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Dear Jim Lehrer, About David . . .

David BrooksDear Mr. Lehrer,

I’ve had this membership renewal envelope sitting in my “need to get to” pile, and because I’ve been a loyal supporter of my local PBS stations for decades — more or less since the 1960s and 1970s, when you and Robert MacNeil started PBS’ excellent news program, and then expanded it to a full hour — I would have taken care of that sooner or later. I think a public news programs that attempts to remain free of the ideological spin of its corporate owners is extremely important to our country. However, I’ve just moved that packet into the “probably not going to do this anymore” pile, and I wanted you to know why.

Your NewsHour has a segment in which you solicit the perspectives of a nominal Democrat and a nominal Republican, and I suppose that’s okay. As a Democrat, I respect Mr. Shields and can almost tolerate David Brooks when he gets depressed about what a mess his party has made of the country. It’s the only time he sounds sincere. And I realize that with PBS’ more ideologically conservative management these days, it was inevitable that having someone on your show who does little more than shill for the White House would be seen as needed to balance Mr. Shields’ defense of the Democratic point of view. After all, that is what Fox News calls “fair and balanced,” only they are far more blatant about it.

But then, I don’t send money to Fox News, so it’s a reasonable question whether I should be sending money to PBS to support NewsHour when it behaves the way Fox News does. You see, I know about Mr. Brooks’ comments on Friday night comparing liberal/progressive bloggers — I’m one of them — to Osama bin Laden. Of course, he was very subtle about it — he’s good at that — but the message was clear. And since you, Jim, are a good newsman, I know that you understand that the sliming of liberal bloggers is a common tactic of the right wing. If your staff has done its homework, you’ll also know that Mr. Brooks, who frequently carries the White House talking points onto your show, did not come up with this comparison all by himself. You know by now that this exact same comparison popped up on CNN, and Fox News and all over the right wing blogs — just as though it came right out of Ed “I’m the new Karl Rove” Gillespie’s propaganda mill.

So I’m sitting here wondering why I should send in my membership renewal. Although I expect David Brooks to be little more than a shill for White House talking points, I also know you frequently interject your comments on these segments, and you could easily have asked David to clarify whether he really meant that people like me are the same as people who engage in mass murder by flying airplanes into buildings, whether you think hundreds of thousands of Americans who regularly write, read and comment on progressive blogs really are fanatical religious zealots who think it’s okay to behead people to make a point, and whether you think I personally think it’s okay to plant road side bombs on Iraq highways to blow the arms and legs off American servicemen. But you didn’t say a word, except to compliment your guests on what a swell job they did. You just let Brook’s calculated slime slide onto your show, without a response.

So I’m thinking that if you want me to send in my membership renewal, you owe a lot a people a very sincere apology. You see, Jim, while Mr. Brooks was in prep school, I was in Vietnam; I’ve actually been in a war; Mr. Brooks can ask his friends to look it up: US54494387. And while I did help the US Army kill another country’s people just because my commander in chief said we should kill those Vietnamese “insurgents,” just as our servicemen are doing today in Iraq, I really wasn’t expecting my PBS station to insinuate that I and thousands of men and women like me who served and who also participate on progressive blogs are mass murderers.

I’d appreciate a response at your earliest convenience. Thank you.


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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley