the circular runner

there’s this dude on NPR who bugs me…help!

In humor, life, media, observations, writing on February 7, 2012 at 8:43 am


I like NPR. On road trips, even without hearing a word, I know I’ve come across an NPR station by the sound of its silence. If the station were a film, I’d say it’s the room noise that clues me in, but I don’t know what that transmission sound is called on radio. I’ll just call it The Silence.  Even the conversations are filled with It.  The silly SNL skit aside, people do speak less words per second than they do on most other talk radio. And I appreciate it.  I appreciate The Silence so much in fact that much to the chagrin of my young niece (you know who you are) I run, not with music, but with podcasts from previous shows. I think that proves my fan-status.

So this weekend, just about the time I was getting my butt served to me on a silver platter by a surly student, (see this for more details), I was listening along to On Point.  I like the host, Tom Ashbrook because he seems fair and because he has a sense of humor, which he needs. Like a lot of other fair people (by which I mean people who don’t reflexively take one side of an argument over another) he gets it from both sides. Conservative listeners (yes, NPR has those) accuse him and NPR of being biased, but then, the very next caller turns out to be some activist on the Left, and he lets Mr. Ashbrook have it because he is not skewering his Republican guest.  OK, fine. That’s the job. Mr. Ashbrook is from Illinois, farm grown. You get the feeling he grew up surrounded by people on both sides of the political divide and he knows how to diffuse situations with humor and firmness.  Have I sold the show?  I hope so.

Last week, he had a segment called Google, Facebook, and Your Privacy. It’s about the new changes that Google is going to put into effect on March 1 that affect privacy.  If you’re like me, you have seen these announcements whenever you log into GMail, and you’re probably ignored them just as I have.  Maybe the changes aren’t that important. Maybe they are. Like other On Point episodes, Mr. Ashbrook tries to put the information out there. And not unlike other episodes of On Point, the guests were passionate in their positions. Good. Fine. But then halfway through, I hear Mr. Ashbrook announce that Jeff Jarvis is going to come on to defend the changes that Google is planning, and I know I’m going to lose my NPR-powered bliss.

I detest Jeff Jarvis, which makes me kind of odd and a bit nerdy.  People usually reserve their ire for celebrities, famous athletes, people of note. Not me. In my little put-put driving around the Bay Area, spreading the Gospel of education to kids who don’t need me, I plug into NPR and get angry about a professor that no one knows–no one except for the avid NPR listener. Because if you are my brethren in this regard, you will know who this Jeff Jarvis is, and you will know why I find him objectionable.

you see the evil, don't you?


Here are some facts for the uninitiated and uninterestesd: he’s a prof at City College of New York–my wife’s ex-employer. He is a booster for new media. He has a blog called BuzzMachine.  He is also a bully. I’d be ok with this except for the fact that he doesn’t just bully other guests–experts in the field–he also bullies old people who call in to question his positions, which are questionable.  Prof. Jarvis takes the position that technology is always correct, that any concerns over privacy are old-fashioned and stem from ignorance. Whenever any of NPR’s shows take on discussions of media, the web particlarly, and/or how new media is replacing old, Prof. Jarvis comes in as the star witness to dismiss any and all objections.

I’m not against his positions. He probably has a point about our not needing to fear Facebook and Google and the rest of them.  It’s just that the guy is so damn emphatic even when he admits he can’t really defend his positions.  On the show last week, he likened Google’s privacy changes to Gutenberg’s press. But then Mr. Ashbrook challenged him and asked if that meant that along with the technology, we’d also get the kind of tumult that the press caused.  The good professor who just spoke about how only good things could arise from what Google is planning, who two minutes before got impatient with a caller who said she didn’t like the idea that Google is putting ads for diabetes medicine on her screen because she Googled information on that disease, had to admit the obvious: that he doesn’t know what exactly will come out of the changes Google is planning.

Really, Professor Jarvis? Is there something you don’t know about technology? No f*&^ing s*%t!!!!!  (I’m trying to keep the rage G-Rated.)

BREATH. OM! OK, I’m in touch with my inner Guru. Keeping it together.

I totally understand if you don’t get the anger–G-Rated or nor. This professor going off about technology–who cares? Right?  Don’t trip, as my kids would say. Well, I’m tripping. I trip a lot.  And the only way I can squelch this anger (beside ranting here) is to go download an older episde of On Point where Ted Koppel, who can sometimes be a bit of a pompous jerk himself, takes the good professor to task about his complete blindness to positions not his own.  You go, Ted. Use that pompous smugness to fight a greater evil–an evil who spells his name, J-A-R-V-I-S.


  1. “I don’t know” is my favorite answer.

  2. On Point is the best thing on radio (except for Car Talk, of course). I haven’t heard Jarvis speak, but he sounds like one of those self-described experts who takes positions not so much because of a passionate belief, but because they sell.

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