Saturday, October 23, 2010

More thoughts on the firing of Juan Williams from NPR

Here are my reactions to passages from an Associated Press story "Gone From NPR, Williams Begins Bigger Role On Fox."

According to the AP, during his appearance on The O'Reilly Factor Friday, 
Williams went on to note that commentator Nina Totenberg said 15 years ago that if there is "retributive justice," former Republican North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms or one of his grandchildren will get AIDS from a transfusion.
An NPR spokeswoman said Totenberg has repeatedly apologized for her comments. 
I'm not a huge Totenberg fan myself, but there is a significant difference between her case and that of Williams: Totenberg apologized for her comments, and Williams has not. My guess is that conservative bloggers (like this lunatic) fail to mention this fact. 

The AP also reports that 
Veronica Richardson, 38, a paralegal from Raleigh, N.C., said the firing revealed that NPR had a "political agenda." She said she would stop listening and donating to her local station, WUNC-FM in Chapel Hill. 
"I think it's unfair to fire someone for a comment that was innocuous to begin with. It's how many people feel," said Richardson, who describes herself as a libertarian. 
Richardson's problem is that Williams' comment was not "innocuous to begin with." It had the effect of legitimizing Bill O'Reilly's irrational fear of Muslims. Before you conclude that such comments are harmless, perhaps you ought to get to know a few American Muslims and ask them about it. In addition, bigotry is not a legitimate "political agenda," and neither is firing those who express it. Bigotry is rooted in ignorance of non-political matters; reforming bigots is therefore not political. 

Finally, according to the AP, 
Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., said he will introduce legislation to end federal funding for public radio and television. 
"Once again, we find the only free speech liberals support is the speech with which they agree," he said in a statement. "With record debt and unemployment, there's simply no reason to force taxpayers to subsidize a liberal programming they disagree with."
Liberals like me have been saying that conservatives' irrational fear of Muslims is bigotry. I do in fact disagree with Williams' comments, but not because I am a liberal. I disagree with Williams' comments because they are rooted in ignorance about factual matters. And I don't care whether most Americans agree with Williams or not. Their agreement with him wouldn't make his comments any less false. Conservatives have a long history of using propaganda, including false propaganda, to further their political goals. And if DeMint want to ally himself with bigots, he can be my guest. 

DeMint also assumes that NPR can air only those views with which Americans agree. Think about that. He assumes not only that the airing of minority opinions on NPR is forbidden, but also that Americans agree with him. This is a conservative delusion in the Obama era: that the conservative wing of the Republican Party is representative of Americans in general, and that Obama and the Democrats are ignoring the will of the American people. DeMint, and the rest of them, are out of their fucking minds. Andrew Sullivan writes
"A convenient Tea Party mantra has been the presumptuous, and seemingly amnesiac notion that President Obama 'betrayed the American people,' that 'We the People have spoken and never wanted Obama’s policies.'" . . .
I have one loyal and valuable reader who keeps going nuts about the health insurance bill being rammed down the throats of the country.
But Obama explicitly campaigned on it; it was never hidden; he didn't change it significantly from his final campaign message (although he opposed mandates in the primaries). It was fought over in the presidential debates. And he won the election by a landslide on that platform. And he passed it after months of Congressional wrangling. There was nothing faintly wrong or treacherous or deceptive about any of it.
Jim, I understand your political reasons for doing what you're doing, but to many of us, you sound about as insane as Erick Erickson. Your contact with reality is tenuous at best. Take your meds. 

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson