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84 of 100 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Read For All Interested in Public Affairs
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...
Published on July 26, 2011 by Paul Cassel

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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Topic, Mediocre Execution
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...
Published on November 14, 2011 by Scott Wildermuth


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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
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This review is from: Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate (Hardcover)
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'.

Williams uses the term `political correctness' to mean enforced ideological orthodoxy. Why he extends the term political correctness beyond most people's definition of the term is something he never explains or perhaps the term means something different to him than most. He does state that he believes the term flexes its meaning depending on the speaker. Anyway, it's his contention, and he offers many examples he believes reinforces this contention, that the various sides of any hot button political debate have reached an impasse in the form of impregnable defensive fortresses neither side is willing or able to breach. The balance of the book is a dissertation from Williams about this divide, examples of how the divide continues to widen and some editorial from the author on which way the debates should trend.

It's Williams belief that both sides have, for every issue, a set of key terms to classify the listener to being either with `us' or against `us'. All or at least most commentators today will address these issues using these hot button terms because they know they are playing to their audience. For example, when talking about Obamacare, those opposed will talk about death panels and those supporting will talk about the need for universal health care. Note the difference. Is Obamacare a good in bringing about universal health care or is it a bad bringing bureaucratic faceless death to those the government deems unworthy of continued existence? Depending on which commentator you listen to; it can be only one. None will say that it's a bit of both.

Williams doesn't claim that one side is fairer than the other. He slams both left and right for doing the same things although his examples of dialog failure tend, due to his admitted left bias, tend to be left oriented.

For example, he cites the Tucson massacre as an event that should have led to a dialog on gun control. He weakens his argument by stating that the shooter used `automatic' weapons (they were not) with large capacity `clips' (they were not clips). While these details may mean little to a left winger such as Williams, the obvious ignorance of his statements disqualify him from the dialog to those who are second amendment supporters. His choice of that specific event also shows his bias. He could very well have used an incident where an 80 year old woman fended off an attack upon her person using a concealed handgun as a reason to open a dialog about the need for universal concealed carry. One can't expect a leopard to change his spots, though even if this leopard is trying his best to understand stripes. Juan Williams makes no bones about being a leftist liberal and his examples and points of view show that clearly.

Another area where Williams has, himself, quite a bit of bias is Obama. Based on some of his narrative, the reader can infer that Williams was treated as a friendly by both the Obama campaign and now administration. There are many areas of the book where Williams pleads the reader to understand and have sympathy for the current administration as some sort of spiritual team activity. He doesn't, however, give a person either from the left or right who opposes Obama any hard reason to change his position. Instead, his pleas are for the general sense of unity. We all want unity; we also want it on our own terms.

To give Williams credit, he does strain mightily to see legitimacy in conservatives' views. He may not, in the eyes of many conservatives, succeed in fully understanding their views, but at least he tries. In that, he's going much further in attempting reconciliation than many prominent on the conservative side. If you doubt this, read then compare `Muzzled' with Coulter's `Demonic' and decide for yourself.

Due to Williams' experience and insights, (even if he remains biased) his book is and important read for anybody interested in current events or politics. For those on the left who generally view themselves on the side of the Obviously Correct Way it will offer a chance at self-examination and introspection. For those on the right, who feel equally justified in their belief that they are always on the side of Right and Holy, it will demonstrate how their side is as resistant to honest dialog as they claim the left is.

It is well past the time to dial the temperature down some. Maybe this book will be the start of that dialing down.
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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
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This review is from: Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate (Hardcover)
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.

A central paradox of the book resides in the way that our tradition of free speech has provided the platform for this silencing of the "honest middle." As Williams points out, we enjoy "a lot of free speech, but free speech at the fringes do not promote sincere debate between Left and Right. At best, they give us shouting matches." But make no mistake: Williams does not retreat from the core constitutional protection of the first amendment. He remains opposed to any additional restraint to speech. Instead, he is against the political correctness, a term he defines broadly and traces historically back to the 60s and 70s, as it is wielded as a weapon by those on the political extremes to silence anyone with whom they do not agree.

Well informed about the history of American politics and debate, this book is written without jargon or pretense. In reading it I could hear Juan Williams' voice as I have heard it through the years in his writing, on the Fox news network, and on National Public Radio (though sadly no more). Readers similarly familiar with his work will also want to read this book to find out where he finally stands on the question of defunding NPR. I won't give that away, but as the book comes to an end, he returns to the lessons of his experience and takes a stand on this issue.
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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
This review is from: Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate (Hardcover)
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.

