Saturday, October 23, 2010

Juan Williams and the Budinskis

My Polish grandmother used to talk a lot about budinskis—people who habitually mind other people’s business instead of their own and express opinions, no matter how little they may know about a given situation.

The word may be out of fashion, but this whole Juan Williams affair has certainly proved (if proof were needed) that the world is still full of them.

In his new role as budinski-in-chief for the GOP (for want of any elected title), Newt Gingrich is calling for Congress to defund NPR! Pundits are weighing in on the situation left and right (and I do mean left and right—budinskiism is clearly not the purview of either major party). Most, like Gingrich, come down on the side of poor, beleaguered and misunderstood Mr. Williams—who, according to the boss who fired him, had been having ongoing problems with remembering his responsibility to be as apolitical as possible in accordance with his role at the nonpartisan network. (Why she didn’t fire him when he first started moonlighting at Fox is anybody’s guess.)

Companies have a right to fire people for any number of reasons—including failure to conform to an image befitting their role in the eyes of the public. Let’s take an example.

I work in public education. Would the principal of my school have the right to fire me if I started working part time as a bar tender? There’s certainly nothing inherently wrong with tending bar, but my principal may—or may not—think the image is in keeping with that of a school professional.

The odds are good that I wouldn’t be fired for that—although such a choice could conceivably generate some conversation with district officials about the need for school employees to be careful about their public image.

Then suppose I became embroiled in a public incident in the bar that generated headlines. Or decided to start expressing my opinions on page 1 of the local paper about matters related to my second job. Or what if, as a representative of the hospitality industry, I started making public statements about lowering the drinking age in our state?

You see what I mean? In such a scenario, I’d be treading dangerously close—and likely sometimes crossing—the line preventing conflict of interest between my two public functions. My superiors in education would have every right to tell me to switch to bar tending as my full-time occupation.

That apparently, is what happened to Mr. Williams. After treading the line for two long, he was given the opportunity to quit his day job—netting a $2 million contract at Fox into the bargain.

Meanwhile, people are still unemployed, the polar ice caps are still melting, and we have an election going on that will profoundly affect every aspect of American life for generations.

So how much more time shall we spend commiserating about the allegedly unfair treatment of poor Juan Williams?


Idna said...

So your image as a school counselor would be tainted if you were a bar tender, were embroiled in a public incident (drunken brawl?) in the bar or promoted lowering the drinking age. Probably so. But what the heck has this to do with Juan's situation? How has he tarnished his "image?" He SAID nothing wrong. He DID nothing wrong. Is the mere fact that he is on FOX News a condemnable offense?

Liberals whine and cry and try to silence FOX News all the time, supposedly because it has conservative (read: common sense) views. But FOX, calling itself "Fair and Balanced", attempts to have opposing views heard also.

This is what I don't get. Juan is a liberal. Why do liberals object to his opinions being heard on FOX? Makes no sense to me.

Susan Estich, a well know liberal wrote: "Juan and I have been contributors to Fox News for more than a decade. We're part of the "balance" in "fair and balanced." I've taken heat for it from my Democratic friends, and he's taken heat from others at NPR. My answer ... is that because of the strong conservative voices heard on Fox, it is all the more important for there to be strong voices expressing other views."

THIS makes sense.

As far as the BS from NPR about their journalists all being "apolitical" and "nonpartisan" ... nonsense and hypocracy! Have you HEARD some of the hateful, biased, demeaning, holier-than-thou stuff coming out of their mouths?

I have found it curious for decades that tax money is used for this obviously leftist, partisan radio station. It's now high time to rethink its funding. There is absolutley no reason, with ALL the choice of stations around the dial, that ANY tax money needs to be used for it.

Citizen Jane said...

Fox "calling itself" fair and balanced. You got that right. It can call itself whatever it wants, but that doesn't make it true.

I listen to NPR all the time. I hear comments from left, right, center, and libertarian viewpoints. If you hear "hateful, biased, demeaning, holier-than-thou stuff" from NPR, then I can only assume that what you're hearing is well-edited, out-of-context sound bites on Fox.

What I find "curious" is that the allegedly pro-business right wing should decide to take issue with one specific, internal decision made by an employer and get all up in arms, trying to "defund" the organization.

If you're going to take issue with a corporate decision, what about BP's numerous decisions to ignore safety and environmental regulations prior to the Gulf disaster. Now there were some bad corporate decisions that had real consequences!

Idna said...

It is EXACTLY a pro-business stance to take issue with a radio station being funded by taxpayer money. Why should NPR get public money while other radio stations have to earn it the old fashioned way? Government should not pick and choose to prop up one company over all others in any given industry.

