Steven Kurlander: Harshing Brian Williams: Is telling a 'buba meisah' really a crime in our culture of deception?

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I don’t know about you, but I’m really feeling sorry for NBC’s Brian Williams.

Seriously, did anyone ever have any expectation of depth, truthfulness, or quality reporting from him?

Maybe I feel this way because I’m a serious news junkie and, as such, I read a lot more than watch news or commentary on the tube.

If you are a serious news addict, and consequently crave history, you should know that Brian Williams and his ilk are, in the traditional sense, actors rather than scribes.

My disdain for the nightly news started with a single lecture in a labor history class at Cornell University by a young, angry, but brilliant Marxist history professor with a big Fidel Castro beard.

He taught me that you can’t read a history book without first asking: Who wrote the history? What was the author’s education and background? What school of history did he or she belong to?

You see, the interpretation of prior renderings of history and the subsequent writing of new history are always evolving and subjected to new political and economic concepts of both the past and the immediate present.

So the writing of history is always biased and subsequently inaccurate in a subjective manner.

The same holds true with the news, particularly today, when there are so few sources of it and those sources have been captured by an international oligarchy of the super wealthy information giants and government officials who exert great control over its accuracy, its dissemination, and its interpretation.

I hate to be so super cynical, but the interpretation of our present history and events, and our news, too, is steeped in our super-fast culture of institutional lies (like our inflation and unemployment rates) and the self-serving promotion that drives an out-of-control 24/7 news cycle, our economy, our deteriorating political and criminal justice systems, and our lives, too.

I haven’t watched a network nightly newscast in decades, rejecting its unending debasing over time of excellence in television news reporting by ugly 20th-century guys like Howard K. Smith on ABC and Huntley and Brinkley on NBC and the simultaneous evolution of Barbie and Ken dolls, shallow, 21st-century network entertainment-journalism now typified by the long-legged hot blondies on Fox News, cute Anderson Cooper on CNN and, yes, that good-looking hunk Brian Williams on NBC News.

It’s really ugly Walter Cronkite’s fault.  He led the way in making the nightly news a personal platform for rendering the news as political speech.  He successfully wrote and acted the history of the era with his anti-Vietnam War and anti-Nixon views rather than just being an unbiased scribe of historical events.

Much better-looking superstars like Williams have followed in his footsteps. As an embedded reporter during the Iraq War, Williams was merely a shallow thespian looking to be an actor in a historical event rather than a historical scribe, much like Cronkite did when reporting from Vietnam.

So when an aging news rock star like Brian Williams tells a harmless buba meisah (Yiddish for a grandmotherly story of dubious truth based on rumor, gossip or stemming from a desire to impress others) about being shot at in a helicopter, should he really get suspended from reporting (and a cool $10 million) for six months and hung out to dry for falsely reporting “the news”?

In this age of lies and deception, Williams’ embellishment of his actions should have just been another newsworthy event in itself, another buba meisah of the age subject to the interpretation of historians of eras to come.

Steven Kurlander blogs at Kurly’s Kommentary ( and writes for Context Florida and The Huffington Post and can be found on Twitter @Kurlykomments. He lives in Monticello, N.Y. Column courtesy of Context Florida.


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