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Does fear equal bigotry?

In the “post-racial” Age of Obama we hear a lot of accusations of racism and bigotry being thrown around, without much discussion of what those words really mean. I want to discuss the term “bigotry.”

Over at Salon, Joan Walsh had this to say in discussing the firing of Juan Williams:

Let’s be clear: Williams regularly comes to O’Reilly’s rescue, and the words that got him in trouble this time were telling O’Reilly he was “right” about his anti-Muslim views — even though he later challenged him. Williams starts out: “Well, actually, I hate to say this to you because I don’t want to get your ego going. But I think you’re right. I think, look, political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality.”

He then goes on to express fear when he sees Muslims on an airplane, especially those “who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.” That’s bigotry, pure and simple.

First of all, this is not a discussion about whether or not Juan Williams should have been fired, nor is about anything else he or anyone else may have said. I want to focus solely on that second paragraph and the idea that fear of some racial or religious group equals bigotry.

Merriam-Webster dictionary:

noun \ˈbi-gə-trē\
plural big·ot·ries
Definition of BIGOTRY
: the state of mind of a bigot
: acts or beliefs characteristic of a bigot

Okay, well that didn’t help much. Let’s try again:

noun \ˈbi-gət\
Definition of BIGOT
: a person obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
— big·ot·ed\-gə-təd\ adjective

I am going to assume, arguendo, that Williams was speaking honestly. He said he experienced fear, which is a involuntary physiological reaction. We don’t choose to be afraid. You can say his fear is irrational, but even if that were true it would make it a phobia, not bigotry.

Fear is one of the most basic human emotions. It is hardwired into our brains, like an instinct. When our primal brain senses danger it triggers a “flight or fight” reaction. This involves three parts of our brain – the thalamus, the amygdala and the hypothalamus. Sometimes it involves the hippocamus and the sensory cortex too.

Those of you who have taken an anatomy class know that none of those five parts of the brain are where we do our heavy thinking. The primal part of our brain is kinda like BIOS is to your computer. But just like you can “flash” a BIOS chip we can do some reprogramming to our primal brain.

The problem is that part of or brain will reprogram itself. In fact, it’s supposed to if it’s working correctly. It’s actually pretty adaptable in some ways.

Let’s go back in time to when one of our primitive ancestors (Oog) sees his cousin (Og) get killed and eaten by a cave bear. Now Oog never saw a cave bear before, but his amygdala has now listed cave bears on Oog’s flight or fight trigger list.

From now on, whenever Oog sees a cave bear he will be afraid. Not only that, but his primitive brain will tell him to be afraid of things that look similar to cave bears, like saber tooth tigers. Oog doesn’t have to think about any of this, his primal brain does it all on it’s own.

So jump forward a million years or so to today. Oog (who now has a good job doing commercials for GEICO insurance) turns on his television and sees a couple jumbo jets hitting the Twin Towers. He sees Muslims chanting “death to America” and all kinds of violence associated with Muslims.

His primal brain sees all that stuff too, and lists “Muslims” on Oog’s flight or fight trigger list. But Oog doesn’t just watch the news, he watches television and movies. When he does he often sees fictional depictions of violent scary Muslims.

While Oog’s higher brain recognizes these depictions as fiction, his primal brain sees them as real. So when Oog encounters a Muslim in real life his primal brain is telling him to be afraid, no matter what his higher brain might be saying.

Now obviously, feeling fear is not the same thing as burning a cross on somebody’s lawn. We need to judge people on what they do and say, and not on their involuntary physiological reactions.

I’m not defending Juan Williams. With a fat new $2 million contract in his pocket he doesn’t need my assistance anyway. But calling him a bigot because he honestly admitted to feeling “nervous” doesn’t help anything.

Remember Obama’s Greatestest Speech on Race EVAH? It was supposed to start a national conversation on race but I don’t see a whole lot of dialoging going on.

Instead I see a whole lot of yelling, with accusations of racism and bigotry being used as a weapon, mostly by one side.

There is nothing more painful to me … than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. — the Reverend Jesse Jackson

133 Responses

  1. My IQ 2xU – I always knew you weren’t sheeting.

  2. Agree. As far as I can tell, it was an honest confession of fear, that he later said he and we should not act on and must be careful of. And quite a useful even to help us all have a discussion about bigotry among other things.

    • IMO, as a public commentator, Williams should keep his fears to himself. I don’t really think this was a firing offense, it appears that NPR saw Williams as a thorn in their side and used this as an excuse to get rid of him. But why not fired Mara L. too then?

      In the long run, this appears to have been more damaging for NPR than for Williams, but the jury is still out.

      BTW, I saw the planes hit the towers multiple times (as most everyone did), and I don’t fear people in muslim garb. I also don’t think people who dress that way are doing so to draw attention. I think that part of Williams’ comments was offensive.

      OTOH, I do think the political correctness stuff has gone too far. I think it was terrible for CNN to fire Octavia Nasr for what she said–they basically fired her for saying she respected a muslim leader! I think that was bigoted on CNN’s part.

