I've been keeping up with the story about Juan Williams getting fired by NPR for comments he made on Fox News. The people at Fox News have apparently made a big deal about this, harping about the First Amendment and liberal bias and NPR wanted to get rid of dissenting voices.
The comments were made during an appearance on "The O'Reilly Factor," where Williams is apparently the token black guy O'Reilly trots out to prove he is not racist. When asked to justify O'Rielly's racist rantings against Muslims on "The View" that week, Williams' words were something akin to: "If I see someone in Muslim garb on a plane, I cringe." Which of course, makes Bill O'Reilly look not so bad for saying Islam attacked us on 9-11. This is dumb for two reasons. 1: No terrorist is going to ever be that obvious. 2. Nobody dressed in traditional Muslim clothing could ever get on a plane in this country without getting everything short of a cavity search. If I have to take my shoes off, they sure as hell get some scrutiny. So Williams goes on national TV and declares himself a paranoid reactionary. Good for him. He should not have been fired for that.
As far as I'm concerned, NPR should have fired him for being on Fox News in the first place.
There is no such thing as unbiased reporting. Every news source has an agenda in what it chooses to and chooses not to cover. Case in point: the corporate media choosing not to question George Bush's claims of WMDs in Iraq. This was an important decision on their part with huge consequences. Again, everybody has an agenda. Al Jazeera covers the viewpoints of people who think America is evil. All of this makes sense: the Arabs in the Middle East are biased against a violent empire that kills their people and gives weapons to their enemies, just like Time-Warner is biased in favor of the money that war coverage provides. A discerning person will look at all the different biased viewpoints to create their own perspective.
NPR portrays themselves as one of the few news sources out there not speaking for the agenda of rich white men. They get a lot of criticism for being a liberal organization that does not really challenge preconceived notions, but I think they do a decent job of showing the viewpoints of diverse people. I especially liked how they would cover anti-globe demos during the Clinton era, a period when a lot of liberals could care less about things like war and American imperialism and Third World poverty. So NPR portrays themselves as the "left-wing" media. This is what they get millions of dollars in backing to do. They are paid to provide the dissenting view for the increasingly right-wing propoganda in the media.
Which takes me to Fox News. In five days, the 50 percent of Americans who still vote are going to the polls to apparently deliver government to the Republicans again. This is supposedly because Obama didn't fix the economy. Never mind that the Dems got the house and the Senate because Bush didn't fix the economy, and--who cares. The back and forth between the nation's two parties is one of the world's biggest games of one-upmanship and has no overall effect on the average American. I was always amazed at the fact that the GOP legitimately hates Obama. They hated Clinton. They are so obsessed with who holds the seat of power that they despise guys who sit in their same income bracket and hold their same ideals. It's fundamentally a boy's club.
But it's a boy's club that holds real world consequences. And they take consolidating power seriously. The Republicans are experts at creating straw men to distract voters. For instance, all their famous harping on "liberal" this and "liberal" that. From the way they phrase it, a liberal might as well be a mythological creature with the head of a lion, body of a snake, and a pathological desire to destroy America. This is called "divide and conquer." An American citizen concerned about liberals eating his children is not going to demand healthcare. So they villify, creating new boogeymen. Muslims are the obvious ones these days. However, most Republican candidates will not come out and say "Islam is evil," though there are a distressing number of mainstream Republicans who express extremist views. That's where their satellites come in. Conservative radio hosts, the Tea Party "movement," Fox News. These are the people who say the repugnant things about Muslims building mosques on the site of their victories so that GOP candidates can ride the wave of hate into office.
Everybody knows Fox News is the propoganda arm of the GOP. I'll go further: they're basically the modern-day equivalent of what David Duke did in the 80s, providing a respectable face for oppression. They have been at the forefront of hate-speech and fear-mongering since 9-11. I still remember being in college, watching Bill O'Reilly yell at a young anti-war activist whose father died in the World Trade Center "Shut up! Shut up! They killed your father!" That kind of stuff. They are in a large part responsible for the anti-Muslim hate going on right now, which has real consequences for real American citizens, just so they can get their little beurocrats in office. It is entirely disgraceful.
So anyway, O'Reilly goes on "The View," saying that Islam attacked us on 9-11. I'll just take a moment to let the pure bile of that sink in. Then he goes on his own show, with Williams as a "liberal" guest. He doesn't yell at Williams to shut up, which means the guy is there to affirm something O'Reilly says.
First of all, being the "liberal" on Fox News is a red flag. I actually watched an episode of "Hannity & Colmes" once, the cool-in-theory show where a liberal and conservative debate. The Fox News version of a bipartisan show is one where a moderate Republican goes up against a guy who thought "Red Dawn" was inspirational. If Juan Williams is a liberal on Fox News, that means he voted for Lieberman.
This guy also has a history of being O'Reilly's "black friend." Whenever Bill gets taken to task for saying something racist, Juan Williams comes out to accuse bias on whatever "liberal" organization did so. O'Reilly trots him out like Vanilla Ice did with Flava Flav on "Arsenio," to show the world he can't be racist because an honest to God black man is down with him. Williams emphasized that we should not judge all people by the extremists in their group, after affirming that he himself does so, and letting Bill off the hook for the same kind of thinking that led us to invade Iraq over an attack made by Saudis.
So an African-American comes on the show to defend a racist, increasing hate against other people of color, and gets visibility and marketability in doing so. Is it his First Amendment right? Doesn't matter. It's his human right to speak his mind. But NPR has an obligation to their listeners and the people who pay their bills to stand against racism.
In that case, give his black ass a pink slip.
I don't like the idea of a world where people are afraid to take a stand. If you are a source of information with a code of standing against oppression, live up to it. Show him he cannot contribute to hate and expect to get a paycheck. Racism sucks. It has followed me every day of my life and, though I am against religion, I stand with Muslims in their fight against profiling. We live in an age of ridiculousness, where people can shout racist vitriol on national TV, because to do so serves some politician's agenda, but God forbid you call them a racist. Racism should be battled, not abetted. The Tea Party and other inventions of Karl Rove will disappear once Republicans have governmental control again, but the hate they lace will have long effects. And that needs to be checked by all people who claim they stand for freedom.