Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

NPR, Juan Williams, and the Paranoid Left

News of NPR's decision to fire Juan Williams for "bigoted" comments Williams made earlier this week as a guest on The O'Reilly Factor struck me initially as nothing more than the latest chapter in liberals' recent and sordid history of thought-policing.  That the NPR powers-that-be should target Williams, author of multiple books chronicling various aspects of the civil rights movement and--more important from their perspective--a "person of color," might have seemed a bit strange but for the fact that Williams also serves as a FOX News contributor, which, to the folks at NPR, brands him with the ineradicable mark of Cain.  Nonetheless, I was not surprised.  Perhaps those of us who have made careers in academia while resisting its leftist orthodoxies have somehow lost the capacity for astonishment at such things.  After all, we know the NPR types: the campus strut-abouts who think themselves uniquely qualified to define and punish transgressions of speech, all the while oozing sanctimony as they struggle to conceal their disdain for those around them whom they regard as their moral and intellectual inferiors.  Even Williams's own account of the firing, chilling though it is, fails to shock.  (In an ironic twist, NPR CEO Vivian Schiller offered an apology for comments made about Williams since the firing; she, presumably, will keep her job.)  But then I got to thinking, and I wondered if the real story here isn't something more than political-correctness-run-amok.

2010 is the year of the Tea Party.  Predictably, today's perplexed liberals have comforted themselves by dusting off old copies of Richard Hofstadter's 1964 essay, "The Paranoid Style in American Politics," which, in its day, reassured equally perplexed liberals that they had nothing to fear from the so-called fringe radicals on the right who had hijacked the Republican Party and saddled it with Barry Goldwater (turns out they had a good deal to fear from one of Goldwater's most rhetorically effective champions, Ronald Reagan).  No doubt something like a paranoid style has existed since our nation's inception.  American patriots in the 1760s and 1770s routinely accused the British ministry of having hatched a conspiracy against liberty.  American revolutionaries justified their separation from the British Empire by citing a "long train of abuses and usurpations" and a "systematical plan of reducing [the colonies] to slavery."  Since the eighteenth century, fears of concentrated power have manifested themselves in mass movements of ordinary people, and the manifestation, which liberal elites regard as sinister and threatening, we who celebrate individual freedom and constitutional government deem salutary.

But what happens when paranoia grips those in power?  I would suggest that an amusing-yet-dangerous paranoia among the liberal elites, not the familiar silliness of political correctness, best explains NPR's decision to fire Williams.  What Williams actually said on the air is only part of the story.  That he said it on FOX News, whose connection to Williams NPR long has sought to undermine, constitutes another and more important element.  What really matters here is that the Obama administration's petulant 2009 crusade against FOX News, complete with the equally petulant narrative that spawned that crusade, retains its relevance among the paranoid left.  According to said narrative, and straight from the president himself, FOX News qualifies as little more than a "destructive" mouthpiece for the Republican Party.  It's not a real news network.  Its commentators are selected and paid by wealthy right-wingers, special interests, etc.  Furthermore, it exerts an unhealthy influence upon the viewing public, whom--according to the liberal narrative--Fox News seems somehow to have called into existence.  It has not occurred to the president and his supporters that the ironically-labeled "fair and balanced" network might represent an alternate and quite legitimate perspective--a perspective whose decades-long absence from so-called "mainstream" network news broadcasts, and not some mysterious-but-well-funded conspiracy, was what called Fox News into existence in the first place.  All of this is so very tedious to conservatives, who, with no little fortitude, have resigned themselves to living in a world where their liberal friends, unsatisfied with seeing their own views advanced on ABC, CBS and NBC, on nearly every major newspaper's editorial page, in academia, and in Hollywood, bristle at the fact that they do not maintain an absolute monopoly over the dissemination of information and opinion.  But in our tedium we must not overlook the real danger.  Such bristling from liberal colleagues means little when confined to the proverbial faculty lounge.  But when the foregoing narrative becomes so widespread in liberal circles as to constitute something of an axiom, when they convince themselves that their opponents act from feelings of paranoia rather than legitimate opposition born of serious reflection, and when one among them gets control of the government, it then becomes possible--imperative, actually--to de-legitimize the sources and the forces of this so-called paranoid opposition.  This explains the Obama administration's near-pathological obsession with Fox News.  And this, I would suggest, explains NPR's decision to terminate Juan Williams's contract.  This, in short, is what happens when real paranoia infects the powerful.        

Discussions - 14 Comments

Comment posting the home phone number of NPR's president deleted. -- The Editors

Well reasoned, and well said.

I rarely agree with Juan Williams. But he is a good man and an honest man. What happened to him is an atrocity to his character and the foundations of this country. However, there is an upside to this situation. There is a very, very important election that will take place in 12 days. Voters are mad. This is the icing on the cake. Good luck Obama, Harry, Nancy and company.

Robbins Mitchell, that is not appreciated. You're acting like a Kos-ite. Were NLT able to afford thorough comments monitoring, that never would have been permitted. Shame on you.

Not that she shouldn't be FIRED.

So he said, "... 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."

Fine. I'm curious as to whether or not he would have gotten in trouble for noting that men wearing a kippah or yarmulke are identifying themselves first and foremost as Jewish? Or, what about a man wearing a he not identifying himself first and foremost as Sikh?

Let's not forget that the men who did all the damage on 9/11 were wearing western clothes...not "Muslim garb." Perhaps as with the kippah and the dastar, wearing clothing that signifies one's faith serves a valuable purpose...

