Brian Williams’ Lies Reveal Secrets of News Industry
There could be a very simple explanation as to why Brian Williams’ lies revealed secrets of the news industry. Brian Williams lied about being fired upon while flying in a helicopter over enemy territory in Iraq in 2003. Once begun, lying becomes a hard habit to break. Brian Williams works in a profession where deception is a big part of being successful. Since news became a major profit center for the TV net-works, their prime directive has clearly shifted from providing the best quality news reporting to obtaining the highest ratings possible.
High ratings typically translates into telling people what they want to hear and not telling them what they don’t want to hear. This of course leads to shoddy news reporting. A formula for successful people in this
business is maintaining the highest credibility possible while avoiding talking about as many painful truths as possible. This formula conflicts with the vital need of the media to be the Fourth Estate. The news media is supposed to be the Fourth Branch of Government. The role of the Fourth Estate is to oversee the political process so that it may stop or prevent abuse of the democratic process by the members of government. As a member of the journalistic community, Brian Williams has an unconditional bond to tell the truth. A true democracy requires its citizens to ultimately be informed of the truth. Brian Williams’ lie about his helicopter ride was a revealing moment of how the biggest players in today’s TV news business think and behave.
One doesn’t need a PhD in Psychology to know that the more you lie the easier it is to tell the next lie. The easier it is to tell the next lie, the easier it is to tell bigger lies. It appears the showman in Brian Williams could not resist making the leap from thinking if my helicopter had been the one fired upon, this would be a cool story to tell his viewing audience, to actually telling the public this story. Brian Williams had much to lose and little to gain by telling this prevarication, yet he did it and did it repeatedly until the truth came out. This is why it is such a compelling story and hard to understand his behavior.
However, if we accept the premise that he works in a environment where deception is second nature then his behavior is not so mysterious. The real takeaway from all this is the public has compelling evidence of what many have long believed. The mainstream media marinates in a culture of deception and manipulation of the news. This is the most logical conclusion to be drawn from this affair.It’s disturbing to think so much of the American psyche is so fragile it runs from the truth, However, it is quite possible that many of the people in this country are indeed that fragile. There is a real emotional head of steam that gets built up inside a person from lying and getting away with it. It’s like a child pushing limits to see how much they can get away with. The compulsive liar takes stupid unnecessary risks because of the adrenalin rush they get from getting away with it. It’s the same adrenalin rush a gambler gets when gambling. Lying is actually a form of gambling with your life instead of money. Brian Williams gambled with his career for seemingly the thrill of telling this juicy lie and he appears to be losing big with this gamble.
This Brian Williams episode can become a teaching moment for our country. If millions of people are willing to come out of their comfort zone and gather their courage to accept a stark truth. Which is that their seemingly trustworthy sources for news are really master manipulators and not truth tellers. There is plenty of evidence, at least in America, that most people do not want to accept a difficult truth even if it’s in their best interests. A perfect piece of evidence that Americans resist the truth is how far voters will support a politician once they have voted for him regardless of how much proof after the fact that this person is not trustworthy.
Climate change is another compelling example. Accepting that climate change was real also meant as a nation that many self-sacrifices would have to be made. The lie that climate change was not real was much
easier to swallow. As a nation we lacked the courage to face this “inconvenient truth” and now have a real and dangerous mess on our hands. Brian William’s mainstream media has been complicit with selling the lie that climate change is not real. It is obvious to this writer what has been the easier sell for better ratings. It takes courage to admit you made a mistake. Brian Williams lacked that courage and now his career appears to be in free fall. So, the question is, do we as a nation have the courage of a Brian Williams or the courage of someone who can face the truth.