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Listener Commentaries Regarding Juan Williams:

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The following are two listener commentaries regarding the firing of NPR News Analyst Juan Williams. Also a reminder the views expressed in the following commentaries are not representative of WKMS its staff or members.


Sensitivity police’s war on honesty claims another victim

-Richard Nelson

NPR’s firing of Juan Williams furthers divide between political right and left

If America’s freedom of speech is the envy of the world, then political correctness must be its bane. Some political candidates and news commentators this election season are finding that out the hard way. Just last week, the monster of political correctness raised its ugly head and resulted in the firing of Juan Williams by National Public Radio.

Williams, a long-time civil rights advocate, told Bill O’Reilly that “political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality when I get on a plane if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried, I get nervous.”

Is this not the same thought also shared by many frequent airline travelers? Yet because of the perceived offense, it was a thought NPR execs believed best kept out of the public arena, so they fired him.

But was it really a wise move in a time when the divide between the political left and right has never been greater? NPR reported that Williams’ presence on “Fox News has long been a sore point with NPR News executives.” Why? NPR is known for its eloquence and dialogue, but instead of fostering communication between the two sides, they fired an accomplished ambassador for the left. Even as William’s actually warned O’Reilly against painting Muslims with broad brushstrokes, NPR painted him with a broad brushstroke and fired him. So the cold war of ideology continues.

What thinkers on both the left and right can agree upon is that the war radical Islam has declared on the West has kindled the fears of many, and has sometimes led to intolerance and bigotry toward Muslims who don’t subscribe to violence. But the war on ideas and politically incorrect opinion by the speech patrol has wider ranging consequences. We should insist upon respect and high standards of dialogue, but don’t we expect our leaders and analysts to tell us the truth? Or are some thoughts just too offensive to be aired publicly? Juan Williams is no Bobby Seale. Nor was he advocating the burning of the Koran. So why was he lumped in with extremists?

I have a friend in Belgium who has decried political correctness in Europe for years. It is now a rare individual who speaks out against radical Islam. And for those who do including journalists who caricature Mohammed, they face death threats. If they are willing to come out of hiding, then they face legal proceedings from a society so steeped in political correctness that it has lost its ability to think or respect individual thought.

A new Rasmussen Reports released on Oct. 19, found that 74 percent of Americans regard political correctness as a problem in the United States today. Rasmussen also found that 63 percent blamed political correctness for preventing “the U.S. military from responding to warning signs that could have prevented Major Nidal Malik Hasan from massacring 13 people and wounding many others at Fort Hood, Texas.”

When the whitewashing of language and laundering of ideas leads to collective stupidity, then it’s time to reevaluate. When political correctness out of fear of offending someone or some group eviscerates civil discourse, what have we gained? Respect and tolerance have always been and always should be benchmarks of civil discussion and standards by which any media should live by. But as George Orwell once said, “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”

It’s time as Americans to assert that we still have the right to restate the obvious. Hopefully, the rest of the media will join us.

Richard Nelson is a policy analyst for The Family Foundation, a non-profit public policy organization. He currently resides in Trigg County with his family. If you have an opinion, interest or review you’d like to share with WKMS listeners, see guidelines on the commentaries page of our web site and send us an email.



In Response to Mr. Nelson

-Dr. Barbara Cobb

More is at stake than freedom of speech when a person who is employed as a news analyst voices his prejudices. By making public his tendency to prejudge people “in Muslim garb,” Williams compromised his ability to do his job: he made it impossible for his employer to utilize him as an analyst in any situation in which the people involved in a news event are people “in Muslim garb.” Freedom of speech is a protection for the individual, but it does not extend to those whose exercise of that freedom compromises their abilities to do their jobs. Teachers, hospital nurses, many police officers, and news analysts for NPR are among those in our society who, because of their vocations, cannot demonstrate prejudices like that expressed by Williams.

The strangest thing about Williams’ remark is the seeming ignorance that would have to underlie any person’s saying what Williams said. Terrorists, even radical Muslim terrorists, do not tend to dress up in “Muslim garb” to implement their plots, at least not in American airports. Williams – and Nelson — know this. Could it be that Williams had already chosen to give up his job as news analyst to become a full-time panelist and contributor?

I have no illusions that I, as a teacher, can say anything I want in public. It’s not because of political correctness that I make sure to confirm my professional integrity in my public statements. There’s nothing political about it. It’s merely doing my job.  All of us have the Constitutional right to free speech, but many of us, including NPR news analysts, have a responsibility to those we serve in our vocations that is far more powerful than a right to make strange remarks about people “in Muslim garb.”


Written by Chad Lampe

November 1, 2010 at 9:23 am

Posted in Opinion

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