It’s a troubling reality that government-sponsored radio is widely considered America’s elitist media outlet. Even NPR itself describes its audience as “cultural, connected, intellectual, and influential,” and that its listeners are “146% more likely to be top management and 145% more likely to be C suite executives.” The elitist culture surrounding public radio creates a false chasm between the elitist left and everyone else — a chasm rooted in a meaningless value NPR has recently used as a marketing tool: interestingness. Several months ago, I was riding a train in Philadelphia when I noticed an NPR advertisement at the end of the car. The tagline beneath the NPR logo read “get interesting.” I nodded understandingly at the ad. After all, who doesn’t enjoy an episode of “This American Life” or “Wait Wait... Don’t Tell Me!” While many of my conservative peers might not share my taste for public radio, I find NPR programs entertaining and informative — so why not listen, and enjoy listening, at that? There is certainly nothing wrong with getting interesting.
There is, however, something terribly wrong with getting utilized, which is exactly what NPR listeners do whenever they seek to “get interesting” via one of NPR’s numerous programs. In getting interesting, NPR listeners merely become vehicles for transmitting government-sponsored information. That repeating and promoting the federally funded liberal bias of NPR has become a mark of sophistication among the American elite reveals the group’s naiveté. I’m not a conspiracy theorist by any stretch of the imagination; however, it’s undeniable that government has done an excellent job of making its own media outlet, NPR, the radio of the cultured, the educated, and the unabashedly liberal. Even Vanity Fair acknowledged that “NPR retains a tincture of elite liberalism.”
I’m not being wholly discourteous to the American cultural elite, the “influential, affluent, and curious,” as NPR further characterizes its audience. Again, what’s wrong with wanting to get interesting? Well, quite a lot, according to the philosophers of western history. The Oxford Dictionary defines "interesting" as: “Arousing curiosity or interest; holding or catching the attention.” And it's that connection between interestingness and curiosity I take issue with. My favorite philosopher, Thomas Aquinas, viewed curiosity—the attitude an interesting matter instills within those who wish to know more of it—as an intemperate desire for knowledge. Augustine similarly wrote that “we must not be moved by empty and perishable curiosity.” If interestingness is merely that which attracts the attention of fleeting curiosity, count me out.
Fleeting curiosity, however, does not appear to be a concern for NPR’s 25.9 million weekly listeners. Government’s playing on the curiosity of these listeners and their consequent desire to “get interesting” is unsettling. Getting interesting with NPR might be a worthwhile endeavor for the American elite. But for the rest of us, let’s remember that this business of getting interesting is anything but a fair exchange of ideas. Rather, this is government manipulation. This is utilization. This is NPR.
Madeleine is a sophomore studying philosophy and classics at Christendom College. A first honors student, she loves reading Plato, Thomas Aquinas, and Cicero. She is a staff writer for GenYize, a blog discussing solutions to challenges facing Generation Y, and was recently accepted to intern with the Media Research Center in Reston, VA. Madeleine is also a member of Christendom’s Cincinnatus League, the Eta Sigma Phi Classical Society, and the Christendom Chamber Orchestra.