Juan Williams Wednesday

Sorry; I could resist neither the topic nor the lovely alliteration.  My feed reader has been practically ablaze with commentary on the whole Juan Williams/NPR/Fox thing, and even though I said I was going to stay out of the news for a while, I’m wading back in to make my case.

Here’s my thinking on this: is Juan Williams entitled to his opinions?  Of course he is; even when I disagree with someone, I will never discount their right to feel something and to express that feeling.  That being said, though, he wasn’t expressing his opinion as Juan Williams, Joe Citizen; he was expressing his opinions as a professional news analyst, and one associated with a particular news organization (and yes, he’s associated with a news organization with a pretty clear agenda, but I think that’s inconsequential).  If he were in plain clothes at a bar with some friends, or at his dining room table, or even at a party, this would be a non-issue.  He wasn’t; he was acting in the capacity of his job, and the sentiments he expressed in that capacity led his employers to question his ability to do his job because they believed his comments caused him to lose credibility with his employers’ target audience.

This is really no different than the firestorm that accompanied Imus’s ill-considered remarks after the Rutgers women’s basketball game, or Tilghman’s gaff about how to beat Tiger Woods (or the firing of the editor of Golf Week who saw fit to release the issue immediately following that incident with a noose on the cover).  The First Amendment entitles us to freedom from State prosecution for speech (though, practically, there are limits to that, as rightly there should be – one can’t lie under oath, one can’t directly threaten another’s life, and let’s not forget “fire! in a crowded theatre”).  The First does not entitle us to a paid position and an open microphone with which to disseminate that speech.

Honestly, I don’t see what all the fuss is about.  We all agree, whether tacitly or overtly, to behave in certain ways in the execution of our professional duties.  When we don’t do that, our employer has every right to let us go.  We then have the option of finding someone else to work for who may be more accommodating to our particular qualities.  That’s exactly what happened to Mr. Williams; NPR felt that he no longer represented their interests; Fox decided that he does, so they offered him a raise to compensate for the salary he lost at NPR (he was already in Fox’s employ).  Let us not forget that a NUMBER of workplaces stipulate that their employees cannot work second jobs in the same field as their first; that Mr. Williams was able to work in both (vastly different) environments for so long is not insignificant.

This is not a First Amendment issue.  It’s not a Big Brother issue, either, and I don’t think that it hearkens the advent of Orwellian thought control.  It is simply a case of an employee no longer serving the requirements of his employer; it happens all the time, just not always so loudly.

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11 Comments

Filed under concerns, duh!, frustrations, General Bitching, ideas and opinions, politics, ruminating, social issues, strange but true, technical difficulties, this is NOT a drill

11 responses to “Juan Williams Wednesday

  1. I said my piece on this matter when I commented on “Ducking Out,” so I’ll say no more in my own words.

    I would, however, recommend the following two blog posts (one of which you may have already read) for you to consider should you care to entertain the opposite school of thought:

    http://saintseestersays.saintseester.com/?p=1460

    http://drivebythinking.typepad.com/driveby_thinking/2010/10/they-eat-their-own-you-know.html

  2. I have, against my better judgment, been reading A LOT of articles about this; I’ve seen Seester’s post (but chose not to comment on it out of concern for starting something there that I suspected would be unpleasant) and read the other post you referenced here. I’ve also looked at a number of articles, written by people who identify much as I do, that have taken a starkly contrary opinion to mine. Trust me; I’ve entertained the contrary thought.

    I keep coming back to the same problems; we’re still boiling everything down to an us-them dichotomy (and I don’t mean specifically you and I when I say “we” or “us” here, Falcon, though we do tend to view these issues from differing perspectives). Instead of talking about what’s really happened here – an employee at a company made some ill-considered remarks while on the job and, as a result, was released from his position – we’re using it as a way to draw deeper and more painful divisions between us. Culturally, we haven’t figured out how to actually TALK to each other; we’re using everything the other says or does as evidence that “WE’RE right and YOU’RE wrong and see!? There’s your proof!” We’re quick to point out inconsistencies in one another’s thinking, we make haste to complain when the other does something they’ve accused us of, and we’re starting to justify our bad behavior by saying that the other side is doing it, too. NONE of it is okay, and that’s what’s got me frustrated.

    That kind of discourse gets us nowhere. We aren’t listening to each other, and we’re not willing to make concessions that might challenge or weaken our presumptions about the “other.” The environment has become so blatantly hostile that few people are willing to say anything that contradicts the script, and I fear that we may be getting to the point where no one is going to bother talking anymore. I’m terrified of that happening, though; when talk fails, violence surely follows.

  3. I’ve followed your comments elsewhere for a long time, and if there’s one thing I can say, is that you always consider all points of an argument before arriving at a conclusion.