I think most people would be nervous if a Catholic began loudly praying the rosary on a flight. The fact is, most people find air travel to be stressful to begin with, and we tend to be uncomfortable with overt displays of religiosity (outside church, that is).

Oh, come on. Williams said nothing much different from what Jesse Jackson once said, which was that when he was walking down the street at night in Washington D.C. and he heard footsteps behind him, he was nervous until he noticed that the person was white. When a class of people gets identified in the public mind with violent acts, it's not surprising that people should get nervous when they appear in public. At least
Williams took accout of how they were dressed and not just their skin color!

Remember the flying imams in Minnesota who made a big production of their getting on the airplane and, not surprisingly, frightened some people. Until this war against terrorists is won, there will be tension. In the meantime, the more that more and more Muslims distingush themselves from terrorists, the better off everyone will be.


When was the last time a Jewish person or a Sikh blew up a building or a plane?

With that logic, since Timothy McVeigh who perpetrated the largest act of terrorism on American soil prior to September 11, 2001 was Catholic, how comfortable are you around Catholics?

The fact that McVeigh was Catholic was merely incidental; at no point did he claim to have committed that act in the name of Catholicism.

My previous point, however, still stands. We are made nervous by that which is out of the ordinary, and overt religiosity of any variety, outside of a church setting is, for good or ill, out of the ordinary.

As the comedian Jim Gaffigan likes to say, is there anything that makes us more uncomfortable than hearing somebody say, "I'd like to talk to you about Jesus"?

John, I think that the discomfort one would feel from an evangelical asking us if we're saved or a group of devout Catholics loudly praying the Rosary is a lot different from feeling uncomfortable around a group of loud and young Muslim men because you think they might commit an act of terror shooting people or crashing a plane. It's not their religious expression but dying that I'm afraid of.

Timothy McVeigh was RAISED a Catholic. His purposes for bombing the Federal Building in Oklahoma had nothing to do with religion. Matter of fact here are some religious facts about McVeigh:

McVeigh professed his belief in "a God", although he said he had "sort of lost touch with" Catholicism and "I never really picked it up, however I do maintain core beliefs."[

McVeigh wrote a letter to the Buffalo News claiming to be an agnostic] and told the authors of American Terrorist that he did not believe in Hell (which contradicts his statement above as Catholics believe in Hell).

McVeigh once said that he believed the universe was guided by natural law, energized by some universal higher power that showed each person right from wrong if they paid attention to what was going on inside them. He had also said, "Science is my religion."

He was not a Catholic nor a Christian; at the time of the bombing.

McVeigh's motivation for bombing the Federal Building was outrage at the Federal Government. Here is an except from The VERY LIBERAL Wiki on McVeiwh's motiviation for the bombing:

McVeigh claimed that the bombing was revenge for "what the U.S. government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge." McVeigh visited Waco during the standoff, where he spoke to a news reporter about his anger over what was happening there.

McVeigh frequently quoted and alluded to the white supremacist novel The Turner Diaries. It described acts of terrorism similar to the one he carried out. While McVeigh openly rejected the book's racism (a roommate said that McVeigh was not a racist and was basically indifferent to racist matters), he claimed to appreciate its interest in firearms. Photocopies of pages sixty-one and sixty-two of The Turner Diaries were found in an envelope inside McVeigh's car. These pages depicted a fictitious mortar attack upon the U.S. Capitol in Washington.

In interviews before his execution, documented in American Terrorist, McVeigh stated he decapitated an Iraqi soldier with cannon fire on his first day in the war and celebrated. But he said he later was shocked to be ordered to execute surrendering prisoners and to see carnage on the road leaving Kuwait City after U.S. troops routed the Iraqi army. In interviews following the Oklahoma City bombing, McVeigh said he began harboring anti-government feelings during the Gulf War. In 1998, while in prison, McVeigh wrote an essay that criticized US foreign policy towards Iraq as being hypocritical:

The administration has said that Iraq has no right to stockpile chemical or biological weapons (“weapons of mass destruction”) – mainly because they have used them in the past.
Well, if that’s the standard by which these matters are decided, then the U.S. is the nation that set the precedent. The U.S. has stockpiled these same weapons (and more) for over 40 years. The U.S. claims that this was done for deterrent purposes during the “Cold War” with the Soviet Union. Why, then is it invalid for Iraq to claim the same reason (deterrence) — with respect to Iraq’s (real) war with and the continued threat of, its neighbor Iran?

If Saddam is such a demon and people are calling for war crimes charges and trials against him and his nation, why do we not hear the same cry for blood directed at those responsible for even greater amounts of “mass destruction” — like those responsible and involved in dropping bombs on the cities mentioned above.

The truth is, the U.S. has set the standard when it comes to the stockpiling and use of weapons of mass destruction.

McVeigh had contemplated suicide on many occasions. Anticipating that he would probably be caught and executed, he referred to the bombing as "state-assisted suicide".

You dear anonymous are as ill-informed and ignorant and Whoopie Goldberg and Joy Behar.

And I forgot to say, Mr. Schwarz, good post. Good framing of things, even if more is going on here (as I'm sure you know) than paranoia. This delegitimization in advance of the other side habit that the liberal elites keep returning to is poisonous.

McVeigh issued a statement immediately antecedent to his execution. It was the poem Invictus. If he fancied himself a Catholic assenting to the authority of the Church, he was unclear on the concept.

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