Should Brian Williams be fired?

Brian Williams - NBC News

Brian Williams – NBC News

Brian Williams should resign his position as Anchor and Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News. He has been unquestionably exposed telling untruths about being aboard a helicopter struck by a rocket-propelled grenade during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

The question of firing him should not even be a matter of debate for NBC executives, especially if one assumes that Williams cares for the good of NBC News.  He should relieve them of that decision, and simply resign.

Given the length and nature of his relationship with NBC, it is a reasonable assumption that he cares about the organization.

There is also little doubt that there are still those at NBC who care a great deal for Williams. In a recent memo concerning the Brian Williams controversy, Deborah Turness, president of NBC News, referred to the organization as a close-knit family.

It is fantastic that the atmosphere in the NBC news division feels like that of a close-knit family; however, they are a news organization and not a family.

Turness did acknowledge the seriousness of Williams’ ethical failure when she announced his six-month suspension.

“…This was wrong and completely inappropriate for someone in Brian’s position.

In addition, we have concerns about comments that occurred outside NBC News while Brian was talking about his experiences in the field.

As Managing Editor and Anchor of Nightly News, Brian has a responsibility to be truthful and to uphold the high standards of the news division at all times.”

This leaves little doubt that she fully understands the breech in trust this represents, but she goes on to explain.

“…We felt it would have been wrong to disregard the good work Brian has done and the special relationship he has forged with our viewers over 22 years…”

It is here that a failure in judgment occurs for Turness and the other executives at NBC; they are not handing out punishment to an adolescent family member, but to a news editor and anchor who committed a firing offence.

Williams should have tendered his resignation, leaving them to deal with rebuilding the trust of their viewers. But now the organization faces a lengthy investigation, and even future embarrassment as the saga will be drawn out over the course of six months.

The news media is like any other human endeavor, it is inherently flawed. We humans sometimes tell lies, we sometimes hold personal agendas over the well-being of our fellow humans, and sometimes we simply fail miserably.

New York Times blogger, Tara Parker-Pope, recently posted that,

“The fallibility and the malleability of the human memory is at the center of a national controversy involving Brian Williams, the “NBC Nightly News” anchor.”

While one can certainly acknowledge the fallibility of the human condition, it is preposterous when Parker-Pope goes on to suggest Williams is a victim of false memory, or that he shouldn’t be held to a higher standard.

We are not talking about a drunken uncle at the VFW Hall embellishing his battlefield exploits; we are talking about the Managing Editor of NBC Nightly News.

When humans band together to create institutions, we are at our most brilliant, we accomplish our greatest achievements, and we manage to mitigate our personal flaws by relying on the strength of the institution.

Brain Williams should hold himself accountable and resign; if not, NBC leadership needs to hold him accountable to the standards of the organization, and fire him.

 

 

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Dear Readers

February 15, 2015

Dear Readers,

The Bedlam & Chaos Review started as student project during my studies at Towson University. Since I’ve been getting a few views and comments recently, I’m dusting off this blog and giving it some much needed attention.

I’m also modifying the scope and direction of the blog to stick more closely to commentary on news, media, and culture.

I still might include an essay or two that I write for a professor, but my primary intent is to speak in my blog voice about topics we encounter via modern media.

I’m nearing the end of my time at Towson University, and I feel it is time to break free and explore the world on my own terms.

Please feel free to comment and even disagree with me. I promise to limit moderation in the discussion section to a bare minimum.

You can be as harsh with me as you wish, but I do ask that you be polite to each other in the comments section.

On the off chance that I do get a following in here, I guess that I’ll have to establish a clear code of conduct, but for now that is all the guidance I’m giving you.

I hope you’ll enjoy my thoughts and voice as I continue to develop The Bedlam & Chaos Review.

Warm Regards,

D. Chris Draughn

 

The Pretender

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Jackson Browne – 1976

“I’m going to be a happy idiot

And struggle for the legal tender

Where the ads take aim and lay their claim

To the heart and the soul of the spender

And believe in whatever may lie

In those things that money can buy” 

 

I am one of those people who pretend to avoid TV commercials as much as possible. If I am watching a program or TV news broadcast, I usually have a book in my lap and I automatically focus my attention to the book as soon as a commercial comes on. Since I am letting you peek at the real me, I’ll confess that the book is really an iPad that gushes forth advertising even more efficiently than its big brother the TV. I just like pretending that I read books and watch TV simultaneously.

