Earlier this week NBC announced it was suspending Brian Williams for fibbing about being aboard a helicopter downed in Iraq. The progressive press correctly pointed out that Williams’ lies went well beyond his helicopter hallucination.
Bear in mind it was the lies of Williams and his ilk that sold the Iraq war to the US public. The tall tales of WMDs and other Neocon delusions provided the narrative justifying the war to docile Americans.
Williams continued his servile PR work for American power right through the war. He claimed the Iraq war was “the cleanest war in military history”, peddled lies about low civilian casualties, and for his grand finale he claimed the war was part of “freedom’s march around the globe”.
As we well know now, the Iraq war went on to become probably the worst crime of the 21st century so far.
The fact that Williams would lie will be unsurprising to most CounterPunchers, as journalists generally serve corporate and state power. In fact, it’s crucial for those running the country that journalists like Williams possess two important qualities. They must be endlessly obedient, but also so dumb that they don’t realize they’re on a choke chain held by the corporate office. It’s the job of the media’s companies to ensure that journalists meet these “qualifications”.
Truth be told I really have little interest in Williams, who seems more like a soap opera casting director’s idea of a journalist than a real one. He and many like him make their millions by denying US war crimes, facilitating the looting of the country by the US corporations, all the while holding their phony manikin grins.
It is, however, worth examining why Williams’ lies are being scrutinized. In short, he fucked up.
The NBC corporate office would be happy let him continue his lies about what a giggle-fest the US occupation of Iraq was, but Williams’ Iraq lie came at the expense of US veterans.
Well, it’s clear the US government doesn’t give a shit about US vets (piss poor funding for the VA hospitals being just one example of many). There is an attitude among Americans that they are supposed to honor them. In Williams’ Iraq helicopter story he hijacked a personal and harrowing moment from US vets and used it for his own advantage. I think most would agree that a multi-millionaire celebrity stealing from modest vets is a pretty low act.
There is another reason why Williams’ lies are finally being examined. US vets are recognized by Americans to be human beings. Maybe most mainstream Americans know one or two of them. However, most Americans simply do not afford the label of human beings to people from the 3rd world (and the 3rd world enclaves in the US). In fact, America was built on the brutalization and dehumanization of people from these groups. Racism is as American as Apple pie and drones in the sky.
Williams could have carried on lying throughout his whole career as most journalists do. He only needed to stick to demonizing US enemies and reinforcing the fear of those who disobey orders of the US elite. He could continue his lying about near misses. He told one about a Hezbollah rocket passing under his helicopter in Lebanon in 2006. NBC would have no problem with Williams reinforcing the propaganda about how scary Hezbollah is. And he could have continued the now discredited stories about how armed gangs marauded through his hotel after Hurricane Katrina. The corporate media never have a problem whipping up fear of black gang violence.
Williams would have done well to stay within his role of telling lies for the powerful, and demonizing the powerless, but alas, he met the “qualifications” for being a journalist and as such just isn’t that bright.