      We are never going to get past racism, sexism, and other -isms if we can’t talk openly about them.

      • I love what you said and it sums up this argument perfectly:

        “We are never going to get past racism, sexism, and other -isms if we can’t talk openly about them.”



  3. Thank you. It’s past time for a little bit of sanity.

    • Amen! In the words of our great liberal President (cough cough):

      Vivian Shiller acted STUPIDLY.

  4. Glenzilla:

    But there’s one point from all of this I really want to highlight. The principal reason the Williams firing resonated so much and provoked so much fury is that it threatens the preservation of one of the most important American mythologies: that Muslims are a Serious Threat to America and Americans. That fact is illustrated by a Washington Post Op-Ed today from Reuel Marc Gerecht, who is as standard and pure a neocon as exists: an Israel-centric, Iran-threatening, Weekly Standard and TNR writer, former CIA Middle East analyst, former American Enterprise Institute and current Defense of Democracies “scholar,” torture advocate, etc. etc. Gerecht hails Williams as a courageous “dissident” for expressing this “truth”:

    [W]hile his manner may have been clumsy, Williams was right to suggest that there is a troubling nexus between the modern Islamic identity and the embrace of terrorism as a holy act.

    Above all else, this fear-generating “nexus” is what must be protected at all costs. This is the “troubling” connection — between Muslims and terrorism — that Williams lent his “liberal,” NPR-sanctioned voice to legitimizing. And it is this fear-sustaining, anti-Muslim slander that NPR’s firing of Williams threatened to delegitimize. That is why NPR’s firing of Williams must be attacked with such force: because if it were allowed to stand, it would be an important step toward stigmatizing anti-Muslim animus in the same way that other forms of bigotry are now off-limits, and that, above all else, is what cannot happen, because anti-Muslim animus is too important to too many factions to allow it to be delegitimized.

    Let me clarify – I am not saying we SHOULD be afraid of Muslims. I’m just saying it is understandable why someone would be. Accusing them of bigotry won’t make them less afraid.

    • I don’t understand why people would fear muslims who are openly demonstrating their beliefs by their clothing. Wouldn’t a terrorist be more likely to try to hide his intent by wearing clothing that would blend in with the crowd? Isn’t that what the 9/11 terrorists did? I don’t think they wore “muslim garb.”

      • You’re using the higher parts of your brain (which is good) but that’s not where fear originates.

        The higher brain will overrule the primal brain – if we use it.

        (Look at me, lecturing a doctor of brainology)

        • Yes, but someone in Williams’ position should be able to deal with his fears intellectually–especially while he is speaking in public.

          • That seems very close to lying.

          • I don’t know. I saw a slew of male commentators with an irrational fear of electing a woman president in 2008. Uppity Woman had a great video on Hillary-hate recently. I also think many in the country may be suffering from post-traumatic stress since it’s the first time mainland US was attacked. That has to be recognized and part of the dialogue.

            BTW, I teach ESL and that includes students from the ME. I would encourage those of you who have time to volunteer to teach ESL as a way to build better relationships.

      • Neither do I but this really isn’t about us. People don’t have to feel the same as I to be decent honorable people. That’s where I part company with the attitude police of the left.

        • People’s fears of “the other” needs to be confronted for what it is though, not coddled.

          • Confronting someone’s “fear” is dangerous and can be quite counterproductive. Education, through further dialog, will help while shutting people up just convinces them they were right all along.

          • I’m not talking about confronting an individual… I was talking about social commentary like Juan’s. I don’t think we need to coddle it and “there, there” people’s fears of “the other” on an airplane or elsewhere. Education is an important part of the process too, but some of it really is ugly and needs to be called out for what it is. That doesn’t mean I’m going to walk up to every xenophobe and get into an argument with that person, nor does it mean everybody who is afraid is afraid out of malice rather than ignorance. But if we want to have an honest dialogue about people’s fears, then let’s not sugarcoat the fact that not all of it is all coming from ignorance. Some of it really is coming from an ugly place.

          • Let me know how that works out for you when you’re on the other side of this Soviet style divide someday.

            It wasn’t for nothing that I called the lefty blogs Left Blogistan in comments at OpenLeft in ’08. It was in protest about the authoritarian left and the need to control the thoughts of others. The disease seems to be spreading.

          • I agree with both Wonk and Ralph. Look at me–I’m wishy washy!

          • I’ve been on the other side of the divide. I was run off of left blogistan in 2008, too. I don’t condone left blogistan or their reactions to Juan here at all.

            As I’ve stated over and over again — I don’t think Juan is a bigot and I think Left Blogistan is a hopeless cause and getting them to stop calling him one is really just as counterproductive and a waste of my time as anything else. They’re not going to stop, and they are pathetic.

            But what Juan was doing subtly in that comment was saying “there, there” to people who have those fears by saying he has them too. If he had wanted to make the point he was making about the elephant in the room he could have just said we all know that people sometimes have fears after 9-11 but we can’t decide public policy on that basis.