When my professor asked our class to make a log of every advertisement we encountered on a particular day, I grumbled inwardly but flashed a happy smile when she finished announcing the assignment, remember, I am the consummate pretender.

The only type of advertising that I truly despise is junk mail, because it is a pesky intrusion that always threatens to conceal a crucial piece of correspondence, and that is the only reason I pick through it, honestly!

The first thing that I do when I come home is stand beside the trash can double checking the junk mail for an important bill or letter before tossing the entire stack of paper in the trash.

However, junk mailers are clever enough to know that people automatically toss the bulk of their efforts, because some of them try to disguise their advertisements in official looking envelopes.

I own a Toyota FJ Cruiser and I simply love the vehicle, but recently, I got a letter from Toyota in what looked like an official US Government envelope.

On the envelope there was a cryptic return address, a seal that resembled the US Presidential Seal, and a stern warning to anyone attempting to interfere with the delivery of this letter to the intended recipient, that a five year prison sentence was a possible consequence.

Of course, I immediately ripped open the letter thinking the IRS or some other government agency was after me. Nope, nothing of the sort, my Toyota warranty was about to expire, so the fine folks at Toyota just wanted to be sure that they got the chance to offer me an extended warranty.

Although Toyota ticked me off with that little stunt, I’ll forgive them because they make a damned fine automobile, and because I am a staunch capitalist at heart.

Seriously, how can I hold a grudge against Toyota when P.T. Barnum is one of my heroes?

Yes, Barnum, who promoted hoaxes and who was widely credited with coining the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute” is one of my heroes. I try my damnedest not to be a sucker, so when an advertiser hooks me with something clever, it is hard not to give them a nod for getting through my defenses.

Let the advertisers battle for my attention and brand loyalty, it makes me feel special and important. It even allows me the opportunity to pretend that I am far too sophisticated to be a sucker for a slick and cheesy marketing ploy, but we know the truth, don’t we?

 

Pioneer of Satire

200px-Mark_Twain,_Brady-Handy_photo_portrait,_Feb_7,_1871,_croppedMark Twain

 When my professor assigned a blog post to profile a Print Pioneer, I eagerly signed up for Mark Twain, thinking it was a golden opportunity to write about my favorite work by Twain, Letters from the Earth.

My enthusiasm was dashed when I read the assignment guidelines in detail, and found that the primary focus had to be on the writer’s career in journalism.

However, I think I can be sneaky and still talk about them; despite the fact that, Letters from the Earth, were written at the end of Twain’s life and published posthumously.

Most people know of Mark Twain’s time as a riverboat pilot and the genesis of his pen name, if you don’t, you can read about that over at History.com.

He had an interesting early life and spent a couple of years of it bouncing between New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C. working as a typesetter in print shops and publishing houses.

In 1857 he found himself in Cincinnati, Ohio working as a typesetter, but longing for adventure. He booked passage on a riverboat to New Orleans with the intention to travel onward to South America.

He never made it to South America, instead he became an apprentice on a riverboat, and actually obtained a pilot’s license, but his career was interrupted by the Civil War.

The war disrupted riverboat traffic to such an extent that Twain returned to Hannibal, Missouri and joined a secessionist militia group. He described the time as, “a couple of weeks retreating from Union troops rumored to be in the area.”

That description is so anti-climactic, that it reeks of the truth in a profoundly funny way, and it is the perfect jumping off point for his time spent as a journalist.

With the war still going on, he left the militia and struck out for the Nevada Territory, publishing occasional stories in San Francisco and New York papers as a Nevada correspondent.

In November of 1865 he gained notoriety when one of his short stories, The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, was published in papers across the country.

This is where Twain’s satirical genius is crystallized for me; because, that frog story is one big rambling disappointment, but that is the punch line, the fact that there is absolutely no payoff. I can sum that story up in in six words; there once was a compulsive gambler.

Twain went on to publish a series of travel letters for a newspaper that financed his tour of the Mediterranean and the Holy Land. The letters were later published in the book, Innocents Abroad.

Here is where I think I think Twain opened the door for future satirists in popular media. Twain became close friends with his travel companions and wrote about their experiences in a truthful, yet sarcastic manner.

