KUHF Head Mocks the GOP
As if NPR wasn't in enough trouble
By John Nova Lomax
John Proffitt, the head of KUHF (Houston's home to NPR) thinks you are a moron.
Well, that's what you could say if you saw his Facebook page recently.
With NPR dealing with the fallout from its recent right-wing sneak attack, you'd think everyone even remotely in a position of power in public broadcasting would be in duck-and-cover mode when it came to their personal politics, especially if those views are somewhat, shall we say, non-populist.
The right has shown it will resort to trickery to try to confirm its suspicions about public radio — that it stands as a preserve for effete elitists, cocooning themselves against the baying of the great unwashed mob that is their fellow Americans.
And honestly, that's the way we feel when we tune in to KUHF. We'll cotton on to a little subconscious smugness when we're laughing along with the eggheads on Wait Wait Don't Tell Me or Garrison Keillor's homespun Wobegonisms, and don't even get us started about how brainiac we feel when we turn off the TV, dial up KUHF's classical programming and pick up Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky.
But then again, we try not to be a dick about all that.
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for John Proffitt, KUHF's CEO and General Manager. On the public wall of his Faceook page, he quoted H.L. Mencken in such a manner as to confirm every fanatical right-wing zealot's preconceptions of a public broadcasting muckety-muck. (Don't look now — it's probably already been taken down, but we did grab a screencap first.)
To wit, Proffitt parroted two of the Sage of Baltimore's most unabashedly and definitively elitist declarations, namely "In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican," and "Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public."
(The second quote appears to be mistaken. What Mencken actually said wasn't as much of a shotgun blast to the entire country as Proffitt's version. In the Chicago Tribune in 1926, Mencken wrote, "No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the record for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people.")
We asked Proffitt if he deemed it wise to be so bluntly condescending to over 300 million people in so public a forum, especially if his job was funded by the donations of those same people, some of whom are even Republicans, and thus insulted twice.
"Mencken was an extremely well-known, famous writer for the Baltimore newspaper," he told Hair Balls, more than a little pedantically. "And he is quoted oftentimes for his acerbic commentary on American society. That's the reason those quotes are there. Not really any other particular reason."
But, we pressed, this is a fraught world for public broadcasters. After what happened to the two Schillers, posting those quotes seemed to us downright punk-rock, reckless as a raised middle finger to the whole entire world. We told Proffitt that we feared this blog item might be received "explosively" in some quarters in this post-Schiller environment.
"Well, I don't know what to say about that," he told us. "If you think it would be a good idea to remove that, I certainly will. I've changed the quotations on my Facebook page probably ten or 15 times since I've been doing Facebook. There's not any real significance of Mencken over Teilhard de Chardin, another person I quote frequently. Jeez!"
He went on to wonder why we were singling out Mencken and we told him that in all honesty he was a hero of ours as well. (We've sported other Mencken quotes on our own Facebook page for years.) But it's not that it's Mencken, it's the Menckenisms he chose to quote. We believed he was making the rabid right's case for them — that all those in power at public radio view all but the well-heeled, college-educated, classical-loving as slack-jawed, dull-eyed mo-rons.
We told him that we didn't take money from donors, and if we did take money from donors, we wouldn't post insulting quotations about the entire American public. (And insults that were apparent misquotes at that, we would have added had we known that wasn't exactly what Mencken said.)
"I take your point," Proffitt said. "I honestly did not follow that line of reasoning before."
DOING TI DAILY
Theres tons of stuff each day on the Houston Press blogs; youre only getting a taste of it here in the print edition. Head to blogs.houstonpress.com/hairballs (or /rocks or /eating or /artattack).
A woman embezzled $1.5 million from a company (takes brains), then lost it all at a convenience-store poker machine (takes no brains at all). A Texan decided to settle an argument with his stepdaughter's boyfriend by taking a samurai sword to the dude's lip. The New York Times took another crack at the Cleveland gang-rape story after botching its first try. Oh, and County Commissioner Jerry Eversole skated away again from corruption allegations.
We were all over the Final Four, of course (our Visitor's Guide is useful for natives, too), but also took a look at the Astros' dismal prospects for the upcoming season, the Rockets' surprising late-season run and the Aeros' efforts to get into the playoffs. State Senator Royce West, an attorney representing Dallas Cowboy Dez Bryant in suits claiming he's welshed on more than $800,000 he owes for jewelry, offered up the lamest possible defense ever.
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We devoured crawfish and purple potatoes at Moon Tower Inn and reported back with photos, and later in the week shared the sad news that the Health Department has cracked down on dogs (of the canine, not sausage, variety) at the hipster hangout. We checked in at new hot spot El Real to try old-school Tex-Mex — with lard in the beans, of course. And we listed frozen cocktails besides margaritas to cool off with as the weather heats up.
It was a yin and yang week with Art Lies announcing it was out of the publication business while Sundance Cinemas announced it was breathing new life into the abruptly closed Angelika theater downtown. We assessed the merits of each team's uniform in the Final Four. And we urged you to get off your backsides and make your way over to the Menil Community Arts Festival and Houston Indie Book Fair.