I’m Having Trouble Caring About Brian Williams’ Lies or Demise

So remind me again why the Brian Williams saga is supposed to be a big deal to anyone other than him or his embarrassed employer? No, I don’t like to see anybody lose their job–or for that matter, to be suspended without pay for six months–but I’m guessing Williams won’t be missing any meals. Is his admitted lie some sort of blow to the Fourth Estate? Only if you have a very, very old-fashioned regard for the glorified news-readers we call network anchors. Fact is, it’s not even clear if or how Williams’ lie or lies affected his network’s coverage of Iraq or of Katrina, unless you are going to join the doomed and nasty cause of those suggesting the latter was no worse than a bad thunderstorm.

Some conservatives are giving the old heave-ho to the claim that Williams is a “liberal” trophy whose downfall should be greeted by lusty cheers from Real Americans everywhere. But there was nothing especially ideological about the self-aggrandizing fibs Williams told to make himself part of the “stories” he was telling, and as WaPo’s Aaron Blake noted yesterday, he has not been especially demonized by conservatives up until now.

My own indifference is probably attributable to the fact that I almost never watch network news, and have certainly never been “influenced” by Brian Williams so far as I can tell. In that respect, I’m pretty typical of Americans in general, as you can see from Paul Waldman’s analysis today of declining network news viewership:

[I]n 1980, almost one in four Americans (counting both children and adults) tuned in to a network news broadcast on any given night. Today it’s around one in fourteen.

Those of us among the thirteen just aren’t going to get excited about this “scandal.”

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.