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I Get a Little Nervous When I See People in Muslim Garb on a Plane

by Keith Koffler on October 22, 2010, 8:23 am

I know this a little off topic. This blog is about the White House. But it’s my blog, and I can do whatever the Hell I want.

I’ve devoted my life to two things, free speech and holding the powerful to account. And the former principle was attacked Wednesday in an unconscionable way by National Public Radio.

I assume most of you are aware that NPR terminated correspondent Juan Williams’ contract because he made the following statement.

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’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.

Williams made clear that he does not believe one should generalize about Muslims, and that he was not intending a bigoted statement. He was just expressing something he can’t help but feel.

We think we live in a society where there is genuine free speech. But we don’t. There are some things we just can’t say, no matter how obviously true they are, because some people might get upset.

I’m a willing to wager that 90 percent of Americans feel the same way as Williams, INCLUDING MUSLIMS THEMSELVES.

I am a guy with curly hair who stands over six feet and often wears a maroon sweater. If the majority of major terrorist attacks around the world – and the bombing of the World Trade Center – were committed by guys with curly hair who stand over six feet wearing maroon sweaters, I would have some concern when I saw such people who look like this in the waiting area of my flight.

Jesse Jackson once said,

There is nothing more painful to me at this stage in my life than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery. Then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.

He too was trying to be honest. I assume nobody thinks Jesse Jackson is a racist.

Juan Williams deserves a promotion for fearlessly saying something everyone know but can’t say. He got it from Fox News when the network, for which he also works, gave him a big fat raise. But NPR has tarred him as a bigot, and he may never really live it down.

Where are the journalists in this? Why is there no protest from reporters or editors about the silencing of speech by a news organization? Why is it left to conservatives to turn this into an anti-public broadcasting issue? Reporters, once forced by professional ethics to stay out of stories and keep their opinions to themselves, now opine on all kinds of things in order to experience the sublime pleasure of seeing themselves on cable TV.

They should be able to get into this. But they’re afraid, lying low, safely ensconced in their cubicles to write another day.

What I’ve seen so far from those supporting Williams is statements condemning NPR for acting rashly or for punishing someone for expressing their opinions. But the larger issue of free speech, of speaking truth that makes people uncomfortable, is really untouched. Because implicit in the backing for Williams is a  sentiment that ironically supports the anti-speech thugs over at NPR. This is what they convey:

Of course, I would never think or say anything so foolish, but if that’s Juan’s opinion, he has a right to express it.

So let me get behind Williams not by paraphrasing him, but by echoing him. He’s saying something we all know to be true but fear stating.

I have nothing against Muslims. I don’t know much about the religion, but as far as I can tell, most people who practice it are sincere about their faith and are no better or worse at being human than anyone else. But,

I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb.

And,

I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb.

I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb.

I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb.

I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb.

I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb.

I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb.

I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb.

Just a little. And I get even more nervous when I see those who are supposed to be protecting free speech, the guarantor of our freedom, acting instead to destroy it.

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JBH October 22, 2010 at 10:07 am

Keith, I have just one comment to make on this topic. I get nervous when I get on a plane and see people in Muslim garb. Whew, ok I said it! Anyone (except the elitist few who are above the fray) would be lying if they denied at least a moment of concern along these lines.

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Keith Koffler October 22, 2010 at 10:11 am

Good job, JBH!

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JBH October 22, 2010 at 10:24 am

I heard about a new group, the MSB. Be very afraid of the Maroon Sweater Brigade.

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srdem65 October 22, 2010 at 10:28 am

The message is Shut Up or Else from the MSM and the powers that be. The Prez and his base supporters want FOXnews silenced by any means; boycotts of advertisers, ridicule and distain of it’s employees, and the brutal dismissal of their own who would stray from the leftist agenda.

Excuse me for my feelings of “how’s it feel, Juan” to be publicly attacked, to have your sanity questioned, to feel the barbs of hatred from above?

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Keith Koffler October 22, 2010 at 10:37 am

srdem65 – I think you’re right on target. Mr. Williams’ horizons have been expanded . . .

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Tom October 22, 2010 at 10:59 am

Keith,

Great article!

Juan Williams, the ONLY African-American journalist on staff at NPR (of his stature) is not only fired but heckled by the CEO of NPR on camera! Williams stated last night on FOX that they would not even speak to him in person, but fired him by phone. I read with joy this morning on Drudge that FOX just put a $2,000,000 contract in front of him. Props to O’Reilly and FOX (and the millions out there) who have Juan Williams back. I rarely agree with Juan Williams, but I have to admit, he’s no lefty . . . he’s a solid, classic Liberal with libertarian tendencies and he’s most gracious on t.v. when he speaks.

I predict Vivian Shiller (CEO of NPR), the propagandakompaniefuhrer of National People’s Radio will be history next week . . .

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Keith Koffler October 22, 2010 at 11:45 am

Tom – thanks, Williams indeed is not doctrinaire. And I’ve met him, a gracious guy in person too.

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Star October 22, 2010 at 12:17 pm

I have very little use for what passes for the left these days as you know, but my daughter and I like Juan. He seems thoughtful and while he often brings the “liberal” view, he has something to say. I have wondered how he manages on Fox–serving two masters, almost (that Maura just shills for Obama). Now I see he has courage, too. My first thought when I woke up was of his being fired–I felt like I had been fired, that sick betrayed feeling. So Juan is in the consciousness of this country for sure. As for what he said, yes, it might have been a little “profiley,” but it came from the heart. The Muslims in America who wear robes seem to want to stand out and do remind us that the attacks we have and will still experience come from a skewed interpretation of a tenet of that religion. So…they stand out. How about those clerics praying in the airport–people got upset…and I think they got restitution. As for those two women who axed Juan–pretty bad management, ladies.

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Star October 22, 2010 at 12:41 pm

Mr. Williams’ horizons have been expanded
. . .
He seemed in shock on O’Reilly–it takes a while to process a hit like this. He sure is learning there is a reservoir of respect and affection for him, though.

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Rational October 25, 2010 at 9:55 am

This is a stupid post. Speech is protected from legal action, not your employer. Also, how about all that Muslim garb the 9/11 hijackers had on!

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