Monday, August 15, 2016

What NPR Left Out

I just heard the Kitchen Sisters' segment on the Farallon Egg Wars, which was, in audio terms, beautifully wrought.  And yet it's disappointing, though not necessarily surprising, how cliched their telling of the story (which relies largely on Gary Kamiya's account) was.

The actual political backdrop of the "war" is far more interesting than you would glean from hearing the segment on NPR. 1850's San Francisco wasn't just about bar-room brawls and desperadoes - it was also about a significant amount of progressive political action on the part of the very ethnic group blamed most for the egging. Which was a point I'd hoped to impart to Nikki Silva over the course of a two-hour radio interview. Alas....

Moreover, few would know about this story were it not for Susan Casey, the author of The Devil's Teeth. Ms. Casey widely revived the history from Peter White's account, with Ms. Casey placing a particular and penetrating focus on the actual letters sent by Lighthouse Keeper Amos Clift. Casey's rendering is how I myself learned the story.  And after working on my particular focus of the story for over a year, I in turn imparted the story to an unaware Kamiya over drinks with David Talbot in 2011; Kamiya subsequently mined the material himself in his own book. That the NPR segment neglected the fascinating sociopolitical forces behind the story, and elided Casey's lively telling altogether in favor of Kamiya's is... why I get my news from the BBC these days.