The Little Blue Jon Stewart Caboose On The Brian Williams Ethics Train Wreck

Blue Caboose

I’ve stopped updating the passenger list on the rapidly slowing Brian Williams Ethics Train Wreck. Essentially it’s all biased and unethical journalists outing themselves and not being honest or sufficiently self-aware to realize it.

Bulletin: Brian Williams being exposed as an untrustworthy journalist isn’t a “tragedy” for anyone but Brian Williams and NBC’s bottom line, and he was no more a “giant” of broadcast journalism than Joe McCarthy was a “giant” of the U.S. Senate. He was a fraud, and his exposure and fall was a good thing, as exposures of frauds always are. His demise (he isn’t coming back, and NBC should stop the speculation and just say so) does serve as a useful trap for similarly unethical and biased journalists, like TIME’s Joe Klein, who made no sense at all while bemoaning the treatment of Williams in an interview on Fox News, first using a straw man argument:

“I think that we’re living in an era where the ferocity of the prosecution is much greater than the severity of most of these crimes.”

No one’s alleging any “crimes,” Joe. Journalists who are paid huge contracts to deliver the news in a professional and trustworthy fashion can’t be allowed to stay on the air. Absent the “ferocity,” Williams would still have his job today, because news organizations value their profit over integrity and ethics. Plenty of people don’t care if journalists are ethical or not, and can’t tell the difference. If critics don’t make their legitimate complaints strongly enough, the majority’s apathy prevails.

Then Joe went for the rationalizations, this time, #19 and #20:

“And all of us make mistakes. All of us do make mistakes.”

Someone explainsignature significanceto Joe Klein, because Williams’ helicopter fable was a perfect example of it, as I surmised from the first report of the episode. Yes, good journalists make mistakes, but ethical and trustworthy journalists don’t make mistakes like that, even once—telling a false story about being in one helicopter under fire when the reporter was really in another. Sure enough, we have since learned that Williams made up lots of stories that upon examination could not have been true (Joe apparently wants to ignore all that), like seeing bodies floating in the French Quarter after Katrina, like claiming that he was imbedded with elite SEAL team that took down bn Laden. They weren’t doubted at the time because we didn’t know Brian Williams was a serial liar then. “Mistakes” are not the issue. Moreover, Williams’ “false memory” defense, complete with “experts” sent out to the media to explain this phenomenon, was also a lie, and a carefully devised one. His other false reports, slowly becoming known like the endless trail of Bill Cosby victims, prove it.

Next for Joe: euphemisms.

“I do believe that the word conflation was appropriate. When the story first happened, he reported it accurately. And I know that over time the stories that you tell kind of tend to get exaggerated.” 

Ridiculous. Conflation and exaggeration are when you caught a fish that was six-inches long and over time the fish becomes a foot long with repeated tellings.  It is not conflation when you report on the invasion at Normandy and later start claiming on TV for 13 years that you led the assault on Utah beach . That’s called lying.

All of the journalists attempting to excuse Williams are engaging in The Saint’s Excuse rationalization (“It’s for a good cause”), because that’s how biased and unethical journalists think: our lies (Conflations! Conflations!) are not important because we’re fighting the good fight, telling the public what is right and true, even if that means distorting the facts to make it clear for them, because the poor dears are so easily confused. Mark these journalists well: any journalist who won’t agree that Brian Williams was a disgrace to his profession is one too.

Then came the mainstream media garment-rending over Jon Stewart’s decision to let someone else of equal talent handle Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show.” This time, Fox News bloviator Bill O’Reilly hit a bullseye, stating that media coverage of  Stewart‘s  departure is all the proof you need that the press has a liberal bias. Well, you shouldn’t need any more proof, but this would do if you had been keeping Walt Disney company in a frozen state during the 2008 and 20012 Presidential campaigns, for example, or were unconscious when the mainstream media started lobbying for gun control after Sandy Hook rather than reporting on lobbying efforts, or were being kept hostage when the news media was desperately trying to call Obama’s “you can keep your plan” ACA lie anything other than a lie, or have been following the evidence in the troubling IRS scandal, which has been treated as a non-story because the Obama Administration wants it that way.

