Bias makes us stupid, as I write here often.
One after another, conservative media reporters pounced on MSNBC’s Brian Williams, the exiled ex-NBC anchorman, for saying this on the air, in a discussion about the anti-nukes movement, re-energized by President Obama’s remarks at Hiroshima:
“It is and that is still the threat that people worry about that this material will fall into the wrong hands. If people have found the U.S. to be preachy in the years since Hiroshima and Nagasaki about the use of weapons, it’s because we’re the only nation to have used them in anger. Sometimes, I am amazed that the world has been without these weapons all the years since, but it is a point of, a great pride by the people who have seen to it.”
My God! Brian Williams, that lying liberal, actually smeared the United States and President Truman by suggesting that we dropped the atom bombs out of spite! Revenge! Hate! And he did it on Memorial Day weekend; its’ an insult to everyone who fought and died in that war!
Curis Houck, Newsbusters: “Williams took a swipe at the entire reason that Truman had the bombs dropped (which was to end the war)”…
David Rutz, Washington Freebeacon: “MSNBC’s Brian Williams said the U.S. used nuclear weapons against Japan “in anger” Friday, an expression sure to upset those who recognize the decision potentially saved hundreds of thousands of lives by bringing about a swift end to World War II.”
Matt Vespa, Town Hall: “[T]he notion that anger was seemingly the primary motivating factor in dropping atomic bombs is nonsense. We did it to end the war….”
Sarah Hoyt, Instapundit: “WHAT THE? HOW ABOUT WE USED THEM IN STRATEGY? Do these people have to have their brains ablated before getting newsmedia jobs?…And if we had used them in anger, would they have stopped the war less? Stopped the massacre of our troops less? Stopped the likely suicide (in case of American invasion) of Japanese citizens less? Dear Brian Williams, get a clue.”
There is nothing quite like living up to the worst stereotypes of conservatives pushed by the liberal media.
Now, I know Brian Williams a much detested biased journalist of the left, and I agree that he should have been bounced from broadcast news completely, and not sent to MSNBC where bias and distorting facts is an art form. In this case, however , he is absolutely, completely, 100% innocent, and it is his critics who have shown themselves to be crippled by confirmation bias, while revealing themselves to be…there’s no nice way to put it…illiterate.
For “in anger” is a very old, very well-worn and very clear idiom, that no well-read, fair, educated speaker of English could possibly take literally.
Here is a typical source, Wiktionary:
English “fire in anger”
military: To fire a weapon with the intent of causing damage or harm to an opponent (as opposed to a warning shot or a practice shot).
EX: “The Napier of Magdala Battery never fired a shot in anger: it never engaged in combat.”
Usage notes: Despite the use of the word anger, the phrase is not intended to describe the emotional state of the firer.
Here is the BBC on the topic:
In a military context, ‘to fire in anger’ means to shoot for a purpose in war. For example, a submarine that ‘fires in anger’ shoots missiles at an enemy ship. Shots fired in anger are never just for practice; they’re fired to deliberately cause damage or harm. ..‘Fire in anger’ has two meanings, depending on whether the context is military or non-military. The military meaning is ‘in a real situation, not for practice’ and has no connection with the emotion of the person or thing doing the shooting. Examples of the phrase, as used in a military context:
- “The sinking of the Argentine cruiser, General Belgrano, during the Falklands war by HMS Conqueror, the first British nuclear submarine ever to fire in anger, is fully recounted.”
- “…the first military guns in World War I to fire its guns in anger on British soil…”
- “…becoming the first VII Corps unit to fire in anger since World War II.”
So Brian Williams was just using an idiom, in which “in anger” means “in real combat.” That is neither inaccurate, nor disrespectful, not unfair, nor wrong. It does require listeners with above 7th grade level language comprehension, though.
Of course, if you have an inadequate education, don’t know English literature or usage very well, or are just determined to take a cheap shot at a journalist and know your equally biased and equally illiterate readers will explode with hatred at him for suggesting Harry Truman broiled civilians, women and children because he was mad, you completely misinterpret what he said, and his intentions in saying it. (And yes, I recognize that many of William’s left-leaning, U.S.-hating, pacifist viewers also misunderstood his meaning, and thought, “Yeah! Right on!”)
Brain Williams is owed several apologies.
I am not holding my breath.