Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Left Pulls A Brietbart

Several years ago, my wife and I were sitting alone at an airline gate at London’s Heathrow Airport, waiting for our return flight to the United States. We were at the gate early, as is our practice. We were the only ones there.

The flight previous to ours was destined to fly to Iran.

No worries, I thought. No reason to think anything ill of people just trying to get home, like us.

Then the passengers started to filter in. Most in traditional Westernized Arab garb: headscarves worn over suits and collared shirts, burquas and such.

I started to feel nervous.

No worries, I reminded myself. No reason to think ill of anybody.

No reason at all.

But of course I was nervous. This was pre-9/11, but post 1980s, when hijackings and airport bombings by Muslim extremists were still in the news. To say we didn’t maintain a low profile would be to lie. To say I wasn’t nervous would be to lie.

But nothing happened, of course, except a little paranoia which was pretty embarrassing at the time, and still causes embarrassment as I think about it now. I’d seen my inner bigot.

I know it’s an irrational fear, of course; just as silly as some Japanese kid spotting Dave Barry while on vacation there and yelling GAIJIN! (foreigner!) and running to his mommy, as if there were something to fear from a humor columnist.

The only thing that really troubled me on the flight home was the two-liter bottle of lemonade I’d drunk at the airport. I had to get up during the ascent, against stewardess’ orders, to visit the toilet because there was going to be an accident. I’m sure there were people who saw me moving and were wondering, “Where is that guy going? Does he have a bomb? He could be a neo-Nazi extremist, with that burly build and blond hair.”

Irrational, of course. But a fear nonetheless.

Juan Williams, an NPR reporter and “news analyst” got fired this week for expressing such a fear while appearing on Bill O’Reilley’s show on Fox News. This is what Williams said, per the Washington Post (via CBS News):
"I mean, look, Bill, I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the civil rights movement in this country," he said. "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they're identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
Williams then brought up a statement made in a New York courtroom this month by Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani-American who pleaded guilty to trying to detonate a bomb in Times Square and was sentenced to life in prison.

"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," Williams said.

Reached this morning in Washington, Williams said he was still digesting the news of his termination and didn't want to comment. "I better bite my tongue at this point," he said.
Nothing that I haven’t expressed here, of course, nor nothing just about anyone hasn’t thought about, say, a black person, a Tea Partier, a Hell’s Angel, or any other individual whose race or appearance makes them stand out in a crowd and make it easy to identify what group that person identifies with.

Here’s why NPR fired him:
NPR said in a statement that Williams's remarks--including that he gets "worried" and "nervous" when he sees people dressed in Muslim-style clothing on airplanes--"were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."
If he’d said such things about, say, a neo-Nazi, a costumed Tea Partier, or even a guy on the airplane wearing a pink bunny suit, it’s likely no one at NPR would have noticed.

Williams got fired for expressing a common fear. That’s it. Thoughtcrime, uttered aloud, has been committed. But maybe I’d better bite my tongue at this point as well.

Here's what William Saletan writes at
I'm not saying Williams is the world's most enlightened guy. He's wrong, for example, about the proposed Islamic Center near Ground Zero. And it's certainly unsettling to hear him admit that he worries when he sees Muslims in distinctive dress. But admitting such fears doesn't make you a bigot. Sometimes, to work through your fears, you have to face them honestly. You have to think through the perils of acting on those fears. And you have to explain to others why they, too, should transcend their anxieties or resentments and treat people as individuals.

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