Everybody’s been asking whether Brian Williams can return as anchor of NBC Nightly News after his six-month suspension for exaggerating an attack on a helicopter ferrying him and an NBC camera crew to a military bridge site in Iraq back in 2003. It’s the big celebrity question of the week, totally replacing our collective wonderment over that weird hat Pharrell Williams (no relation) wore during his Grammys performance last weekend.
But just peaking above the surface in the past couple days is a far more important question: Will the media, prodded by what they’ve judged to be Williams’s “lies,” finally begin to question their own role in boosting the far more serious lies that led to hundreds of thousands of actual deaths in the Iraq war?
Jon Stewart, as usual, saw the ironies. After cracking some gentle jokes at his friend’s expense, Stewart allowed that he’s happy the media is piling on Bri Wi because “ finally someone is being held to account for misleading America about the Iraq war.”
“It might not necessarily be the first person you’d want held accountable on that list, but never again will Brian Williams mislead this great nation about being shot at in a war we probably wouldn’t have ended up in if the media had applied this level of scrutiny to the actual [beep] war.”
America’s corporate media has plenty of false war stories to account for—from the phony heroism of Pvt. Jessica Lynch and the unquestioning acceptance of Bush administration assurances about WMDs to Judith Miller’s lies on the front page of The New York Times and NBC axing the Phil Donahue show for “presenting guests who are anti-war, anti-Bush and skeptical of the administration’s motives.”
Only the usual suspects have continued to point out the media’s hypocrisy. Bill Moyers, for example, said, “Brian Williams’s helicopter lie is nothing compared to the misinformation spewed by US press in lead-up to Iraq War.” In a great post in Mondoweiss, Scott Long writes:
What I don’t get is why this is an issue. Williams made up a story. But he was in the middle of the most fantastic made-up story in American history. The Iraq war, written by Bush with a little help from Tony Blair and Micronesia and Poland, was a gigantic fiction, as beautifully told and expressive of the moment’s cultural mythology as The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, or A Million Little Pieces, or Three Cups of Tea. The reasons were fake, the goals were fake, the triumph was fake. Nothing was true except the dead people, who aren’t talking. The war countered imaginary threats and villainies with imaginary victories and valor. Williams added his embroidery in the spirit of invention. Why are the other tale-spinners turning on him now?