Williams and O’Reilly: journalism’s nervous game of posthumous “gotcha.”

As fashionable as it is among journalism ethicists to bag on Brian Williams, it’s worth taking their arguments on face value. Is “truth” really the most important concept in celebrity journalism?

Now that they’ve skewered Brian Williams over telling war stories, the professional journalism community has decided that, better late than never, they’ll go ahead and give Bill O’Reilly a ration of shit over his decades-old claims of “war correspondent” status with CBS News:

Calling O’Reilly description of Buenos Aires as a “war zone” “absurd,” Krause, who lived in the city for three years prior to the Falklands war said, “It was just like it always was, there was very little evidence of the war in Buenos Aires. The war was being fought thousands of miles away.” “We were in no danger whatsoever,” he added, disputing claims made by O’Reilly. “Except for people who had never been there before and didn’t speak Spanish and might have felt a little bit odd.”

Oh, dizzamn! O’Reilly’s not just a liar, he’s a wussie-ass little xenophobe. Take that, puta!

Only it seems a bit sad and cowardly for CBS News correspondents – any of whom could have spoken up at any time between 1982 and now – to suddenly decide that the blood in the water means it’s cool to pile on. Ten years ago, now-Senator Al Franken was making constant hay over O’Reilly’s resume embellishments. It was practically a regular segment. Yet in all that time, there was no serious discussion of O’Reilly’s fitness to deliver the news.

What has changed, in the wake of Brian Williams’ transgressions? What, besides popular opinion and the latest rhetorical fashion, has changed about what it means to be a journalist? In fact, just a few weeks ago, a panel of seasoned veterans of the local news business chimed in on Connections with Evan Dawson to universally declare that he aught not to deliver the news. That is a shocking unanimity.

Are all lies equal?

It’s a fair question: is honesty truly the benchmark of journalism? Or is it fidelity to the facts? The two phrases are not necessarily the same thing. One speaks to the person, the other to the profession. It may shock some to learn that it is entirely possible to be a vain, primping dickhole and still work in journalism. Sometimes, even on TV, because the world is full of such ironies.

Brian Williams is a celebrity. He may have been a journalist at some time in the past, but not really any longer. He looks pretty and masticates the news on camera. He chums it up with Jon Stewart because it makes him look cool. I don’t hold any of that against him at all: in fact, I thought it made for some pretty decent television. But Not only that, but under the circumstances, I’m with Jim Carey on this one. If I’m in the chopper behind the one that got shot, I’m saying I took fire.

Bill O’Reilly’s BMI is a bit short to qualify as a BFRD. Otherwise, his transgressions against anything approaching “truth” neither begin nor end with his “war corespondent” puffery. In this case, there is only one documented case of this man ever having to be a journalist in the first place, and that’s the part even he feels the need to embellish. Other than that, it’s been a short, ignoble career at Inside Edition and onto Fox News where puffery is all the rage. He’s a celebrity and in fact, just as eager to get chummy with a fake news man as Brian Williams.

It’s not as if Brian Williams declared “I got krunk with Saddam.” For all his selective fact-gathering and creative retelling, Bill O’Reilly doesn’t claim to have the ear of the Pope. Jesus, sure. But not the Pope.

Such fabrications would materially change the facts that either man is reporting on television. Either lie would raise questions about our nation’s foreign policy, or it’s military procedure or even public statements made by either of the two public figures and those of their subordinates. They would, in fact, alter the entire dialog in our country.

The lies currently under the public microscope make two men look like a couple of tits on the same chest. Useful on a rare occasion, but otherwise, they’re just decorative lumps that mostly get in the way.

Both lies deserve open, merciless ridicule. YouTube videos galore. Meme all the journos! But Brian Williams does not by any means deserve to lose his job, and if you’re waiting for Fox News to show such fidelity to truth or public opinion with it’s number one star, you can take a breath now. So, what the hell are we even talking about?

And now, to play us out, here’s a little Bill O’Reilly classic:

By Tommy Belknap

Owner, developer, editor of DragonFlyEye.Net, Tom Belknap is also a freelance journalist for The 585 lifestyle magazine. He lives in the Rochester area with his wife and son.