VIDEO: Audience ‘Muzzled’ after speech

Fox News political analyst Juan Williams held a discussion entitled “Muzzled: Political Debate in America” about the polarization of free speech and media censorship at the fifth annual Distinguished Speakers Series at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center on Thursday.

Williams drew from his life experiences throughout the speech, mainly detailing the events leading up to, and immediately after, his discharge from National Public Radio last year. He was fired immediately after saying Muslims in traditional dress made him nervous when boarding planes.

This experience, Williams said, ignited his desire to popularize issues regarding free speech and censorship in the media and the general public, and was the inspiration behind his book “Muzzled: The Assault on Honest Debate.”

“I think there’s a hunger in America right now for more honest debate,” Williams said. “I’m not sure [the book] would have come out without being traumatized and injured in the way I was. All of a sudden I had this burst of energy to say something that was on my mind.”

Williams attributed this lack of honest debate to an increasing polarization of free speech, which causes a lack of expression from viewpoints that may be on the fence regarding certain issues.

Another large problem, Williams said, is the sources of information where people get their news.

Many people receive their news from commentary that serves only to reinforce pre-existing biases and opinions. Williams suggested people search for more factual news sources.

“Its very important to make a distinction between people who are journalists and people who are TV personalities or radio personalities,” Williams said. “At some point you want to go and find the facts.”

After Williams’ speech, he held a Q&A segment, in which a panel asked their questions and audience members were invited to write questions on note cards to be read to Williams by Art Levine, who moderated the discussion.

Political science graduate student RJ Crouch criticized this method of leading the discussion.

During the applause at the end of the event, Crouch had an outburst in which he cupped a hand over his mouth as if he was muzzled from speaking.

“It’s not about a real exchange of ideas and information, which is what I would hope that he would be about in this academic setting.” Williams said regarding the incident. “Shouting at people really shuts down conversations, it doesn’t open them.”

Crouch said he felt as though the audience questions were censored and many people had questions that weren’t asked, due to the moderation.

“When you take cards of questions and you subjectively decide what questions are going to be asked and which questions aren’t … you’re stifling free speech rather than opening things,” he said. “I felt like we were muzzled.”

Ozzie Ramadan, political science graduate student, said he understands that the method of conducting the Q&A may have been necessary.

“It’s not a truly free market of ideas,” he said. “But I understand that … they’re just trying to get something accomplished as quickly and orderly as possible.”

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