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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Juan Williams, Political Correctness and Muslims

I have given my last donation of any kind to NPR and PBS after learning today that Juan Williams was fired for making what can only be called a bland statement about Muslims on the Bill O'Reilly show.

Here is what Williams said: “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. But when I get on the 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.”

Williams only said what probably 90 percent of Americans believe if they are being honest with themselves. The fact that he was fired for it is an example of just how ludicrous political correctness has become in the United States.

Williams, after all, is a political commentator and he was simply doing what he is paid to do: comment on the body politic of the nation.

In its statement announcing Williams' firing NPR said: . "His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR."

I know Juan Williams--not well, but I know enough of his professional background to know that while he may lean occasionally to the left his is one of the most reasonable liberal voices on the airwaves.

I met Juan when he came to the University of Illinois a few years back to give a talk. At the time I was Dean of the College of Media and a professor of Journalism. I found Juan a thoughtful professional. We talked about stories we had covered (I was a foreign correspondent for much of my 25 years with the Chicago Tribune) and discussed some of the issues of the day over lunch.

The United States used to be a place where people could hold respectful discussions about issues that impact our nation. No more.

Look at what happened on the cackling hen house called The View when Bill O'Reilly went on the show and said it was Muslims who killed innocent victims at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in that field in Pennsylvania on Sept. 11, 2001. Anybody with an ounce of brains knows that he was not saying "all Muslims" were behind the attacks. He was simply stating a fact. The men on these planes were Muslims. They weren't Rosicrucian's, Shinto priests, Shriners or Buddhists.

The point both he and Williams were trying to make was that there is a global problem with Muslims who want societies to adjust to their religion, their way of life and their social mores, rather than the other way around.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said exactly that when she announced this past week that the multicultural model for integration in Germany has “miserably failed.” Merkel showed tremendous political courage when she expressed a clear position in an ongoing debate over the integration of immigrants – especially Muslims – into German society, stressing that the current situation must be changed.

According to Merkel, immigrants should be required to integrate into society, by committing to learn the German language – and not only be allowed to do so voluntarily, as has been the policy up until now.
Had she made those statements in the United States as an American politician the clucking hens on The View would have all walked off the set and Merkel would have been pilloried by the liberal political correctness police.

The fact is, Islam is not a tolerant religion. As a foreign correspondent I spent a lot of time in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and Malaysia. Religious tolerance does not exist in any of those countries. Try being a Christian or Jew in Pakistan or Iran or Saudia Arabia. I witnessed the persecution of non-Muslims in many of these countries by the Islamic "Religious Police" who enforce Sharia law with a vengeance.

Simply stated, Sharia law is medieval Fascism. It was a set of laws made up by Islamic scholars that became laws governing all the Islamic Caliphates. Today, radical Islam seeks to impose it, whether through violent jihad or through cultural jihad, the latter of which is a jihad to overthrow existing societies [including the democratic west] and to impose Sharia law from within.

In fact, Sharia law is inconsistent with the American Constitution. It strips away individual rights, limits free speech, invades the privacy of people's homes and condones violent attacks not only on infidels but Muslim women and children who deviate from Sharia law.

Of course, in this country you cannot say such things on the airwaves if you work for NPR--even as a paid commentator/analyst such as Juan Williams. Your views must be consistent with the politically correct policies of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Political correctness in the United States is having a chilling effect on public discourse. When you must continually worry about who you might offend when making a point I fear we are on a dangerous path--one that will lead us to a nation where the First Amendment is nothing more than a quaint 18th Century notion no longer applicable to the narrow-minded, intolerant, politically correct state liberals are pushing us to become.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

"Committing Journalism" is NOT Reporting

Recently a member of the Vietnam Old Hacks organization I belong to offered a valuable discussion about what is happening to journalism today.

His point was that young journalists today are increasingly ill-equipped to do good journalism. This may be a failure of journalism schools to properly prepare them for the rigors of superior journalistic practice. Or it may be a lack of leadership in professional newsrooms.

As someone who has toiled in both worlds (27 years with the Chicago Tribune and 13 years at the University of Illinois--7 of those as Dean of the College of Media, which includes the Departments of Journalism, Advertising, Media and Cinema Studies and the Institute of Communications Research) I can tell you that he offered a pretty accurate appraisal of some of the inmates of the academy who are teaching the next generation of old hacks--if indeed there will ever be a "next" generation.

This past year some members of the AEJMC (Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communications), which is the umbrella organization for all accredited journalism programs in the country (about 110 at last count) squabbled for weeks about dropping the word "newspaper" from the organization's "Newspaper Division" because many academics believe newspapers are already dead.

Never mind that many newspapers are reinventing themselves and using new technologies and delivery platforms to reach readers and advertisers. Of course, there is the fact that too many of the young minds sitting in journalism classes are being indoctrinated with the idea that technology is the driver and accurate and compelling content is some kind of journalistic afterthought.

In my classes (I taught what I did for 25 years at the Trib--foreign correspondence) too many students had the idea that all they had to do was sit at a computer conduct Google searches and cull the Internet for information and then rewrite it with their own twist of style, etc.

The idea of actually going out and talking to people--sometimes in far away and dangerous places--was anathema to some students. Thankfully, after telling them enough of my own war stories, those students moved on to English Literature or Film Studies.

Of the handful that remained some have actually gone on to be correspondents. I hear from them on occasion and what I hear is that editors and producers are under increasing pressure to cut costs.

When I was sent abroad for my first posting in Japan back in 1974 I was told quite clearly: "Never let money stand between you and a good story. Do what you have to do to get to where the story is." That's how I operated for most of my career until the mid 1990s when the bean counters finally gained control of the Tribune and news gathering became much less important than keeping the bottom line fat for the stockholders.

Needless to say, those are NOT the kind of marching orders reporters receive today. I fear that the combination of money woes, lack of good old-fashioned newsroom mentoring and the infatuation with new technologies are conspiring to reduce reporting to armies of "communicators" who do no first hand reporting.

Today, almost anybody with a computer or I-Phone can "commit journalism." Unfortunately, that's a lot like committing a crime--and the public is the victim.