I won't cancel my pledge, but...

NPR was wrong to fire Juan Williams.

For an excellent essay that perfectly mirrors my feelings on the issue, I refer you to Jeffrey Goldberg. I'm taking the quotes that got Williams fired from that source, but you can find them everywhere:
I mean, look, Bill [O'Reilly], 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.
First of all, as I've read somewhere or other, if you start a sentence with "I'm not a bigot, but..." you should probably not finish that sentence.

However dumb and impolitic Williams was in making this statement, he's not actually saying that all Muslims are terrorists. He's acknowledging an anxiety of his own. Given that he was voicing these feelings on Fox News Channel, where the rhetoric dial is always set at "overheated," it's easy to conflate those two things, but if he's going to get fired it should be for making a statement that's actually bigoted instead of just being ignorant.

I won't miss Williams on NPR, where I never found him particularly enlightening. (I should be honest and admit that part of my dislike for him is probably based on his being a conservative commentator, with whom I am likely to disagree as a matter of course.) But his statement does not rise to the level of firing offense, and giving him the axe has only made him the latest conservative media martyr.

Update: Strong work, Sen. DeMint, for taking a situation where liberals look back and going completely off the deep end, thus reminding me where my loyalties ultimately lie.


  1. This episode reminds me of where my loyalties ultimately lie, too, but for different reasons. Progressives claim to be extremely tolerant of diverse viewpoints and opinions. Just ask them. But a significant number are totally intolerant of anyone that wanders off the plantation; look at Mr. Williams, or for another example, author Elizabeth Moon (disinvited as Guest of Honor to WisCon). According to NPR, many listeners contracted the vapors knowing Mr. Williams is welcome on Fox. Can you imagine Fox viewers getting itchy over the fact that Mr. Williams was welcomed at NPR? Me neither. So tell me which group is the most tolerant again?

    Speaking of NPR, why *should* the Feds be funding them in the first place? My station is in the middle of the interminable fundraising appeal, making them unlistenable. I'd really rather have year-round ads, like all the other radio stations. In case no one in DC has noticed, the US government is broke, and we need to cut back on the nice-to-haves until we get the budget and deficit under control. NPR undoubtedly belongs in the first wave of nice-if-we-can-afford-it-but-we-can't defundings that are an inevitable part of a get-well plan for Federal government finances.

  2. This is uncommonly silly, GJ. The amount the federal government contributes to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is laughably small. Cutting it in response to the economic crisis would be like trying to set a compound fracture with a used popsicle stick.

    Furthermore, both NPR and PBS produce some of the finest programming available. The return on investment is enormous.

    As far as ads are concerned, you and I have vastly different opinions. I'd rather put up with one irritating week every few months than listen to five minutes of ads for every ten minutes of programming/music. I recently found a decent music station to listen to while driving in Boston (when I'm not interested in what's on NPR, natch), and already I've found the commercials vapid, infuriating and intrusive.

    Finally, while I disagree with the decision to fire Williams, there is no comparison between the Left and the Right regarding tolerance for dissent. There are at least half a dozen conservatives who have been frog marched off the premises after daring the dissent from the accepted wisdom.

  3. NPR stations get about 10% of their funding from the Feds, primarily through the Corp for Public Broadcasting. CPB is $400M; zero that out, and NPR stations will survive, but they will need to work a little harder. Remember, back long ago, when the President crowed about trimming $100M from the Fed budget? Here's 4 times that amount, and I bet we can find 1,000 other little nice-to-have Federal programs around $100M each. All of them will make the same argument ("You are getting so much bang for the buck! It isn't that much money! The return on investment is fantastic!") Give me a pile of popsicle sticks and I'll make you an excellent splint. Give me a thousand $100M nice-to-have programs, and I'll save $100B/year.

    Saying "well you do it too" isn't a very good rejoinder to the charge of intellectual intolerance. The Left is constantly crowing about how valued 'diversity' and 'dissent' is, but the reality is the Left is at least, if not more, intolerant of dissenting opinions that the Right. At least the Right doesn't try to criminalize Thoughtcrimes, unlike the Left.

  4. GJ, most of the federal money goes to local stations. Given that local NPR stations are filling the widening journalism gap created by failing local papers, it would be a major loss were they to fail.

    I'm not sure what to make of your claims of budgetary prowess. Maybe you're really that masterful with funding. Sadly, you are not in DC, and I am loath to lose a sound investment in American society.

    Perhaps I was unclear. I wasn't saying "your side does it, too." I was saying "your side is much, much worse." You plainly disagree, which is why you're on your side and I'm on mine.