NPR, Let Me Offend You

Dropping my eldest at high school, I  used to listen to NPR–but no more. The timing gave me a nice little news summary and a story about the arts. At first I enjoyed that, but as time went by, I often grew offended by an attitude put out by the host. Today she crossed a line.

Her feature story was about a female musician. I won’t name her or the show because I’m not really attacking the musician personally, just the way her story was presented and the attitude this NPR host has-about “art.” This musician was from in an Islamic country where she could perform her music only with other women in front of only women. That made me mad–as intended. The musician had a female band at home. She performed in front of female audiences. then she left her home country so she could perform in front of mixed audiences. Sounds noble at first, well, sort of anyway.

After spending 3-5 minutes idolizing this woman’s bravery for leaving her home country to perform, the host dropped her bombshell:  This musician “left behind” two children in her home country. Why? Because she “felt driven to perform her art.”

What a load of crap. All over the world there are male and female performers. All over the world there are men and women who used to perform until they had kids. In community theaters and hole-in-the-wall bars, there are musicians and artists who support their families by accountng or janitorial work… And they do their art at home, looking forward to that open mic night or that annual performance when they might get to perform for ten people.

Because having a child is the greatest responsibility there is. And THEY didn’t abandon their kids.

Yet this snooty NPR host wants us to idolize a woman who abandoned two kids, likely to relatives with kids of their own, in an unstable country, so she could exercise her ego on stage.

To me this represents the biggest disconnect between me–a progressively minded person with strong family values–and NPR, a “progressive” institution now mostly involved in its own ego. Like the debutant at a charity ball, NPR enjoys looking good while “helping” “the arts” as long as those artists are already famous or fit their “tragic, tortured” model for sell-ability.

In my book, this feature about some woman’s ego is an insult to every parent who paints, writes or plays guitar in the wee hours of the night. It may take ego to create art, but ego in itself is NOT art.

NPR, you probably won’t notice, but you just lost one listener in the Great Plains. I’ll drop by a community art show instead.

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6 thoughts on “NPR, Let Me Offend You

  1. I think it’s because the NPR buys into the agenda that a family is a burden we as a society are forced to bear for the sake of keeping the human race going, but really it’s better to be free to do whatever you want, free of any of that sort of responsibility (something I vehemently disagree with). I’ve never been fond of NPR, this makes me even less fond.

  2. What a great post Lucie! As usual it was heart felt and emotional but also timely. Kids come first no matter what. You’re a great parent and artist. Keep up the good work!

  3. Hi, here via AW!

    Though I strongly agree with you in general about the responsibilities of parenthood, can I respectfully point out that we might not be privy to this woman’s entire situation? She may have had a forced marriage at a young age. She might not have had a choice in having children or might have been totally overwhelmed by it. She might have been facing abuse we don’t know about. It’s possible that there was some reason she thought her children would have a better life if she left. I’m reluctant to apply Western values to a woman from a culture I know nothing about, who was coming from a situation we know nothing about.

    It sounds like you’re objecting to NPR’s presentation of her story, though — and for what it’s worth, I listened to it and I didn’t think the reporter was condoning her leaving her children, just reporting it factually. NPR does have a tendency to report everything in a calm, ridiculously non-judgmental tone, even when one side is being screamingly offensive — that’s bugged me a lot sometimes when they’ve tried to present “both sides” to a story when one side was bigoted, hateful, and/or inaccurate, and you still have the reporter saying politely, “Mr. Bigoted Hateful Person, how would you respond to that?” Although it makes me want to punch the radio sometimes, I do appreciate the spirit of what they’re trying to do — an attempt to present everyone’s viewpoints and report a panoply of opinions so that listeners can hear the whole spectrum and then decide for themselves. Obviously a short bio of a singer is not a political point, but it sounds like the reporter was telling the story the same way they report everything, in that calm, I’m-not-expressing-an-opinion NPR voice . . . Anyway, I didn’t get the sense she was idolizing her. But YMMV, of course. 🙂 And maybe you object to their decision to run the story period. Personally, there are at least two commentators on NPR I usually switch to another station on because I didn’t like the way they reported on particular stories, but I still think of NPR as an organization trying to do good work, despite its flaws. What can I say, at least we still have Car Talk!

    p.s. — NPR might be catching some flack; it seems like most of the commenters on the print article agree with you:
    http://www.npr.org/2013/02/28/172122587/exiled-from-iran-a-singer-makes-the-case-for-beauty

  4. SL, you’re right, this is not about attacking the artist. We don’t know her full situation. There a whole community of Iranian artists in Kurdistan and NPR chose this one to focus on for the shock value, for the bombshell controversy. I kinda feel for the Iranian artists who left nobly to avoid jail time, without leaving children behind. Their story is now lost in the ashes of one reporter’s and one editor’s inflated NPR egos.

    Like you said, the problem is in the presentation. This really is not about two equal sides. It’s about using people’s lives to boost the ratings. The media’s job, I suppose. Though I used to think npr was above that.

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