    I don’t disagree with what you’ve written. If he’s going to appear in various places, he has to remember who he represents. Period. If he violates his contract/code of ethics, he’s canned. It would be as such if I went to another store and badmouthed my boss.

    It’s the double standard applied to his firing that torqued me.

    I totally agree with your last comment post, BTW. It’s the sort of thing that keeps me up at night.

  4. Kemtee, I don’t know that I’d say “always;” I knee-jerk sometimes, just like every one else, but I try to be mindful of looking at as much of something as I can before I make a decision. Sometimes I do a better job of it than others. I’m fortunate to have people (cough*Falcon!*cough) who are willing to engage me without turning me into an enemy.

    Honestly? The thing that has me most downhearted about all the things that I’m seeing (and that I’ve personally experienced in certain venues) is that stark delineation. Too many people are buying into the “if you’re not with us, you’re against us,” enemy creation. Some people are only happy when they’re poking other people to prove themselves right. Lately, it feels like that’s all I’ve been seeing, but I can’t figure out how to make it stop because I can’t make people calm down and think.

  5. Suzanne

    I don’t have a problem with the fact that he was fired. NPR had the right based on all kinds of legal and moral precedent.

    That being said, it was handled badly by CEO Vivian Schiller. She admitted it in a email to NPR employees, but that doesn’t mean that she couldn’t use some serious remedial HR training.

    To my mind, this was a personnel issue, handled badly. And please, for Pete’s sake, I wish everyone who stop asking for details about the “prior incidents” bandied about. She should never have mentioned them, and she doesn’t have the right to tell everyone what they were anyway.

  6. Oh, I’m not disagreeing for a SECOND that it was handled badly. Ms. Schiller’s comment – behind a microphone even! – that he could have said these things to his psychiatrist or his publicist? What is WRONG with people and open mics?! I have also actually heard some of his “prior incidents” comments, too, so when he was fired for this, I knew it was the proverbial straw. Honestly? Sometimes, I was shocked by the things he said on NPR.

    My point here is that this is not cause for some of the hysterical ravings of people I’ve been reading who are foreseeing this as the advent of an Orwellian society. It’s a guy who said something dumb and got fired for it. It happens every day.

  7. Dudley

    Did Juan Williams express an opinion? I don’t think so. He stated a fact. That fact was how he feels in a certain situation, and I think we cann all agree that Juan Wiliams is the foremost authority about what HE thinks and feels.

    If he had stated that most airline passengers get nervous in the same situation, then that would have been opinion.

    He stated this fact as preface to a follow up comment that this is not a war against Islam. It seemed to me that he was pointing one his own human failings to make a broader point that we can’t let those feelings cause us to do wrong headed things.

    I see a parallel between his firing and the firing of Shirley Sherrod, the woman wh was taken out of context when she said how she blocked a white farmer from getting help. As you may recall, she was making the point that she was wrong, and actually did help him.

    In both cases, we have people, on the political left, who are making decisions about other peopls’s careers in order to appease those who may not agree with, or dislike, what was said.

  8. I have no interest at all in the employment situation at NPR. I listen to their broadcasts sometimes. At other times I do not. I find some of their product informative/entertaining. Some of it I do not.

    This is not to denigrate your topic, but rather to be consistent in my position that all that matters is content/product, not personality. I don’t specifically recall ever hearing anything on air by Mr. Williams, but, then, I really couldn’t tell you what on-air employees of NPR I have heard. The same is true of most other broadcast companies.

    I did not hear what he said which allegedly got him fired. I am utterly unconcerned with his personal views on Islam or anything else.

  9. Juan Williams stated a fact: the fact is that he’s a bigot, and a really stupid and illogical one at that. He’s afraid of people dressed “in Muslim garb” and accuses them of putting their religion ahead of their citizenship. You never hear anyone claim that Catholic priests and nuns, or very observant Jews shouldn’t wear their required religious costumes. Plus, only a moron would think that a terrorist would invite extra screening from security by wearing “Muslim garb” at the airport. And, finally… I sort of doubt this story ever happens to Juan Williams. How many people in “Muslim garb” do you think he sees in first class or the private jets he takes?

    He’s too dumb to work at a news organization, even one as middle-of-the-road corporate backed as NPR (which ought to stand for “Nice, Polite Republicans” at this point). As Fox “News” is not a news organization, but a publicity, advocacy, and fundraising wing of the Republican Party, it is inappropriate for anyone claiming to be a journalist to have any association with them.

    There may be a little unfair treatment of Williams in this case, due to the level of his idiocy, but that unfairness could be corrected by NPR firing Mara Liasson as well.

  10. You knew I was going to say that… right?

  11. Kagan Alexander

    It’s all about us vs. them. Check this shit out…

    http://joemygod.blogspot.com/2010/10/its-us-christians-vs-them-heathens.html

    You’ve hit it right on the head, Chili; it’s not about reasoned discussion anymore. It’s about friends and enemies.

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