Except for the very rare instances when taking down a Democrat or a liberal media competitor (like Keith Olbermann) was too tempting to resist, Stewart’s satire was overwhelmingly aimed at conservatives, opponents of Democratic policies and the liberal wish list, Republicans and Fox. If you think that made him a  journalist and a force for truth and justice because those targets are the main offenders to logic, fairness, honesty and competence in the culture, you are deluded and biased, or disturbingly gullible and ignorant. And most mainstream journalists do think that, while Democrats are happy to agree.

The fact that so many lauded Stewart didn’t mean that the biased clown was a journalist. It just showed that a lot of journalists are really biased clowns, and don’t even know it.

 

 

27 thoughts on “The Little Blue Jon Stewart Caboose On The Brian Williams Ethics Train Wreck

  1. Stewart had his moments of common sense you don’t see from TV ‘journalists’. Yes, he had a liberal bias. Yes, he abused the jester’s privilege…. Sorely. But things like his takedown of Obama’s “If you like your plan” line was classic:

    “No no no! You said: Period. Not Period. Ellipses. Emoticon depicting a combination of apathy and disdain.”

    • It also helps that, unlike some of the crazier left, Stewart was not one to make excuses for authoritarian/totalitarian regimes just because they opposed the USA (indeed, he was quite happy with news such as Osama’s death and the SEALs’ 2009 triple-headshot takedown of the Somali pirates).

      • The thing is… And I don’t know how much this gets talked about, but Stewart may have actually been one of the most influential talking heads on air. The work he did for 9-11 first responders was amazing and his interview that took down Crossfire was epic.

        When he spoke, people listened, and things got done, I think to a degree more than the majority of his peers. And I think the reason is that people did see him as a more trustworthy news source than the mainstream. And in ways he very well might have been. And isn’t that just… depressing.

        • I hated his Crossfire lecture. They were no more or less performers than he was, and at least they tried, albeit artificially, to impose some balance. Stewart had just one point of view and only presented his side to a partisan audience: that’s easy. He would have had more viewers and more influence if he had divided his barbs equally—his show made the false statement that a fair, objective, smart and critical man, looking at the national scene, would find that 80% of the nonsense comes from Republicans and 95% of the bad journalism comes from Fox News. That’s bullshit, and giving that message is misinforming the public. He could be very funny. As a truth teller, he was lazy, biased and irresponsible, and gets no praise from me, On balance, he did more harm than good.

          • I think that episode of crossfire was supposed to be them vs. Stewart, and they had to know what was coming, they knew who Stewart was, and they brought knives to a gunfight. That’s not Stewart’s fault.

            But point taken…. I think though that there was real… potential in Stewart that he never quite lived up to.

  2. John Stewart’s commentary was definitely biased to the left, although he threw a bone to the right now and then. He was also a more reliable source of information than any other broadcast, in my opinion. He also admitted when he made mistakes. The right tried to emulate him and failed; I would absolutely watch a show of equal caliber that leaned the other way.

    • “He was also a more reliable source of information than any other broadcast”—I assume that you mean “a more reliable source of information” regarding the information that he chose to relay because of its humor potential. Even if I conceded that, and I don’t, that’s just not a valid journalistic standard. A list of the very important stories that he just chose to skip in order to do a funny bit—and that’s a proper standard for a comedy show—is huge, long, and includes matters that a viewer who only watched Stewart would be rendered civicly incompetent not to be aware of. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly cover the stories they want to cover fairly thoroughly, but Rush isn’t going to explain why Rand Paul plagiarized.

  3. I have to wonder about his colleagues or the talking heads who use a weak passive voice and say that they are “sad to see this happen to Williams”. What? Nothing happened to Williams. He is not a passive victim. He is the actor in the events…in more ways than one.

  4. >> “Journalists who are paid huge contracts to deliver the news in a professional and trustworthy fashion can’t be allowed to stay on the air.”

    So only *untrustworthy* journalist paid millions can be allowed on air? 😉

  5. I never really considered Stewart a journalist, but he was a potty-mouthed comedian who was most un-funny. Of course, he thought he was hilarious…but he wasn’t. The REAL joke was Brian Williams.

  6. ” The REAL joke was Brian Williams.”

