Andrew Tyndall on Brian Williams…

The Williams incident is not something I’m too keen to comment on for a couple of reasons; it’s not directly cable news related and I’m still trying to cut through the hype to ascertain what exactly did and didn’t happen. However, this Andrew Tyndall piece on Williams I’m going to note because it’s the most sane thing I’ve seen written on this story by far…

So what is the problem here? Two quick thoughts:

First, the position of anchorman on a network nightly newscast is not just a journalistic one. Williams also has the status of a television celebrity (hence his appearance on Letterman) and as such his appeal to his viewers rests not only on his journalistic bona fides but also on his personality. Is he, personally, perceived by his audience to be intelligent, honest, trustworthy, proportionate, of sound judgment? So, granted, his little fib about which Chinook he was riding in has no journalistic import. Yet it has great import as a glimpse into a flaw in his character. To the extent that this fib makes him look vainglorious, self-aggrandizing, melodramatic, reckless and opportunistic, his journalistic “personality” is damaged as surely as his fudge of the facts turned out to be, journalistically, trivial.

Second, this particular fib that Williams chose to tell — to identify himself all the more closely with the perils soldiers face in battle — derives from his underlying editorial judgment to offer instinctive support to the members of the uniformed armed forces. NBC’s Williams is not alone in this editorial judgment: CNN’s Jake Tapper wrote a bestseller in praise of warriors in Afghanistan; CBS’ Lara Logan famously undermined Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone in order to defend a special forces general; ABC’s Bob Woodruff sponsors an annual celebrity fundraiser at Madison Square Garden for disabled combat veterans. And it is not only journalists that exhibit such “instinctive support,” which is in truth a mere euphemism for “kneejerk adulation.” Anyone who attends a major league baseball game observes the same unquestioning endorsement of the uniform and those who wear it.

Jim Fallows of The Atlantic recently observed that such “reverent” solidarity with our troops acts as a ring-fence that protects the entire military-industrial complex from the scrutiny it deserves. So the editorial importance of the fib Williams told is not only that it displays a reflexive desire toward identification with the military; it also represents his own newscast’s self-disqualification as a dispassionate journalistic observer of the Pentagon’s role in the domestic body politic and the nation’s foreign policy. Thus his newscast functions more as supportive propagandist than as skeptical journalist where the armed forces are concerned — and helps keep Fallows’ ring-fence impregnable.

24 Responses to “Andrew Tyndall on Brian Williams…”

  1. I always thought that Williams was trustworthy and of sound judgement…neither of which proved to be the case! Anyone with a brain should know that a lie like this would be questioned because any of the military on that helicopter would know the truth..and eventually the truth would out.

  2. Whether Williams lied or just embellished his story over the years is debatable and not really important. He’s a well known public figure and will pay a major price for his ‘mistake’; likely the loss of his career as a news anchor.

    This story has crossed over from general news gossip to scandalous outrage and the controversy shows no sign of abating any time soon. I was listening to a sports talk show this evening and much to my surprise the Williams story was a big topic of discussion. This story has legs.

    The other factor in play is how much Brian Williams is detested by the right wing media. They see him in trouble here and won’t rest until his scalp is hanging on their belt. The thing is his offense is hard to defend without looking like your dissing the troops, so I think he’s toast.

  3. imnotblue Says:

    Can we apply similar sentiments to Steve Kroft’s “issues?”

  4. FIB? FIB? Really? FIB?

    Using that word makes me discount this article completely.

  5. Steve Kroft? Really? What’s that got to do with anything.

    Good God, the comments section on here is nothing more than a snarkathon.

  6. This is about Brian Williams. But, sure, let’s just use this to complain about every journalist we don’t like. Brilliant.

  7. imnotblue Says:

    Kroft is an established journalist, just like Williams, who was recently caught in a breach of confidence as described in the article above.

    That’s the relationship in the two stories. Much of the posted article could have “Kroft” instead of “Williams” and it would read the same, despite the lack of coverage.

    Relax. Am I “everyone?” Is my one comment “all” the comments? Do you actually know what the word “snark” means?

  8. I thought O’Reilly had the best and most fair coverage I’ve seen. You could tell he felt bad for the guy. Which I do too; though I believe what he did was outrageous.

    BOR said Gutfeld & Mcguirk wanted to cover the story in their segment tomorrow but BOR said one day was enough. His punishment (reputation, etc.) has met his crime.

    O’Reilly also theorized that the reason for BW’s continued exaggeration stemmed from his desire to be “cool”. He said you go on these shows like Letterman and you want to perform. That also makes sense to me.

