Monday, February 9, 2015

Lies the Media Told Me

Marshall McLuhan's claim that 'the medium is the message” is a rule of thumb adopted by today’s news media. Truth is optional, and the means by which it is delivered to the public has become a matter of “style” and bias. If truth does not comport with an established narrative, falsehood is permissible. After all, the public, to whom the news is directed, doesn’t know the difference.

Truth, in the news media, is becoming more and more as rare as a halal hamburger in Riyadh, or a wine list in a Tehran restaurant. If a news event doesn’t fit the New York Times’s printable meme or mantra, it isn't going to be reported without slanting and bias so severe that even a cursory examination of it will capsize the story to reveal the rust and barnacles on its hull. The same rule of thumb goes for most news organizations and outlets, including the Washington Post and other “major” dailies. Almost every one of them delivers messages, not news.

Most of them don’t even pretend to be paragons of journalism anymore. What, after all, is a journal? It is a record of significant or noteworthy events, entered without prejudice for or against the things in the events. The news media couldn’t even report Paul Revere shouting “The British are coming!” without injecting some squib about gay rights, because some of the British officers were perhaps gay, and any shots fired at them could be said to be “homophobic.”
“Cow bites milkmaid” won't be reported by the New York Times without some subtle, sub-textual message about animal rights or gender exploitation.  Virtually the only realm of unbiased news reportage left in any medium is the obituaries, and sometimes even those are skewed when the deceased was a celebrity or a politician whose true character is not only suspect but so reeking with scandal (e.g., the passing of Ted Kennedy) that toxic fumes leak from the person’s casket. That’s another kind of “odor of sanctity.” It can't be dispersed or disguised by a gallon of eau de cologne spritzers.

 The phony war stories of Brian Williams are but the tip of the media practice and culture of rearranging reality to suit a fantasy world of political correctness and to satisfy a hankering for a “perfect” world. Perhaps he thought that if Hillary Clinton could get away with lying about her “dodging bullets” in Bosnia for so long before being found out, he could get away with claiming that the helicopter he was riding in Iraq came under RPG fire, when no such thing happened. Hillary claimed that she “misremembered” the imaginary sniper fire episode in Bosnia in 1996. “Misremembering” things seems to be as common a thing as zits on a high school sophomore.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Williams was photographed in waders sloshing thru flood waters. He claimed to have seen bodies floating under his hotel window, and that gangs had invaded his hotel and he was frightened. None of this happened, except for the photo-op. The rest was his imagination. He and his ilk can always claim, when the truth contracts their assertions, that the problem is a matter of “misremembering,” or symptoms of “post-combat mental trauma.”

As Daniel Greenfield put it in his FrontPage article of February 9th, “Brian Williams for President,” about the major news networks abetting the “misdemeanor” of lying to the public because the lies help to advance the Progressive agenda of turning America into a minimum security correctional facility :

Brian Williams is in trouble for lying, but he was part of a media culture of deceit where lies were acceptable for a good progressive cause. Williams isn’t really in trouble because he lied, but because he got caught. Worse still, the lies were self-serving. They served Brian Williams; they didn’t serve the left.
 Williams had failed to draw the line between the “good lie” (ObamaCare is making life better) and the “bad lie” (I swam the flooded French Quarter with puppies on my back during Katrina while Al Qaeda shot RPGs at me). But the borders between the “good lie” and the “bad lie” have been vague when it comes to the titans of the left.

If he thought he could get away with another whopper, Williams probably would have also claimed that he hurt his index finger by sticking it into all fifty dikes and flood walls during Katrina to help stop the flooding.

For the longest time, for decades, in fact, I grew to despise news anchors. It began with the hectoring voice of Walter Cronkite in the 1950’s. But Brian Williams is representative of the smarmy, sneering, cynically sanctimonious, slickly groomed face also telling me “that’s how it is.” Their offensive, know-it-all styles of delivery made them personalities, not newsmen, actors, not conveyers of truth, perhaps a rung and a half up from carnival barkers.

This false news reportage has become a tradition among news anchors, continued by the likes of Peter Jennings and Dan Rather, to whom news reportage/lying to the public is a “crude art form,” akin to a Jackson Pollack canvas. These people are so desperate to adhere to their politically correct agenda, and want to be remembered as the electronic heralds of a “new world order,” that they are willing to fabricate a glittering monstrance and substitute their glossy, patent leather faces for a eucharist.

Williams apologized publically for lying to the public. But apologies are not enough in the way of justice. He should be fired, perhaps sent back to Elmira, New York, and his Peabody Award—for his Katrina hurricane reportage – recalled to lighten his luggage.  Investment Watch on February 6th noted:

A host of military veterans and pundits came forward on television and social media, challenging Mr. Williams’s assertion that he had simply made a mistake when he spoke, on several occasions, about having been in a United States military helicopter forced down by enemy fire in Iraq in 2003. Some went so far as to call for his resignation.

In his apology, Mr. Williams said that he had been on a different helicopter, behind the one that had sustained fire, and that he had inadvertently “conflated” the two. The explanation earned him not only widespread criticism on radio and TV talk shows, but widespread ridicule on Twitter, under the hashtag “#BrianWilliamsMisremembers.

On my edition of the game show, “Truth or Consequences,” Williams is asked, “Mr.  Williams: When did American terrorists invade England to reclaim all of Bill Clinton’s saxophones?”

Williams: “That’s a leading question, Ed, but it was in 1066.”

The eardrum-shattering, “Misremembering” buzzer sounds, the audience goes “AWH!,” Williams looks pained, a trapdoor beneath his seat opens, and he drops out of sight.
He pops up on the other side of the stage, strapped to a chair, and the chairman of NBC, Bob Greenbatt, comes on stage with a bucket, and proceeds to wash Williams’s mouth out with  bars of soap to the raucous amusement of the audience. 

Well, no, that’s not going to happen. The worst case scenario for Williams will be that he will be retired and sent back to Elmira with his golden parachute. The worst case scenario for the public would be that Greenbatt declares Williams to be an irreplaceable asset to NBC and is retained after a brief term of absence from the screen. 

The worst case scenario for the public – or that part of it which still watches NBC Nightly News or anything else on NBC – will be that Greenbatt says that Williams is an asset to the network.
The Washington Post reported today (February 9th) that Williams’s story about gangs terrorizing him at the posh hotel where he stayed during Katrina:
There’s a story Brian Williams likes to tell. He has told it in a TV interview. He has told it to at least two book authors. But even though it had all the makings of a great yarn — danger, guns, resolve — Williams never reported it to his viewers.
It’s the one about the gangs that Williams claimed had “overrun” a posh Ritz-Carlton where he stayed during Hurricane Katrina.
Williams is a born showman. With that baritone, that thatch of bronze hair, that gravitas — when the NBC News anchor gets going on a story, little can stop him. But that skill, which carried him to the highest echelons of broadcast journalism, may ultimately prove his undoing. Following his concession that a military helicopter he rode during the Iraq War didn’t take fire as he claimed, Williams is now in hibernation mode. He hasn’t answered repeated interview requests and, following an NBC announcement that his reporting on Iraq and Hurricane Katrina is under review, will now take “several days” off from the network.

So, Williams is standing in the corner as his punishment, for a while, at least, hoping he’ll have another chance to claim that ISIS has nothing to do with Islam. He may not be the congenital liars that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are, but he nevertheless a liar.  
The lies the news media have told me are legion. Someday I'll compile a long, long list of them.

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