It’s National. It’s Public.

Like the rest of the country over the age of thirty (except for the uber-right wingers), I listen to a lot of NPR. Not on purpose. It’s not like I mean to. It’s just a fall-back radio plan, a default. When there’s no particular music I want to hear, when I can’t find someone on AM radio spewing wonderfully bizarre rants about the evils of Duct Tape and turkey gravy or the hidden joys of cow tipping, I tune into NPR. It lives up to its billing in a tremendously disappointing way. It is national. You can find NPR in Alaska, Florida, Missouri, and probably in Guam. It is public. Their pledge drives are annoyingly effective. And it is radio. It’s also really boring.

NPR is one of the political litmus tests of our time. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Conservatives feel that it’s leftist propaganda. Liberals feel that it’s just moderately-decent talk radio. As a proud political independent, I can kind of see both sides. NPR doesn’t spew out liberal position paper recaps like MSNBC or CNN, but it definitely does skew somewhat left. Compared to the right-wing shouters and their ilk, it IS lefty propaganda, but from their perspective so is Andy Griffith. It’s definitely left-of-center, but not the commie rant that Fox News thinks it is. NPR is communist in the same way that Evolution is a theory and “Dancing with the Stars” is thought-provoking. That position makes more sense if you already think it going in and your mind is as open as a piggy bank with no bottom stopper (will only open if you smash it with a hammer).

But, I don’t want to talk about the politics of NPR. I’ll leave that to the political shouters. I want to talk about its mildly hypnotic qualities. There’s something about the speech rhythms and verbal pacing of most of its programming that feels like a guy with a white Van Dyke beard dangling a pendulum-arced pocket watch in front of my ears. This must be why it’s so popular, because I don’t think it’s the programming. I can’t believe the Department of Transportation doesn’t yet have a code or an acronym for zombified-NPR-related-traffic fatalities. Unlike everywhere else on the radio, nobody screams on NPR. Nobody rants and raves on NPR. Nobody calls in with jingoistic “atta-boys” on NPR. Nobody brags about how he’s the greatest singer/rapper/political theorist/UFO abductee/snowboarder on NPR. They just calmly talk about various topics while betraying almost no emotion whatsoever.

In an age of random reverberating noise, NPR is something different. It’s just as predictable as other radio. It’s just as sponsored as other radio (thank you Bill & Melinda Gates, Robert Wood Johnson, and other rich people who should and do feel guilty), even though its lack of commercials in favor of listing the big-donor sponsors is, in a way, revolutionary. Where else can you hear updates of what America wants you to fear brought to you in the least fearful manner since the telegraph? Where else can you find the single greatest tiny, nearly midgetesque interviewer of our time? Where else can you find America’s most relatable financial news show?

NPR is more like the evening news USED TO BE than the evening news. NPR is more like a graduate school discussion group than most graduate school discussion groups. NPR is boring. NPR is as predictable as the sun. NPR may be the perfect vehicle for lying to us all, but because it’s so banal, we might not even notice until it’s too late. If you want to take over this country and your militia isn’t big enough, try recruiting Peter Sagal and Terry Gross. You’ll be the emperor of America before all of the things can even be considered.