Thursday, October 21, 2010

A liberal's defense of Juan Williams 

Regular blog readers know that National Public Radio fired commentator Juan Williams for confessing that sharing an airplane with overt Muslims made him "nervous." There has been lots of sturm und drang in the blogosphere, especially on the right, where the main reaction has been to denounce NPR (for being irredeemably PC) and to speculate that this was just an excuse to can Williams for having the gall to appear on Fox News. Worthy points, to be sure. But then there is this thoughtful post from a liberal "anti-racist" writer who does not much like Williams, a solid progressive response to NPR:

Yet what had Williams done, exactly? He acknowledged his own biases, and then explained the fallacy embedded therein. He was being honest as a way to demonstrate an important fact, and in this case, a fact that the nice white liberals who predominate at NPR try to deny, especially for themselves. Namely, that even the best of us can be taken in by racism, by religious bias, by ethnic chauvinism, by prejudice. No matter our liberal bona fides, the bottom line is this: advertising works, whether for selling toothpaste, tennis shoes, or stereotypes....

The only difference between Juan Williams and the people who fired him is this: Williams is honest enough to admit his own damage. And importantly, what the research on this subject tells us is that it is precisely those persons who are able to see and acknowledge their biases who are the most likely to challenge themselves, and try valiantly not to act on them. In other words, it is the Juan Williams’s of the world whose self-awareness in this regard will minimize the likelihood of discriminatory behavior. Meanwhile, it’s the liberals who deny to their dying breath that they have a “racist bone in their bodies,” or who swear they “never see color,” or insist that they are open-minded, forward thinking and free of prejudice, who are often unable to see how their internalized biases effect them, and move them around the chessboard of life without them even realizing it. Frankly, those are the ones from whom racial and religious “others” probably need the most protection.



By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Thu Oct 21, 04:38:00 PM:

One of the better lines I read on the discussion of his firing is that libs are open-minded as long as you agree with them. [Disclaimer: I am a Post-Liberal.] In one sense, his firing makes no difference to me personally, as I stopped listening to NPR years ago when I tired of their sneering tone.

Here is my encounter with liberal political correctness and Muslims. At a recent dinner with relatives, one told some anecdote or folk tale- I don’t know if it were true or not - about some Muslim MD on a plane flight assisting some incapacitated passenger. My relative made explicit the moral of the story: that we should not be fearful of Muslims, and especially not fearful of MDs who are Muslims. I replied that there were Muslim MDs who drove a bomb-laden vehicle into barriers at Edinburgh airport. [I neglected to mention the Muslim MD at Fort Hood who went on the shooting spree.] The reply from my relative was that as we had killed 300,000 Muslims, they had cause to be angry. The conversation terminated when I stated that was not an accurate figure.

Here is a paragraph from the Tim Wise link which I consider appropriate:
But in the process of their self-righteous shedding of the one who told the truth, we should not allow them to pretend they do so in the name of high-minded, unbiased principle. They do not. They do so only as a way to maintain the white liberal pretense: that racism and other forms of bias are only problems for those people over there, but never for us. We voted for Obama. We have a Celebrate Diversity sticker on our car, or one of those neat Coexist stickers, where the letters are all made out of different religious symbols. We’re better than that. And we can’t sully ourselves by associating with someone who admits that occasionally even they turn out to be flawed, and fragile, which is to say human.

Libs take the reverse Chevy Chase approach to prejudice -call it what you will. "I'm not prejudiced, and you are." (Which I compare to to "I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not.")  

By Blogger Pyrus, at Thu Oct 21, 04:42:00 PM:

I guiltily confess to not knowing my history here but it seems to me that liberalism has come to mean something very different from what it meant in the early 60's. A "liberal" viewpoint used to mean exactly the kind of self-awareness and attempt at fairness that Tim Wise puts his finger on. It used to mean an openness to hearing challenges to the orthodoxy of the day (i.e., Father Knows Best style American homogeneity). It used to inspire the defense of civil rights - once upon a time most of things the ACLU fought for were worth fighting for. Now liberalism is the name given to the orthodoxy of *our* day: political correctness, post modern anti-earnestness, moral relativism. Hmm, I'm rambling. Good post - thanks for excerpting it.  

By Anonymous Montana, at Thu Oct 21, 04:42:00 PM:

Good for NPR, Juan Williams slant belongs to "Fake News" with the rest of the failed political candidstes Palin, Huckabee, or should I say the 2012 GOP Presidential contenders. They are not racist they are just the good old boys. They are the bunch that keep saying that they are scared of BLACKS, scared of ASIANS, sacred of LATINOS, scared of WOMEN, scared of the GAYS and now they are scared of Muslims. So long Johnny,don't let the door hit you. I love that you went crying to "Fake News" and played the victim card, I guess its another "it is a high-tech lynching".  

By Blogger Stephen, at Thu Oct 21, 05:03:00 PM:

Was Juan Williams fired or was his contract not renewed?  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Thu Oct 21, 05:03:00 PM:

"Fake News"?

...and example please.

Huckabee, Palin and many others failed despite honest campaigns. They did not have to lie and misrepresent themselves to get elected by dullards who were bussed to the polls.

...and now your chickens are coming home to roost, Montana...so were I you (and I am glad I am not), I would contain the hubris and get ready for the REAL election.  

By Blogger Unknown, at Thu Oct 21, 05:11:00 PM:

Another thoughtful discussion (vs montana's pitiful strawman):


By Anonymous vicki pasadena ca, at Thu Oct 21, 05:31:00 PM:

You are right on, Montana. In fact, I like Juan Williams but he is Fox News idea of what a liberal should be, not an actual liberal. He is only what they can stand. When confronted by true liberals, the people at Fox (witness O'Reilly and Jon Stewart) they become nasty, condescending blow hards, who like listening to the sound of their own voices more than the sound of their interviewee. That jackass, Hannity, does the same thing. He hardly lets the words out of the mouth of anyone who does not think exactly like him and attack, attack attacks them, what a douche.
If all you tidy righties want to get all up in arms, have at it,something else to complain about. Pathetic.

