The Juan Williams Case

Glenn Greenwald notes what I have: that the full context in no way exonerates Williams in his conflation of Muslims - not Jihadists or al Qaeda or extreme Muslims or radical Muslims - but Muslims period with terrorism. Williams is not observing and airing the irrational fear of Muslims who put their Muslim identity first and foremost, airing a fact, he is saying it is justified given the extremist Muslim origin of recent terrorism. He is conflating the extreme with the general. This is what bigotry is. It is unfairly tarring the vast majority of innocent members of a group with the acts of a tiny few of 1.3 billion people.

On the question of p.c., I don't think cases of outright bigotry are in the realm of p.c. at all. Goldblog explains why:

There are roughly 1.3 billion Muslims in the world. Of these 1.3 billion Muslims, it is my belief that only several thousand, or at most, several tens of thousands, are directly involved in Islamist terrorism. Therefore, the chance that a Muslim in any given airport is a terrorist is very small... [So] I don't assume for a second that any individual Muslim on my radar screen is a terrorist.

That's why Jeffrey is not a bigot and Juan Williams made a bigoted statement (although he has never struck me when I have engaged him as anything close to being "a bigot" as such). The truth is: we can all have bigoted thoughts and say bigoted things because we are human beings, but we should seek to suppress them in a multicultural society within ourselves, let alone lend them actual legitimacy on air. And if you do lend them legitimacy - like Rick Sanchez did and Juan Williams did and Bill O'Reilly did and Brian Kilmeade did - I don't think it's inappropriate for a broadcasting company to say it doesn't want to be associated with it. That's why I thought CNN was right to fire Sanchez but not Octavia Nasr, because there was no bigotry in Nasr's tweet, and no support for terrorism, and in full context, it was fair, nuanced  journalism. I think Helen Thomas said nothing bigoted per se, but her callous disregard for the feelings of those whose families were incinerated for being Jews in Poland was horrifying. You should be free to be an anti-Zionist, but there is something grotesque about telling Israelis to "go back" to the countries where they were once murdered en masse.

I think you have to take these cases of journalists blurting out bigoted statements individually, and also make the distinction between the state suppressing free speech and broadcasting noutlets deciding not to associate or sponsor certain journalists for saying certain things. What we know now is that CNN and NPR take bigotry seriously and that Fox actually rewards its employees for making bigoted remarks.

On the issue of the double standard: when Helen Thomas was "retired," Howard Kurtz wrote a Washington Post column citing one neocon after the next insisting that her comments disqualified her from working as a journalist any longer; today, however, the same Howard Kurtz predictably argues that Williams should not have been fired by NPR (but, he insists, Rick Sanchez should have been fired by CNN).  Similarly, as Emma Mustich notes in Salon, Mike Huckabee today "slammed NPR for discrediting 'itself as a forum for free speech' and solidifying 'itself itself as the purveyor of politically correct pabulum'," but the very same Mike Huckabee was one of the ring-leaders forcing Helen Thomas to resign.

Finally, and most important:  Simon Owens brilliantly demonstrates how various right-wing commentators wrapping themselves today in the self-victimizing flag of "free expression" in order to protest what was done to Juan Williams, were making the exact opposite claims when CNN fired Octavia Nasr and they were cheering it on, and they did the same in other instances where they disliked the ideas that were being punished.

The Owens piece really is great.