The people at Fox "News" are devoting a lot of airtime to Juan Williams lately.
As you've probably heard, National Public Radio fired Williams for the comments he made about Muslims on The O'Reilly Factor. Williams said:
I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country. But when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.According to NPR, "Williams also warned O'Reilly against blaming all Muslims for 'extremists,' saying Christians shouldn't be blamed for Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh." But it wasn't enough. The damage had been done. As They Might Be Giants sang, you can't shake the devil's hand and then say you're only kidding.
Andrew Sullivan hit the nail on the head. In response to Williams's assertion that he is not a bigot, Sullivan writes:
What if someone said that they saw a black man walking down the street in classic thug get-up. Would a white person be a bigot of he assumed he was going to mug him? What percentage of traditionally garbed Muslims - I assume wearing a covered veil or some other indicator and being of darker skin - have committed acts of terror? And, of course, the 9/11 mass-murderers were in everyday attire, to blend in. So was the Christmas Day undie-bomber. The Fort Hood murderer was in US military uniform, for Pete's sake.How did Fox "News" react to Williams's remarks? They gave him a new contract with a raise and an expanded role in their entertainment division.
Conservatives, naturally, are upset by NPR's move. According to The Los Angeles Times,
By midafternoon Thursday, more than 4,900 comments had been posted on NPR.org, including many from people who said the media organization was bowing to political correctness and unfairly punishing Williams for expressing his personal opinions.An apoplectic Michelle Malkin is calling for public funding of NPR to be cut. In another post, Malkin defended Williams on the grounds that he was merely giving "his honest opinion," claimed that "NPR has apparently caved into left-wing attack dogs on the Internet," and asserted that "NPR has undermined whatever credibility it had left with this boneheaded capitulation."
So why did NPR fire Williams? What is their side of the story? According to a statement issued by NPR, "[Williams's] remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."
Why are conservatives so upset and liberals unconcerned about Williams's firing? Williams's remarks were bigoted. And bigotry is a sign of ignorance. Civilized people don't tolerate bigotry when its targets are African-Americans or Latinos or Christians and so on. Bigotry is no more tolerable when its target is Muslims. Without the ignorance bigotry needs to flourish, there is no uproar over a planned Islamic community center near Ground Zero in New York City. Conservative media outlets exploit ignorance to accomplish their political goals as they did in the case of the so-called Ground Zero mosque. Inside actual news organizations like NPR, however, ignorance is a serious liability. I am willing to bet that NPR listeners have much less tolerance for ignorance than do Fox "News" viewers. Williams showed his ignorance and it cost him; Fox "News," however, rewarded it.
And that brings us to Malkin. She may think that NPR's credibility is undermined by this move. She is wrong for two reasons. First, NPR has no credibility with conservative nit-wits like Malkin, so they had none to lose with Malkin by firing Williams to begin with. Second, NPR's move actually enhanced their credibility: it sent the message that the people who work for NPR must be smart enough not to be bigots and reassured their listeners that the kind of propaganda one typically gets from Fox "News" and the people who promulgate it will not be tolerated at NPR.
Conservatives claimed that the opinions of those opposed to the planned mosque were valid, and that sensitivity demanded that we take them seriously. Malkin appears to think that we need to take Williams's opinions seriously as well. She complains that Williams was fired because he "committed the deadly sin of expressing public concern about traveling with 'people who are in Muslim garb.'" Both Williams and opponents of the planned mosque have been victims of political correctness, according to conservatives. But what's really going on here? They plead for sensitivity to the feelings of those victimized on 9/11; they plead for tolerance for Williams's bigoted views. But what about sensitivity to the feelings of Muslims wrongly vilified by Williams? What about sensitivity to the feelings of Muslims wrongly vilified by those opposed to the planned mosque? Many conservatives are bigots: they believe in their hearts that Islam is evil and Muslims are to be feared. Why wouldn't they? That's what their trusted media outlets have been telling them for years. And that, again, is why the firing of Williams has made them so upset. To them, Williams speaks the truth.
Malkin quotes Thomas Jefferson as saying, "To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical." While Malkin wants her tax dollars spent on airing bigoted views, I think we can aim higher. Not all opinions are equal. Williams's opinions are based in ignorance, as are the feelings of those opposed to the planned mosque. These opinions have as much right to be taken seriously as do the opinions of astrologers and alchemists.
I'm also not buying the argument that firing Williams is an infringement on his right to free speech. He has a new expanded platform on Fox "News" to say what he wants. And how long would a Fox "News" personality remain on the air if she asserted that, say, George W. Bush is a war criminal, or Republican thinking about the deficit is divorced from reality, or that global climate change is unquestionably real and caused by human beings, or that God doesn't exist? Not long.
Update. I wrote above that "Civilized people don't tolerate bigotry when its targets are African-Americans or Latinos or Christians and so on." RedState's Erick Erickson has a different view of things:
The most significant truth is that had Juan Williams made his comments about Christians or Jews he would still have his job. The world is at war with Christ and, more generally, the Judeo-Christian God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Islam, derived from a man of this world, and the world are in supernatural alliance against Christ. This is the moment non-believers laugh and believers nod knowingly.
The secular world hates the real God of the Bible and those who follow Christ. Any group that is not of Christ or allied with Christ is spared by the world because it is of the world. Any group of Christ or allied with Christ is fair game for attack and ridicule.
Christians are aliens in this world and ultimately, on the last day, win. But until then, the world hates them.All right. Let me just say this first, and get it off of my chest: Erick Erickson is out of his fucking mind.
That's better. Now, then. Erickson sees the world as a battlefield on which followers of the Judeo-Christian God are at war with everyone else. Here's the deal: I am as secular as they come, and I don't hate God or Christians. The problem is that far too many Christians are complete assholes, and I just want to be left alone. I don't want to be indoctrinated into your faith, and I don't want you forcing me to live by your rules. And it would be really swell if far fewer Christians were hypocrites. Your problem, Erick, is that many people who profess to be Christians are actually more morally corrupt than many atheists. That would explain a lot of the abuse you folks are experiencing. So work on that, all right?
And I'm not too stupid to see that you are furthering the myth that Christians are persecuted in this country, when in reality they're running the fucking show, and making it unpleasant to be an atheist. And I can also see that furthering that myth helps you achieve your political goals. Just thought you should know.