Don't Get it Twisted
First Amendment Rights Don't Trump the Truth
ATLANTA, GA 10/28/2010 02:53 PM GMT (TransWorldNews)
In the urban vernacular, when you tell someone, “don’t get it twisted” you are making the intent of your statement clear so that there will be no misunderstanding. The term makes it emphatic that the facts speak for themselves.
Lately some outspoken conservatives and a so-called journalist have twisted some facts that have led to faulty conclusions. Take note of the recent firing of Fox commentator and civil rights author Juan Williams. NPR CEO Vivian Schiller axed him for inappropriately admitting to Fox host, Bill O’Reilly that traditionally dressed, Muslim passengers make him nervous when he’s on a plane with them. He implied that they look like potential terrorists.
Schiller later apologized for what appeared to be a lack of due process given Williams, but not for the actual firing. Now Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Glenn Beck and other Fox News personalities are calling on Congress to cut all funds for NPR. This week, Sen. Jim DeMint (R – S.C.) plans to introduce legislation to eliminate all funds to NPR and PBS – two of the last, best sources of journalism we have in America.
NPR also received a bomb threat on Monday in an apparent response to his firing, despite the fact Williams picked up a $2 million a year contract. Bill O’Reilly, on whose show Williams made the comment said, “Don’t worry I’m gonna watch your back brother.”
A lot of folks have the reason behind the firing twisted. Apparently, Schiller had admonished Williams several times before the incident that as a journalist for NPR, it is improper for him to give opinions, particularly biased opinions or stereotypes.
Liberal, film maker Michael Moore said in the Huffington Post that Williams never should have been a journalist for NPR in the first place because he misquotes and doesn’t fact check like journalists should do.
In referring to Faisal Shahzad, the Pakistani Muslim who attempted to bomb Times Square, Williams had reported that Shahzad said “this is the first drop of blood in a Muslim war against America.” Shahzad never said that. To quote him accurately, what he said was that he was the "first droplet of the flood," not blood. The “flood” was his reference to the wave of Muslims worldwide who are incensed at America for killing innocent people while occupying their land. Moore concluded that the real statement should be publicized by journalists, not inflammatory, racist rhetoric.
The recent release of military journals exposing the casualty rate for non-combatants in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan as upwards of 100,000 is commentary on the scope of the damage done to American-Muslim relations.
In his statement to the court, Shahzad confessed, “We are only Muslims trying to defend our people, honor, and land. But if you call us terrorists for doing that, then we are proud terrorists, and we will keep on terrorizing until you leave our land and people at peace.”
Journalists may not like what they hear but they are obligated to report the facts. Williams clearly got it twisted. It’s okay to report dastardly deeds by any religious or ethnic group as long as you get the facts straight and report it in an unbiased way.
Trends in behavior are newsworthy, but folks shouldn’t get the statistics twisted to prove their own agenda. The suicides by alleged homosexual youths who were being bullied at school have dominated the news recently. Public service announcements tagged, “It gets better” were made by celebrities giving encouragement for the potentially suicidal to hold on.
Even Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton made a comment from her Department of State office that in time things would change for these youth. Gay and straight celebrities in the spirit of solidarity beseeched the nihilistic teens to hang in there.
The highly publicized story of a talented , violinist and Rutgers student Tyler Clementi garnered sympathy from many people who were unaware of the unique challenges facing lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender students. He killed himself after his roommate posted his gay tryst on the internet.
According to a recent National Education Policy Center study, “over 85% of students report being harassed because of their sexual or gender identity, and over 20% report being physically attacked.” The “highly troubling pattern of mistreatment, negative consequences” and “the dramatic failure” of educational institutions to “adequately address” LGBT students’ concerns has contributed to a suicide rate among LGBT students that is “3-4 times higher than that of their straight counterparts.”
Many states are taking laudable steps to enact measures that bolster administrators’ ability to protect students who face such harassment. However, despite the evidence supporting the need, right-wing lawmakers and activists got it twisted again by insisting that anti-bullying measures are nothing more than insidious tools of the “homosexual agenda”. They decry a proposed anti-bullying measure as “a Trojan Horse to sneak [homosexual activists'] special rights agenda into law” and to “legitimize homosexual behavior”.
The right-wing Christian media ministry Focus on the Family is attacking an anti-bullying standard on the federal level, insisting that the movement against bullying is being high jacked by those who want to promote homosexuality in schools.
Sen. Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA) introduced a bill in August, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, that would require any public schools receiving federal funding to develop race, sex, and gender-specific anti-bullying policies and teach harassment prevention strategies. Some say it has little chance of getting out of committee.
“These tragedies underscore the need for a federal law that comprehensively addresses bullying and harassment in schools,” Casey’s spokeswoman noted that, along with educators, administrations, and civil rights groups, the legislation has been endorsed by the National PTA. When announcing the bill in August, Casey asserted that the harassment of a student “to the point of suicide or where he can’t function or is subject to violence” is “just wrong.” Failure to address “the horror so many kids go through every single day” amounts to “one word: betrayal.”
The fact is no one knows empirically how many gay teenagers there are makes it almost impossible to be able to compute how many commit suicide because they are gay. One researcher, Cornell University's Ritch Savin-Williams, examined two studies that had asserted a high gay teen suicide rate of 30% and found many methodological flaws.
The study concluded that "the assertion that sexual-minority youths as a class of individuals are at increased risk for suicide is not warranted. There's no doubt that many gay teens are harassed and bullied (a study published in the January 2010 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health suggested gay and lesbian teens get bullied two to three times more than their heterosexual peers), and some of them may take their lives because of it. But there's little evidence that gay teens have a dramatically higher rate of suicide than heterosexual teens.
In other words, there is no basis in fact that being a homosexual causes youths to commit suicide three times more than heterosexuals, bullied or not. There seems to be more evidence that a lack of self esteem is the culprit.
So whether one is called a Muslim or a homosexual in a pejorative manner, it can be harmful depending upon the context or the intent of the speaker. As a journalist, Juan Williams should not have prejudiced his statement by cloaking Muslims who by their manner of dress identify themselves as “first and foremost Muslims” as inherently terrorist. That’s racist. He got his right to “freedom of speech” twisted with his job description; to follow news ethics guidelines to which he is beholden as a news analyst.
By that same token, singling out homosexual teens as “three times more likely” to commit suicide as a class is factually incorrect and possibly detrimental to the movement to eliminate bullying of all teenagers, gay or straight who rely on adults to protect them.
Even though terms like “terrorist” and “homosexual” evoke various emotions, reason should prevail. There are values; moral and professional that should guide us and prevent us from hate mongering. Don’t get it twisted. Haters have no right to sow hate even though they have the right to speak it under certain circumstances. There are lives at stake.