Forthcoming

"Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another." author Toni Morrison (1931- 05.08.2019)

“If I tell the story, I control the version. Because if I tell the story, I can make you laugh, and I would rather have you laugh at me than feel sorry for me”; Nora Ephron, author/comedian

"Make your story count". Michelle Obama

"Social pain is understood through the lens of racial animus". Researcher/author Sean McElwee writing in Salon, 2016

"We are citizens, not subjects. We have the right to criticize government without fear."  Chelsea Manning; activist/whisleblower

“My father was a slave and my people died to build this country, and I’m going to stay right here and have a part of it, just like you, And no fascist minded people, like you, will drive me from it. Is that clear?” Paul Robeson; activist/singer

“We have a system of justice in this country that treats you much better if you're rich and guilty than if you're poor and innocent”. from civil rights attorney Bryan Stevenson

“This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak today?” Frederick Douglass, WHAT TO THE SLAVE IS 4TH JULY? 07.05.1852 (full text in blog)

Senator Elizabeth Warren "We're a country that is built on our differences; that is our strength, not our weakness"

 

"We are more alike than we are different"v  Maya Angelou

As a Black writer, I was expected to accept the role of victim. That made it difficult in the beginning to be a writer.      James Baldwin

I often feel that there must have been something that I should’ve done that I didn’t do. But I can’t identify what it is that I didn’t do. That’s the first difficulty. And the second is, what makes you think you’re it?   

         Harry Belafonte, activist and singer at 89

 

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble; It's what you know for sure that just ainst so.

Mark Twain

 

You can't be brave if you've only had wonderful things happen to you.

Mary Tyler Moore

 

 You can’t defend Christianity by being against refugees and other religions

Pope Francis:

 

"I don't have to be what you want me to be". Muhammad Ali

"The Secret of Living Well and Longer: eat half, walk double, laugh triple, and love without measure"  attributed to Tibetan sources

Recent audio posts include interviews with Rumi interpreter Shahram Shiva, London-based author Aamer Hussein, South African Muslim scholar, professor Farid Esack, and Iraqi journalist Nermeen Al-Mufti's brief account of Kirkuk City history. Your comments on our blogs are always welcome.

 

How Many Juan Williams Are Out There?

2010-10-27

by Barbara Nimri Aziz

I’m not suggesting he’s a bad guy. Although his remark about “feeling uncomfortable in a plane with people wearing Muslim garb” is disappointing as well as loathsome. National Public Radio’s senior correspondent’s ‘slip’ follows that of several prominent journalists—Helen Thomas of the White House Press Corps, and Octavia Nasr and Rick Sanchez of CNN.

Yes. I know Thomas and Octavia got the boot because they dared to express solidarity or sympathy with America’s adversaries--Palestinians in the case of Thomas and a Hizbullah luminary in Nasr’s statement. In Sanchez case, he made remarks suggesting what everyone knows about the power of Jewish individuals and media in the US.  

Williams’ remarks, by comparison, exposed his bias against Muslims. Hitherto, comments against Islam and Muslims went unchallenged. What has changed? Does Williams’ expulsion mean the Muslim lobby is making some gains? Does it signify a growing commitment by media bosses to ensure political correctness, even when it comes to Muslims?

Or are we all so closely and scrutinized that any show of personal preferences or fears are swiftly challenged and condemned? Perhaps media personalities are so influential today that they dare not say anything that exposes this very condition. They must appear neutral. (Of course none of this applies to Jewish individuals in the US, in or out of media; viz NYT’s Tomas Freedman, PBS’s Charlie Rose, or NPR’s own Terri Gross and Daniel Shorr. Although the famous Dr. Laura who remained an unchallenged radio host for years, was recently forced out due to anti-Black references, finally despite her record of racist offences.)

Perhaps there a campaign underway to root out certain media voices in preparation for a media compliant new war? US media has already shown its reliability at times of war, especially in the early days. Patriotism rules the airwaves; public opinion is needed to pull off an assault that is either illegal or unnecessary. Later, when some begin to question a war, some media resume a critical role. By then the forces are already well entrenched with unremitting support from Congress guaranteed.

There is another explanation for the string of purges: a campaign by people like O’Reilly of Fox News to entrap influential individuals from the less right wing news organizations, and thereby weaken their institutions. (Williams has been signed up with the Fox TV network!)

Noteworthy is how little we heard about those fired individuals fighting back—from Thomas to Williams. They slip away quietly and without a fight. Why?

I listened to Williams’ NPR reports, first his news stories then his comments as a senior commentator, for many years. He is good, but like most NPR reporters, not extraordinary and not cutting edge. Williams was careful never to go too far on taboo subjects such as Palestinians rights or Muslims rights. Or Venezuela’s rights, or Cuba’s or Iran’s sovereign rights for that matter. This, although he eventually became known as NPR’s ‘rights’ expert.

The question is not, in my view, has political correctness got out of hand? It is rather how and why was Williams caught and so swiftly dispatched? Bill O’Reilly is well known for his provocations and his skill in disarming guests. Williams is not the first victim of O’Reilly’s wily ways.  O’Reilly’s positions are so well known, moreover, that you have to be very practiced if you dare enter a debate with him.

In the case of Thomas and Nasr, they may well have been entrapped. But as I wrote about Helen Thomas (in this blog) at the time of her banishment from Hearst and from White House press conferences, an old Washington hand like Thomas had to be ready for anything. If she wanted to say something strong and eloquent against Israeli policies, she should have used better discretion. Thomas, so admired for her assault on US presidents, could have chosen her time, prepared her justification, and had her supporters and Hearst Syndicate ready for the inevitable attack.

Nasr too is a politically savvy lady. The term ‘Twitter’ may sound innocent and ephemeral. But Twitters are very public. Really; how important was it for her to express public sympathy for the passing of a Muslim cleric? If it really was essential to her, she too could have chosen a more effective and timely venue.

Is there a housecleaning going on here? Or is our media business such that only official positions, even loathsome ones-- or those passed by Israel-- are acceptable?

In the meantime, while this purge is underway, how ironic that the forces of the right, represented by the likes of Beck, O’Reilly and other Republican or T-Party leaders, are able to say offensive things with impunity? Their proposals, accusations and exhortations border on incitement to violence and seem directed to deepening the racism that already weakens US society.

It seems that as the right wing interests and advocates get bolder, those representing moderation and deliberation become more timid. This will mean that good leadership, whether by President Obama, or journalists and professors is slipping away from our future.

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