Monday, November 1, 2010

What Juan Williams Was Really Fired For, Copypasta Edition (US Politics Today)

Its been more than a week since Juan Williams was fired from NPR, and his story has already started to fall into obscurity.  Which is probably a good thing, since NPR got a bomb threat and PBS was getting irate calls from very silly people. It's time to reflect on the Williams controversy, and see if we can learn anything from it.  According to an NPR report, he was fired from NPR for saying this on Bill O'Reilly's radio program:
"Look, Bill, 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."
The same story cites an NPR press release stating that:
"His 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."
It's worth reading the NPR source first, so we can get an idea of the network's position.  The idea is that his lack of objectivity were the root cause for his termination.  A Christian Science Monitor article raises an interesting point based on that premise.  The author wonders what Williams's firing for editorializing means at a time when journalists are increasingly expected to express their views.  It's a good question, and I don't have the answer.

I listen to NPR frequently.  I enjoy it's programming, like Car Talk, and Wait Wait Don't Tell Me.  But I don't pretend that shows like All Things Considered don't have an editorial bias.  Juan Williams was fired because he strayed away from NPR's official positions, and because he did it on a network that promotes competing ideological positions.  Noam Chomsky outlined all this years ago.


Williams was fired because delusional people could mistakenly interpret his remarks as racist.  Every partisan position has delusional people.  If his infraction was his editorializing, he would have been lightly reprimanded.  And if you think Juan Williams really is a racist, you should watch this.

Incidentally, here's an example of Williams's name being used as a verb.

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