Brian Williams’s Truth Problem, and Ours

The NBC anchor’s lies are symptomatic of a culture in which truth has become relativized.

by Victor Davis Hanson // National Review Online


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32 thoughts on “Brian Williams’s Truth Problem, and Ours”

    1. i take that you mean “wmd” as in “bush lied, people died.” this position, is of course, the biggest lie of all. and, it is the largest “forgetting” indulged in by the american left.

      the fact is, that before approval was secured from a “bi-partisan” congress, and the operations against iraq began under the aegis of the united nations, all sorts of democrats fell all over themselves adopting “wmd” as a bona fide rationale for the use of force against sadam’s regime. i do not list all of the lefty worthies who did so, because you are incapable of remembering them, and have shown a facile aptitude for forgetting what they said, … , but, the fact is, the rationale of “wmd” was shared by the democrats, if pushed by bush.

      shame on you, sir, for being either ignorant, or an intellectual fraud, or both. i am curious how you will react. if you deny my assertions, they are easily enough substantiated by film and news reports. if you have “forgotten” the history, then you rather neatly illustrates mr. hanson’s points.

      the ball is in your court.

      john jay

      1. John,
        You are missing one big point … Military Intelligence is not factual. Military Intelligence is having 30 pieces of a 100 piece puzzle and trying to create a complete picture. Please check out the link below where you will find Biden, Pelosi, Kerry, Dean, Edwards etc … all confirming Saddam had WMD before the attacks of 9-11. These same people all supported President Bush’s use force to make sure Saddam did not have WMD.

        The sad part is that for political benefit, once the war got bumpy they all ran and started claiming the false remark you listed above. Don’t be so gullible with such poor quality people … they played you like an instrument and you look foolish for going along with them. In short Bush did not lie, Iraq did have WMD, hell, we sold them to him and he used them on his own people. And, we found them when we were in country, but we did not find a nuclear weapon. Again, we were going off the best intelligence we had.

        Make sure the sources you listen to in the future are credible … in military intelligence, when working a source, you don’t listen to anyone that is not credible and you don’t do anything with the information until you hear the same thing from at least one more credible source. Your mistake was listening to the likes of Pelosi and Reid who never once had credibility … they will say whatever they have to for their agenda … hows that working out for you?

        To Truth and Transparency!


    2. More like, WTF?

      Democrat and former Clinton CIA chief George Tenet said Saddam’s WMD were a ‘slam dunk’. So much so that most Dems supported the invasion of Iraq, at least until the going go tough….

      Of course, there’s a big difference between lying and being wrong. Being wrong is simply ignorance. Lying is a purposeful attempt to mislead, as you do here.

      Thanks for providing such a nice example!

  1. What happens to a society that chooses not to remember ? Where does lying for a “good cause” leave us in the end ? Can any society continue when lies are taken as truths ? What’s the real cost to all of us of deception at the highest levels of power ? Can right choices be made from false premises ? Just asking.

  2. “Our lies become accepted as true, but only depending on how powerful and influential we are – or how supposedly noble the cause for which we lie.”
    Indeed. Powerful and influential like Dick Cheney and his trillion-dollar WMD lie noted by another reader. Or like the officers who apply the default feared-for-my-life to justify avoidable police homicides, Michael Brown’s among them.

    1. Eventually, the CIA report of truck convoys of weapons headed north out of Iraq into Syria will be better documented and the WMDs that we knew were already gone will be better accounted. Then, is it still a lie? Or, just and un-provable truth until we get hard evidence? Digging up Mr. Brown’s body again to be used as an agit-prop moment doesn’t make you look any smarter.

  3. Interesting in that Mr. Williams embellished his report as if he was part of the ‘action’ and under fire. Perhaps a nod to our earlier news anchors and reporters who had the echoes of WWII action and a ‘you are there’ experience within themselves? Did perhaps Mr. Williams seek to emulate them and their kind of war reporting?

    In any case, it would seem he handled the truth carelessly. I do not see how NBC News can put him back in his chair. If Mr. Cronkite was around I’d think he would have been astounded at his behavior.

  4. Great article exposing the hypocrisy of the Left and the moral relativism that continues unabated with our “accepted” and “esteemed” politicians, historians, authors, speakers and least we forget, “EXPERTS”.

    Television is nauseating. I seldom turn it on except to watch a baseball game – no kidding. i just can’t sit front of a TV and watch what passes as “what you need to know.” No, i don’t. Finding truth in reporting is something you must devote considerable time and money in subscribing and reading what the mainstream media considers “conservative” and thus “unreliable” and “biased” reporting. The National Review, First Things, Weekly Standard and American Spectator provide thoughtful insight and commentary and are worth the investment in time and money. Thanks Victor Hanson for great reporting and intelligent conmmentary.