            He went the extra step of saying he too has those fears. I think he went too far with that. It crosses a line there. It legitimizes that fear, and I don’t think that was Juan’s intention. But when someone of his stature says he feels that way, instead of helping people get over those fears, he’s really saying it’s okay to have those fears.

          • So the source if JW’s unease in that situation was either ignorance or malice? Those are the only two options? Nope. Don’t agree.

          • I didn’t say those were the only two sources, and I wasn’t talking about Juan’s fear there anyways–I was talking about what he was communicating about other people’s fears. While some of the fears are coming from ignorance, as Ralph suggested with his comment about education, not all of it is.

          • In other words, Juan’s statements were irresponsible for someone in his position, rather than bigoted.

        • I agree, and I don’t think Williams deserved to be fired for this. But OTOH if NPR had warned him in the past, then he should have thought before he spoke.

      • ITA, bb. Unless someone in Muslim garb is acting suspicious, there is no reason to fear him or her. An immediate reaction to someone who is dressed a certain way, or looks Middle Eastern, is stereotyping.

        Were the 911 terrorists dressed in “Muslim garb”? IIRC, they were dressed in western clothes.

      • Oh crap. I said the “M” word again. Please tell Spammy to lemme go. (Sorry, I just can’t get used to that filter.)

    • I am in agreement with Glenn. The reason the right is so furious is that it delegitimizes the jihad narrative that Fox gas been trying to promote. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

      And no, I do not think fear of Muslims is reasonable or excusable. It has been whipped up by Fox and other extremist conservatives and it is as wrong as McCarthyism, the internment of Japanese citizens during WWII and every other stupid thing Americans have done and now regret.

      Let’s get in front of this, myiq. We know it’s wrong. It’s wrong to judge a book by its cover and its just as wrong to poke a sharp stick into someone’s primitive brain to provoke this kind of feeling.

      I’m tired of letting people off the hook for their bad behavior. It’s wrong, it’s not understandable and people need to grow up. I am not about to start coddling anyone for their fear of Muslims. We have to draw the line somewhere.

      I go thru this bullshit with my mother everytime she visits. Every fricking time, she tells me how the Muslims are going to get their marching orders from some crazy ass wahabi imam and murder us all in our beds when they go jihad on us. And every single time I have to spell out how nonsensical that idea is. And here’s Juan Williams essentially agreeing with O’reilly that this is a reasonable scenario. It’s insane, myiq. If you really believe that jihad scenario, every nice thing you say about Muslims afterwards sounds like political correctness to the O’reilly viewers.

      I’m sick of having to deprogram my mother every couple of weeks.
      He’s gone from NPR. he deserved it. Good riddance. Im sure he’ll be a big hit on Fox. He’s already fulfilling his contract by attacking the people who fired him. Juan Williams is not a nice guy and he condemns himself everytime he opens his mouth.

  5. Reiterating my comment from the bottom of the last thread, it’s the timing that’s suspicious to me. It’s less than two weeks before an election, and here’s an excuse for every news and gab show everywhere to banter about whether persons wearing muzlim garb are scary in airports. That’s as good as an orange alert. It doesn’t matter which side of that argument is favored, the result is reminding people about 9-11 and fear and that ALWAYS accrues to Republicans.


  6. Not having read the post, I’ll answer off the top of my head. No, fear doesn’t equal bigotry, but it can lead to bigotry. A lot of Americans are unfamiliar with M*slims and M*slim culture, don’t know any M*slims personally, and they just seem very foreign to them. They basically just have the stereotypes of western culture to guide them. Add to that an event like 9/11 and the fear grows, and with it the potential for bigotry if the person has no other way of dealing with the fear.

    • The way to address that fear is education, not screaming “BIGOT!” at anyone who admits to feeling nervous.

      Demonizing them won’t make people stop being afraid, it will only keep them from admitting it.

      • Also true.

        • But TV commentators shouldn’t say everything they think.

          • Are you suggesting they should be less than fully honest?

          • It’s not about being less than fully honest, but for instance… I didn’t need to hear Brian Williams say “it’s hard to stay objective” covering Obama. Just report the news, don’t tell me how you feel about it.

          • Brian Williams is an anchorman. Juan Williams was asked a question in an interview.

            If Brian Williams were asked in an interview, him saying something like that just tells me where he stands and I can take it into account.

          • Yeah, but then we’re back to the point that there was a conflict of interests between Juan’s NPR and Fox gigs.

          • This isn’t about honesty. It’s about public behavior by an influential member of the media. NPR is the one that made the mistake in not getting rid him sooner though, IMO.

          • “Are you suggesting they should be less than fully honest?”

            Yeah. It’s the news, not a therapy session. They get access to the public airwaves to inform the public. Mostly I’m guessing what Juan and Dan Abrams are thinking is “Can I get this guest to talk about her sex ual fantasies,” so I’m better than fine with dishonesty. I don’t need to know their deepest, darkest secrets or what makes their skin crawl–and frankly, choosing to reveal that type of thing is practically guaranteed to make certain types of people, like bosses, audience members, and co-workers even more uncomfortable.

