Quote of the Day:
In part Mr. Williams is symptomatic of larger social trends where traditional virtues like modesty and privacy have given way to the spotlight of self-promotion, where even lives too pedestrian for the paparazzi become an endless series of selfies. But, lest we descend too deeply into pop psychology, the larger blame belongs with Mr. Williams himself and the hubris of an anchorman who lacked the anchor of common sense and self-restraint.
–Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Peter Kann
I haven’t blogged on the Brian Williams saga because it seems so irrelevant in the face of larger events in the world: a guy who wears expensive suits, has nice hair, and reads a teleprompter is found to have a propensity for self-aggrandizing exaggeration. So?
The fascination with the Williams story also assumes that journalists have some sort of moral status. The unremitting attention to Williams’ mini-transgressions is ironically a way of enhancing the prestige of journalists. I have even heard some journalists comment that theirs is the only profession protected in the Constitution. This is a puffed up way to view the profession, which until Watergate lionized the Washington Post was still a trade: the Constitution protects the freedom of the press; it didn’t set up journalists as Special People.
Peter Kann’s Wall Street Journal article on what the Williams mini-scandal says about journalists as celebrities, however, is well-worth a read. The journalist as celebrity is also an interesting phenomenon today when we see a biased and lazy mainstream media. The Washington Post, the Watergate paper, did an exhaustive story on GOP hopeful Scott Walker’s taking a job instead of finishing college. This is shocking? By contrast, the mainstream press has lacked curiosity about, say, things like the IRS scandal.
A celebrity press is bad enough. A celebrity president is worse. The most riveting aspect of President Obama’s selfie on a stick in the Oval Office is just how much President Obama is enjoying himself. He often seems bored and unresponsive when major news breaks, but when he is the celebrity getting all the attention he becomes animated. President Obama often seems unfazed by the world around him, unless it is making over him.
The president's obvious love of being the center of attention during Savannah Guthrie's interview with him in the White House kitchen before the Super Bowl was even more alarming that his not knowing that George Washington never lived or made beer in the White House. Except when he has to deal with serious aspects of being president, apparently decreasing as the U.S. withdraws from the world, President Obama is having a real good time. We live in the most serious of times and the least serious of times.