Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mumia Speaks: FIRING WORDS

[col. writ. 10/23/10 (c) '10 Mumia Abu-Jamal 

 The recent firing of news analyst and writer, Juan Williams, from his perch at NPR, for stating his opinion about fear of Muslims on the Bill O'Reilly show on Fox, is but the latest in a long train in the media.
 Despite my own checkered history at NPR, (I was fired in 1995 after police protest at my hiring) this is not a hit-piece on NPR, for National Public Radio is hardly alone in the process.

 This appears to be a piece of a larger story about the taming of the  (already housebroken) media, for violation (real or imagined) of increasingly outdated and complex codes of corporate behavior.
 Williams, author of a well-received biography of the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Thurgood Marshall, has long been a presence on Fox broadcasts, and is perhaps better known as a TV talking head than a voice on the radio.

 His opinion, of fear at the sight of those wearing Islamic garb at an airport, is also probably more silly than offensive, for it ignores the fact that the most dangerous attacks on airplanes were perpetrated by men who wore, not Islamic clothing, such as thobes, robes, kaffiyahs, or kufis, but everyday western gear, like t-shirts, jeans, jackets, and occasionally, suits.

 That's because they dress precisely in ways that don't raise fear or anxiety.  I mean, that's the point, right?

 More troubling though, is the lightning firing of CNN's Octavia Nasr, for expressing respect for a Shi'a religious figure in Lebanon, who, although beloved by Hezbollah, was not a member.  That figure died, Nasr expressed admiration, and was fired on the spot (who, pray tell, was offended by her respect for the passing of sheikh?)

 Rick Sanchez, the gregarious, sometimes oafish Cuban CNN personality, responded to the needling of him by Comedy Central's John Stewart, by attacking him as a bigot -- and also leveling some choice bits at CNN management for their assumed class elitism (and, yes, their presumed Jewishness) -- and was out before nightfall.

 Now, neither Nasr nor Sanchez were radicals (and for that matter, neither was Williams), and they may've found a space at CNN precisely because they came from rightist drifts of their communities.
But, rightism often brings with it other elements that aren't very pretty.

 One didn't see this outcry or call for First Amendment protections when scholar Dr. Marc Lamont Hill was axed at Fox -- nor when green activist lawyer, Van Jones was purged from the White House (for their friendships or politics!)

 Yet, ultimately, opinions are like navels: we all got 'em. Some are smart; some are silly; some are insightful -- and, yes, some are hurtful...even hateful.

 Should we hid them? Or should we face them?

Opinions aren't to be feared.  Nor should they be ignored--or hidden.
 They should be examined; challenged.
 Thus does reason triumph over unreason.
 --(c) '10 maj

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