They soon became bored with their many guided tours and began making fun of them by acting like dimwits and asking moronic questions.

Here is an excerpt from, Innocents Abroad, when the group is bored with the tour guide and begins amusing themselves by asking stupid questions.

 “Enough, enough, enough! Say no more! Lump the whole thing! Say that the Creator made Italy from designs by Michael Angelo!”

I never felt so fervently thankful, so soothed, so tranquil, so filled with a blessed peace, as I did yesterday when I learned that Michael Angelo was dead.

 

But we have taken it out of this guide. He has marched us through miles of pictures and sculpture in the vast corridors of the Vatican; and through miles of pictures and sculpture in twenty other palaces; he has shown us the great picture in the Sistine Chapel, and frescoes enough to frescoe the heavens–pretty much all done by Michael Angelo.

So with him we have played that game which has vanquished so many guides for us–imbecility and idiotic questions. These creatures never suspect–they have no idea of a sarcasm.

 

He shows us a figure and says: “Statoo brunzo.” (Bronze statue.)

 

We look at it indifferently and the doctor asks: “By Michael Angelo?”

 

“No — not know who.”

 

Then he shows us the ancient Roman Forum. The doctor asks: “Michael Angelo?”

 

A stare from the guide. “No — thousan’ year before he is born.”

 

Then an Egyptian obelisk. Again: “Michael Angelo?”

 

“Oh, mon dieu, genteelmen! Zis is two thousan’ year before he is born!”

This type of humor is mild by today’s standards, but Mark Twain was capable of much more edgy content, Letters from the Earth.

Twain thought that they were too heretical to be published in his day, and he was right. They weren’t published until 1962.

He is extremely harsh on Christianity, and both his biographer, and daughter were reluctant to publish them. They actually tried to explain Twain’s harshness on the hardship that he experienced in his late years. However, I think that there is ample evidence that Twain was at least an agnostic if not an atheist in his earlier writings.

He certainly struggled with aspects of the Christian faith as many people do, and I strongly identified with, Letters from the Earth, when I read them.  The letters are from the Archangel Satan to the Archangels Gabriel and Michael about his observations of humans and the religion they created, namely Christianity.

The message I came away with after reading them is that humans, however strange and brutal they might be at times, have a superior moral character than the God depicted in the Old and New Testaments.

People in Twain’s day did not attack religion in such a harsh manner in public media, and I find the fact that these letters were published in 1962 not at all surprising.  The year 1962, was at the front of a wave were many traditional ways of thinking were called into question.

I see our current generation of satirists like, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, as owing their freedom to lampoon anything to a true pioneer like Mark Twain.

A Tale of Two Cities

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A Tale of Two Cities

(Bedrock and Springfield)

I have been studying early TV in my Mass Communication class and we were asked to compare a comedy from the early TV era to a present day show.

I came up with a flood of ideas, but all of them were boring to me. Until, I remembered how much I hate The Flintstones; be forewarned, if you like Fred and Barney, you are probably going to get mad at me; because I don’t have many nice things to say about them, and I always wondered why that show was so popular.

On the other hand, The Simpsons is a brilliant show and even when it hit the doldrums in the late 1990’s it was far more an imaginative and funny commentary on American life, than the Flintstones ever was.

The Simpsons has suffered through many changes in the writing staff through the course of its 25 year run; however, as the show enters its last year of production, it still produces top notch satire.

About the nicest thing I can say about the Flintstones is that the opening song is infectious. That song has wormed its way into the brains of millions, if not billions of people, and still turns up in pop culture references. Watch the video, if you dare, because you’ll likely be humming the song for the next three days.

The Flintstones originally aired between 1960 and 1966 on ABC and featured Fred and Wilma Flintstone, plus their neighbors, Barney and Betty Rubble.

The characters were obviously lifted from the 1950’s Jackie Gleason classic, The Honeymooners and relied heavily upon the gag of setting contemporary life in the Stone Age.

I’ll forgive the show’s creators for adding dinosaurs to the Stone Age, as they needed something to spice up the blatant rehashing of Honeymooners plot lines. However, how many times can a person watch a gag of a Pterodactyl  inside a Polaroid camera chiseling out photographs and think it is funny?

