Media Blog

Only Good Thing NPR Has Done?

Writing in the Village Voice, David Mamet proclaims that he is no longer a brain-dead liberal. I hope that our gentle readers will forgive the (classically Mametian) language:

The play, [“November”] while being a laugh a minute, is, when it’s at home, a disputation between reason and faith, or perhaps between the conservative (or tragic) view and the liberal (or perfectionist) view. The conservative president in the piece holds that people are each out to make a living, and the best way for government to facilitate that is to stay out of the way, as the inevitable abuses and failures of this system (free-market economics) are less than those of government intervention.
I took the liberal view for many decades, but I believe I have changed my mind.
… These cherished precepts had, over the years, become ingrained as increasingly impracticable prejudices. Why do I say impracticable? Because although I still held these beliefs, I no longer applied them in my life. How do I know? My wife informed me. We were riding along and listening to NPR. I felt my facial muscles tightening, and the words beginning to form in my mind: Shut the [expletive deleted] up. “?” she prompted. And her terse, elegant summation, as always, awakened me to a deeper truth: I had been listening to NPR and reading various organs of national opinion for years, wonder and rage contending for pride of place. Further: I found I had been—rather charmingly, I thought—referring to myself for years as “a brain-dead liberal,” and to NPR as “National Palestinian Radio.”
This is, to me, the synthesis of this worldview with which I now found myself disenchanted: that everything is always wrong.
But in my life, a brief review revealed, everything was not always wrong, and neither was nor is always wrong in the community in which I live, or in my country. Further, it was not always wrong in previous communities in which I lived, and among the various and mobile classes of which I was at various times a part.

I am reminded of aTom Wolfe essay–I believe it was titled “Frisbee”–where the author describes an earnest young man asking a cynical elder, who has just delivered a blistering indictment of America, “When does it hit you?” “It” being the knowledge (really pseudoknowledge) that everything in America is awful, everything corrupt, everything irredeemable. The kid was perplexed, because his life, and the lives of his friends, was all about free schools, decent life opportunities, full stomaches, and playing Frisbee in the California sunshine. Mamet is acknowledging that there is more to America than the world of Glenngary Glen Ross. Good for him.


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