      • Agreed. It needs to be talked about or people will not have any way to address their fear/bigotry and change it.

      • Honk Honk!

      • That’s true to some extent.

        But what about fear of say… Sarah Palin? Should all of it be met with education?

        A lot of it is driven by hate and should be met with no tolerance. Same goes with fear of Muslims.

  7. He said he felt unease because they were identifying, first and foremost, as Muslims. By the choice of their clothing.

    I’ll take his word for it.

    And, no, I do not think Juan Williams is an anti-Muslim bigot. But… he sure is an anti-woman bigot. (as per some of his previous comments about Sarah Palin.)

  8. I take issue even with the idea that any fear of “the other” is irrational.

    Every human being prejudges others, and even other groups, all the time, based on rational (as opposed to irrational) fear. If I walk down a dark street, and I see two women coming toward me, I do not have a little frisson of fear. If I see two young men coming toward me, I do.

    Does that mean that I have somehow pre-judged all men, think all men (rather than a minority of men) are potential rapists, and am a misandrist bigot for that feeling? No. Nor does it mean that I mistreat them, refuse to hire them, or that I am uneasy around men in all situations – just that particular one.

    Sorry, but I don’t think we are ever going to get rid of that evolutionary survival instinct that is hardwired into our brains, nor do I think we need to.

    And I for one will not feel guilty about it, nor insist that others need to self flagellate, and search their deep dark souls for the taint of imaginary bigotry, and feel guilty over it either. I swear to Jeebus, some people really do take this thing too far. And their quest for the ever elusive purity of soul regarding raycism, or sexism, or whatever reaches ludicrous heights only seen in obscure monastic sects seeking to purge themselves of uncleanness (a task at which they can never truly succeed.)

    In short, it’s ridiculous. I left the church because I’m not into guilt trips. I refuse to take into my soul the guilt of a politicized version of “original sin”. And that’s exactly what all the “isms” have become to some.

    • Crap! I have such issues with tags. Only “uncleanness” was supposed to be italics.

    • This is not a quest for purity, It’s much simpler. It’s a quest to control the thoughts and feelings of others.

      • True. But guilt is often the tool to that end in this case. Fortunately for me, I am immune to it.

    • Well said! The irony of the last 3 years (including the primaries), is that the so-called “liberals” (suggesting acceptance of differences, open mindedness) became what they despised: narrow-minded , rejection of the “other,” misogyny, snarkiness, flaunting of “better than” (ie, stupid, bitter, clingy, etc).

      There was a time that those posting on TC were “the others,” as I recall, with Obots implying YOU needed a “psychiatrist, (pick a synonym), too.

      The Obots closed you down, ran you off, ridiculed you, on purpose, for not marching to their own narrow definitions of “acceptable.” As an Independent I was on YOUR side.

      I don’t do guilt trips, either, WMCB. Not in religion, not in politics, not in daily life.

      It’s manipulation, period. And usually, it drives people AWAY from the very people/party that does it. The firing of Juan Williams will not go over well with Independents who don’t want to be manipulated by either side.

      This may end up being the October Surprise that made America see the “liberals” as the real narrow minded group.

      Irony lives.

    • From George’s Bottom:

      “This is the most ridiculous thing because then, the people at NPR and others, they take this one statement and they somehow make it out that I am a bigot,” Williams said. “I mean it’s unbelievable to me given the books that I’ve written, the things I have done in my life. And now all of a sudden I’m a bigot.”

      Williams admitted he could have taken the extra step to clarify his statement by saying he knew those fears were irrational – but given the context of the six minute interview he didn’t think it was necessary.

      “It is visceral, it’s a feeling. And I don’t say ‘I’m not getting on the plane,’ I don’t say ‘you must go through additional security.’ I don’t say I’ want to discriminate against those people.’ No such thing occurs. So to me it was admitting that I have this notion, this feeling in the immediate moment,” he said.

      • I don’t think what he said was a firing offense. I do think he belongs on Fox News and not on NPR. He was a serious journalist once. Now he’s a Fox News “analyst.” It’s a sad fall for someone who worked very hard to get to the top of his profession and then threw it all away.

    • One thing that bothers me about all this is that there seems to be more, pandering (I use this word so I can work through my thoughts on this issue) when it comes to Muslims and Islam than before. I mean, can you honestly say that Hollywood would get away with the opening scene in Naked Gun (1988) today? Lets not forget Molly Norris, the cartoonist who has had to go into hiding because of the assassination threats on her life for the “Draw Mohammed Day”. It seems like no one can make a comment about Muslims now…without fear of being called a bigot, or without fear of having some “Radical Muslim Terrorist” put a “hit” out on you… It is all too disturbing.

      • Yes.

