The Sacramento Bee’s Oct. 26th, 2010 Oped by former KFBK talk radio host Bruce Maiman widely misses the mark. He tells us all not to “shed any tears” regarding the recent firing of longtime news analyst Juan Williams by NPR. I don’t know if any tears including Mr. Williams’  were actually shed, but as a Liberal-to-Moderate Democrat, I do know there is no question this was a severely wrongful termination. It was a classic case of neo-leftwing, knee-jerk histrionics, and it is a quintessential example of what has been wrong with the far ‘liberal left’ for a long time.  First I’d like to look at the misguided reasoning of Bruce Maiman’s assertion that Juan Williams got what he deserved. He writes that it is widely known that Juan Williams had been cautioned more than once on prior occasions regarding NPR management’s dissatisfaction with other statements he had made as a part time analyst for FOX News network. But Maiman doesn’t give us any clue or example of the content of those statements that were ‘in question’ by NPR management. On the contrary, he actually admits that Juan Williams should not have been fired on the face of these recent comments. The nature of Mr. Williams’ comments is the most relevant aspect of this entire matter, and would also be if NPR had warned him to ‘toe the ideological line’ as it were, in the past.If it was for similar honesty, there is even more cause for concern.

But giving us no idea of those important details, Maiman boldly tries to assert that Juan Williams got what he deserved. Really? Termination is what American broadcast employees deserve for speaking honestly about critical topics? Further, Bruce tries to assert that any talk host who gets fired for statements he or she makes simply deserves it due to having obviously made the wrong waves with management in the past. That also is painting with a suspiciously large brush. One should be very careful as an American, making such a ‘leaping assumption’ on behalf of executives who contrary to the CRAVING of the listening or viewing audience, often do not support honesty and candid truth from talk personalities. They diligently seek to censor them in the interest of company or party ideology at all cost and at all times, and the listener or viewer is the loser as a result. What really makes me suspect Maiman’s effort to defend NPR is that not too long ago I heard him conducting an interview on Sacramento’s local NPR station. Since Bruce’s show came to an end on KFBK, the appearance was that he has made some inroads with NPR to at least occasionally work on the air with them. That could explain his very lame editorial effort to excuse NPR’s actions, which have led to an extreme amount of BI-PARTISAN outrage – something that is truly amazing in our current politically divided climate. Let’s review again exactly what happened for a moment:

While being interviewed by FOX host Bill O’Reilly, NPR (and FOX -yes he amazingly worked for BOTH) “News Analyst” Juan WIlliams admitted that since the 9/11 attacks, if he sees Muslims aboard an airline flight in full Islamic attire, he can’t help but feel a little nervous. NPR (National Public Radio) responded to his honest candor by terminating him.  In an official statement to the press, President and CEO of NPR Vivian Schiller said “We expect anybody that appears on our air, either as a journalist or as a news analyst, to conduct themselves according to our journalistic rules of ethics — wherever they might be, in any form and in any venue.” Prior to this statement, NPR’s Vice President had officially stated that they expect their ‘news analysts’ not to say anything in any other venue that they wouldn’t say on the air on NPR.Translation: “You know what we want to hear come out of your mouth…deviate from that even if it IS the truth at your peril”.

Here is exactly what Juan Williams said to Bill O’Reilly as a guest on “The Factor”:”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 a 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.”He continued, “Now, I remember also that, when the Times Square bomber was at court, I think this was just last week, he said the war with Muslims — America’s war — is just beginning. The first drop of blood. I don’t think there’s any way to get away from these facts…But I think there are people who want to somehow remind us all — as President Bush did after 9/11 — it’s not a war against Islam.”

It is beyond SHAMEFUL that NPR fired Juan Williams for this brave honesty. It is an effort to ‘punish the truth’ when the truth, no matter how painful or difficult it might be to hear, is what we need to hear the most right now! It is impossible to separate the Islamic fundamentalist impetus – driving force -behind the still growing major terrorism threat we continue to face in the U.S. and across the globe since the 9/11 attacks.The reason we desperately need to hear this kind of painful truth from respected news ‘analysts’, ‘commentators’, ‘journalists’, ‘talk ‘personalities’, etc., is because we need respected Muslims to start coming out of the shadows in an effective way, and do a hell of  a lot better job at mitigating this fear. In a clearly universally perceived ABSENCE of that, it is precisely due to Muslims leaders’ relatively lackluster attempts to do so that we have unfortunately seen “Islam-aphobia” growing worldwide.

