National Public Radio (NPR) has more than 37 million weekly listeners — a record for the network. That’s why it’s more important than ever for producers to be deliberate about who gets access to their platform.
On Friday, NPR’s Morning Edition (its flagship program) aired an interview between host Noel King and white supremacist Jason Kessler — the main organizer behind last year’s “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia that led to the death of counter-protester Heather Heyer at the hands of a neo-Nazi who drove into a crowd of people — and Kessler’s views went largely unchallenged throughout the segment.
Before even getting into the content of the interview itself, it’s worth pointing out that the Morning Edition producers who booked Kessler did so despite Kessler being the chief organizer behind the rally that featured not only the horrific terrorist attack on counter-protesters, but spontaneous attacks on Charlottesville residents with essentially no intervention from police. All of the violence and death that took place a year ago happened because Kessler made the initial efforts to organize the rally.
Any news outlet wanting to lend its platform to Kessler owes it to victims to watch the videos of both the terrorist attack that led to Heyer’s death, and the savage beating of DeAndre Harris — both of which happened due to Jason Kessler obtaining a permit and inviting various groups to Charlottesville.
(WARNING: EXTREMELY GRAPHIC VIOLENCE)
During King’s interview, Kessler ranked different races by IQ, and King’s only response was to question his source (snake-oil peddler Charles Murray) and point out that his rhetoric isn’t unifying.
KESSLER: I mean, it’s ridiculous to say that, you know, there are no differences in height, let’s say, between a Pygmy and a Scandinavian. So if we acknowledge that there are physical differences, obviously, there are differences in behavior, in levels of aggression, in intelligence, in, you know, bone density, et cetera, et cetera. But that’s…
KING: Do you think that white people are smarter than black people?
KESSLER: There is enormous variation between individuals, but the IQ testing is pretty clear that it seems like Ashkenazi Jews rate the highest in intelligence, then Asians, then white people, then Hispanic people and black people. And that’s – there’s enormous variance. But just as a matter of science, that IQ testing is pretty clear.
KING: You don’t sound like someone who wants to unite people when you say something like that.
Obviously, one’s intelligence isn’t determined by race (three psychology professors at accredited universities presented detailed findings last year challenging Charles Murray’s hereditary IQ theory) and, had King done any meaningful research on her subject beforehand, she would have been ready to counter that argument with actual science. Unfortunately, King’s hesitance in challenging Kessler’s claims undoubtedly caused a countless number of Morning Edition listeners to suddenly view Kessler’s baseless rankings of races by IQ as credible.
NPR’s irresponsible decision to book Kessler is one born of oblivious privilege: Relatively affluent white people who live and work in the Washington, DC bubble see toxic white supremacy not as a threat to their lives and the lives of their family members, but as interesting news that deserves to be explored and given a mainstream platform on nationally syndicated primetime programming. Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson summed up this point in a tweet:
Jason Kessler being given an interview on NPR as if white supremacy is a legitimate policy position is a reminder that many of the (white) people making decisions in the media don’t feel impacted by any of this — it’s either entertainment or “news” until it hits their doorstep.
— deray (@deray) August 10, 2018
News site Splinter reminded readers that for the redux of last year’s Charlottesville rally, which is scheduled for this weekend in Washington, DC, Kessler is only expecting approximately 300 people. The fact that NPR dedicated air time to a one-day rally that will only have 300 attendees is a stark contrast to its editorial decision to ignore the nationwide Occupy Wall Street movement for weeks.
“The recent protests on Wall Street did not involve large numbers of people, prominent people, a great disruption or an especially clear objective,” NPR executive news editor Dick Meyer stated at the time.
While Occupy Wall Street was a nationwide movement, the first day of the protest brought out roughly 1,000 people to the New York City protest alone, which is more than three times the amount of people expected at Kessler’s rally this weekend. The newsworthiness standards NPR’s editors apply to leftist protests seem to not exist for protests organized by white supremacists.
The best way to respond to someone like Jason Kessler is what the people of Charlottesville did when Kessler attempted to hold a press conference the day after his violent rally. Even with microphones and a public address system, Charlottesville residents shouted Kessler down, forcing him to run away from the lectern with a phalanx of police officers shielding him from an angry mob. NPR and other major networks should take after the people of Charlottesville and refuse to allow hatred and the rhetoric of violence to disguise itself as free speech.