First, a confession: I listen to NPR. Sometimes, when I have to explain this fact to my right-wing brethren, I'll forgo trying to make the case that much of what NPR does is simply great radio and instead I'll note that it's more useful to listen to enemy broadcasts than more friendly fare.
This is a serious point. Like never before, it's now possible to get all of your news from avowedly nonliberal or explicitly right-wing media outlets. (It's been possible to dine exclusively on liberal fare since World War II, at least.) Growing media diversity is great, but with it comes the danger of ghettoization. If we all retreat to our respective clubhouses and simply consume the news and views that are most conducive to our worldviews, the odds for political progress diminish.
This is neither a strictly conservative point nor some gauzy celebration of moderation and compromise. Politics is ultimately about persuasion, and if you can't understand where your opponents are coming from, you'll never be able to convince them they're wrong or convince the majority of Americans your arguments are right. In fact, you may not even have the better arguments if you've never tested them on people who don't naturally agree with you.
The near suicidal idiocy of NPR's decision to fire Juan Williams, allegedly for his comments on Fox News' "The O'Reilly Factor" about Muslims, will only worsen this trend. For good reason, millions of conservatives don't trust NPR -- and the rest of mainstream media. And because Williams' comments were entirely defensible, even laudable (he honestly admitted a reflexive prejudice and then condemned the idea that policies should be guided by such prejudices), NPR's stated reason makes no sense.
NPR claims it fired Williams because its journalists can't offer "opinions." This is a pathetic joke. By that standard, NPR's Nina Totenberg -- and many of her similarly opinionated colleagues -- should have been fired years ago.
It's obvious that NPR simply didn't like the fact that Williams was sharing his talents with Fox News, even as a liberal. Less obvious, but perhaps just as telling, NPR seems to be lending way too much weight to the complaints of groups such as the Council on American-Islamic Relations and the left-wing gadflies at Media Matters for America. If you dance when outfits like these whistle their usual tunes, odds are you tilt to the left.