News

Truth, Trust, and Brian Williams

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Brian Williams crossing the Delaware.

If you follow @knifetruth on Twitter you know that I stray from the reservation a bit, and will comment or retweet on topics that are not knife related. Dan sees what I tweet, and has never seen fit to ask me to stay on topic. I typically steer clear of the red/blue political circus except as it pertains to the Second Amendment, or when I castigate both sides when their Statism runs afoul of my Libertarian POV. The administration, and for that matter world response to the Islamist threat is fair game as well. I also share some pretty random stuff that I happen to find funny.

Which brings me to the subject of Brian Williams and his admitting guilt of stolen valor. If you haven’t heard, he has admitted to fabricating  “misremembering” the story of the helicopter he was traveling in in Iraq being brought down by RPG fire when in truth his landed later after the area was secure. He has repeated lie this multiple times and basked in accolades for his bravery. He has repeated the story as recently as a 2013 interview on Letterman. The truth came out via a Stars and Stripes report.

I promise I will tie this back to TTAK if you make the jump…

 

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One of my favorites.

from PowerlineBlog:

“Letterman gives the desired response: “That’s an incredible story, I have to look at you with more respect…” You’re a “war hero.” So Williams benefited in obvious ways from the fantasy that he retailed, over and over. He advanced his career by picking up reflected glory from America’s armed forces.

But I speculate that there was more to it than that. Often when he told the story, the context was Williams’s expression of admiration for the fighting men and women whom he got to know in Iraq. I don’t doubt that those expressions were genuine. Williams went to Iraq, spent time with U.S. soldiers, and found that they were more courageous, more dedicated, more skillful–in short, better men–than he. No problem with that: I feel the same way about a lot of my military friends, but it doesn’t cause me to make up stories to enhance my own purported valor.”

Brian Williams holds the position of Managing Editor of NBC News. That happens to be my job title here at TTAK, and while the scale of what I do here is obviously comparatively diminutive, the responsibility I feel to my audience, my employer, and to the truth is not.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GwtxVjNVDBU

Powerline goes on to attribute Williams’ lie to “liberal guilt”. Other than my agreement with John Nolte’s assertion that Williams’ account on Letterman was “sociopathic” in its detail, psychoanalyzing Williams is irrelevant to this editorial and beyond my scope of expertise. So disregard the “liberal guilt” terminology and look at the larger point of this quote. Powerline continues:

“How has liberal guilt shaped stories that he has written and delivered on the economy; on taxes; on wages; on corporate profits; on fiscal policy; on race relations; on affirmative action; and on many other subjects NBC News has addressed over the years? If Williams would make up bald-faced lies in one context to assuage his own liberal guilt, is it unreasonable to think that he and his NBC colleagues have passed off misrepresentations, misleading data, errors of omission and, yes, outright falsehoods in service of the liberal cause on other topics, for the same reason?

I don’t care about the motivation in particular. A Managing Editor is charged with gleaning the important topics and deciding what chaff to let go. It is said that a news anchor has a greater impact in what he or she doesn’t cover than by what they do. Unlike the blog format of TTAK, where we are open about our bias and agenda, a newscaster is supposed to be the public’s “our guy”- trusted to play it straight. At one point in time, though this claim has been disputed, Walter Cronkite was regarded by many as “the most trusted man in America”.

Williams liked to see himself in that august light. He didn’t look too kindly on those of us in the new media. He told an assembly of NYU journalism students in 2007 (from Reason.com):

“You’re going to be up against people who have an opinion, a modem, and a bathrobe,” said Williams. “All of my life, developing credentials to cover my field of work, and now I’m up against a guy named Vinny in an efficiency apartment in the Bronx who hasn’t left the efficiency apartment in two years.”

He added that it’s often difficult to judge the credibility of a blogger. “On the Internet, no one knows if you’ve been to Ramadi or you’ve just been to Brooklyn and have an opinion about Ramadi,” said Williams….”

On behalf of all of the Vinnys out there, banging away on keyboards in the solitude of our workspaces, I want to say: “Integrity does not come with a Journalism degree Mr. Williams”.