        Several moderate Muslim organizations have now come out AGAINST the firing of Williams, rejecting the written letter from C.A.I.R to NPR to punish Juan. CAIR said Juan “didn’t fit into NPR’s liberal environment.”

        These moderate Muslim groups found it offensive that NPR assumed CAIR spoke for ALL Muslim groups.

        Good for them!

  9. OT, Obama releases “It Gets Better” video.

    You be the judge:

    • Why did he have to add in that “I don’t know what it’s like to be picked on for being gay” bit in there?

      • Because he’s not gay.

        He’s not, he’s not, he’s not!

      • Because if it isn’t about him, it’s not worth discussing.

      • I realize you are asking a rhetorical question but I’m going to answer it anyway. 😉 Same reason he doesn’t want to attend this http://tinyurl.com/339×532

        His own fear of being labeled teh gay in your example and a muslim (again) in mine. And, Sikhs are not Muslims. They just wear the same headgear or one that can easily be mistaken for the headgear of Muslim men.

        He just wants to be loved by Republicans and reactionaries so damned much while spitting at us lefties, it’s pathetic.

        Note: I’m newdealdem. I changed it to newdeamdem1 because I wanted to post with an avatar but couldn’t find how to do it via wordpress, I used Gravtar instead but the newdeamdem ID was already in use hence the appended 1.

        • yeah I commented about the Sikh temple development the other day… Obama calls himself a moral president, but he’s really a cowardly one.

          • We have a large Sikh community here in Merced County, centered around the town of Livingston. They are not Arabs, Persians nor Hindus.


            A Sikh (English pronunciation: /ˈsiːk/ or /ˈsɪk/; Punjabi: ਸਿੱਖ, sikkh [ˈsɪkkʰ]) is a follower of Sikhism. Sikhism (Sikhi in Punjabi) primarily originated in 15th century Punjab region of India. The term “Sikh” has its origin in Sanskrit term śiṣya, meaning “disciple, student” or śikṣa, meaning “instruction”.[23][24] A Sikh is a disciple of the Guru.

            According to Article I of the “Rehat Maryada” (the Sikh code of conduct and conventions), a Sikh is defined as “any human being who faithfully believes in One Immortal Being; ten Gurus, from Guru Nanak Dev to Sri Guru Gobind Singh; Sri Guru Granth Sahib; the teachings of the ten Gurus and the baptism bequeathed by the tenth Guru; and who does not owe allegiance to any other religion”.[25]. Sikhs believe in the Equality of Mankind, the concept of Universal brotherhood of Man and One Supreme God (Ik Onkar).

            Sikhs are easily recognized by their distinctly wrapped turbans, uncut hair, and steel bracelet (kara). Most men have Singh (lion) and women Kaur (princess) in their names.

            The greater Punjab region is the historical homeland of the Sikhs, although significant communities exist around the world.

          • My grandmother was part Sikh, Lol.

          • When I was a kid up until today, one of my fav characters was the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. He was lovable because he realized he was almost paralyzed by his fear and wanted to change. And, he did become a hero when he stopped focusing on himself and his fear and looked outside of himself to save Dorothy (and himself from himself).


            IMHO, Obama will not be anything but a coward because he will never stop thinking about himself in conjunction with his every breath and move. He doesn’t seem capable of looking outside of himself to truly help people conquer their fears that the best is behind us. It’s not but unless and until he truly does lead the charge to implement liberal ideas that have been proven to make people’s lives better and the country thrive in this century we will find ourselves and the country floundering for years to come or until someone like HRC and preferably HRC herself runs (again) and this time becomes POTUS.

      • To make sure us queers get the message that we are different and removed from him.

        Hillary embraced us. Obama stiff-armed us.

        His message has been picked apart by us gay folk.

        • Hillary’s message brought tears to my eyes.

          And Obama’s message wasn’t even close….

          Here we have a president who couldn’t pass up an opportunity to point out the funny name or not looking like the other presidents on the dollar bill. But he just couldn’t leave it at that level….’I know what it is like to be viewed differently.’

          I guess because that is HIS special cross to bear and it would lessen his burden/the effectiveness of that argument……if he shared that with gay teens.

          Still needs to whip it out for 2012…..my name is funny…vote for me.

    • Two things I noticed:

      1. His tie was a very pale shade of purple, two days too late.

      2. Watch his eyes move back and forth – he’s using TOTUS as usual.

      At least he finally said something. Baby steps, but it’s still progress.

      • It is not baby steps. It is not progress. Its just words.

        On the same day DADT goes back in force at his direction we get these words.


        F*cking Hypocrite.

