Goldberg: NPR drove a stake through the heart of liberalism
posted at 2:00 pm on October 21, 2010 by Ed Morrissey
Juan Williams gets fired for telling Bill O’Reilly to not equate the Islamic faith with terrorism? Really, NPR? Are. You. Serious?
Serious about firing Williams? Certainly. A serious organization dedicated to airing differing points of view? Obviously not. Bernard Goldberg, who wrote a seminal book on the political machinations of the national media with Bias and another with his Obama-era follow-up A Slobbering Love Affair, writes today that NPR has essentially destroyed the very fabric of liberalism through its insistence on political correctness:
What makes this so crazy — and so sad — is that liberals are the open-minded ones, the ones who cherish the free exchange of ideas, the smart ones. And if you don’t believe me, just ask any liberal, who will be glad to tell you how smart and open-minded he or she is. But these are the kind of people who believe in “free speech” only as long as they agree with you.
I feel bad for Juan, He’s a good, decent man. His firing will make lots of other Americans think twice before they say something the boss may not like. And that’s not a good thing in a democracy that thrives on vibrant, sometimes controversial ideas.
But I feel worse for American liberals. Because what we have here is one more piece of evidence that too many of them have forgotten how to be liberal.
Only about 20 percent of Americans identify themselves as liberals. Liberalism was once a great American movement. It led the fight for civil rights, the most important issue, as far as I’m concerned, of the 20th century.
It’s a shame that liberalism is dying in this country. It’s an outright crime that liberals are killing it.
Well, so-called “conservatives” darned near killed conservatism in 2006 by attempting to spend like the Left while in power, so I can feel a bit of Bernie’s pain here. But I digress. In this piece, Bernie defends, as he often does, classic liberalism, which once represented a movement towards individual liberty, free expression, and self-determination. The American “liberal” movement hasn’t represented those values since the New Left took over the Democratic party and the leadership of the leftward spectrum of political thought, which took place in the 1970s and has continued apace ever since.
Those who support actual tolerance and open dialogue would not attempt to suppress it or punish it when it occurs. The fact that Williams used that personal observation as a springboard to discuss the dangers of generalization seems to have completely missed the layers of editors and fact-checkers at NPR. Just the mere utterance of a secular heresy (and on Fox News!) is enough to get the government-funded media outlet’s Bureau of Editorial Inquisition engaged. They didn’t even bother to give Williams the Galileo option of disavowing his public statement first, and instead cast him out lest he taint the True Political Faith.
Whatever that process was, it wasn’t liberal in the classic sense of the word. It’s also not tolerance in any sense of the word. Neither word describes the modern “liberal” movement in any way, shape, or form.
Addendum: A few people on Twitter have posed an interesting question: what’s the difference between what Juan Williams said last night, and what Rick Sanchez said about Jon Stewart and the Jews on a radio show that got him fired by CNN? Context and history is important here. Williams used the example of his reaction in airports as an entrée to warning about the dangers of generalization, whereas Sanchez claimed that Jews control the media as a supporting argument for calling Jon Stewart a bigot. The “Jews control the media” conspiracy theory is a canard, whereas the claim that extremist Muslims killed 3,000 Americans on 9/11 is a fact. For further context, it should be remembered that Sanchez had committed a series of embarrassing gaffes, and that his remarks about Jews and the media was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back, especially since he explicitly aimed it at his own network in that quote.
Update: One more point. This is not a First Amendment case. Juan Williams does not have a right to publication at NPR, nor does anyone else. The people running NPR have the prerogative of hiring anyone they want. However, their editorial judgment is the question, as is the notion that taxpayers should fund an organization this allergic to dissent.