Friday, October 22, 2010

NPR blunders in firing Juan Williams

Well, I have long thought National Public Radio should be weaned off taxpayer money -- there's no need to have a Government Broadcasting Service when so many radio stations and TV channels are readily available -- so the firing of Juan Williams doesn't change that belief or even make it much stronger. Still, the firing was about as big a blunder as one can imagine for NPR. All Williams said (on the O'Reilly show, so I didn't see it when it was first broadcast, though I've seen countless reruns) was that when he sees somebody in an airport line dressed to emphasize his or her devotion to Islam, he can't help but get a little nervous. He also said it was a feeling that wasn't entirely rational and should pass, and that it wasn't Muslims as such but radical Muslims that give one reason to be nervous, but post-9/11 he just couldn't help it. NPR said that was "over the line" but didn't come close to explaining where the line is.

I'm inclined to think that despite NPR denials, as Juan himself noted, Williams's association with Fox News was a big part of the real reason he was fired. Among self-described progressives, hatred of Fox News is visceral and well beyond rational, approaching the kind of knee-jerk hate many had for Nixon or Reagan. The fact that he was drawing down a paycheck from Rupert Murdoch had to rub the conventional thinkers at NPR the wrong way in spectacular fashion. I don't think Williams contributes all that much of great substance to Fox, but he is a moderate liberal voice who is given his say fairly often there, contributing to what is a Potemkin-like effort to create the impression that the channel really is "fair and balanced."

Of course congressional Republicans can sputter all they want about defunding NPR, but it's unlikely to happen while Obama is president -- and probably if any Republican who can get elected becomes president as well. I don't listen to NPR as much as I did when I commuted by car everyday, but I still enjoy some of its offering, which are often worth listening to if you have an active ideological filter. The network could get by nicely on contributions and "non-commercial" commercials from "non-sponsor" sponsors as it does now, and doesn't need money forcibly extracted from taxpayers.


Nicolas Martin said...

You have the politics just right. I prefer to listen to British socialist radio because the best American “public radio” stuff -- This American Life, Le Show -- is available on podcast. Harry Shearer is tragic on anything about science, but very good at finding good material about the wars and government clods, like the Corps of Engineers.

Mike Freitas said...

Have the republicans ever defunded anything?

Alan Bock said...

Probably not really, Mike. A teeny bit during the Reagan "revolution," but not much more -- and serious expansion of domestic discretionary spending under Bush II, of course.