Risk Rap

Rapping About a World at Risk

Juan Williams Gets A Raise

The dismissal of Juan Williams from his correspondent position at NPR is a watershed event.  Conservative pundits will be screaming about First Amendment rights and the abuses of government controlled media.  Mr. Williams was fired by NPR for violating guidelines on a statement he made as a paid commentator on Fox News “The O’Reilly Factor.”  When asked about the racial profiling of Muslim’s Mr. Williams stated:

“I mean, look, Bill, I’m not a bigot. You know the kind of books I’ve written about the civil rights movement in this country,” Williams said Monday. “But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”

At first glance it seems to be pretty innocuous stuff.  Mr. Williams citing his unease at seeing a woman of the veil on an airplane is well within his First Amendment right to do so.  The fact that I consider Mr. Williams fear to be based on a prejudice that prejudges someone based on appearances is beside the point.  Its synonymous with police officers stopping motorists on interstate highways because  of their race.  The crime of driving while black should not be sufficient to infringe a persons right to privacy or impede their safe passage.  Mr. Williams has the right to express those fears and prejudices and I will defend his right to do so.

Mr. Williams employer NPR also has a right to require that employees conform to certain guidelines that support the mission of a public news organization.  NPR requires that its employees refrain from making public editorial pronouncements on public media outlets.  It is understood  that editorializing correspondents may injure or cause harm to the NPR brand as a trusted source of objective reporting.  As such NPR is well within its right to protect its franchise by removing Mr. Williams from his position as a correspondent.  Professional athletes and corporate executives all have clauses in their employment contracts that stipulate unbecoming conduct that hurts the company franchise is grounds for dismissal.  NPR exercised that clause.

What is interesting about this event is the contrast of journalistic standards practiced by NPR and Fox.  NPR receives some government funding and was originally chartered to assure that radio broadcast services would be available to the smaller rural markets ignored by commercial radio.  Recently NPR programming consists of thoughtful up market features that has less mass appeal for profit oriented radio media outlets.  Its news programing, All Things Considered and Morning Edition offered in depth reportage that is thoughtful, fair and balanced.  It strives to be objective and for the most part is.

The contrast with Fox News is striking.  Belying its marketing handle of “fair and balanced reporting”, Fox News is anything but fair or balanced.  I find Fox News to be a consistent platform for the conservative movement and as such it’s reporting is hardly objective.  Its commentators routinely express an opinion on the news that is editorial in nature.  Fox News has built a profitable franchise on its editorial positions and its assemblage of commentators  (Rove, Hannity, Beck, O’Reilly, Palin) that eagerly express the political bias of its corporate parent News Corp.  Fox News correctness has been vindicated in the marketplace of ideas as its corporate sponsors and large viewer ship endorses its editorial positions.

The complex amalgam of the commercial viability of media channels, the branding of ideas, news as objective reportage, editorialism as a media commodity and the subtle distinction of opinion versus news are issues laying at the heart of Juan Williams dismissal from NRP.  Though fired from NPR for expressing an opinion that NPR thought unfair and hurtful to Muslims, Fox News awarded Mr. Williams a $3 million contract to expand his presence with the fair and balanced network.  Clearly the free market of ideas confirms  that Mr. Williams prejudice and intolerance toward Muslims advances the commercial interests of Fox News.

Its alarming that the value of  prejudice and intolerance is rising and that major corporate brands like News Corp find it so intrinsically linked to it he price of its stock as a publicly traded company.  Truly a disturbing example of  bankruptcy of the free market of ideas.

You Tube Music Video:  Mott the Hoople, All The Young Dudes

Risk: free speech, commercial media, objective reporting, prejudice

 

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October 22, 2010 - Posted by | conservatism, media | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] commentators.  This argument misses the point about Olbermann’s trespass.  Like the Juan William’s dust-up after his termination from NPR, Olbermann’s transgressions falls into the same […]

    Pingback by Say It Ain’t So Keith « Risk Rap | November 7, 2010


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