The International Writers Magazine: Reality Check + Readers Responses
The Scourge of Brian Williams and Other Things
It is important to reiterate an obvious dictum: What is done here weekly hardly represents even the slightest hint of journalism. Yet, somehow I consider myself a journalist. I was trained as such by some of the finest minds I have met in my time shuffling around the mortal coil. Yet, my idiosyncratic playfulness in the face of actual journalism (whatever that may be) is a mockery and therefore holds little to no credibility here.
I also need to state that I find that most of the history of journalism in this country – a microcosm of the world at large – has been a heinous goof. I can randomly choose a story from any decade through each century of this democratic experiment and you would, depending on your sensibilities, either be laughing hysterically or horrified. If your sensibilities fall in the category of the overreaction to Brian Williams’ embellishing on and then fabricating a war story from 2006 then you would lean toward the latter.
However, presenting all of that as a preface, I must say, for the record, Brian Williams can no longer seriously continue as the managing editor of the National Broadcasting Company’s news division anymore than he can sit with a straight face and read us the news every evening. He may come back from his suspension (without pay, which is significant when you consider the man rakes in $11 million a year to read aloud in front of a camera; great work if you can get, it, but you can’t because you suck at it), but it really doesn’t matter. We think he is most likely full of shit and that is a detriment to trustworthiness.
It’s like the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl despite cheating their way there. No one with a real sense of facts and decorum think the Patriots title legitimate, but they still won and have a trophy and no one is going to care now, because there is a lot of money and the integrity of the sport at stake and everyone needs to remain silent to this grand deception, so we all feel better about ourselves for watching it happen. We will do the same for Brian Williams on the surface, but not really. We will know he lied about something for little reason but to be interesting, like all of us might lie about stuff to appear interesting or cheat to win a sporting event, but we don’t represent a vocation or a network or a conglomerate trying to perpetuate the idea of being trustworthy.
And let’s face it, trustworthy is such a thorny concept that it’s hard to fathom. There was a time when Walter Cronkite could go on television and tell the American people that the war in Viet Nam is lost and that it was an abject waste of human life and treasure and we kind of accepted it. It cost Lyndon Johnson a second (or third term, depending on what you think those months after JFK was slaughtered counts) and it certainly fueled the campus uprisings that pretty much pulled the wool from the eyes of an entire suckered generation.
But, be that as it may, Williams has some lineage to Uncle Walty, “the most trusted (there’s that word again) man in America”. And for that he cannot be trusted and therefore needs to find something else to do with his time. Maybe he can move into the one place he feels most comfortable, entertainment; the man has appeared on more comedy shows doing bits and/or sitcom appearances than anyone who has ever attempted his job. There are pretty good sources that insist he lobbied to take over for Jay Leno when he boogied from the Tonight Show and maybe that would have been best. No one gives half a fart if Jimmy Fallon makes stuff up; they half expect he will – for laughs.
But before we go, we do need to point out that Williams also comes from this latest generation of network-climbers, both on real television or basic cable (where the real lying hits the highest or lowest bar). This was glaringly palpable during the ramp up and execution of those first crucial months of the terribly bungled fabrication that was the Iraq War, arguably the worst abuse of our government since Watergate, and the national press not only slept on it, but galvanized its ascent, as in giving it a fancy name – Shock & Awe, and embedding its most cherished personnel into the Pentagon’s shenanigans. The most disgusting of all, anchors wearing flag pins covering the action as if it were the World Cup.
My favorite NBC News moment was when in 2002, as the case for war was being pitched by the Bush Administration, the vice president’s office leaked a bogus story to the NY Times about Iraq possessing nuclear, chemical and biological weapons – known today in journalistic circles as the “aluminum tubes ruse”, and then sent Dick Cheney on Meet The Press to quote the article as fact. It is one of the great pieces of underhanded criminal activity ever perpetuated by a sitting vice president, and he used the most trusted forms of the American press to pull it off. Great stuff for Cheney, not so much for the press.
But we covered all of that gory nonsense here as it happened, but now it is ancient history and we ignore it or accept it, because it makes us feel better to do so. In fact, those that backed George W. Bush now claim that President Obama enjoys the same snoozing national press corps, and can you blame them for whining?
Take John King, who still culls a paycheck from CNN despite having told an international audience in the wake of the Boston Marathon terrorist attack that suspects had been apprehended, describing what turned out to be the bogus suspects for nearly an hour. The NY Post even piggybacked this blatant error and splashed on its front page for two straight days these erroneous figures, both of whom turned out to be innocent, with headlines like “Monsters”. Hell, CNN also wrongly reported the Affordable Care Act had been overturned by the Supreme Court and aligned itself with the networks to call Al Gore president of the United States in November of 2000.
And then there is the clown show that is MSNBC and FOX NEWS. Whew, where do you start there?
Brian Williams? Well, he is the symptom, my friends. The disease may be harder to “suspend without pay”.
READERS RESPONSES March 2015
When I read this terrifying history of the Central Intelligence Agency you laid out in your column it left me wondering how we allowed and still allow this to go on today through two presidential administrations from two different parties and allegedly two different ideologies. (CONVENIENTLY INVISIBLE AMERICA – Issue: 12/17/14) It makes one also wonder how much of the paranoid ranting of people like Oliver Stone is not possible. It makes you look deeper once again into the assassination of President Kennedy and how many conflicts we have been dragged into beyond Viet Nam and Iraq that have brought misery upon other countries and eventually our own.
