no more complicated than that. That there is still a healthy audience for intelligent programming only proves there are still plenty of folks left in America who cannot bear the vulgar, talentless crud that passes for entertainment and the vicious shrieking that passes for discussion-all of which so naturally accompanies a right-wing mind set. It has nothing to do with a bias or a slant. It has only to do with what is intelligent and creative, and what is not.

So ... can liberals help it if we are more attracted to intelligence and creativity than conservatives?

But you've heard all of this before. I dressed it up in enough similes and analogies and imagery to choke a sophomore creative writing major-even threw in a fart reference for the red-state readers-but it still comes down to the same old same old. Like when Gingrich tried to gut CPB a decade ago, remember? Or like when Reagan vetoed the Fairness Doctrine a decade before that, trying to drown out his ideological opposites with a flood of unchallenged radio agitprop. Or like when Mao launched a Cultural Revolution to silence his own intellectuals and destroy his own artists. And like when the Church forced Galileo to renounce the very truths he is now famous for discovering. Or like when those Greek conservatives gave Socrates that hemlock cocktail to shut him the hell up ... this trick goes way back.

It's all because knowledge is liberal by nature, you see. And power-maddened people who know that much-but don't know anything else-will always believe they can stop a thought by punishing the thinker.