Notwithstanding the message of Juvenal’s tenth Satire, I believe there is quite a lot to be said for “panem et circenses,” i.e., “bread and circuses,” to wit, public entertainment. Bill Buckley used to assure his friends that “the entertainment committee never sleeps,” and in that spirit I would like to offer a response to NPR’s sacking of Juan Williams that promises to be both entertaining and to perform an important public service.
Williams, remember, was fired for publicly acknowledging that when he travels by plane and sees people in “Muslim garb” he concludes that “they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
And how about you, Virginia? What do you feel when, just as you’re fastening the seat belt and stowing the cell phone, four or five young men called Muhammed stream into the plane chattering in Arabic and glowering at the infidels all around them? A little worried, are you? A tad nervous? You’d been a moron if your weren’t.
But according to Vivian Schiller, the CEO of National Politically Correct Radio, Williams’s remark “violated” NPR’s journalistic “standards.” She then, in a splendid exhibition of the sort of high standards NPR embodies, went on to question Williams’s sanity, remarking that Williams ought to have kept his feelings about Muslims between himself and “his psychiatrist or his publicist.” Nice one, Viv! And it was really cute that you then went on to “apologize” for your “hasty” and “thoughtless” comment.
What makes this case especially rich is that Juan Williams is not, like me, a right-wing, knuckle-dragging, tea-party-loving, Islamophobic, malcontent. On the contrary, on most issues most of the time, he is, as Andy McCarthy points out, an utterly predictable blancmange liberal. (Take a look, if your stomach is up to it, at Williams’s lament for the supposedly premature death of affirmative action.)
Nevertheless, even he fell afoul of the PC juggernaut, for which all things Muslim have lately been granted official victim status by the Environmental Protection Agency. Interesting how it works, isn’t it? Your co-religionists blow up a few billion dollars worth of real estate in lower Manhattan, murder several thousand innocent people, swan around the world decapitating journalists, pronouncing anathema upon the state of Israel, stabbing filmmakers, threatening cartoonists, burning embassies, shooting American soldiers in Texas, and — presto! — you’re the victim. Just scream “Allahu Akbar” obnoxiously enough and, like the spotted owl, you get a total exemption. When Juan Williams’s psychiatrist finishes up with him, I wish he’d turn his attention to this piece of insanity.
But to return to my magnanimous public service and Juvenalian entertainment. No sooner had Williams been fired by NPR than irate commentators began calling for the defunding of NPR. It may surprise you to learn that the “P” in NPR doesn’t really stand for “politically correct.” Appearances notwithstanding, it stands for “public,” as in “publicly funded,” as in paid for by you (assuming you are one of the 55-point-something percent of tax filers who actually pay income tax) and me. So why not turn off the spigot, especially at a time of fiscal crisis, e.g., now?
In fact, this is a question that should have been asked long ago. It is a question that doesn’t require the case of Juan Williams to gain purchase. As Andy McCarthy put it in the piece I link to above, “Why does a country that is trillions in debt, and in which people have unlimited options for obtaining information, need NPR? More to the point, why do we need to fund the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which keeps NPR afloat?”
Good questions! But I think people who are calling for cutting off public funds to NPR and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting are far too modest. Come November 3rd, I propose we embark on a far more ambitious program, one that will, as I promised, perform an important public service as well as provide much needed entertainment.
Here’s what we do. We zip over to the Cato Institute’s website for some information about what some of the dozens of otiose government departments actually cost. Then we inscribe the names of 52 of those departments, agencies, and initiatives on some attractive little tiles more or less like Scrabble™ tiles, only a little bigger: one tile will bear the name of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, another the Department of Energy, a third the Department of Education, a fourth the National Endowment for the Arts, a fifth the Department of Housing and Urban Development, etc., until we have 52 tiles, one for each week of the year.
Are you with me? The next step is to engage for a half-hour prime-time spot on Fox News for a weekly show we’ll call 52 Weeks: Reality TV for the Fiscally Mature. It will be important to get the right host. If, as looks likely, alas, Christine O’Donnell loses to the Marxist in the Delaware Senate race, perhaps she would do it. She’s attractive and wholesome looking and she has the correct political opinions for the job.
Then, as soon as the next Congress is seated, we start the weekly show.
Once a week for an entire year, Christine (or whoever) is on the country’s most popular network at 7:00 p.m. for half an hour. Various celebrities will be on hand to lend some luster and amusing chit-chat. But the climax of the show each week will be watching the host reach into the Magic Barrel, pluck out a tile, and read off the name of the useless governmental department that will be struck off the public rolls that week.
Imagine the drama! Viewers across the land will tune in to see how many billions of dollars the taxpayers will save this week! Fox is already top of the heap among television networks, but I confidently predict that 52 Weeks: Reality TV for the Fiscally Mature will help it set new popularity records.