It is said that when you depart this earth, all you really leave behind is your reputation. Mr. Williams has soiled his, likely beyond repair. He tried to bolster himself on the sacrifice of others.

from the Baltimore Sun:

“Really, if this was 10 or 15 years ago, an anchor at any network would be gone by Friday after an admission of such deception — especially when it is placed alongside the sacrifices made and pains suffered by military personnel and their families.

How could you expect anyone who served in the military to ever see this guy onscreen again and not feel contempt? How could you expect anyone to believe he or the broadcast he leads has any credibility?

I wonder how the newsroom Williams is supposed to be leading will look at him tomorrow morning when he arrives for work.”

When Robert Farago founded The Truth About Cars, it was a reaction against the automotive media whom he believed was too cozy with the industry, and their ratings and reviews were based on access rather than truth. This point of view continued when he moved on to found The Truth About Guns. This dedication to the Truth has not always made friends. TTAG Review Editor Nick Leghorn was recently escorted from the Remington booth at the SHOT Show. This is likely retaliation for his honest but unfavorable review of the R51. Big Green doesn’t like it when people call them out on their descent into mediocrity.

As Managing Editor of TTAK I feel this same responsibility to bring you the unvarnished Truth About Knives. You the readers work hard for your money, and if I am going to suggest you would be well served in exchanging it for a piece of gear, I had damn well better be sure that my words are beyond reproach on the matter. You trust us. I feel a duty to honor that trust by being unquestionably honest.

When there is a discrepancy, as there was when I confused a detail between the Fairbairn-Sykes Dagger and the US V42, I dug deeper and corrected my post. I have actually gone back out to my workshop at 12:30 at night to cut a piece of sisal because I couldn’t remember for certain if I had done so in testing when working on a review. When I can’t answer a question I endeavor to do further research or seek out experts like Will Woods as I did this week in response to a reader’s emailed question.

We always as a matter of policy will tell you the circumstances in which we acquire a knife. Sometimes it is a personal purchase, sometimes a loaner, and sometimes it is given by a manufacturer with no request for return.

I will not deny that it is a bit of a personal thrill to meet legendary figures in the knife world. If I were not at least a bit of a fanboy, I doubt that I would be able to maintain my motivation or that my writing would be very interesting. I have certainly made friendships with industry folks, small and large, in the course of my time at TTAK. I try to disclose this when it is the case, so that you can be aware of whatever bias I might consciously or subconsciously exhibit. I make doubly sure to  provide photo-documentation of every step of the testing so that you can objectively see the results for yourself.

I hope that this dedication to the truth shows and that I maintain your trust in the future. Thank you for reading.

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You were the only one with a shred of credibility at NBC Mr. Williams. You have betrayed the public trust and are unlikely to ever regain it.

 

Discussion

11 responses to ‘Truth, Trust, and Brian Williams

  1. Oh, it was a well written piece, and Brian Williams is a douche nozzle, but when I read that I just couldn’t let it slide.

  2. writing as a reader who emailed a question and benefitted from a response from will, readers here should rest assured that that type of access and exchange comes from a high level of dedication.
    I received a high resolution image of my edc folder that helped me verify that which I had failed to with my loupe. weird, I don’t get how I missed it, but thanks to ttak.

  3. Rather than call him names, vilify his profession (which used to be honorable) and get our knickers in a twist, let’s look at what has happened to “reporting” in general.

    Once (when I aspired to be in the business stoked by Woodward and Bernstein) a reporter strove to do just that: Report.

    Report as objectively on the event as possible to convey the facts to others, who at a distance, could not see it for themselves.

    Now it seems that the idea of reporting has been subsumed into the cult of personality where the “reporter” becomes more important then the event. And with every iteration of the dominance of the reporter, be it on PBS, Fox or NBC, the public looses more trust in the media.

    Williams told himself the lie for more than a decade (just like the one about WMDs in Iraq) and perhaps started t believe it.

    Glad he has stepped down rather than fight it.

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