The Brian Williams Bandwagon

Brian WilliamsThe controversy over NBC anchorman Brian Williams brings up some interesting issues. Credibility is an important attribute of a news reporter but it’s also important in our employees, friends and neighbors. People lie for many different reasons. The very definition of what constitutes a lie is at times complicated, with a range that includes white lies which are generally “OK” while other kinds of lies are not. In some cultures, embellishment and mendacity are expected. What would be considered lying in a church in Iowa would be welcome entertainment in a street market in Yemen. In security questioning, the goal is not just to find the lie but the intent behind it. Understanding intention fills in the larger security picture and helps us to calculate threat.

 

So, what of Mr. Williams? Here is another example in the list of incidents where he appears to misrepresent the truth:

 

In a 2006 interview with Jon Stewart, Williams described his experiences during the 2006 war between Lebanon and Israel. Here’s the video clip below. His story was that he was flying with an Israeli 4-star general in a Blackhawk helicopter whose gunnery doors were open and he could see Katyusha missiles exploding beneath them.

 

Show this interview to anyone who has served in the Israeli army and they would find much of it odd:

 

(1) The IDF is relatively small. The highest level a soldier can attain below Chief of Staff is an Aloof which is the equivalent of a 1-star general. There is no such thing as a 4 star general in the Israeli military forces.

 

(2) Israeli military protocol is that a helicopter’s doors remain closed while in the air. The U.S. military operates differently.

 

(3) Blackhawk helicopters in Israel do not have gunners, they serve an almost solely transport function.

 

Thousands of Katyusha rockets were fired into Israel that year. It was a common occurrence and a believable component of the story.

 

Williams’ version is exciting. He was not reading copy from a news desk but was speaking as part of an exchange that was meant to be entertaining. So, maybe he felt the need to embellish, painting in interesting details. The only tricky thing is that in both cases he is in front of a camera. Not at a dinner party. In front of a camera, he represents a news brand that promises to deliver accurate information to its audience. The audience depends on reporters to know the difference between objective covering of news versus being a part of the story.

 

In today’s atmosphere of celebrity reporting, we the audience would be generally advised to take a cynical and questioning view of information we obtain from anywhere. Get corroboration. Know your source. Understand their intention and style.

 

What was the intent behind Williams’ misrepresentations/exaggerations/lies over the years?  Share your take on it with us.

6 Comments

  1. Anonymous on February 18, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Sensationalism and embellishing an event is common in media and has been for years. No one who sits or stands in front of a camera is immune from this. It’s about ratings and ego. But I blame the society we live in for this. We are all captivated on the excitement of battle, violence, pain, and those in misery suffering from all that. No, our society created individuals like Mr. Williams. He’s not alone, he just got cornered to tell the real account.

  2. Anonymous on February 18, 2015 at 9:33 am

    Stolen “valor”, nothing more.

  3. Anonymous on February 18, 2015 at 9:51 am

    When you tell/report the truth, you never have to worry about what you said. The Lies finally caught up with Mr. Williams. Hopefully a learning lesson for all of us as parents and professionals.

  4. Anonymous on February 18, 2015 at 9:54 am

    The audience depends on reporters to know the difference between objective covering of news versus being a part of the story and most of all part of a smug liberal party trying to paint the truth that should show a truthful landscape not something that is bent twisted version that is a misrepresentation of what you or I would see if we were present and on the scene of any reportable story. Skot

  5. Anonymous on February 18, 2015 at 6:37 pm

    Man the more this goes on the more we hear. It cheapens the real heroes. Plus even if these statements HAD been true he made himself s target. It would have been better in either case for him to just keep his mouth shut just in order to protect his family and Co workers from possible attacks.

  6. Anonymous on February 18, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Either way he should have just kept his mouth shut since whether it was true or not he put a target on not only himself but on everyone of his family, friends and Co workers. Not to mention cheapen the real heroes!

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