THE FOG OF BRIAN’S VARIOUS SONGS: The possible source of a widespread disease!


Part 4—Following the money:
We’re willing to give the press corps credit. They’ve finally found the miscreant they misidentified, long ago, as Candidate Gore.

Just as they always suspected, a persistent, rather strange dissembler was right there in their midst! But it wasn’t Candidate Gore, whose “lies” they had to invent.

It seems that the persistent dissembler may have been NBC’s Brian Williams! Williams seems to have told a long succession of whoppers down through the years, in the psychologically puzzling way he and his colleagues spent two years attributing to Gore.

What will turn out to be true about Williams’ various claims about Hurricane Katrina? We’ll wait to see what NBC or other journalists learn and report.

That said, a bit of interest creeps into the stew thanks to Douglas Brinkley’s 2006 book, The Great Deluge. In the best-selling book, Brinkley seems to take many of Williams’ somewhat jumbled recitations and claims at face value.

Was Williams really consumed by “dysentery” and “delirium” for several days and nights during Katrina, as “armed gangs” were “brandishing guns and terrorizing guests” inside his hotel? That’s what it says in Brinkley’s book, whose index offers no other citation for “dysentery” in its full 768 pages.

It will be interesting to see how well Brinkley’s book holds up. Brinkley at least sidestepped the implausible story in which Williams seemed to say that he miraculously discovered the hole in the Superdome’s roof—though needless to say, only after taking a terrible fall.

Here's how Williams told that story in his October 2005 Katrina documentary.For transcript and tape, click here:
WILLIAMS (10/27/05): The storm winds started in the morning [of August 29, 2005].

When they lowered the huge corrugated steel doors at the back of the Superdome, we were inside with everybody else, locked inside for the duration of the storm. It was dark. The power was out early. There was no circulating air. There was only the food we brought.

I slipped on an awful combination of detergent, motor oil, and water on the slick cement ramps going down to the actual field, the turf.

I went down hard. And I was lying on the Astroturf on my back. Just gonna take a breather for a second. And I looked up. I saw a pinhole in the roof of the Superdome.

And that pinhole, lo and behold, grew larger and larger.
Al Gore said he discovered the hole in the Superdome roof!

Sorry, crackers! Despite all the stories you heard in the past, it was really a major journalist who told that rather implausible tale about the semi-miraculous way he managed to make an important discovery while flat on his back on that ramp!

Even flat on his back, while just taking a breather, Williams kept breaking the news! At least, that’s the way he told the story in his documentary. The film aired first on the Sundance Channel, then later on NBC.

Whatever! Williams’ many stories do tend to seem rather strange. They suggest that something may be slightly amiss inside the rich newsman’s head.

If that’s the case, we hope six months will help Williams get himself back under command. Meanwhile, we'll suggest you might draw a conclusion from this stew of apparent tales:

Follow the money! More precisely, citizens should be very concerned when “journalists” get paid millions of dollars per year by big corporate “news organizations.”

When journalists—or popular historians like Brinkley—get turned into their own “brands.”

People, follow the money! It attracts the wrong people into news. And it may tend to corrupt such people once they land their big jobs.

People will do a lot of things to score more than $10 million per year—or to score the $7 million Rachel Maddow is said to be paid. Meanwhile, along with all that cash, you're gifted with all that fame!

How might these “brand names” be affected? At The New Yorker, Ken Auletta offered these thoughts in a recent post, Brian Williams and the God Complex:
AULETTA (2/8/15): [W]hile the spotlight is on Williams’s transgressions, a word about the complicity of NBC and the other networks’ marketing machines: The networks have a stake in promoting their anchors as God-like figures. By showing them in war zones, with Obama or Putin, buffeted by hurricanes, and comforting victims, they are telling viewers that their anchors are truth-tellers who have been everywhere and seen everything and have experience you can trust...NBC had a stake in promoting Brian Williams as all-knowing, just as a promo ad for the ABC anchor David Muir that I saw today portrayed the lightly experienced forty-year-old as worldly...

In addition to the marketing campaigns, something else happens that often induces anchors to think of themselves as God. Each of them is seen in roughly eight to ten million homes nightly. They are seen by many more people, and more frequently, than any movie star. To walk down a street with an anchor is to be stunned both by how many people recognize him and how many viewers call out to him about specific stories. There’s a respectful familiarity that is different from the awe surrounding Hollywood celebrities. The anchor is treated as the citizen’s trusted guide to the news. As a result, he can feel expected to dominate discussions, to tell war stories, to play God. It’s a short distance from there to telling fantastic stories—and maybe actually believing them.
Did Williams believe his “fantastic stories?” Before we try to answer that question, we’ll wait to learn which stories may have been true.

But wealth and fame—and fawning profiles by lesser scribes—can easily lead to that God complex. And this syndrome can grip “liberal” journalists too, even if we think we share their wondrous political values.

