My answer to the question, “So is Brian Williams really an idiot, or does he just play one on TV?”
In the Comments thread to my post yesterday about a comment that Brian Williams made the day before indicating that he apparently does not know what “the debt ceiling” actually means, reader SW asked: “So, is he really an idiot or does he just play one on the tv?”
I hadn’t thought of Williams as a lightweight before, which is one reason I was so shocked that he apparently doesn’t know what “the debt ceiling” actually means. I rarely watch the network evening news shows anymore, but when I do, It’s his show that I watch. The CBS and ABC ones seem to have made a concerted effort to play to conservatives, I guess because the audience for these shows these days is so largely white elderly folks.
There was a good Opinionator piece in the NYT yesterday by a Philosophy prof. named Jason Stanley, called “Philosopher Kings and Fiscal Cliffs,” about how the misleading language used to discuss these things–which actually are specific facts–leads to dangerously false analogies and misunderstandings by the public, fed by deliberate misrepresentations by pols. (The article engages in a misrepresentation of sorts, itself, by equating Repub misrepresentations with Dem ones, but, oh, well.) But Williams isn’t any old member of the general public. How can the main news anchor for NBC Nightly News not know what the debt ceiling is, and think it’s something that it’s not?
Williams’ Wikipedia bio is surprisingly sparse about his professional background, but my guess is that he’s never been a hard-news reporter on anything really complicated. He apparently came to prominence by covering Hurricane Katrina for NBC News–hardly a complicated news event requiring knowledge beyond what the general public has. But it just really surprises me that he apparently doesn’t even read the NYT or the Washington Post on major, complex stories such as the debt ceiling thing.
Oh, well. This isn’t the era of Walter Cronkite. So, what else is new?
I watched [Williams’] show again last night, and near the end he did a wonderful story on something dear to my heart: The Puppy Bowl. The dogs all are rescues, up for adoption. Again, nothing complicated. But, at least in my opinion, important.
If only he spent as much time learning about the news he reads as he has spent trying to be a clown on The Daily Show and 30 Rock.
I don’t watch either of those shows; I actually watch very little television. But I’m starting to get the idea that he’s more a “soft news” celebrity type than a hard-news journalist.
Decades ago I learned that in any area in which I was well-informed, the journalists inevitably chose an expert who agreed with their POV and presented it, an opinion, as an a priori fact of absolute truth.
This included any discussion of the value of dietary supplements, the probably incidence of AIDS in the heterosexual community, the value of a particular emerging technology and so on.
The journalist approach to complex problems is to think that reductionist explanation is in order so that poor, less educated members of their audience can “grasp the truth”, so to speak.
The reality is that a person needs quite a background in a subject to be capable of evaluating the experts he plays as trump cards to avoid being taken in by expert “consensus”.
In any area of controversy, real experts, as anyone knows, actually disagree.
The problem is that too often the journalists themselves have studied “journalism”, a preparation for nothing, and the reduction of complex issues to over-simplified ones is done for the journalists themselves.
Better to watch slanted cable news and know there is a perspective and a distortion in the mix.
Brian Williams works for GE. I believe that it is part of his job description to be ignorant about this issue to basically fall in line with the deficit scolds even by resorting to obscuration and innuendo.
To an actor the truth is anything that lies in its effect. If it makes the right impression than it is true. (Mowrer)
Brian Williams reportedly makes $13 million a year but he is an entertainer. Entertainers have a certain kind of intelligence and those who reach the top usually have a lot of it. For a news entertainer that talent includes intentionally not knowing things or pretending you don’t.
I think it is particularly rich for GE and their mouthpiece Mr. Williams to get righteous about the deficit considering the fact that as a company they have elevated the practice of using foreign shell companies to escape their tax burden to an art form. While at the same time being one of major corporations sucking at the federal teat of the defense gravy train.
Yeah, Brian Williams is the standard normal guy.
huffington post has video of his daughter stating that she watches her sex scenes with the whole family including her father.
Another cast member on another site is quoting as stating that he actually goes to the set while she is filming her sex scenes and watches them.
Sorry, not only don’t I know any guy that would be watch their daughters sex scenes, let alone go and watch them live! To think this is the quality of person we trust to get our news from….
Sorry about the double post. Can’t seem to delete the duplicate.
