Tag Archives: Juan Williams

Common sense

Fig 1: “a uniform we all recognize”

I remember a while back, maybe three years ago, Juan Williams, now of Fox News but then of NPR, remarked that people in Muslim-looking garb on planes made him nervous.  That was a silly bit of profiling, of course.  Now in the wake of the Trayvon Martin not guilty verdict, racial profiling is all the rage, at least at the Washington Post.  Both Richard Cohen, who is allegedly a liberal columnist, and Kathleen Parker (a conservative) have penned columns justifying some sort of profiling.  Here is Parker:

This is not to justify what subsequently transpired between Zimmerman and Martin but to cast a dispassionate eye on reality. And no, just because a few black youths caused trouble doesn’t mean all black youths should be viewed suspiciously. This is so obvious a truth that it shouldn’t need saying and yet, if we are honest, we know that human nature includes the accumulation of evolved biases based on experience and survival. In the courtroom, it’s called profiling. In the real world, it’s called common sense.

Oddly, this “dispassionate eye on reality” seems to suggest that racial profilers, such as Zimmerman appears to have been, lack common sense.  For, after all, being suspicious of biases such as these is common sense, common decency, and basic intellectual skill.  Now to be fair, the rest of her piece, by the way, isn’t that bad–or at least not as bad as Richard Cohen’s horrible meditation on hoodies:

Where is the politician who will own up to the painful complexity of the problem and acknowledge the widespread fear of crime committed by young black males? This does not mean that raw racism has disappeared, and some judgments are not the product of invidious stereotyping. It does mean, though, that the public knows young black males commit a disproportionate amount of crime. In New York City, blacks make up a quarter of the population, yet they represent78 percent of all shooting suspects — almost all of them young men. We know them from the nightly news.

Sounds like your uncle at Thanksgiving–for excellent analysis of Cohen’s unpardonably bad piece, see Jamelle Bouie.

TL;DR: this horrible crime (I think) ought at least to provide us an opportunity to reflect on the malfunctioning operation of common sense, or racism, as some call it.

Pump up the jam, pump it up

Fig.1: Pump it up.

Timorous airline passenger and Fox News alleged liberal Juan Williams has admitted to making one of his weekly columns an undergraduate copy paste job.  According to Salon‘s Alex Seitz-Wald:

In a case of apparent plagiarism, Fox News pundit Juan Williams lifted — sometimes word for word — from a Center for American Progress report, without ever attributing the information, for a column he wrote last month for the Hill newspaper.

Almost two weeks after publication, the column was quietly revised online, with many of the sections rewritten or put in quotation marks, and this time citing the CAP report. It also included an editor’s note that read: “This column was revised on March 2, 2013, to include previously-omitted attribution to the Center for American Progress.”

But that editor’s note mentions only the attribution problem, and not the nearly identical wording that was also fixed.

The really strange thing about this case is what it reveals about the writing and thinking process of the two-million dollar a year Fox News pundit:

In a phone interview Thursday evening, Williams pinned the blame on a researcher who he described as a “young man.”

“I was writing a column about the immigration debate and had my researcher look around to see what data existed to pump up this argument and he sent back what I thought were his words and summaries of the data,” Williams told Salon. “I had never seen the CAP report myself, so I didn’t know that the young man had in fact not summarized the data but had taken some of the language from the CAP report.”

Two things.  First, he has an assistant?  I’ve always suspected assistants were behind the obscure factoids and misleading statistics in George Will’s work (full disclosure–someone, I’ll find out later who, made this very same quip, I’m borrowing), but Williams’ defense makes that clear.  Second, and more importantly, Williams confesses to his hacktackular thought process.  He has an idea, then sends someone else out to provide data that “pumps it up.”  It’s almost as if he had reached a conclusion, then dispatched a lackey to find him some premises.  He’s the master chef of ideas, some underpaid assistant can chop up the ideas and cook the facts.

Ein Volk

Seems obvious that racism is not just hatred of another race.  Someone tell Juan Williams and Pat Buchanan.  Note the following puzzling exchange on Fox News (via the Huffington Post):

Williams added, "In your case, the charge is one that is so powerful in the American mind…the charge is: Pat Buchanan is a racist. So let me ask you. Are you a racist, Pat?"

"Do I hate black folks?" Buchanan asked. "That's what racism mean— that I hate black folks, I want them discriminated against… No! It's not that. I do disagree profoundly with the affirmative action agenda, and a number of other issues but I've argued as I said with African American folks my whole life. Our schools that I went to, the Catholic schools, were the first ones desegregated in D.C."

Buchanan added, "Juan, you and I, if we sat there and watched cable 24 hours, we can hear people called [a racist] everyday. And it makes one of the points of [my book], that American society is disintegrating. It's breaking down and breaking apart because we've lost our common faith and common moral consensus…all of these things that once held us together."

At the end of the interview, Williams said, "I feel like we are brothers in understanding what these groups, on the left primarily, decided that you're not to be allowed to speak. They will banish you and make you an outcast and Pat, I'm sorry that's happened to you."

Racists don't usually just hate other races.  Their hatred, when it happens, is derived from the perceived inferiority of the people they hate–that they have benefits in society, for instance, they don't deserve; that they "get away with stuff"; that they are "lazy" and so forth.  But I'd hardly call the hatred a necessary condition for racism, sufficient yes.

Watch the video, at the link, for a hilarious exchange from two people who don't really get that the discussion has moved on (the video also fills in some of the gaps in the piece above).  There is probably no one better than Williams for this interview, for Williams still thinks he's justified for fearing Muslims in airports.

Here's a thought.  When you charge someone with racism, and that person responds, as Buchanan and Williams have done, by first alleging you're trying to silence them, then you're on the right track.  Buchanan and Williams spend the first part of this shocked at the McCarthyism of the racism charge.  Then, when they get to actually talking about the charge, Buchanan says that Mexicans are "hard working" (at menial labor) and "friendly," but "culturally and politically tied to Mexico."  Not racist at all.

Also, equal justice for white Christian people.

I’m not a bigot, but I play one on “The O’Reilly Factor”

Here's Juan Williams, formerly of NPR, on non-bigotry:

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

NPR fired this guy.  If they fired him for being an f—ing moron they would be absolutely more than justified.  I can think of two reasons: first, Muslims in traditional garb are not going to commit acts of terrorism; second, Muslims as a whole ought not to be identified for logical and political reasons with Taliban-style extremists (Wanna be identified with Timothy McVeigh?). 

One more reason: Williams endorsed the justification, although this time a bit more plausibly, for any Iraqi or Afghani or Iranian or just anyone at all perhaps in the non-Israeli Middle East who worries that Westerners, in particular Americans, might want to democratize them.