The Right To Complain

Jeralyn details the Juan Williams firing by NPR. Glenn Greenwald comments:

I'm not someone who believes that journalists should lose their jobs over controversial remarks, especially isolated, one-time comments. But if that's going to be the prevailing standard, then I want to see it applied equally. Those who cheered on the firing of Octavia Nasr, Helen Thomas and Rick Sanchez -- and that will include many, probably most, of the right-wing polemicists predictably rushing to transform Juan Williams into some sort of free speech martyr sacrificed on the altar of sharia censorship -- have no ground for complaining here. Those who endorse speech-based punishments invariably end up watching as the list of Prohibited Ideas expands far beyond the initial or desired scope, often subsuming their own beliefs. That's a good reason to oppose all forms of speech-based punishment in the first place. There's obviously a fundamental difference between (a) being punished by the state for expressing Prohibited Ideas (which is isn't what happened here) and (b) losing a job for doing so, but the dynamic is similar: those who endorse this framework almost always lose control over how it is applied. And that's how it should be.

I think Glenn's formulation misses the point - people have a right to complain about speech that offends them. What media entities do about these complaints is entirely up to them. Everyone has the right to complain. Attempts to chill this right are not only ineffective, they are wrong. Juan Williams won't be heard on NPR now, but he will be heard on Fox and almost anywhere else Williams wishes to speak. He won't lack for a platform. Just because someone complains does not mean a media entity must act. It's their choice. Fox of course will not only not drop commenters who engage in bigotry, such commenters become Fox All Stars. That's part of the Fox model. NPR obviously has a different model. As does CNN, etc. The myth that all viewpoints and expressions are accepted and aired is simply that, a myth. One person's "decency" is another person's "political correctness."

Speaking for me only

< NPR Terminates Juan Williams Over Anti-Muslim Comments | Demonizing The Rule Of Law >
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    I'm not certain that Juan Williams' (none / 0) (#1)
    by Militarytracy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 09:16:02 AM EST
    comments can be considered isolated and one time.  It isn't as if we are socially at the beginning of a Muslim plus American Culture learnning curve here.  The discussion and the finer issues debates are years old now.  Those of us who care to have an opinion are beginning to solidify those opinions.  Then Juan Williams chooses to go on with Bill O'Reilly because the unbiased and never racist Bill is seeking support for some of his own expressed views and Juan chose to take that job.  This was not isolated or one time, this was stake planting.  So Juan planted his stake with O'Reilly, and NPR told Juan that that isn't who they are and he can no longer be one of their representatives.  Seems clear to me, fair to me, and how it should be.

    On this, I can agree with you 100% (none / 0) (#5)
    by Farmboy on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:01:58 AM EST
    Mr. Williams made his choice, and now he has to live with it.

    I don't see this as him losing any of his free speech rights. He simply lost his partially government funded platform.


    It seems to me Mr. (none / 0) (#2)
    by oculus on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 09:34:01 AM EST
    Williams did a credible job as NPR's WH correspondent. But when he worked for Fox he became an anethema to the usual NPR listener. Although probably helpful to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting's relationship w/Congress.  

    Credible? I thought (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by brodie on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 10:17:43 AM EST
    his longtime association with Rupert's Faux News seriously affected his credibility at NPR.  Not only was I concerned about all the information he might be leaving out, facts which didn't fit well with his more conservative ideological bent, but I also never found his news analysis went much deeper than reciting the Beltway CW.

    Same credibility problem for NPR's other FNC contributor Lara Liasson.  

    Best thing NPR has done in 30 yrs in getting rid of the shallow, biased and bigoted Williams.  

    One down, two to go -- Liasson and Cokie Roberts.


    NPR thought so, too (none / 0) (#6)
    by Cream City on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 11:03:23 AM EST
    as NPR put him on warning a year ago -- see earlier comments -- if Williams had the sense to see that's what it was.  No pity party here for an "analyst" on NPR who switched to "pundit" on Fox.  Not wise.

    Williams and his fellow faux liberals irk (none / 0) (#7)
    by MO Blue on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 01:06:13 PM EST
    me much more than Cokie Roberts. Don't recall Roberts being sold as the "liberal voice vs conservative voice." Having Williams portray the liberal perspective is as bad as having Lieberman be the Democratic voice on the wars in the Middle East.

    Free to speak, free to complain... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Thu Oct 21, 2010 at 10:25:20 AM EST
    sounds right to me...but I do worry about the weight given to professional complainers about speech by the coporate media, and what it means for debate of controversial and/or uncomfortable topics.  

    Not that there is much that can or should be done about it, except complain louder if ya want.