Umbrage Contagion Alert! The Juan Williams Nontroversy
People who debase themselves by playing the role of “liberals” on Fox News disgust me, and Juan Williams is no exception. But his firing is part of the broader umbrage crisis, especially among my comrades on the left, that shits me to distraction.
Williams, political analyst with National Public Radio (NPR) and Fox News, said the following words on Fox a few days ago:
…when I get on the plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous. Now, I remember also that when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week. He said the war with Muslims, America’s war is just beginning, first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts.
Think Progress, a lefty blog, cut and spliced this single quote into a bite-size YouTube video and sent it hurtling through cyberspace.
As a result of the ensuing controversy, NPR cancelled their contract with Williams.
What amazing umbrage contagion! First, Think Progress was offended presumably because a possible interpretation of what Williams said is that he is bigoted against Muslims. Think Progress passed on its high dudgeon through the manifold arteries of the left-wing blogosphere to NPR who were offended enough to fire the man. It doesn’t end there, of course. This action by NPR triggered its own wave of offence-taking, this time by Fox News on behalf of Williams and red-blooded Americans who believe that thinking nasty thoughts about Muslims is not only acceptable but admirable. Fox’s decision to make Williams their latest cause célèbre has predictably created political echoes: Darrell Issa, the Republican Congressman who will probably take over oversight of NPR in January, Darrell Issa, is promising to shut the joint down.
Totally unnecessary hysteria, not to mention a waste of air time and column inches.
Juan Williams is a sort of moderate Conservative which made him a screaming lefty on Fox and a right-wing extremist on NPR. An odd but useful hybrid on two opposite ends of the political/media spectrum.
First and foremost, Williams should not have been fired . Taken in context, his comments were not particularly offensive. During the same interview, he decried Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News blowhard, for treating all Muslims as terrorists. He quite neatly encapsulated the absurdity of the O’Reilly “same brush” approach this way:
Hold on, because if you said Timothy McVeigh, the Atlanta bomber, these people who are protesting against homosexuality at military funerals—very obnoxious—you don’t say first and foremost, “We got a problem with Christians.” That’s crazy.
Williams is describing as “crazy” the set of opinions — attributed to him from the same interview — that got him fired.
The offending comments are also subject to a much more lenient interpretation in the first place.
- The phrase “they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims” represents a critical nuance. I feel the same way: when I was in KL last year, the millions of Muslims in my midst didn’t worry me one bit, but when I retired to the hotel and found myself surrounded by Arab Muslims in the full paraphernalia, I tensed a little. Sue me.
- Why is admitting to a visceral reaction to visibly committed Muslims such a high offense anyway? I He was talking specifically about being on a plane, which understandably adds a level of anxiety given recent history.
- The comments by the Times Square bomber – “Brace yourselves, because the war with Muslims has just begun. Consider me only a first droplet of the flood that will follow me” – are objectively intimidating so Williams is hardly a bigot for being intimidated by them.
NPR should give Williams his job back, partly because they should and partly to shut Fox the fuck up.
I’ve said it before and I will say it a million times before I’m done: can everyone just calm their nostrils?