Read the full review and more book reviews from AALBC.com on your Kindle Edition
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18 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dirty Laundry, July 27, 2011
This review is from: Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate (Hardcover)
Muzzled

Juan Williams is on a mission. His page one opening is so blistering, you don't know if he's serious. The book makes clear that his electronic ignition page one blast off against NPR illuminated merely the latest in a series of spats with NPR management that went back to the days of the Bush presidency.

His story took over the national press some months ago with the same kind of verve; it's one he's never deviated from: that he was fired by National Public Radio after nearly ten years as a talk show host, senior correspondent, and news analyst because he told the truth. The truth about what? It's a relevant question.

First, there is a Bill O'Reily angle, then too, a Whoopi Goldberg angle. Right away it's possible to detect some serious heat coming our way. Add the spark of 9/11 and no wonder things got out of control.

In Muzzled, Williams never backs down or retreats from the statements reported in the national press. To the contrary, he repeats his statement that he worries whenever he boards an airplane and sees people wearing garb that identifies them as Muslim. He adds immediately that he believes the vast majority of Muslims have no connection to terrorism, and that he is strongly against indicting the many for the criminality of the few.

But such is the nature of instant communications, and the cut and paste world we live in where anything we say or write can be taken out of context, clipped and dipped into the boiling cauldron of public controversy, and the speaker or writer hung in effigy as a sacrifice to our daily need for "dirty laundry". Then too, in Muzzled, Juan Williams admits he committed the unforgivable sin these days: he refused to apologize. This is a man who means what he says and says what he means.

On the whole, the thesis Williams seems most comfortable with is the avoidance of extremism in public debate, so that reasoned presentations can be made on public policy issues. He seems most against cacophony, rabble, and rabid discourse which can inflame the voting public, and lead, he believes, to incidents like the Tucson shooting.

It will be up to readers to decide where they stand on several of the Juan Williams talking points, such as abortion rights and immigration reform, but if Mr. Williams has any suasion over this process, you will be able to decide where you stand without pressure from anyone.
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8 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Honest Debate, August 9, 2011
This review is from: Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate (Hardcover)
Political commentator Juan Williams was fired from NPR for sharing his true feelings that he worries when he "gets on an airplane and sees people dressed in grab that identifies them first and foremost as Muslims". On the surface it seems like an outright bigoted statement that justifies the firing from his position on NPR.

However, in Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate by Juan Williams, he shares the rest of the story. Williams delves into the context of the statement and how he had been on a hit list to be fired by NPR. As a journalist he should be able to share his honest opinion.

Williams does a good job into exploring how in a 1440/7 world (1440 minutes a day, 7 day a week), the media is consumed with sound bites and video loops. This information overload distorts the facts and prevents honest political debate.

America's politics have always been rough and tumble as captured from the earliest Federalist paper s writings, but now political leaders and journalist are afraid to tell the truth because of the wrath of the provocateurs.
Williams also explores the evolution of "political correctness" and its influences on the broader society.

Fortunately Williams was able to recover from his words, but the political discourse needs to be changed where solutions are reached rather than divisive language of hate.

Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate by Juan Williams is a start to regain the tradition of honest debate.
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5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Muzzled: the assault on honest debate, March 16, 2012
This review is from: Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate (Hardcover)
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 is good. Unfortunately, the point that debate ought to be civil as well as honest was not made. Earning a living on talk shows may mean taking gigs wherever they are offered and this could lead to the interesting debates that Williams applauds. But when he claims that Bill O'Reilly treats those he debates as sincere people with "integrity" and "courage" of their convictions - Williams' credibility looses ground. Calling people with opposing viewpoints "pinheads" isn't "painfully direct" it is painfully manipulative.

A content analysis research study of Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly found that he called someone a name 2,209 times over 248.65 minutes of tape, or 8.88 times per minute. Even if you cut that number in half because the study counted "Kool-Aid left" as 2 instances and figure that there may be times when 3 or more derogatory terms were strung together, isn't 4.44 or even 1 instance of name calling per minute (or per episode) too much?

When high school debate teams are held to a higher standard than news commentators, both civil discourse and honesty are the casualties. Williams and other media personalities can - and should - discuss thought provoking (even uncomfortable) topics. An honest examination of even the most controversial topic is possible when commentators respect the viewer's ability to judge the material without name-calling or other propaganda techniques.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Straight. talk. from a topnotch journalist., February 10, 2014
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Like some other listeners, I don't always agree with Juan. but, I admire the way he battles O'Reilly. He is always interrrupted and seldom given the opportunity to complete his thought. His book explains his position as the one being interviewed.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate, October 19, 2013
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Great book. Easy to read and follow. Book provided a new and interesting view.
Would recommend to others.
Good addition to my kindle library
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5.0 out of 5 stars Well thought-out and reasoned book, April 10, 2013
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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 by the political and media culture in America.
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Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate by Juan Williams (Hardcover - July 26, 2011)
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