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XHerakleitos - 10/27/10

Scientists monitoring earthquakes for possible tsunamis were thrown off recently by a seismic torrent of out®age on Fox News over Juan William's firing. Current theory attributes the magnitude of the event to a virtual Spannungsbogen where built up resentment over the survival of actual journalistic standards finally snapped with a gaseous explosion of pyroclastic invective - with such hot magma as asking whether NPR is an agent of jihadist inquisition.

As usual Jon Stewart best nails the sense of it.

NPR Staffing Decision 2010

Unfortunately, the aftershocks will continue to eclipse other matters which might better deserve our attention. Head spinning unnaturally, Karl Rove unleashed a stream of projectile vomit rivaling Linda Blair's performance in the Exorcist with "45 percent of NPR listeners were Saddam Hussein." Somebody please let him know that Ketsup has natural mellowing agents.

Meanwhile, we're treated to hand wringing defenses of Mr. Williams which appear to buy into the Fox notion of tolerance and diversity. The firing of Williams is supposedly the "left wing" equivalent to the Shirley Sherrod fiasco. But whether comparisons are between Sherrod, Don Imus (who's firing Williams defended) or Mel Gibson, there's a glaring difference. Juan Williams is a journalist ... supposed to be a journalist.

When did fighting to keep that ideal real become a mere "leftist" sport? Is that really possible? If we find ourselves in a civil society where that's not a category mistake, then somebody else is probably going to find us, along with our stuff, frozen in the aweful repose of a future Pompei.

Taken in fuller context, Williams may have backtracked some degree by implication. Trouble is, there's a bigger context yet - the palpably anti-journalistic atmospherics of Fox News itself. Not only has Williams slipped into hosting and appearing on the O'Reilly Factor, he slipped into Fox's pandemic premium on registering and validating immediate, unreflective feelings.

Sure the continental drift edging away from science toward the abyss of sentimentality carries more than one network but Fox is on the bleeding edge of the subduction zone. Now perhaps journalism is more art than science, but in whatever bastard mix it must embrace the élan of critical interrogation. If the difference between being human and being an animal turns on cultivating a capacity to evaluate the already value laden landscape of perception, then journalism both wins that difference and takes notes along the way. And one note may be to acknowledge the odd degree to which perception itself is only possible via stereotypes and discriminatory matrices - while only growing to the extent such patterns are interrupted and reformed via experience.

And so the question is how honestly we interrogate the immediacy of perception and feelings prior to action. I doubt Juan Williams would disagree, but he didn't quickly bracket comments about his perceptual instincts as bearing a highly questionable presentation of reality - and thus the need to submit such feelings to higher order scrutiny. Well, that would seem obvious to an intelligent individual knowlegeable of Islam's extremely valuable contributions to the very possibility of Western Science - and I think we should assume he's among them. Not, however, when he's hanging with the cretins at Fox News. Somehow there, peer pressure must have worn down his better instincts.

That may sound tendentious. But there is a time for that. Some stereotypes can withstand rational scrutiny - and better yet, reflect the labor of gearing rational judgment into the stuff of precognitive experience (a quasi-Aristotelian point transmitted via Islamic safekeeping). All the better to develop a quick scent for bullshit in an evolutionary dance on real and allegorical volcanoes. So... when I run into Fox News, I gotta tell you, if I see people in Journalistic garb, and think - you know - they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Journalists, I get worried. I get nervous.

Maybe Mr. Williams deserved a moments reflection on who he wanted to really call his peers. But given NPR's ongoing maintenance of journalistic integrity, I'm not so much worried about how they fired Juan Williams as I'm glad that they must have done so motivated by a shared perception.

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