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Monday, October 25, 2010

Why Should We Care About Juan Williams and His Firing from NPR?

National Public Radio's (NPR's) most recent decision to terminate Juan Williams' contract because of his incendiary rhetoric towards Muslims on The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News certainly exemplifies the paranoid paradigm of today's mainstream conservatives and their cronies on the network. It also epitomizes how viscerally prejudicial and bigoted the "feelings" of commentators like Juan Williams and Bill O'Reilly are towards the Muslim community, especially when the 9/11 hijackers were not from Iraq or Iran but from Saudia Arabia, Egypt, and a few other regions of the Middle East. It's convenient for the Right to ignore Williams misrepresenting the views of Times Square bomber Faisal Shazhad, who has gone on record stating the following:

[T]he past nine years the war with Muslims has achieved nothing for the U.S., except for it has waken up the Muslims for Islam. We are only Muslims trying to defend our religion, people, honor, and land. But if you call us terrorists for doing that, then we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing until you leave our land and people at peace.

It should be noted that the Associated Press reported Shazhad's statement in quotes at his sentencing May of this year. Sadly, the Washington Post, like other media sources that wanted to spin the issue and take Shazhad's statement out of context, took it and deliberately misquoted it by stating:

We are only Muslims . . . but if you call us terrorists, we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing you

The Washington Times, as another example of the mainstream media lying about and doctoring the quote, took Shazhad's publicly-entered statement and distorted it, saying:

'We are only Muslims … but if you call us terrorists, we are proud terrorists and we will keep on terrorizing you,' he told U.S. District Judge Miriam Cedarbaum.

USA Today has committed the same offense as the other sources:

'We are only Muslims ... but if you call us terrorists, we are proud terrorists and we will keep on terrorizing you,' [Faisal Shazhad] said.

But let's get back to the Williams-NPR mess.

The most salient point about the Juan Williams-NPR matter is: why should we care about this "issue" in the first place? Conservatives like Sarah Palin, Newt Gringrich, and Republican Congressman John Boehner are up in arms over the firing in the first place, considering that "liberal" Williams' views are more in line with the conservatives than the progressives, despite his claim to the contrary.

More to the point, the above-mentioned party wants NPR defunded by an act of congressional legislation, as though they are suggesting the state continues to fund the organizational machine itself. The fact of the matter is that the federal government does NOT fund NPR at all, at least not since the early 1980s. While principal funding did come directly from the state from the 1970s to the beginning of the 1980s, that simply ceased to be the case in 1983 when corporations, charitable foundations, and private individuals account for 40 percent of its budget. Only 16 percent of NPR's revenues - 6 percent coming from local governments and the other 10 percent coming from the federal government as CPB grants - are doled out by the state. That's a meager amount of tax dollars being spent on an organization that may or may not be politically influenced by George Soros and (although I would agree that such funding from those sources should cease), as Bill O'Reilly and his co-horts allege. (The operative word being "allege" here.) The rest of its funding comes from annual fundraising drives that keep the company in business. Let's not omit the fact that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which does receive federal subsidies, only grants 1.5 percent of its funds to NPR. So the conservatives have no solid legal grounds to stand on with regards to their smear against NPR surrounding its alleged federal funding. (Fox News' claim that its "federal funding" has gone down from its previous fiscal year and that the Obama administration has sent $50,000 in grant funds to NPR to "retain an arts desk reporter" is very dubious, given that there is no viable, proven source to verify that nonsense.)

As for Williams' firing, the jury is in regarding this ruckus. Williams did state the following:

When I get a plane, I gotta tell you. If I see people in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.

That constitutes a "feeling," which is highly irrational and nonsensical (although it is somewhat less insidious than what O'Reilly would say about the Muslim world). I, for one, live in the Metro Detroit area in the Southeastern Michigan region (in the suburbs of Detroit), and I can emphatically declare that I myself don't "get worried" about and "get nervous" around Middle Easterners in public, even if they are clad "in Muslim garb." Are the conservatives tacitly claiming that the 9/11 hijackers wore such attire? If they are, then they are fundamentally wrong. The terrorists on board those planes were dressed in Western clothing. How would the right-wing talking heads know otherwise? Are they privy to some clandestine information that we know nothing about? Besides, why should Williams care about what Muslims wear? He's been handed a $2 million, 3-year contract by the conservative network; thus, it's not as if he really lost everything and should be worried at all. With that in mind, he had nothing to lose simply by voicing his anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Sad to say, many Americans share Williams and O'Reilly's viewpoints. (Unsurprisingly but still unfortunately, one of the Morning Joeys agreed with Williams' sentiments. It doesn't help that Pat Buchanan came to Williams' defense over his remarks.) It doesn't even help further that Joe Scarborough, the head talker on Morning Joe, states that the country's "prejudice" towards Muslims is "natural." I hate to rain on Scarborough's parade here, but it is not such a thing by any stretch of the imagination. It's an artificial construct, thanks to the hysteria created by the state and its pervasive discriminatory and hateful sentiments and views towards Muslims and Arabs in the Middle East and suppression of the Arab-American and Middle Eastern peoples' reactions to the U.S. federal government's diabolical invasion and occupation of Middle Eastern terroritory (specifically Iraq and Afghanistan). Worse, Iran and Pakistan (the latter of which has been the target of Obama's drones within the last year and a half) have long since been added to the list of targets as part of the Leviathan's list of the Axis of Evil. (Remember that, people?)

Sure, NPR CEO Vivian Schuller apologized for the way she spoke out against Williams, and yes she remains unapologetic about her decision to terminate Williams' employment. (I give it up for conservatives to criticize Schiller for her indecent comments about Williams keeping his comments between him and his psychiatrist, but that's as far as I go with that.) So what? Once again, why should we care about Juan Williams being fired from a network that simply was well within its legal rights to disassociate itself from a commentator who made some inflammatory statements about Muslims, despite the fact that he did argue with O'Reilly's smug, arrogant contention that "Muslims attacked us on 9/11." (By engaging in that discussion, Williams was showing that he wanted his cake and eat it too.)

After all, Schiller did mention that Williams was asked repeatedly by her and the NPR powers-that-be to knock off using NPR's name to identify himself on his Fox News appearances last year. Obviously, he refused to listen. And this business coming from the Rightists that Williams was "censored" is poppycock. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment. Censorship, despite what the Fox News gang and many talking heads across the political spectrum say, isn't the issue. NPR was well within its rights to get rid of Williams, and so it did.

As far as I'm concerned, Williams, O'Reilly, and those who are defending and tolerating anti-Muslim bigotry across the spectrum (like Whoopi Goldberg) are self-righteous jerks who are full of themselves. It is the height of smugness, hubris, and vanity of these pundits to embrace the irrational, racist, and prejudiced logic of Williams and Co.

It's too bad that many writers and other bloggers, with the dazzling, spectacular, and brilliant exception of Salon's Glenn Greenwald and Sheldon Richman, are not speaking out against this.