Friday, October 22, 2010


Juan Williams

Right wing extremists—basically, the entire Republican party-- refer to the few moderates that remain as RINOs: Republicans In Name Only.

Juan Williams is the counterpart—a LINO, Liberal In Name Only. He’s the (oh dear, don’t conflate this with race, but it’s the best analogy I can think of) Uncle Tom for the mouth-breathers on Fox. He makes nicey-nice with the O’Reillys, and accommodates their constant partisan ideological rhetoric by pretending to be a liberal who sees their point. What a useful tool for Fox.

NPR listeners are, yes, primarily liberal. It’s certainly not because NPR is a liberal propaganda organ. Far from it, they seem to be overcompensating in an attempt to forestall that accusation from the right, for whom NPR might as well be the anti-Christ.

NPR isn’t just paranoid. In 2005, former Corporation for Public Broadcasting board Chairman and GOP operative Ken Tomlinson resigned from the CPB board after delivery of an investigation by CPB Inspector Kenneth Kontz. Tomlinson was under investigation for hiring outside consultants to monitor perceived liberal bias on PBS programs like NOW with Bill Moyers and other shows. When Tomlinson’s term as Chairman was up, he moved to a regular board position, named Cheryl Halpern, a major GOP donor, as chairman, and tapped Gay Hart Gaines, also a prominent Republican, as vice chair. In addition, amid howls of protest, he earlier named Patricia Harrison, former Republican National Committee co-chair, as CPB’s president. There was no doubt that this team intended to either kill CPB or cleanse it of any shred of “liberal” programming, as defined by their own ideological parameters.

Since that time, even though this attempt at a takeover was foiled, CPB and NPR have, as far as I can see, been running scared—even though, at most, only 15% of their funding comes from the gummint—some reports state that figure is as low as 2-3%.

Pleasing the right?  I don’t know why they bother; nothing they can do will soothe the rage of those who believe they are victimized by the press for being true Americans. Those delusions are not malleable—they are fixed in the brains of the believers. Truth is irrelevant.

I have progressive friends who can’t listen to NPR anymore, for its own accommodation of right-wing blowhards. More often than not, a news segment on an issue--controversial only because it is attacked as such by Republican demagogues--ends with a sound bite from Boehner, McConnell and other shining lights of the new Know-Nothings. Invariably, that sound bite will comprise lies, distortion, disinformation, or profoundly ignorant statements, and usually, all of that. And never does the content of that sound bite get challenged for truth or accuracy. Instead, it closes the segment, is left hanging there as if it’s the last word on the subject. As if it’s a valid commentary. As if it’s rational, logical, informed. As if it’s true.  

Still, NPR can’t totally ignore its audience demographics, those who contribute the single largest share of its funding.
And that audience was increasingly frustrated with Juan Williams, who let his ideological blather reign all over his commentary on NPR. The fact that Williams was also a Fox commentator didn't endear him to that audience, let alone that that disqualifies him ipso facto from any credible role on NPR. It just does, dammit.

But Williams is also a hack, a fact NPR listeners were increasingly aware of. Steve Kornacki in Salon summed it up nicely:

“But I can't remember him ever advancing any kind of groundbreaking argument, or introducing some dramatically new and intelligent perspective on a major topic. What I can remember him doing -- a lot -- is using flawed, shoddy and easily debunked logic to make arguments that were (seemingly) designed to make conservatives say, "Ah, now there’s a reasonable liberal."

And he’s a bigot.

Williams now famously began his remarks thusly: "Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country. But 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."

As Andrew Sullivan said about that statement, “No, Juan, what you just described is the working definition of bigotry.”

And Fox added him to their roster of pinhead bigots with a $2 million contract. Any more proof needed?

NPR, what took you so long?

And so, good riddance Juan Williams. Juannie, we wish we hardly knew ye.

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