    Embedded with Seal Team Six? Who knew they did ride alongs? That has got to be a major adrenaline rush. I want to know where to sign up. Can I bring the rest of my family or should I get a baby-sitter? Will the Seal Team be providing meals or should I just pack my own? Oh! Can I take pictures?

    • You know, after we shot Osama Bin Laden, Brian Williams and I were talking about how irresponsible it was for special tactics teams to do ride alongs. It was a harrowing experience. I’m lucky to be alive.

      • Humble…did you manage to get a piece of that fuselage that Williams said he received? The fuselage made of material that no one has ever seen or heard of? Yep…I know all about that material from when I was working a top secret mission in Area 51…

        • No… After fighting mutant dogs with my bare hands on the way out, I lost my fuselage fragment, But Brian Williams, who is so much more adept at mutant dog slaying, managed to keep hold of his. We discussed my mutant-slaying deficiencies afterwards at a local pub, where he arm wrestled Chuck Norris in an 8 hour standoff.

          • Humble, I may know where that missing piece is…while head-shooting the last of the zombies, I saw Jason Statham duck into a doorway with something under his arm. Might be your piece of the ‘copter.

  7. “I think that we’re living in an era where the ferocity of the prosecution is much greater than the severity of most of these crimes.”

    Although not making a rationalization, this could be the opening to a rationalization, sort of like the Miscreant’s Mulligan, but with the flavor of a rationalization that would precede Ethics Surrender.

    With a hint of “Haters Gonna Hate” and “Their Just as Bad” and “Judge Not Lest Ye Be Judged”, he’s setting up a “come on guys, if holding someone accountable for this is so costly, then it can’t be worth it….”

    By diminishing the wrong, and simultaneously inflating the cost of accountability while deflating the benefit of accountability, we get this statement.

  8. ““I do believe that the word conflation was appropriate. When the story first happened, he reported it accurately. And I know that over time the stories that you tell kind of tend to get exaggerated.”

    Ridiculous. Conflation and exaggeration are when you caught a fish that was six-inches long and over time the fish becomes a foot long with repeated tellings. It is not conflation when you report on the invasion at Normandy and later start claiming on TV for 13 years that you led the assault on Utah beach . That’s called lying.”

    And I can fully see how his story could easily have slowly skewed and twisted over time to change from a generally accurate rendition, to an exaggerated one, to one in which key facts were juxtaposed into false contexts, until Williams, being an adult, should have known what he was doing was lying and is therefore guilty as charged.

  9. I think it’s funny that you call Stewart unethical because he has a liberal bias while ignoring your own conservative bias.

    Stewart isn’t a reporter. It’s not his job to deliver news about every possible important story. His job is to deliver commentary on things he has an opinion on.

    As long as he isn’t arguing in bad faith (and, from what I’ve seen of his show, he doesn’t), there’s nothing unethical about what he does.

    • I think it’s interesting that you can’t read. Nothing in the post stated that Jon Stewart was unethical. Not a word. That wasn’t what the post was about. Nor did I say he had an obligation to do any story at all. His obligation was to be funny. What is unethical is the news media praising him to the skies in journalism terms when he wasn’t a journalist and met no ethical standards of journalism at all. What has been called Stewart’s “clown nose on, clown nose off” straddling of a line that can’t be ethically straddled is a separate issue, not covered here, but elsewhere.

      My position here is dead on, objective and not tainted by bias in any way. To people like you, apparently, being able to, or willing to, call out dedicated liberals requires conservative animus. No, the problem is that ideological loyalty leads to unethical failures of honesty and integrity. That’s why a conservative media is necessary rescue the truth, and why, in turn, all the rest of the media needs to keep Fox honest.

      If you don’t see what’s wrong with that sentence, I would not be surprised.

      It doesn’t require bias to assess that the tears of appreciation from most journalists was based on their gratitude for his obsession with their rival, Fox. Bias makes us stupid, as in writing an accusation to an ethics blog that is supported by nary a word of the post involved.

      And if you’re getting a second chance at a non-incompetent and dickish comment, I need your name.

      • Nothing in the post but this comment was from you, right?

