This week, the publicly funded radio station, National Public Radio fired prominent news analyst Juan Williams for airing comments he made on Fox News. His “offense” was that he did not tow the liberal line of NPR while commenting on NPR’s conservative opponent Fox News. Williams made the comment to Bill O’Reilly how, “When I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb, and I think they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get nervous…” NPR CEO, Vivian Schiller described in an email to other NPR stations how Williams had crossed a line between being an Analyst and a Columnist and not in compliance with NPR’s editorial style. The firing of Juan Williams’ raises the debate of the impact of political correctness upon free speech.
Political correctness has stopped debate of delicate or controversial issues in its tracks. In the wake of the September 11 attacks of the World Trade Center, comments like Williams’ would probably have been perfectly admissible in the media. The media would have been sympathetic to such a sentiment because they would have been aware that it would have resonated well with a fearful public that watched, read or listened. The media fed off of the “Islamaphobia.” During the time since September 11, Western media and governments entered a new era of placating to and appeasing to, in the name of political correctness to Islam. So much so, that legally binding Sharia courts now operate in the UK to settle civil disputes since 2008. The naive view of cultural relativism has facilitated a system of double standards.
There was nothing wrong with Williams’ statement. He was absolutely right in that “political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.” NPR played into the hand of the right wing media by firing Williams. Fox News immediately snapped up Williams with a $2m per year contract. It is disappointing to see the very things that progressives fought for, such as pluralism, and then watch them slowly dismantle such ideas by making delicate subjects taboo. In an attempt to foster tolerance, we’ve tolerated the intolerable; censorship and appeasement of an oppressive faith-based ideology.
“Unlimited tolerance must lead to the disappearance of tolerance. If we extend unlimited tolerance even to those who are intolerant, if we are not prepared to defend a tolerant society… then the tolerant will be destroyed, and tolerance with them… We should therefore claim, in the name of tolerance, the right not to tolerate the intolerant.” ~ Karl Popper