I am glad I give my e-mail address at the bottom of this column. I like to get feedback. Apparently, two of my recent columns, one on anger (“Arguments for the sake of truth, not victory” Sept. 16) and one on double standards (“The singular phenomenon of double standards,” Oct. 14), struck a responsive chord with a number of readers who have written to me privately. Why? I speculate that they were cautious about public identification. They could have posted their comments on the articles’ website or they could have written letters to the editor. However, they chose to comment privately. The result is to give the appearance that some of my views are not as widely accepted as they may be.
As stated in the “Anger” column, “I, and people who share some of my opinions, are belittled and excoriated by those who consider themselves politically correct, tolerant, and morally superior.” To avoid this, people tend to stay quiet. Some even fear for my — and their — safety.
A close acquaintance said she was concerned that my statement, “the most feared man in the world is Muhammad,” in the “Double Standards” column could cause a fatwa to be placed on me. She was serious.
This brings me to one of the most singular events of the past week, the firing of Juan Williams by National Public Radio. While I am not an NPR listener, I like Juan Williams, having watched him for years on various TV shows. While much of the time I don’t agree with him, in whole or in part, I respect him. His arguments for his liberal viewpoint are well constructed and based on facts as he interprets them.
Publicly funded (i.e. your tax dollars), progressive-minded NPR fired Williams for expressing a feeling, not on NPR, but on The O’Reilly Factor on Fox News Channel. Williams said he gets “worried” and “nervous” when he boards a plane and sees passengers dressed in Muslim garb. He qualified that by saying that he was not making a generalization about Muslims and reminded O’Reilly that “it’s not a war against Islam” that America is fighting. After 9/11, many people would agree with Williams. But not NPR, which declared Williams a bigot.
In 1995, NPR’s Nina Totenberg told the host of PBS’s Inside Washington that if there was “retributive justice” in the world, North Carolina Senator Jesse Helms would “get AIDS from a transfusion, or one of his grandchildren will get it.” Totenberg is still NPR’s legal affairs correspondent. Double standard? Jesse Helms was an acceptable target while Islamists are not? Statements on PBS are okay, while a liberal on Bill O’Reilly’s show is a traitor?
While liberals like to proclaim they are for freedom of speech, scores of conservatives and libertarians came to Williams’ defense. Fewer liberals rose to the occasion (although Whoopi Goldberg, who walked off the set of The View after guest Bill O’Reilly remarked that “Muslims killed us on 9/11,” called Williams’ firing “ridiculous.”)
The Soviet Union thought that those who opposed Soviet Communism were deserving of banishment to psychiatric hospitals. Some of this crept into the remarks of NPR CEO Vivian Schiller, who said Williams should have kept his feelings about Muslims between him and “his psychiatrist or his publicist,” a remark she later retracted.
In my “Anger” column, I cited Charles Krauthammer’s observation that when people of liberal bent are on the verge of losing public opinion, out come charges of bigotry, racism, nativism, homophobia, and the latest charge, Islamophobia. He is correct with regard to “L’Affaire Williams” — Williams has been charged with bigotry and Islamophobia.
Editorial cartoonist Sean Delonas captured the moment in a cartoon which appeared in the Oct. 24 New York Post. It showed a couple in an airport looking at a bearded man in Muslim garb, who is wearing a suicide bomber’s belt. While TSA personnel are avoiding looking at the man, the wife says to her husband, “Don’t say anything, if you wanna keep your job.”
If charges of racism and bigotry can be raised against someone like Juan Williams, who, up until now had impeccable liberal credentials, and if a cartoonist calling for an “Everyone Draw Muhammad Day” is forced to play by “Rushdie rules” and go into witness protection for fear of her life, no wonder people who comment favorably on my columns feel more comfortable expressing themselves privately.
To these people I say, have the courage of your convictions. Speak up. There may be more people who think like you than you expect. However, you will not be able to find them if you don’t identify yourself to them. Be like Howard Beale in Network, and say “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!”
As talk radio immortal Bob Grant opens his show, “Let’s be heard.”