What was done to Juan would be illegal in most companies. The lawsuit for wrongful termination would definitely be happening.

Idna said...

Also, what would make FOX News fair & balanced in your opinion? More liberal commentary? That's exactly what Juan Williams, Mara Liasson, Bob Beckel, Susan Estrich, and many others, add to the discussion. So where is the logic of liberals complaining about liberal voices being heard on Fox? Seems like a Catch 22 to me.

Liberals say:
....Fox isn't balanced.
....but don't let any liberal journalists be on that particular channel. Fox isn't balanced.

Kinda nutty, if you ask me.

Citizen Jane said...

The small portion of NPR programming supported by taxpayer dollars has to do with arts and entertainment. NPR is a great source of literary and artistic news and analysis, book and movie reviews, and interviews with artists and writers of all types and persuasions. Civilized countries promote the arts.

NPR listeners learn about many subjects, including health, history, and science. My favorite program is Science Friday (, which airs about noon every week. (I make a point to run errands during my lunch hour on Friday so I have an excuse to drive around and listen to Science Friday.) Last week’s guests included a scientist involved in the “bomb the moon” experiment discussing what was learned—including the fact the temperatures in the moon’s deep polar craters can be near absolute zero! (I think that’s fascinating.)

The current events and news portions of NPR’s programming are factual and nonpartisan. When controversial topics are discussed, arguments on all sides are fully explained. The only reason for extremist conservatives (including many of the commentators on Fox News) to go after NPR is that truth and objectivity can be inconvenient for those trying to sell the public on a radical right-wing agenda.

Six said...

What's the point of NPR? Why should the state 'promote the arts'? If it takes confiscating my money to give it to an artist in order for that artist to make a meager living, then perhaps that artist is not generating the type of value with his/her art and therefore should not be receiving my tax dollars that I never consented to giving in the first place. Plenty of artists do fantastic without any assistance from the government, their art is plenty valued by private individuals. I support the arts - I actively go to shows, purchase artwork, and even help to promote the company I work for to give corporate contributions (which they do very generously). So why is some government sponsored program further promoting - and how exactly do they decide which artists will be the winners and the losers in that money?

Having said all of that, I have no issues with NPR firing Juan Williams. No one has a right to a certain job and Mr. Williams is no exception - actually all of this probably raised his profile and as such he will most likely get a raise and be featured even further on Fox and/or other stations. This was a huge boost for his career. What Williams did seemed rather innocuous to me - when listening to the entire conversation in contex, it really didn't sound that bad at all... seems to me that NPR was probably looking for a reason to fire him and this just presented itself as something they could hang thier hat on.

I do have NPR set on my dial and include it in my list of stations I surf through when in the car... but quite frankly it's production value, quality of programming and personalities are far inferior to all of the other stations. If it did not receive government funding, it would not last. How many tax-revenue generating radio stations have not made it because the audience they would pursued and won stayed with NPR who received an unfair competitive advantage for taxpayer dollars?

I do find your (CJ) obsession with Fox funny. I don't recall ever seeing similar criticism from you over MSNBC which essentially makes no bones to being the lefts Fox News. You have to take them for what they are... entertainment vying for a particular audience with a certain point of view. They both sprinkle in a little news, but it is served with a heavy dose of pandering to the left (MSNBC) or the right (Fox News). I suspect though, you don't mind it when MSNBC does it because they agree with you. said...

If you watch NPR or go to their website regularly, you'd realize that Juan William (and Mara Liasson) appear on Fox News regularly and it has always rankled their listeners. (The ombudsman actually had to address this at one time.)

My opinion of their appearing on Fox is that NPR shouldn't bar them, but that they, personally, should have more dignity than that.

As to why people don't get as angry with MSNBC, I personally have never heard of other mainstream news media spreading hate speech, intolerance, or blatant falsehoods.

Back to Juan, surely someone as intelligent as that, would know better than to say something as insensitive as that. What does amaze me is people being surprised that he was fired. If he said that he felt uncomfortable if his pilot was a woman or that he didn't like flying with handicapped people, what would you say then??

Six said...

I didn't know NPR had television programming? Do you mean PBS? I mean that in all seriousness... does NPR do television as well?

The Tarquin said...

There's a great Greek word (probably actually a modern construction) for a Budinksi:

Polypragmaton (pl. Polypragmatoi)


Literally "one with many businesses". Colloquially, one who minds other's business as well as their own.

The writer Jeff Cooper used to talk about "Polypragmatocracy" to describe the rule by busybodies.