Goodbye Juan Williams

Juan Williams’ ouster from his position as commentator at National Public Radio should come as little surprise to any regular listener to NPR. For years I have heard conservatives refer to NPR as National Communist Radio for its compulsive addiction to stories about the evils of capitalism and its apotheosis of the working class.

I have always felt that description went too far.  While NPR has certainly won its stripes as a left of center platform, its ideological core could hardly be described as communist.  Focusing on the poor and dispossessed does not mean a surrender to socialist dogma.  And even if the commentators and reporters could be described as latent socialists, I couldn’t wish for a more calming introduction to their new world order.   The mellifluous tones of Morning Edition‘s Bob Edwards’ voice, and those of his successors Renee Montagne and Steve Inskeep, gave me the capacity to swallow even the most devastating  news with a certain equanimity,a remarkable skill that in my view has not been replicated anywhere else in the United States – in either  print, television or radio.

Nevertheless, several years ago, after nearly 20 years as an NPR addict, I just stopped listening.  I failed to tune in at 6:00 am as was my wont and ceased to pay my annual membership dues to the local NPR affiliate, KCRW.  This was related directly to the unfathomably biased reporting I heard coming from the NPR reporters and commentators regarding the Arab- Israeli conflict.  In the process of making a documentary on the Battle for Jenin in 2002, I had the occasion to interview a few of the NPR reporters in both Israel and the United States and discovered, to my dismay, that there was an alarming absence of knowledge on the part of these individuals on basic historical facts – such as that Israel was created by a U.N. resolution in 1947  or that it had been three Arab armies which had initiated hostilities during the Six Day War ( resulting in the Israeli army’s conquest of the West Bank)  and not the reverse.

The virtual acceptance of  the Arab narrative of the conflict was certainly not the only example of bias. During the Iraq War, there were constant jabs at the Bush Administration’s policies, with a nary a response solicited from the other side.  I was appalled when I heard a NPR reporter in Denmark during the the Danish Cartoon Riots of 2006 call for the Muslim courts , rather than Danish courts, to try the violators of the peace.

And so I ended my membership.   I am not aware whether things changed at NPR but in all likelihood they have not.   There has never been a serious inquiry, to my knowledge,  of the distinctly  Islamic motivations of the 9/11 attacks, an oversight which conveniently side steps the most pressing issue which confronts Western civilization.

Which brings us to Juan Williams.  Williams, it should be noted, did not make his comments  about his nervousness around religiously garbed Muslims on NPR itself.  He made them on FOX News, where he knew such views would be more openly tolerated.  But he also knew he was expressing a sentiment that millions 0f other Americans would  voice without even a second thought –  that religious Muslims, in this country at least, have done an abysmal job over the past ten years in convincing us that their intentions are peaceable and that, as a group, they are categorically opposed to violence.

The failure of Muslim leaders to unequivocally and defiantly  repudiate the violent actions of their co-religionists arouses unease.   Is that really so controversial?  Where, we should demand from this publicly funded institution, are its in depth reports and interviews with the U.S. imams and Muslim community leaders who should be asked pointedly where they stand on the issue of violent jihad and terrorism?   Why is it, as Marty Peretz of the New Republic asked to a howl of liberal condemnation last month, that so few Muslims in this country voice protest about the Muslim slaughter of fellow Muslims in foreign countries?    Where is their outrage about what fellow Muslims do in the name of Islam?

Those are questions which do not find a home in National Public Radio.  And it is that abdication of responsibility which makes regular listeners such as me –  and  perhaps even in-house commentators such as Juan Williams, wonder which “public”  National Public Radio is actually addressing.

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