Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Why I cancelled my WAMU/NPR membership

I heard a story on Marketplace's Monday March 23 show and it was the last straw. Guest Peter Singer explains to listeners why "It's unethical not to give in recession".
Ryssdal: You actually lay it on, and I don't want to mischaracterize this, but you make a very strong and a very pointed argument that it's unethical, really, not to give if you have the means.

SINGER: I think we have to accept that in a world in which there are a billion people living in such extreme poverty, that they may not be able to feed their children, or may not be able to get basic health care for them, or send them to school, and another billion people, that's most of us, who have a level of comfort that really throughout history people have not had before. I think it's unethical for us not to accept some responsibility.
I can no longer support and sanction content that is clearly designed to advocate self-sacrifical altruism unquestioned, unchallenged, and exalted. Host, Kai Ryssdal, does not bother to ask Mr. Singer the crucial question: "Why".
  • Why is it unethical "not to give if you have the means"? (are there facts of reality that give rise to this idea)
  • What are proper reasons for giving at all? Is it always good to give? (consider: to a crackhead, to drug dealers, to warlords, to common thugs)
  • Why is giving worth considering as a vital part of human existence?
  • Is working in support of your life and happiness a vital part of human existence?
  • If so, how does one reconcile the pursuit of happiness with the needs of others?
  • Why is it considered an "entitlement" if you work to earn something and use it to support your life and your goals?
  • Why is the suffering of people you have never met your guilt and your responsibility?
  • Why must you morally live as a slave -- that is, you work without a moral right to the result of your effort?
Marketplace clearly doesn't think these are important questions to ask when it invites a person to wax philosophical about ethics just because he wrote some crummy book. So much for balanced reporting. So much for asking the hard questions and getting to the essence of a story.

That we have achieved a "level of comfort" is, according to Mr. Singer, the only justification he needs to assert that we have a responsibility to others that we must choose to undertake if we are to be worthy of recognition from his morality. He doesn't stop to consider how we achieved this comfort, what effort was involved, what rights had to be discovered and then protected, what morality gives rise to that conception of rights. (hint: we didn't get here by pursuing self-sacrifice)

I have maintained an NPR membership in support of a few shows that I have continued to enjoy. Wait, Wait. Prarie Home. But it has become much too upsetting to know that I cannot support the good bits without also supporting the likes of Diane Rehm and a the continuing spread of a lot of ideas I disagree with on Marketplace and All Things Considered.

As of today, I have fixed that.

Goodbye WAMU. Goodbye NPR. Goodbye APM. Get your act together and maybe we can be friends someday.