Juan Williams: Fired for Doubting – UPDATED


(Graphic via Ed Driscoll, who has a good roundup)

I wonder if it was smart of NPR to–12 days out from an election where leftism is headed for a defeat of rejectionre-inforce the perception that both liberalism and the media are out of control; that they have utterly cast off their former roles as champions of free speech and free thought, in favor of compulsory conformity.

On consideration, I (along with Andrew Malcolm) say, no…not smart. Catastrophically not smart.

My first thought when I heard this was one that apparently several people had: it’s a good thing for Jesse Jackson that he does not work for NPR and that Nina Tottenberg will never be fired from there. What wit!

My second thought was, that Williams (and I’m no particular fan of his) was fired for betraying doubt and incertitude. He was admitting that regardless of how much we all want to be fair about people, how we all hope that we can look beyond superficials, we will all, sometimes, harbor doubts about others, and about ourselves.

It seems like In America, we are no longer supposed to harbor doubts about anything. We’re either supposed to pretend that there is no reason to ever, ever, ever worry that someone dressed in Islamic garb might want to hijack our plane into a building (for to believe otherwise would immediately render us “bigots”) or we’re supposed to pretend that there is every reason to suspect everybody.

The truth–as usual–lies between those two false extremes. One might feel “noble” by sneering at Williams’ pronouncement in a pudding of self-righteousness, but to do so is as bigoted as Williams’ pronouncement is incorrectly being labeled. It is saying “I’m not one of those people, who think every Muslim is a terrorist; I’m one of the good people, who only think ill of others when they have the bad taste to reveal their doubt.”

Kind of like when someone is listening to NPR while driving their BMW, and discreetly making sure their doors are locked when they spy a homeless man moving too close to their car. That’s revealing doubt. And it’s human. It may not be the best part of being human, but it is a common thing. Or it is common to people who are honest. There are a lot of people who would prefer to pretend they’re ‘way too evolved to think as Williams admits he does.

It comes down to prudence, which is–or was, last I checked–a Virtue. It is inarguably bigoted to see every muslim as a terrorist, but I frankly don’t think there are many people like that in America.

But it is prudent to at least be aware of one’s surroundings, and to make note of one’s fellow-travelers, in all circumstances, whether one is on a plane, or going to the movies, or playing in the park with one’s children. We are not meant to traipse through life like naive bumpkins, with our eyes paradoxically shut as we wander about wide-eyed saying “golly, I and my children are perfectly safe because the authorities are regulating and overseeing my air travel, my movie-going and our park safety and therefore I don’t have to think about it!”

Which is (oddly) precisely the sort of unsophisticated moo-speak and behavior that our “sophisticated” betters want from us.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I were heading into Manhattan and we noticed an unmarked truck driving very, very slowly. I couldn’t help wondering if there was something suspicious in that. Yes, it could have been a guy transporting something fragile, like a crystal chandelier, but it could also have been a guy transporting something fragile like explosives. We are told by Homeland Security to “be aware” but then are told by the media, “but don’t be too aware; specifically, don’t express a doubt, or you’ll be a social pariah.”

How deeply are we supposed to sleep? When does an obsession with “not wanting to appear bigoted” (which is what the cowardly nonsense of over-enforced PC-Speak is all about) become dangerous to society as a whole?

It’s worth remembering that just last year NPR made a “suggestion” to Mara Liasson that she end her association with FOX news. I wonder how she’s feeling right now.

Here is a round-up of the story and the internet coverage, which is huge, starting with Ed Morrissey who helpfully gives us Williams in full context.

Williams discusses the firing, in this video.

Rodney Ho lucked out and was able to ask NPR’s CEO Vivian Schiller about the firing:

Q: So did Juan really get fired over just those Muslim comments? [He said he was uncomfortable with Muslims dressed in traditional garb on airplanes during a Fox News telecast yesterday.]

A: There have been several instances over the last couple of years where we have felt Juan has stepped over the line. He famously said last year something about Michelle Obama and Stokely Carmichael. [The quote on Fox News last year: Obama "has this Stokely-Carmichael-in-a-designer-dress thing going" and that she'll be an "albatross" for President Obama.]. This isn’t a case of one strike and you’re out.

Schiller seems to have quite a lot to say. None of it wise.

Schiller kind of makes me wonder
if too many people aren’t in powerful positions these days because of their skills in lockstepping, rather than because of their smarts. Allahpundit has more on this charmer.

Matt Welch: A Clarifying Moment:

Williams’ firing is a clarifying moment in media mores. You can be Islamophobic, in the form of refusing to run the most innocuous imaginable political cartoons out of a broad-brush fear of Muslims, but you can’t admit it, even when the fear is expressed as a personal feeling and not a group description, winnowed down to the very specific and nightmare-exhuming act of riding on an airplane, and uttered in a context of otherwise repudiating collective guilt and overbroad fearmongering.

Bill O’ Reilly and Whoopi Goldberg agree: this firing is absurd

Mike Huckabee: Grabbing a moment to be politically expedient, he says “defund NPR”. Hey, between Mrs. Kroc’s big bequest and George Soros’ deep pockets, and seeing how they spend their wealth–and taking into account Vivian Schiller’s assertion that tax-funding is “not significant” to NPR, I do think my taxes can be better-spent elsewhere!

Seems they’ve been gunning for Williams for a while. Read it all.

Bernard Goldberg: The Death of Liberalism; it’s been in extremis for a long time, unrecognizable from the liberalism of my youth.

The Atlantic: fired for what, now?

