Pushing Bigotry Underground
A reader writes:
The only thing that bugs me is that firings like this only serve to make people continue to keep their bigotry to themselves... I would’ve hoped for a discussion on NPR about the substance and motivations behind Williams’s comments rather than a firing, an attempt draw out his inner bigoted feelings and analyze and deconstruct them, let them breathe rather than extinguish them. Quelling these resentments only make them fester and ruminate, growing into a repressed anger that ferments false victimhood.
I take my reader's point - up to a point. What NPR does is its own business; I think the fashion of his firing was poorly handled, but it was no different and less swift than that accorded to Rick Sanchez by CNN, and I don't recall Fox News or the blog right defending Sanchez then. On balance I can see why both NPR and CNN did what they did. And, of course, there is no quelling or even chilling of free speech here. In fact, this contretemps after O'Reilly's baldly bigoted comments on The View has provoked a very wide and searching debate. My view is that it is essential at all times to distinguish between Islamism and Islam, between violent Jihadists and faithful Muslims, and to ensure that we respect the latter as much as we fight the former. And that keeping this distinction clear is not just to avoid bigotry, but to win the war. I do not believe Williams is a bigot, but I do not think he was simply confessing to unfounded fears (we all have them on a whole range of issues); he was arguing that these fears were legitimate.