Journalist and NPR personality Juan Williams was just fired by NPR (they no longer go by "National Public Radio", probably for the same reason Kentucky Fried Chicken is now "KFC"--how edgy and modern!). Apparently, he made some untoward comments about Muslims, particularly that if he saw people in Muslim garb on an airplane he'd fear for his safety. Now, I'm the sort of flyer that would take 100 people in Muslim garb on an airplane before one crying or fidgety baby, but then that's because crying and fidgety babies make me all stabby and the airlines won't let me carry any knife not made of plastic. And no, now that you ask, I never did get that job at the day care center.
First, I've got to say that the last thing you should fear on an airplane is a person dressed in Muslim garb. The 9/11 hijackers may have been Muslim, but they were savvy enough not to dress in any way that drew attention to them. Nor, does it appear, were they particularly religious, in that they drank and visited strippers just before their rotten mission. If you want to fear a hijacker, fear the one who looks like anyone else but is nervous. That chick next to me on my flight back from Puerto Rico last fall who kept shaking? She was about to get an elbow to the throat if she tried any sudden moves. Fellow passengers, I got your back!
Second, can anyone really hijack a plane anymore? I figured after 9/11, passengers know that their hijackers very well could turn the plane into a missile and so they'll storm the cockpit every time. There's more reason to fear someone launching an RPG from the ground as you're taking off or landing, or to fear a bomb being smuggled into luggage, or to fear drunk or tired pilots. When's the last time a plane was successfully hijacked?
Whether Juan Williams should have lost his job is not for me to say--a news organization like NPR has to weigh both encouraging the airing of diverging and controversial opinions from its staff as well as whether it wants to be represented as condoning such views. In any event, a high profile talking head like Williams is likely to find a perch somewhere (Fox News, likely) so it's hard to feel too bad for him.
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