The least significant aspect of NPR’s canning of Juan Williams is . . . Juan Williams. The important thing is what the world should start looking like after November 2.
Let’s say you were a million dollars in debt and you didn’t have a clue, much less a plan, about how you were going to pay. But you saw this really nice chandelier and decided it would be just perfect in your dining room. If you pulled out the Mastercard and charged up a few grand for this ornate luxury, we would not call that fine living. We would call it grossly irresponsible, especially if it means you can’t pay the mortgage or the kids’ tuition once the binge ends and the piper demands his due.
So here is the question: Why does a country that is trillions in debt, and in which people have unlimited options for obtaining information, need NPR? More to the point, why do we need to fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which keeps NPR afloat?
Juan Williams said things anyone with an ounce of common sense knows to be true: “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.”
So do I. So do most of us. This is not mindless, noxious prejudice. There is a context: Muslim terrorists used airliners to attack us. And as Williams pointed out, the terrorist convicted of trying to massacre New Yorkers by bombing Times Square just reaffirmed the oft-repeated jihadist promise that there is much blood left to be spilt.
But wait a second, the PC police tut-tut, Williams didn’t just indict terrorists; he smeared everyone who merely dresses like a Muslim. Yeah, right: Save that for the CAIR sensitivity-training class, just down the hall from the FBI’s next Citizens Academy — you’ll be sure to get an A+. To the rest of us benighted slugs, it seems fairly obvious that most Muslims in the West do not appear “in Muslim garb.” To the extent they concern themselves with scripture at all in this area, most American Muslims construe sharia simply to call for sartorial modesty — be dignified, but neither flashy nor slovenly.
For Islamists, on the other hand, clothing oneself is not about achieving modesty but announcing oneself, first and foremost, as a Muslim. To be sure, some such Muslims are just being pious, not exhibitionistic. Still, it is simply a fact that many men who don robes and skull-caps, and many women who shroud themselves in the niqab, abaya, or burqa, are making a very conscious statement that they reject the West. Though living in it, they have no intention of assimilating into it.
There is nothing illegal about holding such views, but they happen to be held in common with Muslim terrorists. The latter are known to act on those views in horrifying ways. Since Muslims garbed this way don’t come with signs telling us which are which, they give us valid reason to be worried and nervous, as Williams acknowledged being. But Williams didn’t say the law should back up his anxiety by denying Muslims the right to fly or to dress as they choose. To the contrary, he insisted that, while fear is rational, it is not a rationale for violating anyone’s basic rights. For this forthright balancing of fear and sensitivity, NPR has terminated his contract.
Williams’s firing is plainly unjust. But it is not without poetic justice. Mr. Williams, whom I don’t know, has always struck me as a decent, honest guy, and a passionate progressive. But that insoluble combination makes him a bundle of contradictions: a commentator who calls it like he sees it . . . except to the extent his doctrinaire leftism won’t allow him to connect the dots, in which case he calls it like he’d like to see it — whether or not that’s how it is. Consequently, I’m having trouble working up much sympathy for him. When he is not decrying the political correctness that suffocates our discourse, he works to exacerbate it.