OP-ED: Prejudice by the Letters

  • By Joseph J. Honick 
Joseph J. Honick

Joseph J. Honick
 In recent weeks, there was a legitimate explosion over the past use of the “N” word by cooking queen and television star Paula Deen.  So hot did the media response become that Deen was quickly “relieved” of virtually all her commercial sponsorships, her programs, in fact just about everything but her apron.  The total costs to her have yet to be calculated.  But she did cross that invisible line!
It is not all that unusual from time to time in the entertainment business for some casual kibitzing about color or religion, but there are logical and unwritten lines beyond which careless commentary causes trouble.  Where you don’t expect such actual prejudice is on broadcasts of the squeaky clean NPR programming.

Thus it was more than a little surprising when NPR’s, self appointed “old shoe” Garrison Keillor in 2009 uttered the following:

“Unitarians listen to the Inner Voice and so they have no creed that they all stand up and recite in unison, and that’s their perfect right, but it is wrong, wrong, wrong to rewrite ‘Silent Night’. If you don’t believe Jesus was God, OK, go write your own damn ‘Silent Night’ and leave ours alone.  This spiritual piracy and cultural elitism, and we Christians have stood for it long enough.  And all those lousy holiday songs by Jewish guys that trash up the malls every year, Rudolph and the chestnuts and the rest of that dreck(Yiddish for feces).  Did one of our guys write “Grab your loafers, come along if you wanna, and we’ll blow that shofar for Rosh Hashana?  No we didn’t!”

He followed that with:  “Christmas is a Christian holiday…if you’re not in the club, then buzz off.”

Among the composers, Keillor was condemning was the writer of what has become almost a second national anthem:  “God Bless America” by Irving Berlin, who was grateful to have made it to the United States from anti-Semitism in his native Russia. Berlin also wrote “White Christmas.”

And just a short list of the songs composed by Jewish writers and popular among all regardless of color and religion ….

*The Christmas Song( Chestnuts Roasting….)

*White Christmas

*I’ll Be Home for Christmas

*Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

*There’s No Place  Like Home for the Holidays….

* “Silver Bells” (It’s Christmas Time in the City)

And many more.

To be sure, there was prompt reaction from Jewish circles rightfully insulted.  But where were the champions of civil rights who quite legitimately jumped on Ms Deen to demand the removal of  Keillor from NPR, the network professing a squeaky unprejudiced policy ?  Answer: AWOL!

In 1967, over CNN, ultra conservative commentator Ann Coulter was asked by then host Donny Deutsch, a Jew:

“You (speaking to Coulter)said we should throw Judaism away and we should all be Christians.”  And Coulter replied: “Yes.”

Same lack of response.

So it comes down to prejudice by the letter: The “N” word is a commercial death sentence as it should be.   The “J” word used as Keillor did was satire, right?  He has continued smoothly as if the events of four years ago had not occurred.

In fairness, efforts have been made to get NPR comment on a rough draft of this article that had been sent to them. When finally reached, representatives at their national headquarters disavowed any control over such programming, asserting that individual stations controlled what was used on their stations.

I was also referred to the company that distributes the Keillor program and called them several times without success.

And, Keillor or no Keillor, those great songs will still be played and sung next Christmas.

Problem is that virtually all NPR stations happily carry Keillor and his crew every Saturday.                                                                            * * *
Honick is president of GMA International Ltd with offices on Bainbridge Island, WA.  He is an international consultant to business and writes on a variety of public affairs issues.



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