        “Stewart had just one point of view and only presented his side to a partisan audience: that’s easy. He would have had more viewers and more influence if he had divided his barbs equally—his show made the false statement that a fair, objective, smart and critical man, looking at the national scene, would find that 80% of the nonsense comes from Republicans and 95% of the bad journalism comes from Fox News. That’s bullshit, and giving that message is misinforming the public. He could be very funny. As a truth teller, he was lazy, biased and irresponsible, and gets no praise from me, On balance, he did more harm than good.”

        To me, you’re implying that he was unethical. That his bias made it seem like Fox was bad and everyone else was fair.

        And this, “My position here is dead on, objective and not tainted by bias in any way,” wow. Especially when combined with your comment here:

        “Even if I conceded that, and I don’t, that’s just not a valid journalistic standard. A list of the very important stories that he just chose to skip in order to do a funny bit—and that’s a proper standard for a comedy show—is huge, long, and includes matters that a viewer who only watched Stewart would be rendered civicly incompetent not to be aware of. Rush Limbaugh and Boll O’Reilly cover the stories they want to cover fairly thoroughly, but Rush isn’t going to explain why Rand Paul plagiarized.”

        • I guess the nuance is beyond you. I have no problem with anything Stewart did or said, but a lot with how his show was marketed, described, sold and presented. (If you want to argue that this inherently indicts him, Ok. That was not my meaning.) If you take everything Stewart did and call it satire, then that’s fine. If it was supposed to be a fair representation of what was going on—and Stewart always denied that this was his intent—then it was incompetent and irresponsible. His bias DID make it seem like Fox was bad and everyone else was fair, and George Carlin’s bias made it seem like the whole country was run by fascists. But his bias was clear, or should have been, and so was Stewart’s. The problem is with anyone who isn’t smart or astute enough to understand the bias. There appear to have been a lot of these, and the show was happy to have them.

          But Stewart’s fans and viewers couldn’t make him unethical. I said the message sent by the show was misleading, and it was. I discern that message existed because so many people got it. Nothing in Stewart’s delivery or style was responsible for it. I wrote that if we are to judge Stewart by journalistic standards, he fails. I also said that I’m not judging him that way. I’m saying that for journalists to judge him that way is absurd,and shows their bias.

          You quoted the key passage: “A list of the very important stories that he just chose to skip in order to do a funny bit—and that’s a proper standard for a comedy show—” That means that nothing he did, as a comic, which is what he is and what he presented himself as except for some confounding “nose off” rants–was inappropriate.

          Now explain how the rest of the paragraph is biased:

          “Even if I conceded that, and I don’t, that’s just not a valid journalistic standard. A list of the very important stories that he just chose to skip in order to do a funny bit—and that’s a proper standard for a comedy show—is huge, long, and includes matters that a viewer who only watched Stewart would be rendered civicly incompetent not to be aware of. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly cover the stories they want to cover fairly thoroughly, but Rush isn’t going to explain why Rand Paul plagiarized.”

          The point is that O’Reilly and Rush are equally one-sided, and nobody’s holding either up a paragon of journalistic integrity. The point is that Rush is a fair comp for Stewart. How is that biased?

          Meanwhile, my posts are my official word here. If I want to say Jon Stewart is unethical (bias is not inherently unethical), I’ll post about it. What I write in quick replies in the context of other comments are not as carefully considered, are written quickly, and may overstate or miss a connection. I’m accountable, but comment gotcha’s, especially from someone jumping into another exchange, are not appreciated, and usually the mark of a troll.

        • Ok, I finally looked at your gotcha comment, and as I suspected, you’re an ass. I was responding directly to the statement by another commenter that “He was also a more reliable source of information than any other broadcast”

          I wrote:

          “I assume that you mean “a more reliable source of information” regarding the information that he chose to relay because of its humor potential. Even if I conceded that, and I don’t, that’s just not a valid journalistic standard. A list of the very important stories that he just chose to skip in order to do a funny bit—and that’s a proper standard for a comedy show—is huge, long, and includes matters that a viewer who only watched Stewart would be rendered civicly incompetent not to be aware of. Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly cover the stories they want to cover fairly thoroughly, but Rush isn’t going to explain why Rand Paul plagiarized.”

          Your response misrepresented the context and my intent completely. Bye. Don’t come back—you’re a troll, pure and simple.

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