On Juan Williams
Since my Think Progress colleagues are sort of “part of the story” in terms of Juan Williams getting sacked from NPR I’m a bit hesitant to comment on it. But as in the case of Rick Sanchez it seems to me that if you assume Williams has been doing valuable work all these years, firing him over this single incident is excessive. But as an NPR listener, I’m a good deal more familiar with Williams’ work than I am with Sanchez’s and it seems clear to me that Williams has not, in fact, been doing valuable work all these years. If Williams had never made these remarks about Muslims and NPR announced his firing this morning on the grounds of general lameness and lack of valuable contribution to their programming, I would have applauded the move so I’m hardly going to deplore what actually happened.[...]
First, on what basis does Yglesias decide that Williams hasn't been doing valuable work? He was a scholarship student at a prep school in NY and earned another scholarship to Haverford. Williams has had a distinguished career as a journalist and writer and has worked on several excellent projects and won awards for his work. He just realized that he could make money playing both sides of the aisle, writing about the Black experience for the left and and insulting the Black experience for the right. How is that different from your basic libertarian or centrist, who kisses up to liberals regarding civil rights while telling the right that the liberals want to give all their money to minorities?
Second, minimum standards of decency don't apply to "valuable" people? How very convenient for them. This statement should speak for itself, but, sadly, many people don't realize that being rich or important doesn't make you moral. In fact, the fewer morals you have, the greater your chance of becoming rich and important. "The rules don't apply to highly educated, well-born, well-paid people like me" is what has brought us to the brink of an economic depression and two--no, three--no, four--wars. The elite are not better than us, and anyone who says so needs to be laughed off the public stage.
There is not nearly enough mocking going on in this world, for the sharpest, most devastating weapon that exists is laughter. It spread like fire and there is no way to fight it, especially as the right is totally unarmed for a battle of wits. Ridicule works, which is why the right pays Rush Limbaugh $400,000,000 dollars to ridicule the left, year after year after year. The right is angry and therefore mean. They should be angry, although it would be infinitely preferable if they were smart enough to be angry at the people who are actually harming them instead of liberals who are too afraid or too comfortable to fight back. We're not talking about physical fighting, or revolution, or social upheaval, or even something outrageous like helping the poor to undercut the rich. We're talking about words on the internet. And most liberals won't even do that. No wonder they are kicked by everyone around them, including their own leaders.
Think Progress is a great blog and it's wonderful to see liberal values being funded and supported, which makes the presence of Yglesias so annoying. They are fighting back, yet they are also paying Yglesias to yammer on about the elite and meeting in the middle, as if the middle hasn't moved a thousand miles to the right. Why is the left supporting people who don't even realize that they are not making the moral choice?
Yglesias links to a post of Ta-Nehisi Coates, who talks about how he almost got into a fight during an assignment for The Atlantic. It was 2008, and he had been hired to write about Michelle Obama. Coates writes that it would have been a terrible mistake to fight with a critic who wouldn't back off and how he would have lost his job. He's absolutely right; there was no reason to physically fight with a critic. But when Ross Douthat said that people like Coates, unmarried fathers, were contributing to the downfall of society he backed down again. When Megan McArdle burbled on in her unconscious racist way about how Black people shouldn't give their kids funny names and how the Black Panthers were jerks (Coates' father was one), he backed down again. His leash is a long one, but it is still a leash and when it needs to, it yanks him up short.
A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of having dinner with James Fallows, along with a few other Atlantic folks. Fallows offered some really wise words on how to criticize people in print, the gist of it being, "Speak to those you would criticize as though they were standing right there."
That's a high standard, but one I've generally tried to maintain. My sense of my role here is as follows: I'm not here to try to humiliate people I disagree with. That goes as much for Jeff Goldberg, who is my friend, as it goes for Bob McDonnell, who is not. For sure there is a little more hot sauce on the thing, when I don't know the person. But by and by, I hope to speak to McDonnell as I would speak to Goldberg--not the other way around.
It's fun to be mean, and it makes your side howl--and sometimes it's even necessary. But my game is as follows--stating my opinions directly, clearly and without equivocation and without undue malice. I am not a violent writer. Fuck Pat Robertson was cool. But that's a small part of me, that I am endeavoring to make even smaller. When it starts becoming larger, I need to go do something else.
But he didn't. He pulled his punches (in this case regarding Jeffrey Goldberg's bias towards Israel), and told himself that he was doing the right, moral thing; that anger was bad and fighting for what is right is simply violence and hatefulness.
Not that his choice was a surprise. The Atlantic is, in its polite, well-bred way, virulently pro-business. Ta-Nehisi Coates is against affirmative action. Corporations hate affirmative action. One day they'll call in their marker and he will do what he's told to keep his job, no matter who it hurts. That is the only reason why a corporate whore like The Atlantic would hire him. His writing ability and safe, anger-free tales of long-ago racism are just gravy.
Ta-Nehisi Coates, 2008:
Senator John McCain said today that he supports the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative, which would ban preferences based on race, ethnicity, and sex in the state’s public contracting, education (including university admissions), and employment programs. Essentially identical initiatives will be before voters this fall in Colorado and Nebraska, and have been enacted in California, Washington, and most recently Michigan.
Disappointingly, Senator Barack Obama immediately criticized McCain: “I think in the past he’d been opposed to these Ward Connerly initiatives as divisive. And I think he’s right. These are not designed to solve a big problem, but they’re all too often designed to drive a wedge between people.”
Obama’s criticism is wrongheaded for at least three reasons: (1) it is obviously preferential policies that are divisive, not their abolition; (2) the “big problem” of helping people from disadvantaged backgrounds can be addressed by helping people of all colors who are disadvantaged, rather than crudely and unfairly using race as a proxy for disadvantage; and (3) Obama himself has recognized as much, albeit fitfully and inconsistently, in his own statements—for instance, acknowledging the divisiveness of preferential treatment (in his Philadelphia speech), and the fact that his own daughters, for starters, come from privileged backgrounds and thus are “probably” not deserving of preferential treatment.
Kudos to John McCain! This is a solid, important commitment by him to the principle of E pluribus unum, and Americans across the political spectrum, but especially conservatives, should applaud him. As for Barack Obama: This is a critical moment in his campaign. Is he a candidate of change who will transcend race and bring us all together, rejecting divisive policies he knows in his heart are outdated and irrelevant—or just another Democratic pol who lacks the courage to stand up to powerful but aging interests in his own party, which remain hopelessly infatuated with identity politics and insist on perpetuating a set of policies that have always been unfair and divisive and are now outmoded to boot?
As per Lashawn Barber:[WTF?-SoT]The whole point of the civil rights movement was to bar the government from preferring one citizen over another based on factors like race. But our government continues this odious practice, and I can think of nothing more unfair or divisive, no matter which race or sex benefits from the discrimination. A government with the power to discriminate in favor of blacks has the power to discriminate against blacks.
No acknowledgement of the fact that White America preys on, uses up and tosses aside Black men. Authoritarians will always side with the elite. That is why they can't and shouldn't be trusted, even if they appear to be on our side and we usually agree with them. These people are utterly useless; they will try to maintain the status quo forever while the nation slides slowly into poverty and decay.
By the way, Obama thinks the same way about Black America.