Frank Gaffney's film "Islam vs. Islamists" -- ripped out of PBS's post-9/11 film series "America At The Crossroads" like unsightly hair off PBS's back -- has now found a distributor in Oregon Public Broadcasting. Is that good news? It might be good that more of the public might have a chance to see it. But its new distribution deal with OPB means it's completely optional for PBS stations to air it, and whenever they want -- like 3 AM on a Monday morning. That's a far cry from the prime-time national PBS feed, with all the public-relations weight that the "Crossroads" series managed.
In The Washington Post, Paul Farhi framed the tale with a narrative of bald-faced intervention by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which is supposed to just hand over the money to PBS and shut up, like a kid who gets his lunch money stolen daily. The PBS elite talks a phony game of artistic integrity and independence, but it's a liberal sandbox, and if you don't have something liberal to say, your ball gets taken away. We might offer some kudos to the Post for noting the deal, and letting Gaffney speak:
"I am a person they regard as a conservative, and they regard the airwaves as a liberal domain," said Gaffney, a former Reagan administration defense official who now runs the Center for Security Policy.
WETA and PBS officials denied this yesterday. "We had no problem with the concept or ideology," said WETA spokeswoman Mary Stewart. "It was about filmmaking and documentary standards. We had no problem with the argument laid out in the film."
But Farhi could have reported a lot more on how WETA and PBS had all kinds of problems with Gaffney's ideology, telling filmmaker Martyn Burke to remove Gaffney from the film because he had a day job as an advocate. (See the Weekly Standard article for more.) The worst part of Gaffney's article was the end, where the liberal theory is unspooled, but the liberal unspoolers are not described as the advocates that they are:
CPB's actions raised suspicions that it was protecting a project favored by Republicans. The agency in 2005 faced complaints that it was politicizing public broadcasting after its former chairman, Kenneth Tomlinson, repeatedly criticized PBS and National Public Radio programs for an allegedly liberal tilt. Tomlinson helped appoint CPB's current president, Patricia Harrison, a former co-chairwoman of the Republican National Committee.
"It appears that CPB's leaders -- prominent Republicans -- are engaged in a behind-the-scenes effort to secure an air date for a program appealing to their own conservative constituencies," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy, a nonprofit watchdog group. "Congress needs to investigate the corporation's own problems with fairness and balance."
Jeff Chester is such an aggressive left-wing advocate that the PBS station lobbyists would just like him to shut up, as we recall here. It would be nice that if we're going to accurately describe Gaffney as a Reagan conservative, let's describe Chester as a leftist -- a man whose own biography advertises his role as a "frequent contributor to The Nation" magazine, not just a representative of a "nonprofit watchdog group."
Let's not forget that saying PBS and NPR programs -- like the Bill Moyers shows -- have an "allegedly liberal tilt" is comparable to saying Ronald Reagan had an "allegedly conservative tilt" as president.