I searched through many Flintstones episodes for something funny, or at least edgy, and all I was able to come up with was something completely unintentional, this advertisement for Winston cigarettes.

By today’s standards, that innocently placed advertisement borders on being horrific; it’s worth clicking on the link to watch. I predict you’ll at least feel creepy watching it.

I remember an older friend of mine telling me, that when Wilma had her baby, Peebles, it was considered controversial. I found a short clip, of their mad rush to the hospital; I dare you to watch the entire clip, without begging for your 3 minutes and 42 seconds back.

This “modernstonic” family was a very unimaginative depiction of a 1950’s working class family, despite the Saber Tooth Cats and Brontosaurs. I know I was very harsh on Fred and the gang, but I’ve always disliked them from my very first encounter with their re-runs in the early 1970’s.

Flash forward to the late 1980’s to Springfield and meet The Simpsons: Homer, Marge, Lisa, Bart, and little Maggie. Not to mention an entire universe of Springfield characters that emerged over the course of the show.

Homer is another working class stiff, like Fred, but he manages to be lovable despite his stupidity and ignorance. Marge, the mother,  is the voice of reason and the glue that holds the Simpson family together, but she is often portrayed as regretting her role in the family.

Lisa is the intellectual leftist leaning vegan daughter, who is often misunderstood and used as the foil to lampoon both the left and the right. Her older brother, Bart, is the hellion and anarchist of the family, plus, little Maggie who, for 25 years, has perpetually been the baby of the family with her trademark pacifier.

What makes me like the Simpsons is that it is clever satire of culture as opposed to a tired and worn out depiction of life inside a household.

The writers of the show reach out into the real world for their story lines; while they often lampoon or spoof classic movies, Broadway musicals, they never blandly copy them. They take pop culture and politics, and twist it into a clever commentary.

Take a look at Homer in the voting booth during the 2012 elections; I guarantee that you’ll have no trouble watching it.

I thought it was funny enough, but when I heard people were mad about it, well, it made me laugh all the more. I guess that I’ve got a little Bart in me.

iPad for Breakfast

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My professor asked me to explain which type of media I rely on for most of my news, and why?

I still love newspapers, even though I seldom buy hard copies of them anymore. There is nothing like going to my favorite diner on a Sunday morning and picking up a copy of the local paper to read while I have sunny-side-up eggs, bacon, and toast.

However, I do find myself pulling out my iPad and accessing a digital copy these days. There is no folding the paper, and no switching from the front page to page A19 to finish a story.

Despite my fond memories of rummaging through my pockets for a fist-full-of-quarters, and then, engaging in a nonstop origami session to get my copy of the Washington Post down to a wieldy size, I must admit, the digital format of the newspaper reigns supreme on my breakfast table, but that is only half the story.

What I like best about the reading the news, as opposed to TV or radio news broadcasts, is that the coverage can be significantly more in-depth.

Plus, if the waitress comes over to refill my coffee, I can always go back and pick up reading from where I left off. If someone starts talking to you while you are watching Scott Pelley announce the CBS Evening News, you are going to miss something, either that, or you are going to have to shush whoever is talking to you, and I never think that is a good idea.

There is even a greater reason to rely on digital editions of newspapers. Let’s say that you are following a long-running story and want some more background. A couple of swipes and jabs at your iPad and you can pull up a previous story, or more importantly, check another source.

Not that I am paranoid, but I do think one needs to be a little suspicious and critical of any news organization’s tone and spin on a particular topic.

Let’s face it, we humans are inherently flawed, and although we sometimes do magnificent things when we band together in groups, we are never immune from moral and ethical failure. Corporations, government agencies, newspapers, activist groups, and even churches can make dreadful decisions and become untrustworthy.

No, I am not claiming that a few swipes and jabs on your iPad will protect you from misinformation, it won’t. However, it is a powerful tool that puts a tremendous amount of information at your fingertips. It is still up to the reader to analyze all of that information in between dabbing your toast into your eggs.

If you use that tool the right way, you can be so much more informed than that guy sitting two stools away, who is constantly folding and unfolding his copy of the New York Times.

The print edition of the newspaper has a lot of charm and I understand those who are nostalgic for it; however, rotary phones are charming too, but we said goodbye to them with much less fuss.