We’ve thought about Nicholas Kristof this week as we’ve watched the storms around Williams. We’ve also thought about Rachel Maddow.

We’ve remembered the story she always told about the way she could never own a TV set because, if she owned a TV set, she’d never do anything else.

That story, a bit of a humblebrag, helped create a fey brand. Today, a giant flat-screen TV hangs in front of Maddow’s large hot tub, as you can see in this swish photo spread from New York magazine.

There’s nothing “wrong” with owning a TV—but wealth and fame can be corrupting. We suspect they affect our “liberal” stars too.

If that’s true, would such a thing be good for progressive interests?

Tomorrow: Breaking! Kristof in Haiti


  1. Bob, you might want to read a book called "Making Monsters" about the Satanic ritual abuse/incest panic of the late 1980s and early 90s. Our memories to a staggering degree are fictions. It's not just tribes invested in narratives. In one experiment and astute psychologist had some kids write about their experiences in the immediate wake of the Challenger explosion. Then, a few years later asked them to rewrite their experiences and compared the two descriptions. I don't remember the exact number (no surprise there) but at least half the students wrote radically different stories. There is a tendency to think that the more emotional an event's impact the stronger and more accurate memories are likely to be but, no. And the psychologist also found that there was no connection between confidence and accuracy either. The situation is seriously alarming.

    1. I think I remember you Hieronymus Braintree. Aren't you the commenter from a few years back who said Al Gore was victimized because he let himself be victimized, but that if you had been victimized by the press like poor George Zimmerman
      you could "totally flip my nut and can easily see myself doing something crazy like pointing a gun at someone who has declared her intention to abandon me."

      That you? Stick around. There are some new pals to play with.

    2. In other words, Hieronymous, you find the revelation stunning that human beings embellish their stories over time.

      I guess that's what happens when you grow up in a cave.

    3. The Challenger study was done by Ulric Neisser. In that study, students forget where they first heard about the disaster, not whether the disaster occurred. They mainly confused being told about it with actually seeing the explosion on TV, largely because TV replayed it over and over. It was a kind of source memory confusion. Williams could confuse hearing about the RPGs with actually being shot at, over time. It is less likely he would completely fabricate a story out of whole cloth. Clinton similarly confused her own experiences with other landings under fire either seen in video or experienced in other places or times. Reagan confused the movies he acted in with his own past, another source confusion. If you think about it, it is common for us to forget where we read or saw something, where the experience came from, while remembering the content of the experience.

      The difference is that Williams is a reporter and thus it is his job to get those kinds of facts right, whether as an anchor or when being interviewed. Clinton and Reagan should have been more careful, but their job wasn't to accurately report news, as Williams was. When something like that happens repeatedly instead of occasionally, it suggests a different problem, either carelessness or mental disorder (as in Reagan's case with his Alzheimer's). That so many of Williams' stories are being called into question suggests a bigger problem that a simple lapse that could happen to anyone.

    4. 2:36,

      Yes, I did say those things. You got a problem with that? Al Gore did not refute the multiple lies that were told to smear his character and let GWB become quite arguably the worst president in history. George Zimmerman remains one of the most hated people in America despite being exonerated in court. I'd like to see you be the object of the sort of vicious near-universal hatred he's been subjected and not have any serious psychological outbursts. You obviously have very little in the way of of compassion. The liberal/left case against him is made up almost entirely of lies and omissions. And no one, including you, has been able to come up with any explanation as to what TM was doing with the more than ample time he had to get away from GZ and make it home. But lack of evidence doesn't matter to people like you and idiots such as yourself are tragically legion. That's why I'm ashamed to be a liberal.

      3:44 Accusing me of "growing up in a cave" is one seriously asinine remark. It is in fact, news to an awful lot of people just how fallible memory is. Just ask Rolling Stone or the feminists who are still insisting that we must believe virtually every rape story ever told. Elizabeth Loftus did experiments in which she got people to remember and describe events that she made up and never actually happened. Embellish is one thing. Convincing yourself that you remember nonexistent events or rewriting events that you think you remember into something entirely different is another matter entirely.

      "Making Monsters" incidentally is about how prominent psychologists such as Judith Herman of Harvard armed with a theory of memory that presumed its inherent accuracy convinced thousands of people, mostly women, that they had been members of Satanic Cults that, surprise, didn't actually exist. Of course Harvard shrinks are notorious for growing up in caves.

      4:00 I didn't say that they weren't clear about the Challenger explosion happening. I could have been clearer but thinking you saw it on TV in real time when you just heard about after the fact is to remember the event in a way that is radically different than what actually happened, no? And to believe that you don't just remember it that way but are utterly confident that that memory is accurate, is seriously troubling, at least to me.

      I think you're right that Williams is unusual. But, based on what I've seen, I'm just not sure by how much. Your mileage may vary but II think it's less than most people realize.