Oh, BTW, I think NPR was wrong to let him go.


By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Oct 21, 05:52:00 PM:

"Fake News"! 'Faux News"! I love it! It's so original, and witty! because it sounds like "Fox News", and that makes it funny! and witty!  

By Blogger JPMcT, at Thu Oct 21, 06:09:00 PM:

Why hello Vicki! Good to have you back among the sensible.

The CEO of NPR had to retract a statement that Juan Williams take his concerns up "with his psychiatrist".

Typical classless, vicious attack from the PC crowd. Of course, one has to wonder wheter, from her reference point, "everybody" nowadays has a psychiatrist...don't they???

Vicki, people like this put the "ass" in nasty. At least Fox news has ratings, an actual income and gets no tax dollars...and doesn't need them. People actually like to watch it!

Speaking of dollars, Juan Williams has been hired by "Fake" news (to coin a phrase) for a three year contract amounting to around 2 million dollars...considerable more than he was making at NP(C)R.

Those are not "faux" dollars.

What fun to watch these poltroons!  

By Blogger pam, at Thu Oct 21, 06:50:00 PM:

In another discussion I was in, it was suggested NPR let Williams go because CNN let Sanchez go; someehow it is the new "standard." Blech.

When the story broke, I wondered what the reaction would have been if "Hasidic" were substituted for "Muslim" and why/whether it would have been any different.

Oh, and while I don't like what Williams said, I am not sure it's a dismissible offense.  

By Blogger Escort81, at Thu Oct 21, 07:12:00 PM:

@Pam - the substitution exercise is always an interesting one, but I'm not aware of any recent history of Hasidim using commercial airliners as missiles. That said, I think Williams was admitting his own irrational fear, and went on to explain what O'Reilly did not do right on The View (this is outside the 45 second clip that has made the rounds) and why it is wrong to blame "Muslims" for 9/11 -- always use the term extremists in there somewhere -- and, I agree that it is not a firing offense.  

By Blogger ferd.berfel, at Thu Oct 21, 07:13:00 PM:

Montana and Vicki: you are exhibiting "SIX HIRB" - Dennis Prager's acronym for the debate-ending names conservatives are called by leftys. "six hirb" - Sexist, Intolerant, Xenophobic, Homophobic, Islamophobic, Racist, and Bigoted. These are the standard names you and the rest of the lefty's assign to people with whom you disagree. Rather than debate the point, which you're incapable of doing, you revert to ad hominum attacks. NPR is sooooo tolerant! At least Fox doesn’t fire anyone who doesn’t agree with their way of thinking.  

By Blogger Mystery Meat, at Thu Oct 21, 07:13:00 PM:

Here's another racist remark from a noted bigot who has irrational fears of Black people and has the temerity to voice them in public:

"There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved...."

(Remarks at a meeting of Operation PUSH in Chicago (27 November 1993). Quoted in "Crime: New Frontier - Jesse Jackson Calls It Top Civil-Rights Issue" by Mary A. Johnson, 29 November 1993, Chicago Sun-Times)  

By Blogger pam, at Thu Oct 21, 07:19:00 PM:

@Escort81, I don't know of any of those instances, either, but the only way I could think about this story was to substitute something...
"Hoodie" (as in sweatshirt) did not work, though I hear plenty of hideous comments about teenagers--wearing them. Funny, since I wear a hooded sweatshirt to work almost every day in the winter...  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Thu Oct 21, 09:04:00 PM:

A more important point to this affair is that apparently NPR caved to CAIR, an Islamist front organization.

Wake up lefties!  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Fri Oct 22, 01:02:00 AM:

Montana, liberals are scared of Jews:

Dems 2x as antisemitic as Republicans

Own it, pal.  

By Blogger Gary Rosen, at Fri Oct 22, 03:28:00 AM:

"A more important point to this affair is that apparently NPR caved to CAIR, an Islamist front organization."

Yes. Williams made this clear in an interview with O'Reilly. Of course I heartily concur with all the derision being heaped on NPR but let's not forget this important backstory.  

By Anonymous Boludo Tejano, at Fri Oct 22, 04:44:00 AM:

Most likely the "Montana" commenter here is a transplant from California or some such place. Most Montanans are rather sensible folk, not like the "Montana" who commented here.  

By Anonymous jms, at Fri Oct 22, 11:05:00 PM:

The thing that leaves me scratching my heard about the whole thing is this: The famous airport security video images of the hijackers entering security at the airports show that they were not dressed in any sort of ethnic dress at all. They were wearing western clothes with western haircuts and no beard or mustache.

The reason for this is obvious. Suicide bombers and other terrorists don't want to get caught so they try to blend in as best as possible. The guy with the turban or robes is the last person to be worried about.

In all these 9 years, Williams apparently never thought that through. Rather disappointing for such an allegedly astute individual.  

By Blogger Assistant Village Idiot, at Sat Oct 23, 11:29:00 PM:

jms - google "Flying Imams." Just for a notable exception to your certainty.

Tim Wise gets to have "antiracist" as part of his job title. That's special.

Nah, I kicked too unfairly with that. It was a generally good essay and he made some good points.  

By Anonymous jms, at Mon Oct 25, 01:41:00 AM:

I know about the flying imams. They were thoroughly searched and had no weapons or explosives, which seems to indicate that they were political provocateurs seeking to cause a stink and had no intention of actually hijacking or destroying the plane.

In other words, they were trading on the common currency of Williams fear. At least that was my take on the situation.  

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