I know it is what you tell us constantly, this being doomed to repeat history we are unaware of, but I think that is where we become victims of the kind of politics we are handed by both the politicians themselves and the cable news and the blogosphere and the constant voices that sell us the same old thing over and over and we take for granted that someone competent is running things, when something as obvious as the CIA can continue to be run in this way.
It is hard to believe we are always a force for good in this world when you know the truth, but people refuse to accept it. Thank you for at least trying.
Not too much to argue with here, Sir James, and MUCH too much to agree with--tragically. Just one small detail worth mentioning: CIA isn't always tax-payer funded. Sometimes they have bake sales ... well, it's not cake or cookies they are selling; it's heroin. Here's the brief from Wikipedia: "In order to provide covert funds for the Kuomintang (KMT) forces loyal to General Chiang Kai-shek, who were fighting the Chinese communists under Mao Zedong, the CIA helped the KMT smuggle opium from China and Burma to Bangkok, Thailand, by providing airplanes owned by one of their front businesses, Air America." Of course this continued right up through the Vietnam war and into the 70's. I believe weapons & armaments also showed up on the bake sale table.
So glad you didn't throw in with Cheney. I have a mind to waterboard him. Or maybe just thottle him with my naked hands.
Bad news - no one is outraged by any of this. Well, except maybe Diane Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi and a handful of other Dems who, as we're just finding out, knew all about the shit when it was originally going down and had no problem. Pretty sweet - $40 million spent to find out shit they all knew about already. Our over-drugged, under-educated society doesn't care about any of this...unless you interrupted Dancing With the Stars with it.
Not bad, dude but you miss a salient point. The Geneva Convention was designed for nation-states to conduct their hostilities in a civilized fashion. ISIL and AQ do not represent a nation or a government. They are terror cells much in the vein of the IRA and therefore do not fall under Geneva protections. If a few of these bad guys get some water dripped on them…so be it.
Our problem is we have to weigh the consequences of defending our nation against enemies who know they cannot defeat us in conventional warfare so they must try to destroy us either using guerrilla tactics or destroying us from within. Both of those unconventional methods of warfare require unconventional responses. For instance, you capture Haji on the battlefield after he was observed dealing with AQ higher ups. You bring him in for questioning and he doesn’t talk. You know based on who he was dealing with prior to capture that he WILL have vital intel. So after begging and pleading and even promising him ice cream for dessert he doesn’t talk…what do you do? Do you just say, “screw it, he was tougher than us and now we let him go” or do you up the ante and help him discover his will to talk?
You see, you sit up there in your comfy home unaffected by all of this but still seem that you need to criticize actions you do not understand. Enhanced interrogation works, it is NOT torture. To quote the dude from The Hangover “But did you die?” You see, we “Baptize the terrorists with the water of freedom” and they lop your head off, place it on a fencepost and then put the video of it all on YOUTUBE. Do not EVER compare our actions.
Remember, it was a nice “baptizing” session that enabled KSM to find his inner stool pigeon which in turn gave us Jose Padilla, the guy the Syrians whacked 2 weeks ago along with other timely pertinent information. It works, it may be ugly but it works.
Oh and if this isn’t “who we are” then are we a bunch of murderers who kill from 10,000 from a drone? Yes, that’s right, we decry the evil water boarding but yet have no problem that the Child President is sending armed drones all over the globe like it is his personal “Model Airplane Flying Club”. Hypocrisy much?
In a word: brilliant! (JE SUIS CHARLIE – Issue: 1/14/15) Though I still think choosing Bush over Gore was one of the best things you could ever have done and you should have zero regrets. Long live Juvenal! (my first introduction at 17 to delicious satire). Though maybe Rabelais would be more appropriate in this context...
Elizabeth Vengen Esq.
You are way off on this one: “Trust me, Michele Bachmann and Glenn Beck or more genuinely motivated by their faith than al Qaeda”...Except they don’t cut innocent people’s heads off and shoot human beings in the head...They believe fervently in Jesus Christ...Love, tolerance and respect for all human life.
Donald Brown Jr.
Another really good one, man. Your writing has really grown over the years. You should be submitting stuff like this and the last one I commented on to major places.
Really good work, bro.
You can tell when James Campion has been hit in the solar plexus. You can tell when James Campion puts down the satire meter and the joke stick and the apathy card and gets real. You can tell what James Campion truly cares about and what it means to him to be threatened as an intelligent, emotional human being. You can tell when the things that are truly close to James Campion’s soul have been injured. Yeah, you can really, really tell what is important to James Campion when he writes something like this.
Almost brought me to tears with this one.
Do yourself no favors and “like” this idiot at www.facebook.com/jc.author
© James Campion Feb 27th 2015 . James is the author of “Deep Tank Jersey”, “Fear No Art”, “Trailing Jesus”, "Midnight For Cinderella" and “Y”.
The Anthropology of The Middle Class - James Campion
A Disjointed Primer from the Front
Here’s the deal: There are too many humans on this planet. Way too many. Before we get into this little dissection of the failing middle class in this country, it is important to get that major flaw out of the way.