First Posted 08-Feb-2015
Brian Williams is a liar. I am a liar. There is one key difference between Brian and me. I make no pretense of telling the truth. My truth is that of the storyteller, of the bard & poet. Facts suffer here, in this space. There are some, sometimes what I write can be proven to be true through fact-checking. But this space is not trying to hold its own as a place for truth as in what truly happened. Most of what is here is opinion and story. So, if I tell you that in 1949, ten years before I was born, I helped design the first photon torpedos at a secret facility at what we now call Area 51, nobody will take me seriously. This is good, because there might be a story in the previous sentence. There isn’t much fact.
Brian Williams is guilty of a great American tradition of stretching. It’s not enough to tell your friends you caught a 2″ sunfish. No, it was a record-breaking bass that you hooked with sewing thread, a scrap of bone from last night’s KFC dinner, and a fly you tied using a bit of cattail and some of that thread. Telling stretchers is great fun. Problem. Brian Williams gets paid to tell us the news of the day. His stories are assumed to be factual. He wears the mantle of journalist, of an unbiased, authoritative source for facts about the events of the day.
Williams confused good American storytelling with journalism. It wasn’t enough to be among the helicopters that were shot at. Nope. He had to be the in the one that was shot down. It wasn’t enough to be in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. No, he had to be in a hotel surrounded by flood water with a body floating by. He had to have drunk some flood water and caught dysentery.
It is a curiosity of American journalism. We have this belief that our journalists should not be biased, and should not have opinions. It causes our newspaper and TV writers to contort themselves into impossible rhetorical puzzles as they try to be “fair and balanced”. We need to quit it. We need to acknowledge that all of us have a point of view, opinions, and biases.
Cops know this from interviewing countless eyewitnesses. Given the same set of events witnessed by a half-dozen people and you’ll get a half-dozen versions of what happened. I’m sure ethical journalists work hard to research enough sources to find a consensus among them that points to the most likely sequence of events. But, Brian Williams, it seems, loves a good stretcher too much.
So, I do this. I write here, not trying to have you believe based on my word, that what is here is factual. There is truth, in the sense that these are my words and I stand by what I say as an accurate statement of my opinions. I’d really like it if we stopped the farce of “fair and balanced”. Instead, let’s put our cards on the table, admit to our opinions, and put our stuff out there for folk to read.
Those of us that gather an audience will profit from our rants. Those that don’t will have plenty of company among the many faceless who post words to a blog and add to the broad conversation about the events of the day, of our lives, and of helicopters that fall out of the sky with Brian Williams narrating another dramatic tale, knee deep in flood waters, claymores exploding around him, fetid, bloated bodies drifting by, with a damsel in distress in the background suggestively dressed in a torn cotton blouse and peasant skirt. And that’s the way it is, this is Alan Webb, good night, and God Bless. ?