  10. Ummm, can I admit to being afraid once. It was about a year ago. I had gone to the movies with my Mom. Think it was the last Harry Potter movie. Anyway as we came out of the theater we all had to file in a single line to turn in our 3D glasses. This put us with a wall on one side and the rope on the other with the person collecting the glasses. Beyond that were all the people getting ready to go in to see their movie. Included in the crowd was a woman dressed all in black head to toe, all you could see were her eyes. She was with a group of others. And I have to admit that when I saw her, I felt fear. I truly hated that I did after the fact, but I couldn’t help it. All that was going through my mind were those stories on the news of suicide bombers and how they were recruiting women to do it. It was was one of the most unsettling things I’ve ever felt. I know a lot of it is from never having been around someone dressed like that before, and I wish I could say I will be able to prevent myself from feeling that way again. But I don’t know.

    And this is coming from someone who’s be on the receiving end of someone being afraid. Not exactly towards me, but when I was a teen, I went to the comic book store, one I’d been in before, this time with my brother. I went in first, met eyes with the guy behind the counter, and he nodded, but then I saw his gaze go past me to that of my brother who was coming in right behind me. His whole demeanor changed. He shot up where he had been leaning on the counter, and I saw the fear in his eyes. He was nervous, the whole nine yards.
    My brother, who’s as nice a guy as you could ever hope to meet and a plain dresser caused that guy to I guess fear for his life, just because of his color. I even remember joking about it afterwards how I was insulted that he WASN’T scared of me. Guess ’cause I was just a chick, he thought he could have handled me. Ha!

    Anyway, I honestly never thought I’d be in that guys shoes. I just hope I can find my way out of them.

  11. Oh my, Donna B’s BFF is in trouble:

    Political types tend to get suspicious when those on one side of the spectrum suddenly start complimenting their supposed worst enemies—the equivalent of Seinfeld hosting a testimonial for Newman or Eliot Ness carpooling with Al Capone.

    Yet in the past few weeks, the White House and even The New York Times have done exactly that—heaping praise on their longtime nemesis, Karl Rove, and his protégé, Ed Gillespie.

    “These guys are great political operatives,” Obama strategist David Axelrod said, “and they will have an impact in this election.” The Times, meanwhile, extolled Rove as a “master political strategist” who is rebuilding the GOP majority. President Obama and Vice President Biden have done both men the great political favor of calling them out by name—almost ensuring them more Republican support and donations.

    Unfortunately for the Democrats, this effort comes as an increasing number of conservatives—from Rush to Palin to scores of activists and high-level veterans of the Reagan Revolution—view Rove as part of the GOP’s unfortunate recent past. Indeed, they are even beginning to conclude that the oft-repeated belief that Rove is the savior of the GOP may be one of the biggest political hoaxes in American political history. At best, the man President Bush called “Turdblossom” has had a decidedly mixed record on the national level—losing the popular vote in 2000; barely beating a liberal aristocrat from Massachusetts in 2004; and, with the aid of Gillespie, presiding over the loss of both houses of Congress in 2006, and the White House in 2008. Rove and his crew, one influential conservative put it later, “left a smoking hole where the Republican Party once stood.”

    “We screwed up,” says party Chairman Michael Steele. Conservatives were “bamboozled,” says former Texas GOP Chairman Tom Pauken. “Betrayed” and “hijacked,” says veteran conservative activist Richard Viguerie. The administration was a conservative “impostor,” writes commentator Bruce Bartlett. Bush operatives “were afraid of ideas,” Newt Gingrich charges. “Tokyo Rove” was a recent entry on Michelle Malkin’s website.

    So the right wing feels the same way about Bush and Rove as we feel about Obama and Axelrod?


  12. Say what?

    First it was President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul that divided the nation. Now it’s the Republican cry for repeal.

    An Associated Press-GfK poll found likely voters evenly split on whether the law should be scrapped or retooled to make even bigger changes in the way Americans get their health care.

    Tea party enthusiasm for repeal has failed to catch on with other groups, the poll found, which may be a problem for Republicans vowing to strike down Obama’s signature accomplishment if they gain control of Congress in the Nov. 2 elections.

    Among likely voters, 36 percent said they want to revise the law so it does more to change the health care system. A nearly identical share — 37 percent — said they want to repeal it completely.

    73% of the voters want to either change it or dump it. That is hardly what I’d call dividing the nation.

  13. ITA with bb, the mistake was agreeing with that blowhard bigot Bill O’Reilly who has absolutely no interest in sparking introspective or reflective dialog. His primary purpose seems to be to incite and divide.

    I agree with the premise that fear does not equal bigotry. Fear is natural. Unwarranted, religious-specific, fear is learned, and promoted. It’s not as if American Muslims were not forced into the mother of all lose/lose situations post 911. The Muslim community has been reviled and attacked with unbridled righteousness for a decade now, and no end appears in sight.

  14. Thanks NPR for making Williams the new poster child for the right wing. It affirmed their bigoted ideas about “liberals”.

  15. We got a little bit lighter thread up on food.

  16. Your analogy is off. Oog’s fear of cave bears is rational. Cave bears are (were) apex predators. So were sabre-toothed cats. Any given member of either species could be depended upon almost certainly to have Oog for dinner if the opportunity offered. It was not a case in which 99.99% of cave bears were gentle vegans and would never dream of harming Oog.