It was in the news recently that top leaders in Germany have officially declared that their country’s belief in pursuing “cultural diversity” was a mistake and has been a huge  failure. Sadly these comments were made completely in the context of a widespread, growing German citizen distrust of their increasing population of Muslim residents that often don’t adopt the German culture.

IT SHOULD NOT BE THIS WAY, so why is it this way?Because, this subject is mistakingly being avoided like the plague, as though to admit we have this fear of Muslim fundamentalists due to so many recent CONNECTED acts of terror, is tantamount to sounding like a member of the former Nazi “Third Reich” or the American racist “Ku Klux Klan”.  Even Bruce Maiman in his Oped makes the mistake of referring to the fear or nervousness Juan Williams was admitting to as being ‘racist’ in context. It most certainly is not race based – It is ‘extreme religion based’, and that is a very important distinction regarding Mr. Williams’ candor. What he was saying clearly was in that context – that when he sees individuals on a plane ‘decked out’ in full “Islamic garb” as he put it -( Muslim attire would have possibly been a better choice of words) he can’t help but feel a bit nervous. He isn’t nervous at their ‘race’ or ‘ethnicity’, he’s nervous due to their heavy ‘religious’ identification as very devout Muslims. So the “nervous feeling” comes from the question that then begs to be asked: “Just HOW Devout??”

I personally had to chuckle when a day after WIlliams was fired, I heard a Muslim caller to a local talk radio show in Sacramento state that even she can’t stop herself from feeling a bit nervous when she sees Muslims on her airline flight wearing full Islamic attire…and she herself is Muslim. That’s honesty…and if I was Muslim, wearing my Calvin Klein jeans and RayBan sunglasses, flirting with the cute male steward bringing me my cocktail, I would feel a little nervous too! But I’d get over it, and everything would most likely be just fine. But, the painful truth is, there have been notable times when everything was not just fine. Race in those cases was not the prime issue. The prime issue that plays into growing “Islam-aphobia” is this religious factor: The perpetrators almost unanimously turn out to be devout “Muslim extremists”, more and more the possibility seems that they may not even be Arab by race (especially in the United States).

Part of my frustration at not finding another radio station to host my topic-driven talk show “TownTalk” since 2000, when the station in Florida where I hosted the program for 3 years was sold, is due to the incredibly UN-American cancer that has metastasized in almost all radio, television and even print media…Honest, straightforward, “REAL TALK” has become grossly undesirable, with the program directors, general managers and “suits” in the industry simply putting their  fingers up in the air, feeling which way the popular wind is blowing, and then choosing “broadcasters” and hosts who will always and only reflect the ideology of that network or radio station. It has been so painful for me to see the very sick, ‘right-wing’ takeover of AM radio in America, the result of which for millions of talk radio fans has been that you can’t find a truly Centrist, thought provoking and straight-shooting program anymore as you scan the dial. They seemingly all force their hosts to follow a strict script of talking points for any topic that arises.  And the same is true on the FM dial for Public Radio…NPR.What makes NPR even worse is that since they are partly government funded, that is where you’d LEAST expect such BIAS and anti-free speech to take root.

Bottom line: Of course we are NOT at war with Muslims, and Juan Williams went out of his way to make sure he included that point. But there is a huge PRIMARY CONNECTION between modern terrorism as we have sadly come to know it, and Islamic religious fundamentalism. So of course people all over the industrialized world who have felt its affects, are going to feel a little nervous at the site of those who are in another country’s culture, but choosing to wear full Muslim attire…especially on an airline flight.

Rather than ‘celebrating’ the firing of a respected analyst for trying to start a dialogue on this matter, progress in effectively fighting terrorism undeniably must include discussing the truth of this growing fear – Discussion with, and often hopefully led by, the majority of good Muslims.Let me repeat that last part…this painful conversation must be often LED BY and pursued by the overwhelming majority of good Muslims. Effectively fighting and ending religious terrorism from Islamic extremists will require a MUCH better PR blitz on their part to show the world that Islam is not waging “Jihad”, but on the contrary is working harder than anybody else around the clock to derail the small, misguided wacko extremists looking for their 72 virgins. The first step the Muslim community might consider taking in that vein would be to collectively call for Juan Williams’ reinstatement at NPR.

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About Connie Bryan

Writer, comedian and musician, currently residing in Sacramento, CA. Former talk radio personality from Central Florida. Currently doing stand-up comedy and producing/hosting a local TV comedy/variety show on Access Sacramento Channel 17. Please see demo material on my website at www.conniebryan.com.

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