So the canning of Juan Williams from NPR can be taken as yet another example of the hardening of attitudes in what commenters on various centrist/conservative and libertarian blogs began calling a ‘cold civil war’ some years ago. Pity, that – and I used to listen to, love, and support local public radio and TV outlets, the minute I got back to assignments Stateside where such things were available. Listened to NPR in the morning and in the afternoon for my required news fix, never missed a broadcast of Prairie Home Companion, loved Car Talk and public TV’s Masterpiece Theater. Sent in my pledges during the annual fund drives, scored the occasional mug, tee-shirt and souvenir cookbook – heck, I even worked part-time as a classical announcer for the local public radio classical station for better than a decade.

And then it all went sour, and I am hard-pressed to pin it down exactly when and for what reason; the pull of the internet, and the push of Garrison Keillor going gradually, frothingly, gibbering bonkers having a lot to do with it. Nothing quite so disconcerting as a humorist who made his reputation doing gentle, affectionate ribbing of small-town flyover-country foibles suddenly ripping off the folksy persona to reveal the viciously intolerant, hate-filled bigot within.

(Note to Garrison K. Ya know, ya really lost a large chunk of yer audience, there with the incessant Bush bashing. I know, easy target and all that, but would it have killed ya to take an equal number a shots at John Kerry, dere – almost kinda like ya did with Al Gore? Whattabout der current prez? Ya know, with dis political humor ting, ya gotta be ecumenical . . . less’n you want yer audience appeal to be more . . . selective. Ya, that’s it. Selective. Gotta tell ya, Mr. K – conservatives pledge, too, or dey did . . . Maybe yer serious about this-ere selective audience ting.)

Anyway, the news began to sour on me too, once I began to notice that certain stories and controversies – which I had already been made aware of on-line – just never seemed to percolate up to the attention of NPR. Or if it did, the attention paid would be pretty one-sided – and since I had already read the story from various aspects and angles online, it would be very, very obvious to me. Listening became a frustrating experience, rather than an informing one: why wasn’t this question asked, why hadn’t the reporter followed up on this aspect, and why, why, why were the same old experts always being pulled out of the Rolodex to give the same old canned response to the same old questions? It got to the point that I could predict the NPR stance on any particular controversy, story or event. So, why bother? I faded away from listening to NPR news around about the 2008 election, which is probably a good thing, since listening to their coverage of Tea Party developments would have sent my blood pressure into the stratosphere.

So, Juan Williams – on the outs, not for what he said, particularly, but for where he said it; on Fox TV, which appears to have sent certain NPR listeners frothing at the mouth. Sacked by the boss, through a telephone call – doesn’t get more graceless than that. And he always struck me as one of those people with whom you could disagree on certain things, but that he would be reasonable. Weirdly enough, it’s the left-hand side of the political spectrum which is going all ugly about this, as if he had suddenly turned into some kind of untouchable. Alas, now it seems that the name of NPR’s major daily news program, All Things Considered should be changed to Only Some Things Considered, Else Your Ass Is Grass and I’m the Lawnmower. Maybe too long to fit into those teeny little blocks on the schedule, though.