June 10, 2004

Is there something vaguely contemptible about people

who listen to the radio to hear classical music? NPR's own research seems to suggest so, as reported in this Weekly Standard article. In contrast to the "citizens of the world," the "NPR Activists," who want to hear talk, the research labeled classical music listeners "Classical Monks":
Classical Monks use the music format to attain an internal state, soothing and calm, intensely personal. NPR Activists use information from NPR News to guide their relations with other people in their community and around the globe. . . . NPR Activists love analysis and debate. More talk is better, if that talk informs their understanding of global issues. . . .

Classical listeners enter a dream world with images of paradise.

The NPR newsmagazines keep reminding us of the real world, with its social conditions, environmental changes, and economic forces. . . .

Classical Monks seek an emotion derived from the aesthetic. NPR Activists think that reason and logic, on the basis of solid information, can lead to the perfection of mankind.

The classical listener values lone serenity. NPR fans are the most politically active segment of the population.

In short: "The portal to NPR news is through the intellect ... The portal to classical music is emotional. ... Classical listeners use the station for gratification of their private, internal needs."

This addresses only the preference for classical music over news and news analysis, but it seems to imply a more general attitude of seeing politics and the political life as preferable to art and the aesthetic life, public life as preferable to personal life, and reason as preferable to feeling. This set of preferences is itself a distinctive and harsh political opinion. It is an opinion I strongly disagree with, even though I don't think classical radio particularly deserves taxpayer support, and I'm one of those people who switch stations when Morning Edition gives way to Morning Classics.

ALSO: News and politics have emotional appeal to the people who engage with them. News junkies are scarcely purely intellectual. And music, especially classical music, has deep appeal to reason and the intellect. So even if it were true that reason was superior to emotion, it would not necessarily mean that news programming was superior to music programming.

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