I’ve been AWOL for a while, due to work commitments that have me working pretty much around the clock. But I had some free time tonight, checked the news, learned of Juan Williams’s firing by NPR, and read Scott’s and Paul’s comments on the story. My own thoughts on the firing are a bit random; here they are, in no particular order.
I’ve never met Williams, as far as I can recall, but have heard from several sources that he is a good guy, fair-minded and generous. That, in the end, was his downfall at NPR.
Several years ago I was in Florida with my wife and several of my kids for a Hillsdale College event. At some point, my wife and daughters were on the beach and saw a respectable-looking guy walking along in the sand in a suit and wing-tips. As regular Fox News watchers, they recognized him immediately. My wife introduced herself and, sure enough, it was Williams. He was very gracious, living up to his reputation as a nice guy. I found the image endearing: even I am not geeky enough to walk on the beach in a suit.
I’ve seen Williams many times on Fox News, but have never heard him on NPR. He is a liberal. But unlike most liberals, he is willing to engage with conservatives in a spirit of good will and test his ideas through debate. Probably more people have been exposed to liberal ideas by watching Williams on Fox than by reading Paul Krugman and Tom Friedman in the New York Times. (Obviously, I don’t mean to suggest any equivalency here.) One might think that liberals would applaud his efforts to bring liberal ideas to millions of Americans. It is revealing, I think, that this is not their attitude. Liberals are no longer in the persuasion business. Open debate, they avoid like the plague.
Michael Barone has known Juan Williams for a long time, and writes an entertaining appreciation. He concludes:
Reading between the lines of Juan’s statement and those of NPR officials, it’s apparent that NPR was moved to fire Juan because he irritates so many people in its audience. An interesting contrast: many NPR listeners apparently could not stomach that Williams also appeared on Fox News. But it doesn’t seem that any perceptible number of Fox News viewers had any complaints that Williams also worked for NPR. The Fox audience seems to be more tolerant of diversity than the NPR audience.
That is very true. Conservatives don’t try to silence their opponents, they just want to argue with them so that good public policy can emerge from the debate. Liberals–not every single one, but an alarming percentage–are infected by a totalitarian impulse to silence all who don’t toe their line.
Finally, Paul noted earlier today that NPR’s audience consists mostly of leftists. That is probably true, but NPR is also remarkably popular with taxi drivers, pretty much all of them immigrants. On hundreds of occasions, I have gotten into taxis driven by African immigrants and been subjected to NPR’s left-wing propaganda. Often, I’ve been tempted to urge the driver to change the channel to, say, Rush Limbaugh. So far I haven’t done it. But maybe NPR’s firing of a decent liberal like Juan Williams will push me over the edge. It’s time for African cab drivers to strike a blow for freedom.