  9. fritz:
    Who do you consider right-wing media? Are you talking about blogs & radio?
    Also, for the most part, right-wing media doesn’t generally call for people to be fired. That’s the tactic of the left. No doubt, most conservatives aren’t fans of Brian Williams or about 90% of the other MSM reporters and journalists. But, I don’t think they want his scalp. I do imagine many of them look at this as a stolen valor like situation, though.

  10. “I thought O’Reilly had the best and most fair coverage I’ve seen. You could tell he felt bad for the guy.”

    ^^It’s no surprise to me that Billo sympathizes with BW. After all he went through his own ‘scandal’ (can you say luffa) a few years ago.

  11. He didn’t say he sympathized. Said he felt bad for him because he’s a “good guy”. You know, the kind of stuff you’d never see from somebody at NBC/MSNBC say about anyone at FNC.

    Megyn Kelly offered a mild defense of Brian Williams last night too.

  12. He didn’t say he sympathized. Said he felt bad for him because he’s a “good guy”.

    ^^LOL! Eh OK I got that wrong.

    “You know, the kind of stuff you’d never see from somebody at NBC/MSNBC say about anyone at FNC.”

    ^^Well just this week Maddow referred to Greta as her good friend. Just sayin’.

    “Megyn Kelly offered a mild defense of Brian Williams last night too.”

    ^^I expect Greta, Shep, Chris Wallace, Howie and a few others will have nice things to say about Williams as well. You’ll have a point if Hannity and the gangs on F&F, The Five and Outnumbered say Williams is a nice guy or even admit he’s not a member of the Taliban.

  13. “Who do you consider right-wing media? Are you talking about blogs & radio?”

    ^^Yes and much of FNC as well.

    “Also, for the most part, right-wing media doesn’t generally call for people to be fired.”

    ^^LOL!

    “I don’t think they want his scalp.”

    ^^Tell me that again after F&F, The Five, Hannity and Outnumbered have finished airing tomorrow.

  14. Hannity said tonight he doesn’t call for people to fired. That NBC can do what they want. That’s always been typical of him. He stuck up for Bill Maher way back in Maher’s ABC days. I’m the same way. Why would I call for William’s to be fired? I’ve never understood the mob mentality of advocating censorship that often comes from many on the left.

  15. Actually, Howie was the harshest FNC personality I’ve seen regarding Williams. Though I’ve only seen BOR, Megyn, Hannity & Baier.

  16. “You know, the kind of stuff you’d never see from somebody at NBC/MSNBC say about anyone at FNC.”

    Rachel Maddow said Shepard Smith is one of the greatest news anchors of all time. But, sure, let’s throw that shot out there.

  17. “Also, for the most part, right-wing media doesn’t generally call for people to be fired.”

    Funniest thing I’ve seen all year.

  18. savefarris Says:

    erich500: “Who knows what Day #3 reveals?”

    Day #3 reveals: Tom Brokaw wants Williams’s head on a platter.

    This ain’t going away, folks.

  19. Day 3 reveals that MSNBC must put some stock in the Variety story from yesterday that honchos at NBC asked Williams to STOP repeating the story. Why? Because Mika used that story in her recounting of the Williams story today. You don’t do that without approval from someone fairly high up in the food chain.

    Another story disputing the pilot story from CNN yesterday.

    http://pagesix.com/2015/02/05/pilot-of-brian-williams-flight-all-that-hit-us-was-dust/

  20. savefarris Says:

    Part of NBC’s calculus in deciding whether to discipline Brian Williams: who’s in line to sit in the big chair?

    – Lester Holt – Weekend Anchor, but is he someone you build a network around?
    – Matt Lauer – existing job too comfortable (and lucrative) to move.
    – Chuck Todd – How bad does he want it? Will he have to shave?
    – Dinnertime Joe – No. Just No.
    – Bob Costas – possible darkhorse, though his previous gun rants might hurt.
    – Chris Jansing – current WHSC and former anchor has chops and is seemingly being groomed
    – Katie Couric – the Prodigal Daughter returns!
    – Rachel Maddow – “Oh yeah? Watch this!!”

    If any of them want the job, now’s the time for them to start leaking the really juicy stuff to their favorite insiders. Like Spud!

  21. Well, erich, you were right about day 3. Looks like it’s going to be a doozy.

  22. imnotblue Says:

    I’m still a big fan of Lester Holt.

  23. Love Lester Holt. Always thought he got the short stick with many assignments he has had over the years.

  24. I mostly know Lester Holt from the docu-crimedramas that come on ID or whatever station they’re on.

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