Political Incorrectness in the Media

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I didn’t get to this yesterday, but better late than never. After 20 years as a CNN producer, Octavia Nasr was let go on Wednesday for sending out this tweet:

Andrew Sullivan writes: “Froomkin was fired for opposing torture a little too passionately; Weigel was forced out because his private emails revealed he was not acceptable to the partisan right; Frum is cut off from conservative blogads funding; Moulitsas is barred from MSNBC for criticizing Joe Scarborough; and Octavia Nasr is fired for offending the pro-Israel lobby over a tweet expressing sadness at the death of a Hezbollah leader.” Glenn Greenwald reels off a list of his own and asks: “What each of these firing offenses have in common is that they angered and offended the neocon Right….Have there ever been any viewpoint-based firings of establishment journalists by The Liberal Media because of comments which offended liberals? None that I can recall.” And David Carr worries: “as a journo who tweets, gotta say this trend toward career-ending posts is a might disturbing.”

Nasr herself calls her tweet an “error of judgment” and acknowledges that “It is no secret that Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah hated with a vengeance the United States government and Israel.” But then she explains why she said what she did:

I used the words “respect” and “sad” because to me as a Middle Eastern woman, Fadlallah took a contrarian and pioneering stand among Shia clerics on woman’s rights. He called for the abolition of the tribal system of “honor killing.” He called the practice primitive and non-productive. He warned Muslim men that abuse of women was against Islam.

….Through his outspoken Friday sermons and his regularly updated website, Fadlallah had a platform to spread what many considered a more moderate voice of Shia Islam than what was coming out of Iran. Immensely popular in Lebanon among the various religious groups, he also had followers across the region including in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Kuwait, Bahrain and even as far as Morocco in northern Africa.

Sayyed Fadlallah. Revered across borders yet designated a terrorist. Not the kind of life to be commenting about in a brief tweet. It’s something I deeply regret.

It’s easy to understand why Nasr was let go, but the end result is a mainstream media ever more curled up in a fetal crouch, afraid of its reporters and producers ever saying an unguarded word that might offend someone. The age of unedited blogs and real-time tweets is going to put an end to that one way or another, though, and the sooner the better. In the meantime, as with any culture in transition, there are going to be some ugly casualties. Nasr is one of them.

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