Rich Lowry: “Shameful”

Malkin has reactions from the left, and Ace is looking around the ‘net’s too

Instapundit: Lots here, and on a related issue

Get Religion: Expect a rash of Muslim-friendly news reports from NPR and elsewhere.

Happy Catholic–who never gets political!–is appalled

Gateway Pundit: What will and won’t get you fired from NPR.

Gawker:

“Williams, a black (sorta) conservative who has written some smart books but has also managed to be a desiccated, unimaginative hack analyst for public radio…”

Dan Riehl: Williams was fired because of what NPR is

Howard Kurtz: If he’d said it on Charlie Rose, instead of on FOX, Williams would probably still have his job.

Over 4500 comments currently at NPR. Most of them critical of the firing. NPR says traffic has overwhelmed the comments section for now.

Dave Weigel defends Williams

Irish Spy:

What this really shows is how narrow the limits are on free speech at that bastion of liberalism, National Public Radio. Express an opinion beyond the bounds of progressive, multicultural orthodoxy and you get punished. And it’s another example of how the Left in general pays only lip service to intellectual freedom: you have the freedom to express any thought as long as it’s on the approved list.

Real Clear Politics

The Lesson:

Treat political and philosophical opponents with kindness. You never know when the opportunity might come about to offer them a hand up.

Apparently Rush Limbaugh has said that Williams was fired because he’d once defended Limbaugh on something. Meanwhile the argument can be made that he was fired because of his affiliation with Fox News.

One thing is for sure: when you have people hoping that they get the bragging rights re causation for Williams’ firing, you’ve made a stupid move.

Check back for updates as I find more to link to!

UPDATE II:
Williams lands on his feet.

Sez Williams:

Well, now that I no longer work for NPR let me give you my opinion. This is an outrageous violation of journalistic standards and ethics by management that has no use for a diversity of opinion, ideas or a diversity of staff (I was the only black male on the air). This is evidence of one-party rule and one sided thinking at NPR that leads to enforced ideology, speech and writing. It leads to people, especially journalists, being sent to the gulag for raising the wrong questions and displaying independence of thought.

Daniel Schorr, my fellow NPR commentator who died earlier this year, used to talk about the initial shock of finding himself on President Nixon’s enemies list. I can only imagine Dan’s revulsion to realize that today NPR treats a journalist who has worked for them for ten years with less regard, less respect for the value of independence of thought and embrace of real debate across political lines, than Nixon ever displayed.

UPDATE:
Blackfive: Its. Not. Our. Fault.

Melissa Clouthier: I disagree, vehemently with Juan Williams on nearly everything [but] I don’t want him to lose his job just because he says something that someone might deem offensive or disagree with. [...] Unless someone is a vile hatemonger, a person should feel that he will keep his job even if it’s outside some p.c. orthodoxy.

Sarah Palin (via Althouse): … I don’t expect Juan Williams to support me (he’s said some tough things about me in the past) – but I will always support his right and the right of all Americans to speak honestly about the threats this country faces. And for Juan, speaking honestly about these issues isn’t just his right, it’s his job. Up until yesterday, he was doing that job at NPR. Firing him is their loss.

Brutally Honest: that statement was enough for National Public Radio to end their relationship with the man who in large part and by nearly every measure is a liberal… amazing… this is what is called tolerance…

AJ Strata: …how is it Juan Willliams can have his job taken from him for not only complying with the government request, but sharing his fears about the attack with others?

More Ed Driscoll

UPDATE II:
Power Line
Ann Althouse
Daily Caller
Noisy Room

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Doc: if Williams deserved a suspension for his latent irrational bigotry, what do people who have blatant irrational bigotry concerning the Tea Party movement have coming to them?

    Not sure if Williams should have even been suspended, but at least it would have allowed time to cool off. More than likely, it’s been building for some time.

    As for “blatant irrational bigotry concerning the Tea Party,” you might point to a specific statement. If we overgeneralized, we would be happy to modify or retract as appropriate.

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Doc: By the way, Zach, you seem to have omitted this from your selective GMA interview quotes:

    Didn’t ignore it, but didn’t see the relevance. So the point is what? That Williams blames the employer who fired him. Surprise.

  • Doc

    The relevance, Zach, is that Williams, as a good liberal, always believed the narrative. Liberals, due to their good intentions in all they do, must be tolerant and open. He was shocked to find out what conservatives have known for a long time. Conservatives are far more tolerant than the Left. NPR’s actions were a reaction to their intolerant, Lefty audience.

    Regarding bigotry toward the Tea Party, give me a break. Go back and read your own comments. Go through the Newsbusters archives, which accurately captures corporate media and Democrat (but I repeat myself) bigotry toward the Tea Party.

  • http://zachriel.blogspot.com/2005/07/liberal-v-conservative.html Zachriel

    Doc: The relevance, Zach, is that Williams, as a good liberal, always believed the narrative.

    Yes, that’s the story. An employer has every right to terminate someone who uses their position as an employee to express bigotry.

    Doc: Williams, as a good liberal, always believed the narrative.

    Well, that’s the story. What makes you think he’s a liberal?

    Doc: Conservatives are far more tolerant than the Left.

    That would be very difficult to justify, other than by cherry-picking or redefining the usual meaning of tolerance. As individuals, people vary a great deal. However, the current bout of xenophobia is clearly springing from the Right, conservatism being naturally suspicious of change. Indeed, the real complaint many have had about Williams is that he gives cover and normalizes bigotry and other reactionary views.

    Doc: what do people who have blatant irrational bigotry concerning the Tea Party movement have coming to them? You know, people who think and express themselves like you do.

    Doc: Go back and read your own comments.

    We’ll consider the comment withdrawn until you provide specifics.

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