Yes, NPR was shamelessly biased and intolerant for firing commentator Juan Williams for expressing a tame personal opinion that dared to color outside the party lines (when they were really just looking for an excuse because they hated him for not hating Fox News; he isn’t conservative–far from it–he just doesn’t hate them–that’s unacceptable!). Always funny how those who squawk loudest about tolerance and variety are the least likely to live it.
Still, all the criticism against NPR that’s slamming them for violating his “right to free speech” is wrong. Our right to free speech is not the same as a guaranteed platform or audience. It’s merely a restriction on persecution. NPR isn’t persecuting him, just refusing to give him a bully pulpit anymore. In a free country, employers are welcome to terminate the employment of whoever they want. We may not like their reasoning, but it’s their call to make.
Of course, the bigger problem for me here is not that NPR is advocating a leftist agenda so much as they’re disingenuous about it. Stop claiming to be neutral when you’re not! There’s nothing wrong with being a liberal media outlet, but at least be honest about it.
Several years ago, around the outbreak of the Iraq war, I listened to Teri Gross’s show Fresh Air for a while. I stopped after her biased treatment of guests became too obvious to bear. Liberal guests were adored, worshipped, joked with, and flattered to no end–I remember when the author of What’s Wrong With Kansas? came on, Gross exuded giddiness like a preteen with a crush.
But when the occasional conservative would come on, I could hear the irritation in her voice–she would grill them in this terse, quizzical tone that sounded like a scientist studying a bug under a microscope: “I don’t understand this weird thing, but I’m trying to wrap my superior mind around it.” One Bush administration official got yelled at with increasing vigor as he failed to wither under her scrutiny.
Whether or not they’re balanced, biased, or whatever else, we shouldn’t be funding a public media outpost at all, though. If, as the defenders always say, taxes are such a tiny part of their budget, then why make such a big fuss about letting it go?