Americans consume more violence -- both real and imagined -- than any other nation on earth. Yet as a population, we move about our daily lives with almost no threat of actual violence from enemies abroad.I don't think America has that sort of communal guilt -- many Americans have fought in wars, worked in physically demanding jobs, dealt with serious illness, and faced day-to-day economic uncertainty, so I really don't believe a sense of "decadent safety" is universal.
We’re a nation of coddled cheerleaders who have offloaded the physical risks of our imperial adventures to a volunteer army consisting mostly of working-class kids. We cheer for them in the same vicarious manner we do the muscled ubermensches who risk brain damage by ritualizing combat on our bright gridirons.
In this sense, what Williams did is merely an exaggerated version of what any of us might do. He got close enough to the action to appropriate the manly courage of his military escorts. This is why his lies so offend us. In vilifying him, we help cleanse ourselves of the hidden shame we feel at sanctifying war while living amid such decadent safety.
Also, I don't believe that outrage at Brian Williams is universal. My hunch is that many Americans aren't following this story very closely, and even many of those who are don't feel unbridled disgust at what Williams did, though I'll wait for polls to confirm or disprove that.
But I'm intrigued by the idea that those who are lashing out at Williams are trying to purge themselves of guilt.
Almond goes on to write:
To howl about how Brian Williams has a “credibility problem” because of his famous fibs is to miss the true nature of his fraudulence: that he and his team were happy to render the Iraq War as a form of entertainment, a righteous crusade in which badass high-tech G.I. Joes defend the holy Christian homeland by slaughtering and eventually civilizing Islamic savages.I think the media is trying to expiate guilt by lashing out at Williams -- not guilt at cheerleading for war necessarily, but guilt because so much of what passes for news is sheer fluff.
Some of it is macho fluff, like the Williams war reports. Some of it is human-interest fluff: weather disasters, plane crashes, viral videos of plucky Down's Syndrome kids hitting three-pointers from halfcourt to their classmates' delight. Huge percentages of television news airtime are devoted to this sort of trivial material, even as Americans become more and more ignorant about their government and their world. If anyone is lashing out at Williams out of guilt, maybe it's the press, out of an awareness of how the press has failed America for so many years. Television has long been the nation's preferred medium for the transmission of information, and it's been allowed it to abdicate its responsibilities. And maybe Brian Williams is now the scapegoat.