February 26, 1998 | Commentary on Political Thought
Talk about hypocrisy.
National Public Radio (NPR)-one of the most sophisticated and consistent propagandists for the left in all America-recently aired a commentary attacking my organization, The Heritage Foundation, for being "a propaganda mill, focused on selling and promoting its views …"
The commentary, by Jacob Weisberg, chief political correspondent for the on-line magazine Slate, cited "money" as "the most obvious explanation" for Heritage's success. "Right wing organizations like Heritage are able to raise much more than their liberal counterparts," Weisberg said, parroting one of the left's most enduring stereotypes.
Much as I wish this were true, it's not. According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, Heritage's 1996 income ranked 342nd on a list of the 400 largest non-profits in America, well behind such left-wing favorites as Planned Parenthood, four different PBS stations, NPR itself, and a host of others. Weisberg attributes Heritage's success to major corporate funding, when, in fact, only 7 percent of our income comes from corporations.
To really understand what's going on here, you have to set the stage. First of all, Heritage is a conservative public policy think tank celebrating 25 years of unprecedented success in winning the battle of ideas in Washington. Our understanding of what problems need fixing in America and our proposals for fixing them have been so sound that even Washington-the most out-of-touch city in the country-frequently embraces our views.
To those on the left, this is sacrilege-or would be if they believed in anything sacred. At the very least, it's dirty pool. After all, conservative views aren't supposed to win anything or influence anyone. Conservative views are supposed to be the sideshow you throw in at the last minute so you can claim you're being fair and balanced. The success of a place like The Heritage Foundation, therefore, can't be due to the fact that its ideas are better-it must be due to money, or blatant self promotion; probably both.
This bias is the source of liberal arrogance about why "public radio," financed by the taxpayers, is properly the domain of liberals. NPR's managers suffer not a twinge of guilt about the fact that they take your tax dollars and use them to promote a left-wing view of the world-even though most Americans describe themselves as either middle of the road or conservative.
Of course, NPR's brass will insist that Weisberg's attack on Heritage-the most popularly supported think tank in America, with more than 200,000 contributors-was just a commentary by an outsider, and doesn't reflect the views of NPR as a whole. Yeah, right! Any regular listener to NPR knows public radio not only reflects Mr. Weisberg's views, but also the "hold your nose" attitude toward opposing views embraced by the left at large. True, NPR also airs conservative commentaries so they can claim to be "fair." But the overwhelming drift of most of its news and public affairs programming is unremittingly liberal, right in line with the stereotypes expressed by Mr. Weisberg. That's why NPR ran the commentary.
Can you imagine NPR airing an unopposed attack, not just on the policy positions, but on the integrity and character of one of the left's cherished institutions, such as the National Organization for Women or the Sierra Club? A conservative commentator showing up with a such a script would be shown the door.
It really galls the left that Heritage has been so successful. If they're looking for the secret of that success, however, they'd be well advised to forget about money or promotion and focus on ideas and on the views of real Americans.