KUHF CEO John Proffitt thinks you are a moron.
Well, that's what you could say if you saw his Facebook page a little earlier this week.
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.
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 to not be a dick about all that.
the same cannot be said for John Proffitt, KUHF's CEO and General
Manager. On the public wall of his Facebook 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
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."
second quote appears to be a mistake. 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
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."