Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bill O'Reilly Has His Own Brian Williams Problem

From Mother Jones:

After NBC News suspended anchor Brian Williams for erroneously claiming that he was nearly shot down in a helicopter while covering the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Fox News host Bill O'Reilly went on a tear. On his television show, the top-rated cable news anchor declared that the American press isn't "half as responsible as the men who forged the nation." He bemoaned the supposed culture of deception within the liberal media, and he proclaimed that the Williams controversy should prompt questioning of other "distortions" by left-leaning outlets. Yet for years, O'Reilly has recounted dramatic stories about his own war reporting that don't withstand scrutiny—even claiming he acted heroically in a war zone that he apparently never set foot in.

More here.

You might have noticed that I've said almost nothing about the whole Brian Williams thing, and the reason why is that I already have mostly contempt for big time television news, well, virtually all television news.

For starters, television is an AWFUL vehicle to really get across the sophisticated and complex ideas that often comprise the news; instead, television naturally gravitates toward simple stuff, which usually means just simplifying things that aren't simple. That is, television plays to its own strengths, conflict, spectacle, emotion. And, to be fair, it does that really well. Television news is nothing these days if not entertaining. Lots of explosions and bikinis and sexual predators and frothing-at-the-mouth politicians and pundits and black people with guns. But that's not news. It's television.

So, okay, Brian Williams lied about being shot at in Iraq. What a scum bag. But really, that's what his entire profession does. They just have some rules they follow about how they make shit up, and Williams broke those rules, making him slightly more awful than his colleagues. Hardly worth mentioning, in my opinion.

But now it's started to get a bit more interesting. Turns out that the biggest butthole in all of television news, Bill O'Reilly, who recently used his Fox News show to lambaste Williams, now stands accused, fairly convincingly, of doing almost the exact same thing. NBC suspended Williams for six months without pay, and his career in "news" is probably over. What will happen to O'Reilly?

As one of my favorite bloggers, Digby over at Hullabaloo, observes, very likely NOTHING.

After all, Fox News' ENTIRE BUSINESS MODEL is about lying, I mean, waaaay more so than everybody else, and O'Reilly is at the top of the food chain there. He's the KING of lies. He lies so much that it's very likely that he believes his own lies, as Senator Al Franken once asserted. A bully who lives in his own brutal imagination which he pushes on the country. And it's not just Fox: the rest of the television news world continues to treat Rupert Murdoch's flagship operation as being somehow legitimate, which means that O'Reilly gets a corporate news media presumption of legitimacy, too. In spite of the fact that O'Reilly makes Williams look like the compulsively truth-telling George Washington in comparison.

So I'm looking forward to seeing how this plays out. It's probably just going to fade away like it never happened at all. O'Reilly's career is very likely safe. Almost certainly he will be allowed by everybody to continue to be the King of Lies. But you never know. Maybe this is the end. I'd LOVE to see it.

I mean, THAT would be some good television.