To a much greater extent than the BBC is of the British State, The VOA is the mouthpiece of the United States Government. Listening to it is much the same, and needs the same skills as, listening to an American politician, ‘Government Spokesperson’, or President. Above all, one is not listening to the ‘Voice of America’ — the ordinary decent people of America.
What are the above-mentioned skills? well, if you read poetry properly, listen (I mean really listen) to music, or can understand and even take part in a conversation in a language other than your mother tongue, then you already have these skills. As you listen to the VOA, (the president, the government spokesperson, the politician), you turn on these skills, as you might shove a Babel-fish in your ear. Some examples:
When the President says ‘I did not have sex with that woman’ he is not exactly lying: he’s using ‘Have sex’ in a special sense; a sense in which many things we lesser mortals had thought were ‘sex’ are excluded. Fellatio, Cunnilingus, and no doubt all sorts of other fun things are not, in the VOA-President-Politician-Government-Spokesperson sense, sex.
When the VOAPPGS says ‘America does not practice torture’, your babel-fish should explain that this means ‘Heavens no! We pay foreigners to do it abroad for us’, or sometimes, rather as it is with ‘Having Sex’, ‘Torture’ is being used here in a special sense: tying someone to a plank and pouring water into his mouth until he is just on the point of drowning, reviving him, then repeating the process over and over again until between bouts he gasps out whatever he thinks you want him to say, is not (in this special sense) ‘Torture’: it is an ‘Enhanced Interrogation Technique’.
Sometimes one hardly needs one’s babel-fish: when the VOAPPGS says ‘We shall continue to monitor the situation and consider appropriate action’ you need little more than average intelligence to work out that VOAPPGS has found an ingenious and impressive-sounding way of saying absolutely nothing at all.
At weekends, VOA’s international news is replaced by something called ‘Encounter’, which is advertised as ‘A free-wheeling, no-holds-barred programme in which advocates and opponents meet to discuss important issues in the news.’ For instance, the ‘Advocate’ might say that America should send many more troops to Iraq, while the ‘Opponent’ says no, no more troops, or not many, but lots more ‘Military Advisors’. They range freely over the whole gamut of views from A to B. No-one would suggest that perhaps America shouldn’t be there at all, still less would America’s God-given duty to be the world’s policeman be questioned.
So why would one bother to listen to the VOA? Well, provided you can keep your cool and a robust sense of humour, and make sure your babel-fish is in good health, you can learn a lot from the VOA. Certainly far more than from the BBC’s relentless dumbed-down populism, rushing to get the dull stuff out of the way so as to concentrate on ‘Sport’.