NBC News anchor and managing editor Brian Williams has now served the first two weeks of his six-month suspension in the wake of lies (if that’s the right word–but we’ll get to that) about his experience in the Iraq war. His credibility seems pretty much demolished, his name has become a punchline, and even his daughter can’t get away with defending him.
What bugs me is that Williams has been branded, in most people’s minds, with “lying about the news,” when it’s not clear to me that’s exactly true. To be clear, I’m a very firm believer in journalistic ethics, and for a reporter to fabricate the facts of a story is wholly unacceptable. But I don’t think that’s what Brian Williams did.
Certainly, the version of the story he told to David Letterman in 2013 and again on NBC in January were false. Call them lies, if you will, but it’s hard to characterize a story told 10 years later on a talk show, or even on a news program 12 years after the fact, a “news report.” In 2003, Williams reported that he was in a helicopter just behind the one that took fire, and that his was forced to land behind its companion, not because it took fire. Williams repeated that version, in that form, multiple times between 2003 and 2007; it wasn’t until the Letterman show ten years after the fact, when Williams was recounting the story not in a news context but as a personal anecdote, that he shifted the facts.
There is question whether the story as he told it in March of 2003, when it was inarguably news, was true. Stars and Stripes and others spoke to soldiers who were there that day, and remember Williams arriving in a Chinook 30-60 minutes behind the one that was fired upon; if that is in fact true, then the smearing of Williams is entirely justified. It seems important, however, to consider that those soldiers are basing their statements on memories aged nearly 12 years, and that others who were there that day say they remember things as Williams originally described. Continue Reading
On Thursday’s Outnumbered, a panel of five Fox News personalities debated whether public school is something that should even still exist in the United States. The discussion, which has generated a fair amount of controversy, was prompted by a bill from Oklahoma lawmaker Dan Fisher, who wants to ban AP History because it teaches too much actual history, and not enough propaganda.
(Okay, as Fisher phrases it, the course “emphasizes what is bad about America,” and doesn’t teach American exceptionalism.)
Now, Fox generates business by manufacturing controversy and liberal outrage, and I try not to support them too much here, but this time the hypocrisy was just too much for me to resist. Why? Because every single person on the panel debating the merits of public education got there by attending public schools. Two (arguably three) of them attended public high school and public university. Continue Reading
I’ve been meaning to check out the Museum of Sex on Fifth Avenue for quite a while–it’s only a couple blocks south from my office, and I’ve walked past it on many a lunch break. I always suspected the “museum” was an ad-on to exploit some loophole and locate a sex shop in such a prime location, but it turns out I was wrong: It appears the sex shop is the afterthought, a means to help fund the museum. Continue Reading
at home sick on Wednesday and going pretty stir crazy, when I happened to notice the sunset had turned the sky a beautiful shade of yellow gold. I grabbed the camera to try and capture it–I’ve been trying to practice working with longer exposures recently–and while I didn’t quite capture the perfect yellow, I did get a few other photos of Manhattan and Long Island City that I’m pretty happy about.
As a note: I don’t make my photography (or any of my other original work) available under Creative Commons, but if you’d like to use it ask me and I will likely give you permission.
I have a confession: I have long harbored a secret fantasy that I would one day be a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. I knew exactly how I would approach it: I’d find a way to make it about him, to thank him for having the courage to take a silly little news parody show, a half-hour Weekend Update, and turn it into a substantive critique of governance, politics, and media culture. There was no way for him to know that formula would succeed–that people in their teens and 20’s and 30’s would not only take a sudden interest in policy, but come to view him as their most trusted name in news, but he did it anyway. I’d tell him why I think he is the one to thank for President Barack Obama (because he made politics cool) and then I’d ask for a hug. If there was any time left, I’d maybe talk about my book or whatever I was there to plug, but if I didn’t even get around to it that somehow felt better.
I knew it would never happen–even if I was somehow fortunate enough to write best-selling novels, Jon’s preference for door-stopping nonfiction is well established. But now there’s another reason it will never happen: The day has finally come, that tragic day we all knew was inevitable, and Jon Stewart is leaving The Daily Show. Continue Reading