Monday, February 23, 2015

I Don't Want to Break Up with Brian Williams

I’m broken hearted over this whole Brian Williams thing.

By all accounts, Williams is a gifted storyteller. He’s known for spinning yarns, entertaining small groups of colleagues and coworkers with quips and tales. He’s engaging and magnetic and his stories, while sometimes inaccurate, are amusing and impressive.

The problem with that is Williams is also a journalist. In the United States we expect our journalists to tell the truth.

It’s important to make the distinction that in our country we hold journalists to a standard of honesty that other nations simply don’t impose.

Now that it’s publicly acknowledged that Brian Williams tells tales, the integrity of his reporting is being questioned. Even though he’s never falsely reported a story while sitting at the news desk.

His variance is unacceptable. The possibility that he might report inaccuracies is enough.

The possibility.

We’re that cynical. We want to avoid the possibility of being misled.

Really? If that were true then people would be much more skeptical about their news sources. And yet, daily on Facebook my newsfeed is filled with internet trash being perpetuated via share.

The Washington Post even has a weekly column called “What Was Fake on the Internet This Week” to expose the bullshit pedaled by well-meaning but un-discerning readers.

We cannot spot the truth. We’re not capable.

We want things to be true so we believe them. We want reassurance that others share our opinions so we absorb their arguments. We need to understand what’s being said so we rely upon seventh-grade language and arguments reduced to the most basic ideas.

Complex arguments take too long to read, require too much to understand, and leave us unsatisfied when a definite solution is not available.

So we take the easy argument, stated in the most basic language, and jump to conclusions that may be dangerous or immature but nonetheless have finality.

We’re so worried that Brian Williams might not tell the truth that we refuse to ever trust him again.

And yet we share blog posts and memes by anonymous authors with no credibility whatsoever.

We’re so certain Brian Williams played us all for fools that we’ll publicly humiliate him.

And yet our Facebook friends and the stories they share require no accountability at all.

We’re hurt by Williams’ betrayal (though there was none) and refuse to grant him clemency for being an entertainer.

And yet we share and share and share the vitriolic rants of the religious self-righteous and the subversive pessimism of political conservatives.

All the world’s a double standard.

We expect Brian Williams to be beyond reproach while dismissing our elected officials’ blatant and catastrophic lies as politics.

Maybe it’s because we expect them to lie and we don’t expect it from Brian Williams. And maybe that’s what this whole thing is really about.

We don’t expect a journalist’s integrity to be compromised. And certainly not our NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams. We trusted him.

Now that we can’t trust him, we must remove him. Relieve our own hurt, disappointment, and embarrassment by shaming him into exile.

I still trust Brian Williams and I still adore him. He’s funny, he’s genuine, and intelligent. He’s got experience and he exhibits perspective and maturity.

If the backlash persists and NBC cans him, perhaps he’ll consider running for President. He’s got just the right mix of patriotism and braggadocio with the added bonus of leadership and imagination.

What do you think of Brian Williams' transgressions?

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