Walter Rhett

The Right to be a Bigot

In Living, Media, War on October 21, 2010 at 5:35 pm

Good riddance! Juan Williams, a journalist formerly with the Washington Post, who authored the companion book to the PBS special, “Eyes on the Prize,” and who was frequently seen on Fox News and heard on NPR was fired as a news analyst by NPR. Juan was arrogant and out of touch. His bonafides were always suspect. (Many see ad hominen here; others nod, recalling his description to Michele Obama to “avoid being Stokely Carmichael in a designer dress.”)

But many see his firing as further proof that we as a country require each statement to be “politically correct,” never speaking of other groups of people in ways that actually express our inner and truest thoughts. Why can’t a television personality be allowed to be critical of Jews, or express fear of Muslims? Or to question Obama’s birth? Why can’t journalists and others express negative views on intra-gender relationships? Why can’t blacks be criticized for their own failings? Isn’t self examination painful?

Truth is one thing, the public trust another. I am okay if someone wants to admits he or she is homophobic, racist, Islamophobic, sexist, or xenophobic. I openly call for their mea culpa. I would admire them for their open honesty. But should such a person be placed in a position of public trust, given their views? No. I don’t want them to be judges or journalists, sprouting the fear that blames those who have the right to free expression for crimes they did not commit. For those in the public realm, it should be an issue of private therapy, not public confession.

And why not? Because the second part of their honesty is usually that they see nothing wrong with their self-indulgent views of bigotry and ethnocentricism. How would Juan Williams feel if people followed him in stores, thinking he might shoplift because of his color? Or if were followed home by the police because he can afford to live in a neighborhood that others may think is off limits to him due to color rather than income?

Honesty should never become a safe house for bigotry and prejudice. Confession of a crime, whether an act or idea, whether murder or bias, still carries consequences. Our compassion is to show mercy, certainly. But mercy should never endorse the sin.

  1. The last sentence says it all: mercy whould never endorse the sin.

  2. Excellent blog. I hope Mr. Williams learns something from the experience. He has some serious reflecting to do. I don’t watch Fox and never followed him, so this “event” means nothing to me. Nevertheless, the conversation on rising Islamphobia on a worldwide basis ought to be examined more deeply. Human-kind has traveled this painful path too many times.

    • Betty, thank you for reading. As you know the House voted on banning NPR from receiving funds; it was defeated, but it shows the willingness of the small government party to use big government power to entrude and silence free speech. The firing was legal. The attempt to ban funding trampled and chilled democracy.

  3. Mercy means I will not treat you like the animal you may be currently channeling. You may yet reform. However, honesty about one’s own ignorance does not absolve one of the need to work on it. Nor does it give one free rein to broadcast their uncensored thoughts publicly where they can do the most harm. Some forms of tolerance are becoming seriously overrated.

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