Sunday, October 24, 2010

Greenwald on Williams: Failure to "Condemn His Own Reaction" Justifies Firing

Glenn Greenwald started out by celebrating loudly when he heard that Juan Williams had been fired for making what Greenwald characterized "blatantly bigoted anti-Muslim remarks."

Greenwald then felt compelled to "update" his blog entry four times in order to "clarify" what he originally said. He has also produced a follow-up post on his blog, and this has also been updated once already.

Greenwald is understandably defensive about cheering from the sidelines as a fellow journalist is sacked for speaking his mind freely. Greenwald is in a rather delicate position here, as a self-styled maverick journalist and noble campaigner for truth, justice, a free press, free speech, and the American way.

So just how does he manage to justify, in his own mind, the firing of a journalist for honestly and publicly expressing his own personal opinion? Greenwald simply, and crudely, tries to have it both ways. He has even gone so far as to declare, with a straight face: "I want to emphasize again: I am not arguing that Williams should have been fired for these comments; indeed, I said the opposite."

In fact, however, Greenwald openly and enthusiastically congratulated NPR for firing Williams. And he used his blog to not only express his satisfaction with William's firing, but to also argue vehemently in support of the justification that NPR gave for firing him. The following is a quick and dirty breakdown of Greenwald's initial blog post:

(1) First of all, the blog post is titled "Juan Williams fired for anti-Muslim bigotry". Nor for being accused of anti-Muslim bigotry, for actually being in truth an anti-Muslim bigot.

(2) Then Greenwald opens the body of the post by congratulating himself for having just recently, at least in his own mind, "documented the glaring double standard ... whereby anti-Muslim bigotry is widely tolerated, while those perceived as expressing similar (or even more mild) animus toward other groups are harshly punished."

(3) Then Greenwald declares that Williams' firing for "blatantly bigoted anti-Muslim remarks" is "a very welcome blow" to this supposed double standard.

(4) Then Greenwald smears Williams as a "long time" defender violent bigots (specifically of those who have been "charged" with bigotry and "right-wing incendiary attacks").

(5) Then Greenwald calls on Andrew Sullivan as an anti-character witness against Williams, to the effect that Williams fits "the working definition" of a bigot, and that Williams is guilty by association with what Sullivan claims is the "endemic" and "disgusting" "literal defense of anti-Muslim bigotry on Fox." (Sullivan has since stated publicly, on this morning's Chris Matthew's Show [video here] that he does not think that Williams is a bigot.)

(6) Greenwald continues to hammer away against any qualification or nuance regarding the charge of bigotry against Williams, whose ideas are "noxious": "The bottom line here" is that Williams "is definitely bigoted."

(7) Greenwald then returns specifically to Williams' firing by NPR, which he has already characterized as "very welcome." Greenwald acknowledges that there is no room for doubt concerning the reason for the firing: Williams was fired for thinking things that should not be thought and for saying things that should not be said: "what is clear is that the anti-Muslim bigotry he spewed is both the proximate and cited cause."

(8) Only as Greenwald is nearing the end of his tirade does he appear to suddenly recollect that he likes to think of himself as a defender of a free press and free speech generally. But how to square this circle? Hmmmm. "I'm not someone who believes that journalists should lose their jobs over controversial remarks ...." Greenwald now sermonizes, directly contradicting what he himself has already stated in plain English. You see it's just that the arch-bigot Juan Williams must be punished in the name of, well, consistency: ".... but if that [firing journalists for making controversial remarks] is going to be the prevailing standard, then I want to see it applied equally."

It never seems to occur to Greenwald that perhaps consistency might not be much of a virtue when it comes to censorship!

In all, Williams used the words "bigot/bigotry/bigoted" 12 times in the 7 paragraphs of his original post (not counting the one time when he quotes Williams saying "I'm not a bigot.")

My favorite part of the ensuing "clarifications" that Greenwald has spewed forth is when he wrote the following:
I don't think there's anything wrong with candidly admitting that he gets nervous when he sees Muslims on airplanes -- even though those feelings reflect some highly distorted thoughts -- as we all have irrational reactions to various situations. But Williams was not condemning his own reaction.
So Williams is free to express wrong opinions so long as he condemns himself forcefully enough after doing so. In other words, Glenn Greenwald is advocating internalized self-censorship, with externally imposed censorship (in the form of being fired) as a safeguard against those, like Juan Williams, who fail to properly police their own thoughts and words, and who compound this by obdurately refusing to seek forgiveness and ideological purification through ritual public self-flaggelation.

Self-censorship is actually one of the major ways in which Islam is already seriously eroding basic rights and freedoms in the West. It is now well established that the slightest imagined insult against Islam can result in international outbreaks of deadly violence. The predictable result is that the Western media now obediently try to pre-emptively anticipate and quash anything that might cause offense to any Muslim anywhere.

The ways in which Islam is already trampling on freedom of speech in the West have become a many-headed beast:
  • There is the internalized pre-emptive self-censorship of individuals and organizations, based either on sincere belief that criticisms of Islam, even if true, should not be spoken out loud, or out of fear of reprisal (possibly from Islamist terrorists, or possibly from one's own employer!).
  • There is the extra-legal enforcement of censorship by employers, schools, website hosting companies, etc.
  • There is the outrageous harrying of private citizens by high-ranking government officials who publicly attack those who criticize Islam. This includes the President of the United States, the Commander of the US forces in Afghanistan, a Supreme Court Justice, the Governor of New Jersey, and the Mayor of New York.
  • Although this has not happened yet here in the US, in Europe there is the explicit abrogation of free speech with the enactment of laws against "hate speech".
The more loudly people like Glenn Greenwald cheer attempts to silence criticism of Islam, while just as loudly proclaiming that Islam poses no threat to freedom, the easier it becomes -- one hopes! -- to see what is really going on.


Anonymous said...

Excellent presentation.

Thank you.

Phoenix said...

I agree wholeheartedly. I don't know that declaring something 'bigoted' because it lacks a certain PC flavor is a good idea... reminds me of a rather underreported incident in which Obama referred to Fox News as 'dangerous'. It's a fine line to walk, declaring things dangerous when they don't conform to a politically correct (or in Obama's case, politically expedient) viewpoint. It's only a few steps from removing or banning media, statements, and even people deemed to be 'offensive' simply because somebody somewhere might be upset.

Anonymous said...

Excerpts of this article have been posted in the responses at