Well Said

In this morning’s Wall Street Journal Opinion, Emilio Karim Dabul writes about NPR’s Taxpayer-Funded Intolerance.  Dabul begins with some refreshing honesty:

As an Arab-American of Muslim descent, I am not offended by this because in all honesty I have had the same reaction in similar circumstances. In Berlin a couple of years ago, my flight was delayed because, we were told, one of the passengers, who was in a wheelchair, needed extra assistance. When she finally was brought into the waiting area, she was covered from head to toe in traditional Muslim dress and only her eyes were visible. What happened? I grew nervous. I got on the plane just the same, but with trepidation.

Was my response rational? Yes and no.

Then he addresses a common criticism of Juan Williams’ comment.

It was not Muslims in traditional garb who hijacked those planes on 9/11, and it certainly was not Muslim women in veils and wheelchairs. If anything, an Islamist terrorist wants to blend in, not stand out.

However, it was not a traditional sort of terrorist attack I feared in this case, but perhaps something unexpected: a traditional Muslim woman in a veil, confined to a wheelchair, who was loaded with explosives.

That may make me guilty of an overactive imagination, but perhaps not.

I mention all this for one main reason. I grew up surrounded by Islamic culture, went to Islamic events, and was used to seeing women in traditional Muslim clothing, and yet when that woman appeared at the Berlin airport, I was scared.

Then he puts Williams’ comment into perspective:

That’s all Mr. Williams was saying. He didn’t say that they should be removed from the plane, treated differently, or anything close to that. He simply said he got nervous. And for that, he was fired.

Then he throws in this reality check:

The reality is that when Muslims cease to be the main perpetrators of terrorism in the world, such fears about traditional garb are bound to vanish. Until such time, the anxiety will remain. In the long run, it’s what we do with such fears that matters, not that we have them.

Here I think Dabul identifies the root cause of Williams feelings.  The root cause is the behavior of some in an easily identifiable group, not bigotry.  Rather than expecting folks like Williams to modify who makes him nervous, we should first expect the folks that caused his nervousness to change.

6 thoughts on “Well Said

  1. I think the core issue here is summed up with Dabul’s statement, “He simply said he got nervous. And for that, he was fired.”

    The debate has been raging between NPR and other news organizations about whether or not his firing was due to this one statement. Generally, I see NPR as saying that Williams has stepped over the line before and that this is not an isolated incident. Other news organizations say that Williams’ connection with Fox is to blame, and that this remark was public enough to be a quick pathway to a firing. Allegations always run rampant, people need something to talk about…

    However, my concern is with the PC nature of the entire debate. “We deserve better from a public radio network funded by taxpayer money,” Dabul says. We deserve better from all news, as far as I’m concerned, with the types of debate we have and with the nature of firing employees.

    It frightens me that a firing may have taken place because of how someone feels. I agree that a person’s opinion may conflict with the aims of a news organization, but Williams’ comments were not directed as “I am from NPR, my comments represent how I feel and, by proxy, how they feel.” It is absurd to expect anyone to be neutral at all times.

    Further, comments that are not neutral, such as those to the right (Fox) or left (MSNBC), do not necessarily inhibit debate in a way that is not neutral. Regardless of whether or not you support one political side or another I think debate can be honest. Even if an issue surrounds an extreme viewpoint – say, one of a neo-nazi – discussion must continue. Avoidance of an issue, simply because it makes you uncomfortable or it as odds with your own beliefs or aims, will cause a stagnation of proper thought.

    • “We deserve better from all news” Agreed.

      I also agree with your last paragraph. Figuring out how to get folks past that point of discomfort is interesting.

  2. he did land a 3-year 2 million dollar contract with fox. im sure thats a step up from what npr was paying him.
    npr is only partially funded by taxpayer money. i believe the split is something like 30/70.

    @bovis i fully agree with your last paragraph.

    • Yes. Things seemed to work out well for Juan. Good for him. And, I think not so well for NPR. I think their response shook some people free of their moorings.

      I see no reason for NPR to receive any funds from government.

      • how about this one?
        a radio transmitter requires lower power than a tv transmitter for the same broadcast radius. radio recievers even more so: you can power a radio with a few handcranks. therefore, radio is a better (more reliable) medium for important (disaster related) information like the emergency alert system.

        im not sure about this, but i believe that a portion of npr funds trickle down to local public radio stations (which are a necessary part of the eas)
        private (the 70% that my previous post referred to) monies trickle up to buy content that is produced by npr.

        for a second reason, i first heard dr. landsburg on npr. i found your blog via one of your posts on his.
        npr has gained you one reader. =]

        for a third reason, encounters
        http://encountersnorth.org/ is the best radio show ever. i just can’t imagine a private interest funding richard nelson. public radio, like public television, has educational content as part of a mission statement. im not so sure i support government funded education, but i sure have been a beneficiary of it. its hard to look a gift horse in the mouth.

      • Hi dave – Your first reason may be a good reason. However, I’m not sure I can accept letting one side of the ideological spectrum piggyback on the emergency broadcast system.

        Your second reason is a good example of special interests, which rule politics and our Constitution doesn’t protect against very well.

        NPR may be good for some, but I’d rather it survive on its own and sounds like that’s plausible.

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