Editor’s note: Michael Ackley’s columns may include satire and parody based on current events, and thus mix fact with fiction. He assumes informed readers will be able to tell which is which.
National Public Radio has axed commentator Juan Williams for having impure thoughts about Muslims.
No, not that kind of impure thought. What got him in trouble was telling Fox News talker Bill O’Reilly that “when I get on a plane … if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they’re identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous.”
NPR issued a statement to the effect that the words violated NPR standards, but we wanted to look deeper, and our investigation led to an interview with NPR Director of Orthodoxy Howard Bashford.
He agreed to meet us in his office in a dingy Washington, D.C., storefront. There we found him seated at a simple, steel desk on which lay two stacks of manila file folders. On the walls were posters of Che Guevara and scenes of revolutionary socialist realism.
Taking the severe, straight chair he offered, we said, “Mr. Bashford, some might argue that in light of Sept. 11, the shoe bomber and the boxers-or-briefs bomber, Juan Williams was expressing a rational anxiety. Why should this get him in trouble?”
“It didn’t, really,” he replied.
Confused, we asked him to explain, and he continued, “Some might argue that Mr. Williams was fired for going public with his trepidation, but this is not the case. Williams’ public expression was merely the symptom of the deeper problem.
“That problem was the thought itself. Being nervous about flying with Muslims was symptomatic of mental impurity and heterodoxy. If he had a bigoted thought about adherents of the religion of peace, what other improper thoughts does he hold? We have found the fact that we employed such a flawed individual extremely embarrassing, and we are taking steps to see it doesn’t happen again.”
Bashford laid a hand on each of the two stacks of folders.
“These employee dossiers include detailed questionnaires on our workers’ beliefs and attitudes,” he said. “Included are many, hidden ‘lie-factor’ queries.
“We’re confident this instrument reveals whose thoughts are pure and whose thoughts are not pure. Thus, these employees get to stay (he smacked his right hand on a stack of folders) and the others (another smack on the left-hand stack) will be … uh … designated for termination.”
We asked, “Will those in the left-hand stack have the opportunity to respond?”
“Respond?” he said. “Well, in a perfect world, we could send people like Juan Williams to a re-education camp. There – over a number of years at hard labor – we could purge them of improper views. Unfortunately, our country has yet to reach such a stage of enlightenment.
“By the way, would you like a job application?”
We declined politely as we edged out the door.
Epi – prefix – from the Greek, meaning on, upon, over, on the outside, anterior, beside, besides, among …
We bring up the above definition to illuminate the following prediction: Some journalist – more likely, many journalists and pundits – will refer to one or more pivotal elections as the:
epicenter of (chose one):
a. political change
b. social upheaval
c. economic revolution
d. populist uprising
e. all of the above
California is to blame for this linguistic abomination because it is the earthquake capital of the United States and every earthquake has an epicenter. That is the point on the surface of the earth directly above the focus, or point of origin, of a quake. Thus, it is not the actual center, but is – to use the Greek prefix correctly – over the center.
But to the over-influential and undereducated, including journalists, TV news readers and others, epicenter sounds so much more central than the mere center. Thus, epi has lost its original meaning, which may be condensed as “close to.”
It now is used as an augmentive. You’ll even find it in the dictionary that way, a fact that demonstrates the malleability of today’s lexicographers.
Our “prediction,” by the way, is a bit of a cheat. Epicenter already has been abused by the media – from the local TV news to the Washington Post – in connection with the upcoming election.
Perhaps we can attribute the abuse of “epicenter” and the general decline of language to the decline of American education. It is a problem everybody worries about but nobody knows how to fix.
President Obama’s recently announced solution – a longer school year – is just what we should expect. It follows the template of his solution for every American problem, i.e., more government. If our stimulus spending hasn’t produced the results we wanted, we should have more stimulus spending. If our present educational system hasn’t produced the results we want, we should keep kids in the system longer.
Obama’s reasoning stems from the fact some countries – like India and China – that excel the United States educationally have longer school years. It does not occur to our genius chief executive that achievement in those countries may be tied to a greater emphasis on academics and that subjects tying up American educational resources – sex education, social roles, self-esteem – are left to students’ families.
We read that the Facebook founders have kicked tens of thousands of dollars into California’s “Yes on Prop. 19″ campaign, boosting the effort to legalize marijuana – for adults, mind you – in the Golden State.
One must ask: Haven’t they done enough to narcotize America?