Posts Tagged ‘Air Force One flyover’

A Total Lack of Judgment

April 29, 2009

MSNBC made a big deal last night about NBC anchor Brian Williams breaking his rule against expressing opinions in order to vent his outrage at the Air Force One flyover of lower Manhattan.

I don’t watch Brian Williams, so I don’t know if he really does make a point of consistently refusing to express opinions.  Let’s assume he does.

The man evinces a total lack of judgment.

From 2003-2008, the president of the United States both claimed and exercised the authority to secretly imprison American citizens without charge or trial, forbid them access to an attorney, forbid them contact with their families, keep them indefinitely, and torture them.  Brian Williams didn’t think this was worth breaking his rule and expressing some outrage.

An airplane flies over lower Manhattan one afternoon, spooking locals, and Brian Williams flies into a righteous rage.

If the media want to know why people no longer watch their newscasts or buy the newspapers, they need look no further than this.  As journalists, they absolutely, positively suck.  They have lost all perspective on what’s an important, national story and what’s a small, local, but sensational one.

Should someone have told New Yorkers Air Force One would be flying low over Manhattan?  Yes.  Is the fact that they didn’t and it alarmed some local residents a national news story?  No, it plainly isn’t.  It has exactly zero effect on anybody outside New York City.  The event didn’t impact our lives, it has no ramifications beyond the specific time and place that it happened, and knowing about it doesn’t prepare us for anything or better inform us in any meaningful or relevant way.  Ladies and gentlemen of the press: outside New York, this is not news.  Not even remotely.

But NBC’s flagship news man not only considers it a vital national news story, he thinks it’s so important he’s willing to sacrifice his apparently much vaunted objectivity to express outrage about it.

When the president of the United States explicitly both claimed and exercised the authority to secretly imprison American citizens without charge or trial, forbid them access to an attorney, forbid them contact with their families, keep them indefinitely, and torture them, Brian Williams and Charles Gibson and Katie Couric barely reported it at all.

One of the seminal moments in the history of American journalism was when Walter Cronkite took a moment at the end of a newscast to express his personal opinion on something.  That something was the Vietnam War.

Another was when Edward R. Murrow decided to take a point of view on something.  That something was Senator Joseph McCarthy’s abuses of power.

Maybe Brian Williams expressing outrage about a plane flying over lower Manhattan one afternoon will become a seminal moment in the history of American journalism.  But if it does, it will be as exemplar, laid alongside his yawning at a president’s years-long claim to be utterly above the law, of why American journalism died.

Williams should send Michele Bachmann a thank you note.  Without her, he would be today’s Deep Stupid.