Truth – that’s so yesterday
Ilana Mercer considers celebrity journalism
Facts are a journalist’s stock-in-trade. He cannot be cavalier about the truth. Nevertheless, Brian Williams, the suspended iconic managing editor and anchor of NBC Nightly News, embellished liberally about events he covered in the course of a limelight-seeking career.
As it transpires, Williams’ helicopter did not come under enemy fire in Iraq, in the early days of the war. Nor did his Ritz-Carlton hotel take on water during Hurricane Katrina, in 2005. The body he “witnessed” floating by that establishment would have had to be floating in a few inches of rain, the precipitation in the French Quarter. Neither did gangs “overrun” the Ritz-Carlton, nor dysentery afflict its guest, despite the story the intrepid Williams disgorged to the contrary.
The public has yet to receive a full accounting of Brian Williams’ journalistic transgressions, but the press is already riffing on the merits of Christian forgiveness. Who said Christianity isn’t invoked, occasionally, in the service of the progressive project?
A USA Today journalist minimized the gravity of Williams’ fibs. “Journalists have been known to occasionally exaggerate their exploits. … Williams’ seemingly genial personality and likability could work in his favor,” he noodled. Another USA Today reporter, exposed by Newsbusters, attempted to coat Williams’ self-serving fables with a scientific patina, by invoking Elizabeth Loftus’ research into the amalgam of influences that make-up “false memories.” Democrat Clintonite Lanny Davis echoed the “false memories” meme.
Others in the “trade” proclaimed to be “rooting for Williams.” “There is no glee in watching a titan of journalism fall.” “A good person who made a big mistake,” vaporized Fox News’ Megyn Kelly. “I come not to praise Brian Williams, nor to bury him,” equivocated another. And it was boilerplate David Brooks to write as though with himself in mind (along the lines of, “What if the Williams fate befalls me?”). Prematurely, the New York Times’ neoconservative-cum-liberal columnist demanded forgiveness on behalf of Williams.
In mitigation—there’s been a great deal of that—Williams told tall tales not about the news, but about his imagined role in the dramas he covered. From the ethical perspective, Brian Williams’ reportage is not really tarnished by this petty self-aggrandizement; his character is.
Not for nothing have his colleagues, left and right, formed a protective barricade around Williams. With few exceptions, the media-complex within which Gilded Ones like Williams slither so effortlessly is mired in corruption—the kind this scribe did not encounter in the structurally more conservative Canadian industry. It is anathema in Europe too, I am told.
Conflict of interest is at every turn. Major anchors—the gifted and gorgeous Megyn Kelly too, sadly—beaver at sculpting a celebrity persona. They hangout on late-night shows. They hobnob with the hosts to curry favor with them, “The Daily Show” on Comedy Central being their professional Shangri-La.
Over and over again do the celebrity journos, then, relive their moments of glory with their own fans, holding out hope for the next invitation. Lovingly—self-love being the operative word—do they track their media appearances from their respective network seats. The better-looking flaunt their assets over fashion spreads in high-gloss magazines.
Almost all—your favorite opinionators, too—attend the annual Sycophant’s Supper, where they cozy up to Kim Kardashian and Beyoncé Knowles. (Kudos to the few, such as former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw, who’ve excoriated the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner, or who’ve refused to attend, irrespective of the political affiliation of the man ensconced in the White House.)
The annual White House Sycophants’ Dinner is where the most pretentious people in the country—in politics, journalism and entertainment—convene to revel in their ability to petition and curry favor with one another, usually to the detriment of the rest of us in Rome’s provinces.
Those gathered at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, or its Christmas party, are not the country’s natural aristocracy, but its authentic Idiocracy. The events and the invited say a great deal about the press, its ethics and code of conduct.
Like nothing else, the Sycophant’s Supper is a mark of a corrupt politics and press, as the un-watchful dogs of the media have no business frolicking with the president and his minions. This co-optation, however, is the hallmark of the celebrity press, in general. The days following these glitzy events, the Gilded Ones spend genuflecting to … themselves.
What else? Celebrity journalists marry their sources and hop right back into their roles as reporters. Their colleagues in this circle jerk are none the wiser. Examples: CNN and ABC’s Claire Shipman who wed Obama press secretary Jay Carney. Campbell Brown, formerly of CNN, is hitched to Romney adviser Dan Senor. “Meet the Press’” Chuck Todd is married to and gives an occasional shout-out to Democratic strategist Kristian Denny Todd.
The presstitutes straddle the fleshpots of D.C. with the skill of a Department of Justice that bestrides the roles of defender in court of the Infernal Revenue Service, as well as the agency charged with investigating the tax collector. All of them ride us like the asses we are.
No better than the lobbyists and the politicians they petition, the presstitutes move seamlessly between their roles as activists, experts and anchors; publishers and authors; talkers and product peddlers; pinups and pontificators.
To wit, former White House press secretary Dana Perino is also editorial director of Crown Forum, the country’s foremost “conservative” print, where she supervises the further “Closing of the American Mind,” to use Allan Bloom’s famous title.
Oblivious to a conflict of interest, Megyn Kelly promotes husband Douglas Brunt’s books from her perch at Fox News. In the same vein, CNN’s Brooke Baldwin entertained Cousin Sgt. Charlie Mink as her self-styled expert on prisoner interrogation in Iraq. On the same network, Suzette Malveaux (law professor) is legal expert of choice to Suzanne Malveaux (anchor). The two are twin sisters.
The list of professional incest is long.
Vanity, not veracity; narcissism, not integrity: these are the tools of the trade among America’s celebrity journalists.
Now please lead me to the Vomitorium.
ILANA MERCER is a paleolibertarian writer based in the United States. She pens WND’s longest-standing column, “Return to Reason” and is a Fellow at the Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies. She is a Quarterly Review Contributing Editor. Ilana’s latest book is Into the Cannibal’s Pot: Lessons for America from Post-Apartheid South Africa. Her website is www.IlanaMercer.com. She blogs at www.barelyablog.com