March 2015        

The American media: a masterful work of deception

Richard Bryant

I have been fascinated by the coverage surrounding Brian Williams’s inability to accurately remember certain details concerning his time in Iraq and New Orleans. It is a story that says much about our culture and the times in which we live.
     I admit that I’ve even made a joke at Williams’s expense. Over a conversation last evening I told my wife that I was fuzzy about the details of my trip on Apollo 13. If Brian Williams can misremember being attacked in a hotel, why can’t I misremember telling Houston about a spaceship problem?
     While my joke may be harmless enough, the larger issues raised by this week’s events are quite serious. Did Williams lie, misremember, or obfuscate the truth about this fateful helicopter journey in Iraq? His credibility as a journalist is on the line. People may never take him seriously again. The stories of those involved seem to be changing by the day. It’s hard to know what’s real, what’s not, and who to believe.
     For me, the whole controversy speaks to the masterful work of deception still being perpetrated upon the American people. Twelve years after the West invaded Iraq we’re talking about the alleged lies of a respected journalist who was trying to tell the story of one day in a very long war. We are not talking about the lies that led us to war. We’ve forgotten about the lies, misinformation and misrepresentations of reality told and retold by the government of the United States.
     There were no weapons of mass destruction. The Iraqi regime, while brutal and an insult to civilised society, shared no connection with the events of 11 September 2001. The war in Iraq began on a pretext of deception. Brave men and women perished not to protect our freedoms or avenge the deaths in New York, Washington, or Shanksville: they died because our governments lied about the threat posed to America by Saddam Hussein. The war in Iraq was an event birthed in lies and manipulation.
     We know this now. The evidence of the lies and misrepresentation which led us back to Iraq is now plain to see. And, like the viewers of NBC Nightly News, many people around the world will never take America seriously again. Its credibility is shot.
     I’m really not emotionally invested in Brian Williams’s future at NBC. However, I am frustrated by how upset some have become at the side-show that is the American culture war. We argue about a man lying in regard to a helicopter hit by small-arms fire as if it is one of the most important issues of the day. All the while we ignore (or forget) the horrendous lies that brought those helicopters and journalists to Iraq in the first place.

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