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Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate [Kindle Edition]

Juan Williams
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)

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Book Description

“You can’t say that. You’re fired.”
Prize-winning Washington journalist Juan Williams was unceremoniously dismissed by NPR for speaking his mind and saying what many Americans feel—that he gets nervous when boarding airplanes with passengers dressed in Muslim garb. NPR banished the veteran journalist in an act of political correctness that ultimately sparked nationwide outrage and led to calls for Congress to end its public funding of the media organization.
In Muzzled, Williams uses his very public firing as a launching pad to discuss the countless ways in which honest debate in America—from the halls of Congress and the health care town halls to the talk shows and print media—is stifled. In today’s partisan world, where media provocateurs rule the airwaves and political correctness dictates what can and cannot be said with impunity, Williams shows how the honest exchange of ideas and the search for solutions and reasonable compromise is deliberately muzzled. Only those toeing the party’s line—the screaming voices of the extremist—get airtime and dominate the discussion in politics and the media. Each side, liberal and conservative, preaches to a choir that revels in expressions of anger, ideology, conspiracies, and demonized opponents. The result is an absence of truth-telling and honest debate about the facts. Among the issues denied a full-throated discussion are racial profiling; the increased reliance on religious beliefs in debating American values and legislation; the nuances of an immigration policym gone awry; why abortion is promoted as a hot button wedge issue to incite the pary faithful and drive donations; the uneasy balance between individual freedom and our desire for security of against terrorism; and much more.
A fierce, fresh look at the critical importance of an open airing of controversial issues, Muzzled is a hard hitting critique of the topics and concerns we can’t talk about without suffering retaliation at the hands of the politically correct police. Only by bringing such hot button issues into the light of day can we hope to grapple with them, and exercise our cherished, hard-won right of free speech.

Editorial Reviews


“Juan Williams is both dangerous and highly constructive.  He is both of these because, although he is a liberal, he is also a well-informed independent thinker.  Driven by conviction and evidence, he is not afraid to dissent from liberal orthodoxy.  He’s a liberal with whom conservatives can have an honest debate and sometimes find common ground.  And while I don’t necessarily agree with every observation or opinion in this book, it is Juan’s candid appraisal of the condition of political debate in America. It ain’t a pretty sight.”
—Karl Rove, former senior advisor to President George W. Bush
"For any American who fears the coarsening of our political debate has become an impediment to our progress as a people – and, more importantly, is wondering how to fix it – Juan Williams has written a book well worth reading."
—David Axelrod, former senior advisor to President Barack Obama
"Ever since Juan Williams wrote Eyes on the Prize about the Civil Rights movement I've been an admirer.  It was painful to see him become the insect-in-the-jar last year for speaking his mind freely on Fox News.  In Muzzled Williams gets to settle mighty scores.  Its a thoughtful, poignant and well written defense of his journalism career.  And its a cautionary tale about political correctness run amok.  Highly recommended!"
—Douglas Brinkley, professor of history at Rice University and author of the New York Times bestsellers The Wilderness Warrior and The Great Deluge

"Juan Williams has written a fascinating account of what happened to him at NPR, and used it to make the case for a serious and civilized political debate. An important book and a compelling read."
—Brit Hume, Senior Political Analyst, Fox News Channel

“Juan Williams has written a poignant and powerful book about the degradation of our democratic dialogue. He skewers right and left alike for their tendency to use labels and applause lines to try to silence opposition. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you already know what he is going to say. Read the book instead. You will come away, as I did, sobered about the state of our politics, and determined to demand better.”
—Stephen L. Carter, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale University

"Juan Williams truly understands the importance of fighting hard for honest debate in America. Though we disagree on many issues, I was pleased to help make sure that his strong voice was not silenced by those who give lip service to the First Amendment. Like his on-air appearances, Juan’s writing is smart and honest. Muzzled is the compelling story of our Constitution in action and one man's willingness as an American to speak his mind at any cost."
—Roger Ailes, President of Fox News Channel and Chairman of the Fox Television Stations Group

"Juan Williams has written a fascinating account of what happened to him at NPR, and used it to make the case for a serious and civilized political debate. An important book and a compelling read."
—Brit Hume, Senior Political Analyst, Fox News Channel

