Sunday, October 24, 2010

Torn Between Two Loves: Divided Loyalties

Juan, Juan, Juan. You let Bill O's folksy bigotry get the best of though FOX had some sort of purchase on how all "the folks" are feeling and you just went along, jawing away revealing what is plainly obvious to anyone paying attention to "reality" - Muslims. Killed. Us. "I think you're right," you said during Bill O's "Danger From the Muslim World" (no joke) segment.

This is where my journalist self collides with my human rights advocacy. As a journalist I agree with pundits like Joan Walsh from Salon who frame the issue as a free speech one - basically, don't fire journalists. No matter if they slam Israel (Helen Thomas), Jews in the media (Rick Sanchez), tweet admiration for a Hezbollah leader (Octavia Nasr) or disparage an entire faith (Juan Williams). What we need is more speech, not less. Concepts such as "neutrality" or "objectivity" are nothing more than fables anyway, so more free speech means more transparency and then we can have an honest debate about real issues. I agree with all of that.

But then like that scene in Animal House where the devil and angel pop up on Pinto's shoulder to do battle, my human rights advocacy self takes over. Juan was wrong, irresponsible and he discredits any organization that would tolerate such bigotry. Plus, and most importantly for me, in the current political climate someone has to push back against FOX and its brand of Islamaphobia that's been gaining so much traction recently. NPR did and it's about time. And I feel really good about that.

It's the sickening double standard that I rail against; bigoted speech ultimately reveals itself to be what it is - vile pollution. And the point about shutting down speech? Is that what's been happening since Juan got axed? No, the opposite - everyone's been talking about Juan, Muslims and the media. That's a very good thing.

A lot of pundits are trying to equate Juan's comments with his own feelings and limiting the fallout to "just one person's honest opinion." But that's not what they said for the others who were fired. As Glenn Greenwald writes, this "double standard suffered a very welcome blow." Better to apply an unjust standard equally than selectively. That way it'll reveal itself to be unsustainable and implode into oblivion.

We'll see.

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