Ed Driscoll

Brian Williams: A Uniter, Not a Divider!

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“Williams Should Not Resign His Job as NBC Narrative Reader,” says Rush Limbaugh, inventing a great description for Williams’ nightly job:

Brian Williams told an abject lie that any number of people at any point the rest of his life could expose — and he didn’t just do it once. He did it two, three times. He did it on Letterman, did it on the NBC Nightly News.  You know I’ve always liked Brian Williams. And, in a personal observation, he’s one of the few in the Drive-By Media who has been fair to me.  But, man, I just don’t understand. I think one thing to keep in mind here… You know, people say, “He ought to have to resign! Brian Williams ought to resign!”

No, no, no, folks. Brian Williams shouldn’t have to resign.

Brian Williams… There isn’t journalism anymore.  These people are not journalists. They’re not reporters.  They’re not even news readers! I have a new name for television info anchors: Narrative readers.  They really are there just to read the script of the daily soap opera that is Washington.  Whoever determines it, whoever writes it, they are there to advance it.  Brian Williams’ job every day is to sell a narrative, to get away with whatever he can to move his and the Democrat Party’s agenda forward.

This is really not an assault or an insult to journalism, because there really isn’t too much journalism going on. But clearly there isn’t any journalism at NBC News.  We know this.  They doctored 911 calls in the case of George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, any number of examples like this. [QED — Ed.]

On the PJM homepage this afternoon, Tom Blumer concurs. “Please Stay On, Brian Williams: Only you can more quickly hasten the establishment press’s demise:”

The indispensable Kristinn Taylor at Gateway Pundit has found that “speech promotional bios touted Williams’ bravery in returning to Iraq after he claimed being under fire.” The exhibit at his post touts the anchor’s commencement speech at Fordham University in 2011. Shortly after Taylor’s post, Fordham revised the related web page, adding a note that “on Feb. 4, 2015, Brian Williams issued an on-air retraction regarding the helicopter flight.” Quite a few people at other sites will be similarly busy scrubbing their web pages in the coming days.

In his daily email on Thursday, Jim Geraghty explained Williams’ likely motivation:

Before telling Letterman the helicopter story, Williams makes the caveat that he’s not much of a war correspondent. He cites NBC News foreign correspondent Richard Engel as the kind of reporter who calls a day where he’s shot at “Tuesday.” There’s your motive, for anyone trying to understand why he would do this. He’s an anchor, sitting behind a desk most nights in New York City. It is embarrassing for a man to not have any good war stories or stories of bravery. So Williams took the story of how he was about an hour away from life-and-death drama and changed it. Unfortunately for him, that’s also called “lying.”

Also, in early 2003, though he had been chosen to succeed Tom Brokaw, Williams was not yet perched in the Nightly News anchor chair. There were barely concealed concerns that Williams, whose primary previous duties were at CNBC and MSNBC when the latter at least pretended to be objective, would not prove to be a strong enough presence. The 2003 incident, as embellished even then, surely boosted Williams’ perceived testosterone level at an arguably important time.

That description of Williams’ salad days at NBC dovetails quite well with Tom Wolfe’s 1980 description of how the world has worked inside the network news cocoon since Walter Cronkite donned his first flak jacket:

Within the television news operations there’s such a premium put on not being a reporter. Everyone aspires to the man who never has to leave the building, the anchor man, who is a performer. The reporters are called researchers and are usually young women, and the correspondent on television is a substar, a supporting actor who prides himself on the fact that he doesn’t have to prepare the story. You talk to these guys and they’ll say, “Well, they sent me from Beirut to Teheran, and I had forty-five minutes to get briefed on the situation.” What they should say is, “I read the AP copy.” The idea is that as a performer you can pull together this news operation anywhere you go and the whole status structure is set up in such a way that you’re not going to get good reporters. Just try to think of the last major scoop, to use that old term, that was broken on television. I’m sure there have been some. But what story during Watergate? During Watergate there were new stories coming out every day. None were on television, except when television simply broadcast the hearings. The can do a set event. And that’s what television is actually best at. In fact, it’d be a service to the country if television news operations were shut down totally and they only broadcast hearings, press conferences and hockey games. That would be television news. At least the public would not have the false impression that it’s getting news coverage.

After Dan Rather imploded, TV writer Burt Prelutsky wrote in 2005

You can go back to Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, John Chancellor and Walter Cronkite. We treated them all with a deference that was totally out of proportion to the work they did. Essentially, the job description requires that they read the captions to the news footage we’re watching and to introduce the on-site reporters. Do you really think that constitutes the mental equivalent of heavy lifting? For doing what your uncle Sid could do — and with a lot more pazazz — they’re paid enormous amounts of money. On top of all the dough, they are constantly the honorees at testimonial dinners, but that’s fine, so long as I don’t have to attend. But the trouble is, they’re regarded as important people by way too many of us, and that’s not good. Why? Because it makes us all look like a bunch of saps — what H.L. Mencken called the boobus americanus and what P.T. Barnum simply labeled suckers.

Because these anchors get to spend their entire careers talking about important events and important people, they naturally come to regard themselves as important. Self-delusion is a form of insanity and we should not encourage it by fawning over them.

When they finally sign off for the last time, you notice that the testimonials inevitably mention how many political conventions they covered, how many space missions, how many inaugurations, assassinations, uprisings and wars, as if they had had a hand in any of these earth-shaking events. It wasn’t their hands that were involved, it was their behinds, as they sat year after year at those desks, declaiming in those store-bought voices what we were seeing with our own eyes — all thanks to the journalistic peons who actually went places and did things and took risks so that we could sit home and watch it

Now, I’m not saying we should kill the messengers. I’m just suggesting it’s time we stopped canonizing them.

Indeed. And as Tom Blumer writes today, “Brian Williams’ continued presence in the Nightly News anchor chair would henceforth make him the press’s poster child. He would become the starting point in any discussion of media bias with those who still believe that the press is fair and balanced — and readers can rest assured that Williams’ track record is a heavily documented, target-rich environment.”

Related: Kyle Drennen of NewsBusters charts the roster of “The Incredibles: NBC’s Growing List of Irresponsible Journalists,” from Williams to Ebola quarantine-breaker Nancy Snyderman to Al Sharpton.” And at Hot Air, Ed Morrissey spots “Variety’s buried lede: ‘Senior’ NBC News execs ‘counseled’ Williams to stop telling helicopter story.”