Also the quote is at:
I had no idea until I wrote those posts about him last week that Brian Williams has a daughter who is an actress. I googled his name, trying to get more info on his journalism career, and instead of getting much more info on that, I learned that he has a daughter who’s an actress.
I don’t really care what his relationship is with his daughter, as long as it’s legal. I do care that the current NBC Nightly News anchor apparently doesn’t know, two years after it became a periodic major news story, what the debt ceiling is and what “raising” it means.
He seems to me like a nice guy. And his nightly news shows do focus on actual hard news–a big deal in this silly lightweight era. I just don’t understand how, this late in the debt-ceiling game, he doesn’t know what it is.
Well normally I would agree with you on his relationship with his family. However, this is just SO wrong it is creepy! Would you want to watch your child have sex, or have your parents watch you? Would you talk about it in public like it is a normal thing?
Am I suprised that he doesn’t know what the debit ceiling is? Of course not. Since we have a president that thinks raising taxes will solve our problems. Unfortunately, even if he took EVERY penny that people earning 250K and over made we wouldn’t be able to cover the debit for this year. Not that they would be stupid to keep paying it. Look at NY and see that their tax revenue went DOWN after raising taxes. Ca is losing their millionaires like crazy since the threat to raise taxes. Look at France, and England. Tax revenues go DOWN.
These “journalists” are the same ones that push Obama. If they can’t bother to check if his policies have failed EVERYWHERE they have been tried, do you think they will bother checking out words they don’t know?
I’m assuming that you mean that Obama’s policies have failed everywhere where they’ve been tried. So I suggest that you do what you think most mainstream journalists haven’t done: actually check to see whether Obama’s policies have failed where they’ve been tried. That would require you to switch TV channels from Fox to, maybe, PBS, and to read, say, New York Times reports that cite–OMG!–facts. Y’know, like, maybe, checking out reports by journalists who have checked out whether Obama’s policies have failed where they’ve been tried.
Unlike, oh, say, G.W. Bush’s policies–massive tax breaks for the wealthy despite two wars and the aging of this country’s population. Policies that have worked great!
Actually, I think that maybe YOU need to check your facts. Yes the riches taxes went down, however, so did everyone elses that actually paid taxes. Maybe you should look into the IRS stats. Did you know that though their tax rate went down, that the amount of the overall percent of taxes PAID went up by 2%? So the tax reduction actually INCREASED their share of the taxes paid! Wont see that in the MSM. That is from the IRS, not fox news. I actually have brains and can do my own research and don’t just turn off people I disagree with because someone gives me a tingle down my leg.
Can you PLEASE tell me where his policies have succeeded?
China(before they actually converted to capitalism in busness? Did you know that they told Obama NOT to follow his policies?
As for the NYT how many times have they been disgraced? That is a joke.
Did you know that we spent more on the stimulas than on the wars?
That no one can actually find any jobs created?
We “saved” jobs in a non existing congresional district?
That we saved more jobs in one school district outside Chicago than the district had jobs?
That we paid to have tatoos removed, and to save mice? Now the last 2 might be good but are not stimulas.
That we are STILL spending stimulas money in OTHER countries to stimulate their car companies?
The ONLY reasons that unemployement is down is:
1) They changed the way of computing it? (fact)
2) By changing some numbers he gets to drop people from unemployement after 60ish weeks instead of 99! What that does is that everyone that runs out of unemployement doesn’t get counted in the unemployement numbers! Doesn’t matter that they haven’t FOUND a job but still are no longer counted as unemployed.
By the way NY tried Obama’s policy of raising taxes on those earning over 250K. What happened? Their tax revenues went DOWN.
Tax the rich sounds great. However, whatever you tax you get less off? Isn’t that one of the reasons they use to raise cig taxes?
Right, Zeke. Maybe NYC’s tax revenues went down because of the collapse of Wall Street and the real estate market? Or maybe NYC’s tax revenues went down because some wealthy people moved to the suburbs?
So here’s my suggestion: Now that federal income taxes have been raised to Clinton-era rates on incomes of above $450,000, anyone who is really unhappy with that should move to … Botswana. They have a really low tax rate there, I think.
Why is it so hard for conservatives to recognize things of this sort–such as that apples really are different than oranges, and that not everything that happens at about the same time is actually causually connected?