The news came this morning that Juan Williams has been fired from his position as a news analyst for National Public Radio. His firing came after he made comments on the air with his other employer, Fox News, that he becomes afraid whenever he sees Muslims on an airplane.
The comment was unprofessional for a journalist to make because it wasn’t fact-based. If Juan Williams had thought about the presence of Muslims on airplanes rather than allowing his bigoted instincts to take over, he would have considered that, in the many times he had gotten afraid of Muslims on airplanes, nothing had bad had happened. He would have realized that the Muslims on the airplanes didn’t become violent and didn’t do anything scary – other than just being Muslims. If Williams weren’t a bigot, he would have realized that his fearful reaction wasn’t rational. A professional journalist would certainly have made that observation, but Juan Williams didn’t. He just talked about his fear of Muslims as an entire category, as if it were justified.
The truth is, though, that Juan Williams let his standards sink below that of professional journalism a long time ago. Part of his descent came when he joined Fox News, an organization that doesn’t have professional standards of journalism, but exists to promote a right wing political agenda.
The problems with Williams began in 2001, when he started his anti-Muslim tirades. Williams went on the air to declare that he supported those people who were calling for the U.S. government to drop a nuclear weapon on Tehran in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11. The terrorists weren’t sponsored by the Iranian government, but Williams didn’t care about that. He was angry, and he wanted to see some major violence to sooth his rage.
The problem of Juan Williams isn’t an individual issue. We as a nation have the same problem. We’ve become hooked on anger and fear, and are ignoring the facts in our search for hits of terror adrenaline. These emotions bring Americans feelings of unity and purpose, but those feelings are empty, because they lead us down a path that’s utterly disconnected with reality.
The problem of Juan Williams was a problem of homeland insecurity. It was right for NPR to let him go, and it is long past time that America let its homeland insecurity go.