About the Author

Juan Williams, one of America’s leading journalists, is a political analyst for Fox News, a regular panelist on Fox Broadcasting’s Sunday morning public affairs program, “Fox News Sunday,” and a columnist for and for The Hill. He hosted NPR’s Talk of the Nation and has anchored Fox News Channel’s weekend daytime news coverage. A former senior correspondent and political analyst for National Public Radio, he is the author of the bestselling book Enough; the critically acclaimed biography Thurgood Marshall: American Revolutionary; and the national bestseller Eyes on the Prize: America’s Civil Rights Years, 1954-1965, the companion volume to the critically acclaimed television series. During his 21-year career at The Washington Post, Williams served as an editorial writer, op-ed columnist, and White House reporter. His articles have appeared in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, Time, Newsweek, Fortune, The Atlantic Monthly, Ebony, Gentlemen’s Quarterly, and The New Republic.

Product Details

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
84 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For All Interested in Public Affairs July 26, 2011
Nearly at the very start of `Muzzled' Juan Williams, unintentionally, makes an excellent point about why this book is an almost mandatory read for anybody interested in political discourse today. Here's his reasoning. He comments that most of us have jobs that consume much of our attention and effort. At best, this leaves a relatively short amount of time and attention for us to concentrate on political or social matters. Some folks, often described as the chattering classes of which Williams is one, do nothing but pay attention to politics. This is their job. They know the processes and the people involved. They are the political authorities. Many of us tend to think we have a comprehensive knowledge about the political process, but we can't -- given the limitations of our daily lives. Thus no matter if you agree or disagree with Williams, what he says is the distillation of more research and thought than most of us can dedicate to the process.

The first chapter of `Muzzled' is Williams' version of his firing from NPR and hiring as a commentator (rather than the occasional guest) by Fox News. Williams only devotes a single chapter to this incident probably to air his view of the event reinforced by the subsequent resignations or firings at NPR over his dismissal. He notes that while at NPR he was regularly policed as to what he was permitted to say. Over at Fox, he's always been given perfect freedom to express whatever his thoughts may be. That's a rather telling contrast between Fox and NPR.

Clearly, though, the book isn't about Williams or his time at NPR or Fox or anything to do with Williams as a person. Instead, he posits that political dialog in the United States itself is muzzled, just as he was at NPR, by what he terms `political correctness'.
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19 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Honest Middle July 27, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have long been an admirer of the fearless, straightforward style of news commentator Juan Williams, an intelligent liberal moderate who welcomes conversation with others on all sides of important issues in contemporary American politics. So, I was shocked and deeply dismayed when he was dismissed by NPR for his willingness to discuss ordinary fears that are shared by many people (fears that he was simply admitting not defending). Williams' firing, described in the first chapter of "Muzzled," forms the jumping off point for this book, but the book goes far beyond being a personal narrative of his experience.

In nine chapters that range widely over the controversial issues of our day (health care reform, immigration policy, abortion, the tax code, campaign finance, and many more), Williams traces how our increasingly polarized media have degraded the national discussion of these issues, drowning out rational debate and preventing the reasonable compromises on which political progress has historically been based. Although more American voters are now Independents than either Republicans or Democrats, our political discourse is dominated by strident voices at the extremes, and the result predictably is that many citizens feel alienated from the national conversation and have lost trust in the ability of the news media to provide them with the information they need to understand issues, an essential requirement for the exercise of our precious franchise. Williams indeed reminds us that we are in control as citizens, a control we need to assert more vigorously. His commonsense analysis (and even more his own career as a successful journalist who plies his craft with the utmost integrity) provides hope.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Topic, Mediocre Execution November 14, 2011
For a book discussing first amendment rights and political extremism, Muzzled doesn't execute terribly well.

Juan starts out strong, discussing his dismissal from NPR frankly and honestly. As the book moves on, he talks about what happens when you can't tackle difficult social and governing issues due to fear of being strung up by your ankles. He presents his case well, providing solid evidence and making excellent points.