    The bigotry in Williams’ reaction is not the fear itself. It’s extending that fear to all members of a class in the face of the obvious fact that the great majority of that class pose no threat to him whatsoever.

    • The vast majority of men are not rapists. Most of the class called “men” pose no threat to me whatsoever, but I do not feel fear only in the presence of men whom I know to be rapists. I get uneasy in a secluded alley alone with one I don’t know. That’s not bigotry, that’s a healthy survival instinct.

      If I feel weird around men in settings where no threat is remotely likely, then I have a problem. If I proactively mace strange men in alleys, when they have made no threatening move, then I have a problem. Otherwise, I don’t think my unease is unwarranted. The fear itself is neither illegitimate, nor irrational. And I feel no compunction to either apologize for nor attempt to rid myself of it.

      • But by your first sentence, you are not afraid of “the vast majority of men” or afraid of all men in all situations. I’m just guessing, but I’d wager your first thought on seeing a man board a plane on which you are travelling, or entering a restaurant in which you are dining, is not “He’s a rapist, and he’s going to attack me.”

        Williams, in contrast, fears that all M*****s are jihadis out to murder him, and his statement gives credence to others who share his irrational fear. Fear is not bigotry, but it can give rise to bigotry– and in Williams’ case appears to have done so.

        • No, he only had that fear in the precise circumstances and setting in which actual M*slim jihadists actually did, in reality, kill several thousand people. He never said he felt uncomfortable in any other setting with them. Not once. He does not fear that they are all jihadists out to murder him – that’s a grossly unfair misrepresentation of what he said.

          I have fear or unease in the setting and circumstance in which the harm is likely to occur, or has occurred before, when the “class” (men) that is most likely to be a perpetrator is present. I.e. an alley, alone, with a strange man.

          • He says that he considers jihad the greatest current threat to the United States. That’s a generalization of his fear. The only way he’d know his fellow passengers were M****m is by their dress–and given that there’s no specifically “M****m” dress for men, he may well be mistaken about their relgion to begin with. If it’s their clothing (their percived “M*****m-ness”) that induces his fear, then it’s pretty clear that he is in fact stereotyping. As has been pointed out by other posters, “M****m dress” did not constitute an element in previous attacks. In those cases, the terrorists made every effort to blend into the background.

          • Whether of not j*had is the biggest threat is a security assessment, based on active intelligence in the real world. It is most certainly a threat. There are varying valid opinions as to how big a threat it is. But it still is. That’s just reality. He’s not merely “generalizing fear” to acknowledge that.

          • I have fear or unease in the setting and circumstance in which the harm is likely to occur, or has occurred before, when the “class” (men) that is most likely to be a perpetrator is present. I.e. an alley, alone, with a strange man.

            Most rapes take place in homes by men known to the victims. Stranger rape is less common.

          • Branjor, it matters not that stranger rape is less common. It happens often enough. My point is that neither you nor anyone on this board would tell a woman that her unease in certain situations with men, regardless of whether or not she has actual evidence that the man in question is, in FACT, a danger, are rooted in bigotry or ignorance or are irrational stereotyping of men.

          • Was Juan Williams attacked by someone in Muslim garb on a plane?

          • This is getting ridiculous. No, Wonk, he hasn’t. Nor have most black people ever been attacked by a skinhead. But they do feel a sort of connection to those who have. Much as most Americans feel a real, deep connection with the victims of 9/11 – viewing it as the awful day when we were ALL attacked.

            Most black people, walking down a street, who had 4 white youths with shaved heads and a lot of tattoos come up behind them, would feel a moment of concern.

            However, most white tatooed youths with shaved heads have never in their lives attacked anybody. It’s mostly white tattooed youths who have both a shaved head and some of those tattoos are swastikas. Ah HA!! See, the person pre-judged based on merely tattoos, skin color, and lack of hair, neglecting the all-important detail of NO SWASTIKA!! GOTCHA!! BIGOT!! So I guess that would make that black individual’s moment of fear a sign of the prejudice in their soul. Or at least, it would be if they ever dared mention it, which is evidently not allowed.

          • but the point is the attackers weren’t wearing Muslim garb, WMCB. They were trying to blend in. Yet Juan was specifically saying he had a fear of people trying to identify themselves as Muslims first.

          • We’ll have to agree to disagree here, Wonk. I find absolutely nothing bigoted or wrong about either what he felt, or what he said. I’ve made sound rebuttals to your comments, but it seems that you keep coming up with a brand new reason why it was “wrong” every time I rebut the previous one.

            Sorry, we are not going to agree on this. Peace.

          • WMCB is right – this IS getting ridiculous.


            We feel fear whether it is rational or not. IT IS INVOLUNTARY.

            Blaming people for what they feel is blaming them for something they have no control over.

          • with all due respect I didn’t call Juan a bigot. I merely said the terrorists weren’t wearing Muslim garb.

          • So what are you saying?