  5. Dr. Hanson, has anyone pondered that NBC is indebted to the current administration, as the Russian media is to Mr. Putin?
    Does anyone honestly believe that Brian Williams would have ‘slid by’ all of these years by embellishing? Or isn’t it coincidental that this ‘story’ broke the same week Mr. Obama compared ISIS religious zealots to Christian Crusaders? Seems like a convenient distraction to me…just sayin’

  6. I am responding to one of the readers above pointing fingers at the “left” as our only fountain of propaganda. I would be considered conservative but I can see that we are being manipulated by both sides of the political spectrum without any hope of meaningful reform in the near future. I believe in a “free” market but it must have oversight to prevent the natural tendency for the large to crush the small with unfair tactics. We must downgrade the influence of big money in our government or lose the oversight needed to maintain those markets. We have to realize that ideas can’t be crushed with bombs and that we don’t have the means to end all suffering and injustice throughout the world. We are viewed as hypocrites when we choose our enemies based more on friendliness to our business interests rather than on any unbiased weighing of human suffering or oppression. I love my country and would defend it against a true existential threat but it is my/our duty to look in the mirror and adjust the course so that our ideals are faithfully followed. Our system has been corrupted and is controlled through campaign finance and big media. And now, one of the most wonderfully democratic sources of information is under attack by those same forces of greed and power. We must fight for a free internet as the only place we can do our own investigation. The global town center where all voices may be heard.

  7. Hillary Clinton did not have just one lie exposed. She claimed at one point that she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary after he conquered Mt. Everest. Turns out, he did not accomplish that feat until she was about 3 or 4 years old.

  8. If Progtards cats in power, get into power by telling mice they can do whatever… then, by the same logic, the Progtard cats then eat the mice.

    This is the moral hazard of moral relativists whom seek power… the plebes are granted license, the leaders take license to, in the end, kill the finances, family, dollar purchasing power (down 98 % since Fed. Reserve began), inheritance, school teaching anything other than that mice should stay on plate of cat’s dinner, etc.

  9. ” … how noble the cause for which we lie … .” a well turned, and telling appraisal of the shield that liars raise when caught. what it means, as practicable in this age, is that if a person has “noble” motives, they he may be forgiven any alteration of fact, as “fact” is less important than motive and goal.

    this is, in more self serving terminology, the old “ends justifies the means” position.

    these sorts of things, of course, obliterate truth, as there is not point in remembering what happened.

    a very nice essay. or, as biden, or the clintons, or as brian williams would say, quite bourgeois. none of these people have ever been in the slightest embarrassed for being exposed as liars. inconvenience, some of them, but, all will be rehabilitated by the left. weiner of wiener fame, elliot whatshisface, former governor of new york, … , all will be given freshly starched shirts, and wheeled before the voters again, soon enough.

    john jay

  10. Brian’s problem was that he was not lying in the interests of making a religious statement regarding secular Utopia. “Bush lied, people died” and Michael Brownesia make perfect sense because there are no WMD’s or police in secular Utopia.

  11. Political correctness is a mental disease that makes a person replace common sense, direct experience, and history with well meaning sugar coated lies.

  12. Sorry, but this has nothing to do with liberalism, but it has everything to do with character, honesty and integrity. Traits for which everyone should be accountable. The left is no more or no less to blame for this than the right. Before we scream “liberal populist liar” let’s not forget Nixon, Regan and Bush had their own “version of the truth” with Watergate, Iran-Conta and WMD during their terms.

    As for why news people should be held to a higher account, I suspect it’s because we’ve pretty much accepted that politicians are basically pathological liars; and everything they say has little to do with the truth as much as what’s popular to say – “honeyed words dripped into the ears of plebs”. If Andy Rooney and Walter Cronkite knew to what level journalism has degraded into what it is today, they would be rolling in their graves.

    Today’s neo-pseudo-journalists, who abuse the airwaves and internet with their blather, are little more than illiterate, opinionated blog writers trying desperately to pose as serious journalists in hopes someone reads their post and gives it a thumbs up. No research, no facts, just uneducated option on subjects they usually don’t even have a clue about let alone fully comprehend.

  13. Kenneth Duke Masters

    The important point in this episode is not what this one individual did but that that kind of behavior is wide spread; in journalism, government, education. Under external attack on numerous fronts and rotting from the inside I really doubt our society/civilization will survive. KDM

  14. Jane Larson Baer

    When all involved aren’t trying their best to tell the truth we can get the closest to the truth. Otherwise everything is just subjective.

  15. Jane Larson Baer

    When all involved are trying their best to tell the truth, we can get the closest to the truth. Otherwise, everything is just subjective

  16. A couple of Marine friends of mine have a number of apt expletives to describe someone like Williams. However, seeing as how this is a family publication, I will refrain from repeating them.

  17. I think it’s all much ado about nothing. By the way, this is your Captain speaking and we’re getting ready to push back from the gate in just a few minutes after I figure out a few more of these doohickeys here…

  18. Lies are evil.

    The archfiend Satan is called–anong other dis-honorifics–the “Father of Lies.”

    The big deal is that lies are an assault on reality (and even hope to murder it), whether it’s bearing false witness, distorting history, or even attempting to present a mask over someone’s true face (whether it’s feigning innocense of actual guilt of something or hiding a true nature that is not the nature presented (in the case of plagiarism–which is, among other things, identity theft–the nature trying to be presented cintains the virtues that went into what was plagiarised–e.g. Talent, intelligence, originality, midnight-oil burning, etc.–but not shared by the plagiarizer).

  19. Dear Mr. Hanson,

    I found your column on misstatements and outright lies by network reporters and pundits to be quire interesting. However, I noticed that you didn’t mention any from Fox News. Is that a tacit acknowledgement that Fox News is not a real news program?

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