Unfortunately, it's the middle of the book where things start to break down. As he tackles specific issues, the non-partisan approach he had taken to writing begins to break down, and Juan himself digresses into not exploring all sides of an issue. The majority of negative examples are from Republicans, the majority of the positive from Democrats. While I always expect partisanship in books, at the outset Juan himself states that, while he is a registered Democrat, he prides himself on looking at all points of view.

Getting out of this situation is a catch 22 - how do we start to discuss the issues when discussing the issues is equivalent to stepping on a land mine? There was no chapter dedicated on how to get things moving again, just sentences here and there stating "we need to be able to talk about these things." I agree - but how?

Muzzled is worth a read if you're as frustrated by the state of extremism in our government as I am, but overall it fell short of my expectations.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate April 22, 2013
Juan Williams ignited a firestorm of controversy when he admitted to Bill O'Reilly on national television that he feels nervous whenever he sees fellow passengers in Muslim garb getting on a plane with him. Within hours, Juan was fired from his own talk show on National Public Radio (NPR) by his boss, Ellen Weiss, despite his having an exemplary record since joining the network almost a decade earlier.

He says Weiss essentially labeled him a bigot and "gave me no chance to tell my side of the story." And the very next day, NPR's CEO, Vivian Schiller, not only rubber-stamped his termination, but added insult to injury when she implied that Juan might be mentally unstable by suggesting that he should've kept the comment between himself and his psychiatrist.

Williams never retracted the Muslim comment, and he subsequently suffered some sleepless nights and shed some tears over the loss of his job and reputation. After all, didn't his sterling civil rights record as the author of the award-winning, PBS saga "Eye on the Prize" as well as of a critically-acclaimed biography of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall count for anything? Yet now he was left with no idea what effect the blowback from the brouhaha would have on his career as a journalist just for merely exercising his First Amendment Right of Free Speech.

Half heartfelt memoir/half an urgent appeal for the return of civil discourse to the public arena, Muzzled persuasively bemoans the pressure placed on pundits nowadays to talk only in sanitized, politically-correct phraseology. Its title probably sounds appropriate given that it was inspired by the unfortunate chapter of Juan's life during which he was temporarily taken off the air.

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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars It's not new news...
I don't agree with Juan all the time, but he got this one right. His discussion of how politicians, pundits, and everyone else are shutdown in the modern forum is a good read into... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Michael Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars Straight. talk. from a topnotch journalist.
Like some other listeners, I don't always agree with Juan. but, I admire the way he battles O'Reilly. Read more
Published 8 months ago by John F. Welsh Jr.
Published 10 months ago by GALLANTBIRD
5.0 out of 5 stars Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate
Great book. Easy to read and follow. Book provided a new and interesting view.
Would recommend to others.
Good addition to my kindle library
Published 12 months ago by Sharon R. Barnes
5.0 out of 5 stars Well thought-out and reasoned book
Great book by Juan Williams. He reasons and articulates well and while I may not agree with him on everything, he is absolutely correct on how intelligent, honest debate is stifled... Read more
Published 18 months ago by Jeremy Kauffman
5.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading
I really enjoyed this book. I felt it was fair and gave an honest account of what is wrong with our current political environment. Read more
Published on October 21, 2012 by T. E Hill
1.0 out of 5 stars This Isn't The Book
Whatever it takes to fix the nation's broken debate, this book won't be a part of it. Williams feigns enough of a leftist/NPR perspective to keep his Liberal audience reading, as... Read more
Published on October 14, 2012 by Gryphonisle
2.0 out of 5 stars Muzzled: the assault on honest debate
Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate

Juan Williams' book,"Muzzled: the assault on honest debate," allows access to another side of this overly-politicized story, which... Read more
Published on March 16, 2012 by TPD
4.0 out of 5 stars A Major Wake Up Call for Liberals (and Conservatives)!
In my view, Juan Williams has always been an honest and straight shooting news analyst. We usually brings sanity to the increasingly polarized political discourse. Read more
Published on January 18, 2012 by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars a Honest, Fresh Perspective
As a young female student, I entered college hoping to be swept in the typical political fervor and interest that is often associated with the college experience, I found myself... Read more
Published on January 12, 2012 by Gloria
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