          • Andrew Sullivan and Keith Olbermann genuinely hate and fear Hillary Clinton and basically all women. So because it’s involuntary and uncontrollable that makes it okay?

            People can’t control their fears, but they can control how the act on them and how much they expect everyone else to accomodate them.

          • I’m saying that I would think people in Muslim garb on a plane are actually the least threatening since they aren’t trying to blend in.

        • reply is there when it gets out of spammy.

    • How often do we see depictions in the media (both “real” and fake) of peaceful, non-violent Muslims?

      BTW – even “vegan” animals can be dangerous. The horns on a bull aren’t there for show.

      • “How often do we see depictions in the media (both “real” and fake) of peaceful, non-violent Muslims?”

        Almost never, of course. Much of the media actively promotes anti-M****m bigotry, just as it once promoted raycism by presenting African Americans almost exclusively as servants, stooges and villains. Williams gets less of an excuse than most on this because he’s a media insider. He can’t be under any illusion that the MSM is driven by a journalistic devotion to truth rather than the end-of-year financial report.

        BTW – even “vegan” animals can be dangerous. The horns on a bull aren’t there for show.

        That’s why I qualified the word with “gentle.” My cousins and I were routinely kicked by one of our granddad’s cows at milking time. Not a bad thing, in the end. We all became extremely agile.

        • Please let me out of the dungeon. Spammy grabbed me because I quote miqu, including the M-word.

  17. You raise very interesting and important points in this thoughtful post, myiq.

    The following are just my musings: The images of Oklahoma City were burned into my brain, as were the images of 911. If Mr. Williams is afraid of people dressed as Muslims entering a plane, is he also afraid of blue-eyed, short-haired, ex-military types parking in front of public buildings? Would he even notice?

    I do not think he would. If that is correct, why not? And in fact, many images of the terrorists showed them dressed in Western clothing when they boarded the planes on 911. So why be afraid of people in traditional Muslim garb? I personally believe that bigotry forms the foundation of Mr. Williams’s fear.

    I accept his fear may be involuntary and I appreciate his point (which I did not hear the first time I heard excerpts of the clip) that he would not act on his fear, which I think is a fine first step. But, I am still troubled by his statement “Political correctness can lead to some kind of paralysis where you don’t address reality…” As most Muslims are innocent even of evil intent, how is being afraid of them all or targeting them all for supplemental searches addressing reality?

    As for the woman in the complete veil, covering all but her eyes, mentioned by one commentator, I can understand the fear now that it has been explained, but I probably would not have thought of a terrorist if I saw her. I have likely would considered her a prisoner (of other people or her own beliefs). I would feel pity rather than fear, as I do when I see such pictures on television. Pity if it were involuntary and perhaps still deeper pity if it were her own choice (even if that pity were considered insulting by the woman so dressed).


  18. 1.) what bothers me the most about Williams’ comments wasn’t the stuff about being nice to people you fear. It’s that he agreed with O’reilly that jihad is the greatest threat to the nation. If you believe that, there is no ficking way you can overcome your fear of Muslims.
    2.). A good citizen overcomes their primal brain and listens to the words if their mother who said, “never judge a book by its cover”. I am not letting people off the hook because they have an unreasonable fear if Muslims and so do all their neighbors. Being one of a crowd doesn’t make it right. O expect people to overcome it. That’s what Americans have done throughout their history. We learn to master our primitive brains and overcome our prejudices.

    I’m not letting anyone off the hook here. If people can get over homophobia and say “it gets better”, there’s no reason they can’t overcome islamaphobia as well.

    • You can tell someone not to give into fear, you can’t make someone not feel fear. You can also make them not express it, but then you make them afraid and ashamed. It’s still there, though.

      We can tell someone who’s gay that it gets better, but there’s still that chance they may end up beaten to death on the side of the road. Who wants to hear “It almost always gets better, but sometimes it gets worse and you die?” Neither are lies, but one is more honest.

    • he agreed with O’reilly that jihad is the greatest threat to the nation. If you believe that, there is no ficking way you can overcome your fear of Muslims.

      Those are two separate issues. Whether or not jih*d is the greatest threat, or a large threat, or a threat but not the biggest one, is completely debatable. And different views on that fall within the realm of reasonable debate, based on actual intelligence, threat assessments, etc. You disagree with JW and OR – so argue why it is not the biggest threat.

      But that some people might respond badly if it is true, is not relevant to whether it’s true or not.

  19. How often do we see depictions in the media (both “real” and fake) of peaceful, non-violent Muslims?

    Spot on!

    • That was supposed to nest under myiq’s comment. Dang, and I haven’t even killed my second glass of wine!

  20. I saw a bit of Juan filling in for O’Reilly.

    Not impressed.

  21. Great post myiq.

  22. (Saturday morning addendum):

    Keith Ellison is now saying “What Juan Williams said was UN-AMERICAN.”

    Oh my. Through the looking glass.

    This will not end well. And the backlash to statements like the one above will be huge.

    Sanity gone, Myiq. Thanks for trying, though.

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