      I've already wasted too much time on this thread and, frankly, I have not been impressed by the quality of the vast majority of criticism I've been subjected to here (though, 4:00 was pleasantly intelligent IMO). Overall, it's been the usual SJW bullshit that has been turning that particular crowd into a national laughingstock. Have at me, suckers. I'm done with this thread as I have better things to do.

    5. I don't know about you, but I clearly remember the Challenger explosion. I was watching it live on TV while lying on a sacrificial altar covered in bloody pentagrams while being molested by Woody Allen and Nicholas Kristof.

    6. But majneb. Woody Allen has an airtight alibi.

  2. A Love Story

    Somewhere in the fog of Internet-land, the land Al Gore during his service in Congress took the initiative in creating, a little boy or, that said, a little girl may be inspired by this post.

    For sixteen long years he will, having heard Brian's song, labor long and hard to prove everything Brian Willams said was true.

    Fame and wealth will not come his way. He will stand before you pure. Uncorrupted. Uncorruptable!

    1. Al Gore never said he was taking a breather when he launched his initiative!

    2. And in sixteen years Brian Williams will STILL be spending the fortune he amassed pleasing his paymasters by pimping the Iraq war.

  3. "Meanwhile, along with all that cash, you're gifted with all that fame!" B.S.

    Who has more fame than the POTUS? Obama also has accumulated wealth while in office. When he leaves office his speaking fees will rival those of Bill Clinton who has garnered $106 million in speaking fees alone since he left the White House.

    "All told, in his time in federal government, Obama made (pre-tax) $2.3 million. His estimated net worth is between $2.8 million and $11.8 ."

    Of course influential liberals telling whoppers is not news. That POTUS Obama told whoppers about his signature bill that earned him Four Pinocchios from news. Liberal media are loathe to criticize the POTUS. But judging from recent posts here, Howlers may not consider Obama a liberal.

    "That means that no matter how we reform health care, we will keep this promise to the American people: If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health-care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health-care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.”

    – President Obama, speech to the American Medical Association, June 15, 2009 (as the health-care law was being written.)

    “And if you like your insurance plan, you will keep it. No one will be able to take that away from you. It hasn’t happened yet. It won’t happen in the future.”

    – Obama, remarks in Portland, April 1, 2010, after

    1. Uh-oh! Warning! Gay marriage too!!!!! Uh-oh!

      Excitement! Excitement! Everyone start screeching."

    2. cue cicero. HB's new friend

  4. And the gratuitous mention of Rachel Maddow's "reported" salary! In the middle of yet another Brian Williams post!

    So how come Somerby doesn't "seem" to obsess as much about the swag Bill O'Reilly pulls down?

    I'm sure one of his loyal fans can explain that, along with what he really, really means when he obsesses not only over their pay, but over their fancy homes as well.

    1. I count myself one of Bob's loyal fans, so let me give it a try. He's written many times that "progressive interests" will not be served when news is reported by stars making millions of dollars per year, because the lure of money will tend to corrupt them. He mentions Maddow because she's seen as "progressive," and he's warning that we shouldn't trust her work because she's been corrupted. O'Reilly isn't considered progressive, so he's not the focus of Bob's point.

    2. That's his "point"?


    3. Why cannot Rachel Maddow criticize Brian Williams without having a representative from NBC to interview?

    4. Big money celebrity "journalists" such as Williams have failed this country badly, most glaringly during the lead up to the invasion of Iraq. I'm surprised there are liberals who would rush to defend the corporate media status quo.

    5. Liberals like Lanny Davis, special counsel to President Bill Clinton, who says Williams "unintentionally suffered a precise type of memory distortion."

    6. Bbbut Rachel's not the corporate media. Not Rachel!

      Let us now point to her many (truly!) good works as evidence that she could never, not ever, be corrupted, be false, be less than completely diligent.

      Yeah, just the same way that any defender of Williams might point to good reporting he's done.

    7. Lanny Davis is a whore. He is NOT a liberal. Nice try moving the goalposts.

    8. @4:34,
      Here is admitted liberal Democrat Lanny Davis telling people like yourself that you are full of bat guano.

    9. The last people to recognize liberals are you and Lanny Davis. You're a 2-bit wingnut shill and he'd sell out his grandmother for a buck.

      Keep digging troll.

    10. Your identity as a venal lib is certainly not in question. Since when is selling out relatives a disqualification of liberal orthodoxy?

    11. More word salad while digging his/her/its little troll nest.

    12. Thanks for the Lanny Davis link at HuffPo cicero. That took me to a clip of Ann Coulter explaining her "romance" with Jimmy Walker. DY-NO-MITE!

  5. I think Bob should explore deeper the difference between "dysentery" and mere "diarrhea." Maybe he will in Part 5.

  6. Considering the actions of some NOPD officers in the aftermath of Katrina, it is highly likely there were armed gang members in William's hotel, including some on the public payroll.

    1. Williams was ahead of his time. He was employing false narratives long before 'Hands up, don't shoot"

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