Wednesday, October 27, 2010

"The Same Post As Yesterday, Differing Only In The Specifics"

Sometimes, I write two similar posts in a row, because, like when you’re making popcorn, one idea naturally “pop-pops” into another, and I feel compelled to include them both.

Think of this less as “Not this again!” than as a thematic expansion. Thinking about it that way will help you feel less ripped off over reading the same thing twice. And it will make me appear more thoughtful than redundant.

So it’s win-win.

Okay, that’s settled. Now…

Yesterday’s post was about The Game – The Game being football – and how The Game needed to be protected at all costs, to the point of requiring more scrupulous attention to player safety, whether anyone wanted that or not, and almost nobody did.

It didn’t matter. You weren’t doing it for people. You were doing it for The Game. That’s all that matters.

Rule Number One:

Protect The Game.

Moving on to today.

It’s hardly an earthshaking news event. But what are you going to do? You can’t pull people out of a mine every day. Sometimes, you need some “slow news day” filler. This story definitely qualifies.

An NPR commentator named Juan Williams lost his job for observing on Fox’s The O’Reilly Factor – Williams also works for Fox – that he got “worried” and “nervous” when his airplane companions included passengers dressed in “Muslim garb.” Full Disclosure: Though they may not rise to the level of “worried” or “nervous”, similar thoughts are not entirely alien to my own thinking process. How about yours?

(Yesterday, in the L.A. Times, a columnist asked whether Williams’ statement that boarding a plane with people who are “identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims” was any less bigoted than being concerned about people who identify themselves first and foremost as Orthodox Jews, neglecting to consider that, to date, no Orthodox Jews have ever hijacked any airplanes and flown them directly into buildings. Oh, the things people write.)

Various points of view emerged concerning this “filler” story. Tops among them was the citation of the prevailing principle in this matter, wherein the company you work for has the right to have a code of behavior, the ignoring of which can get you tossed out on your keister.

This was precisely rationale for the dismissal. NPR press-released that Williams’ comments were “inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR.”

Opposition to the firing focused on the Free Speech issue, the argument being that a legal protection of Free Speech has little practical meaning, if the punishment for engaging in it is prohibitive. See: The Dixie Chicks.

(I once passed along a Mark Twain essay on this matter, in which Twain extolled the principle of Free Speech, but warned that, in the name of self-preservation, your constitutionally protected utterances should never be made public until after you are dead. Hence, the upcoming arrival of Twain’s autobiography, published a full century after Mr. Twain has been safely underground.)

Still others emphasized the distinction between being a “hard news” journalist and a commentator, arguing that, as a commentator – the role Williams was performing when he expressed his trepidation about Muslim co-travelers – Williams was simply doing his job.

I haven’t read it anywhere, but you can throw this into the mix as well. In the context of Fox news programming in general, Williams’ observations were ridiculously tame. He didn’t even mention Satan.

These, and I’m sure many others, are worthy “takes” on what will be immortalized, until next week when people forget about it, as “The Juan Williams Affair.” None of these perspectives, however, fit

The Theme.


The Theme?

Well, yesterday, it was Protecting The Game.

Today, it’s

Protecting The Brand.

Same concept. Different institution.

Football’s about money. NPR’s not, or at least not primarily. Nobody gets rich at NPR. Though you can pick up a nifty coffee mug.

Though the “P” in NPR stands for “Public”, it could, judging by its behavior, stand for “Proper.” National Proper Radio. Not much of a “ring” from a marketing standpoint, though, I hear at least, a faint, ring of truth. (That could be because I made it up. I’m not entirely sure.)

The NPR Brand is grounded in the reputation that Fox news simply anointed itself with – a commitment to actually be fair and balanced. That’s what they stand for. That’s who they are. Though perfection in this regard is unattainable, for NPR, objectivity is a standard they sincerely aspire to, rather than a provocation meant to drive liberals up the wall.

Smart money would likely have bet on NPR’s protection of Juan Williams’ right to Free Speech. But that assessment misses The Big Picture, also known as

The Theme.

Even though it was uttered elsewhere, NPR’s reputation is seriously endangered when one of their commentators confesses that getting on planes with Muslims gives him the willies. Sure, Free Speech is important. But The Big Picture says,

Protect The Brand. (And throw the guy overboard.)

Protect The Game. Protect The Brand. It’s exactly the same issue.

And while we’re Big Picturing it,

Protect the Courts. (“Respect for the Court” has been deemed more valuable than the justice the courts were created to dispense.) (Even though this questionable prioritizing diminishes the “Respect for the Court.”)

Protect the Company. (“Mistakes were made, but the perpetrators have all been fired.”)

Protect the Military, the Police Force, the Prosecutorial System, the Education System. (Only “Bad Apples” did the torturing, were “on the take”, suppressed evidence, really stink at teaching.)

That’s the theme, folks.

Shimmering Abstractions.

More important than people.

More important than principles.

More important than anything.

1 comment:

PALGOLAK said...

"... neglecting to consider that, to date, no Orthodox Jews have ever hijacked any airplanes and flown them directly into buildings."

No, but they certainly don't mind engaging in mass killing on occasion -> Baruch Goldstein springs to mind, but I guess you wouldn't feel threatened by those Kach types...