Saturday, June 20, 2015

Should Brian Williams Be Forgiven and Permitted to Return to Television News Reporting?

Brian Williams will be returning to NBC in August, not as the anchor of the Nightly News but as a "breaking news" reporter on MsNBC, NBC's cable news network.

In preparation for his return, Brian Williams sat down for an interview with Matt Lauer, which was broadcast on the Today Show. Here is a YouTube video of that interview: 

In this interview, Brian Williams apologies for having made inaccurate statements relating to his experience in the field while he was anchor of the Nightly News that led to his suspension. But Williams never admits that he lied. In fact, he denies that he lied.

Many have criticized Williams for his failure to forthrightly admit that he lied and apologize for having done so. Critics claim that this interview is not much better, if better at all, than Williams' on air apology before his suspension.

I posted two tweets in response to Williams' interview:

Flip Wilson: «The devil made me do it.» Brian Williams: «My ego made me do it.» 

I like Brian Williams & want him back on TV. He obviously fears admitting that he lied will doom him hence his ego made me do it evasion. Eh 

Should Brian Williams be "forgiven" for his transgressions, particularly absent an explicit admission that he lied? At the end of the day, my answer is a hesitant yes. I admit that I like Brian Williams and have enjoyed his style of reporting. I also feel, for reasons I discuss below, that he is in somewhat of a double-bind.

In my view, Brian clearly fears that directly admitting that he lied will doom him; that once he admits that he lied many people, including most media critics, will argue that he can never be trusted again as a journalist or reporter. So he has struggled to find another way to connect the dots. He admits that he told untruths, that he made false statements. 

Some purported communications "experts" quoted in The New York Times incorrectly state that making false or factually incorrect statements is lying. That is wrong. Such a person may be lying or may be mistaken. But what would it mean for Brian Williams to have simply been mistaken in making factually erroneous statements of his own experiences? Is that even possible? How could he have merely been mistaken, as opposed to having intentionally uttered a factually false statement? That is the issue Brian not surprisingly is having difficulty explaining. 

Brian talks about the false statements coming from a bad place, "a bad urge inside of me". He claims his ego made him say what he did, in an effort to elevate himself above his competition. But don't such "explanations" obfuscate rather than clarify or explain? His ego, after all, is not some alien "thing". It is a part of him! He seems to want to suggest or imply, subtly or otherwise, that he deceived himself while deceiving us. 

But, not surprisingly, we're all having problems buying that explanation. Even if over time and through repetition he came to believe that his false stories had actually occurred, there had to have been at least one point in time when he consciously knew he was stating untruths. He even seems to concede this in acknowledging that he inflated his accounts to look "sharper, funnier, quicker than anybody else". And at that point he was lying.

But, I understand the double-bind or conundrum that Brian Williams feels he is currently in. Damned if he does and damned if he doesn't. Hedge about having actually lied and apologize for having made inaccurate statements that he attributes to "a bad urge inside of" him, and critics claim he isn't coming clean or truly taking responsibility for his misbehavior. Admit he lied and seek forgiveness, and critics will claim that, while he may be forgiven, he cannot be restored to a position of responsibility at a major news network.

I'm willing to live with his equivocation and welcome him back to television news. But I understand why others do not share my point of view.∆

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Inside the Mind of a Shoe Fetishist or Why I Have to Return to Work to Wear All My Shoes

The landlord was coming with his pest control contractor. It was time to do a termite inspection but also to check out the crawl space above my 2nd story ceiling where either birds or rats were constantly holding rock concerts and disturbing my tranquility. This meant that I had to create space in my only closet, in my bedroom, so that the pest control contractor could open his ladder and climb into the crawl space through a small entry point in the ceiling. A huge pile of towels, pillow cases, beach blankets, and shoe boxes with shoes that I had seldom if ever worn had to be "relocated," if only for the moment.

I turned to the corners of my bedroom to see where I could find space for the relocation project. One corner was empty but the other held shoe boxes filled with shoes I had acquired over the years from Nordstrom's, Costco and online that I had yet to wear. I quickly moved a few shoe boxes from one corner to the empty corner and piled other boxes on them, together with unopened underwear and socks that also came from the closet. Towels found their way into my living room/dining room area, at least for the moment. Success! The landlord and pest control contractor arrived on time Friday morning, easily accessed the crawl space, and were able to do what they came to do.

But now what? I couldn't simply throw everything back into the closet, if only because the pest control contractor would likely be revisiting soon to see if his traps had done their job. Then, too, in recent days before the landlord's visit, the rats had seemingly taken a break, perhaps having been tipped off about the impending inspection and hoping that if they remained silent the pest control contractor wouldn't set traps, but I now found myself with chirping crickets above the ceiling in my living room and bedroom. The contractor said he'd have to spray and that this could affect air quality so he suggested we wait on the crickets. But last night they were back singing away and he may well need to climb back up to the crawl space to address the "cricket problem".

Since the shoe boxes now piled in two of my four bedroom corners therefore had to stay, at least for some period of time, I decided to "prioritize" them. That is no easy task for a shoe fetishist who loves each and every pair of his shoes and entertains the illusion that he will be wearing one or another in only a matter of weeks. But knowing that I had actually never even worn most of these shoes, I opened each box to determine where in the shoe box piles they belonged. Six pairs of stunning, never worn Allen Edmonds shoes led the list. And those didn't include two pairs of Allen Edmonds that were already open and which I had worn in the last days before my retirement in December 2011 but had seldom worn since. Then came the Reeboks original glove leather sneakers, two pairs of Nike racing shoes, one in striking phosphorescent yellow, Dickies' work shoes from Costco, and two fairly recently acquired Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers, one oxford and the other high top. And these didn't include other shoes otherwise stored in that part of my closet I didn't have to empty, including a beautiful pair of Allen Edmonds' Dalton boots I had to have but have never found occasion to wear, and two pairs of older Salvatore Ferragamo loafers I bought at Nordstrom's Anniversary Sale a decade ago but which somehow got too tight the minute they left the store and that remain in almost mint condition.

Well, one can only imagine what the "prioritization" process entailed: lingering over each pair, at least the unworn, still boxed shoes, trying to decide how soon I would likely choose to wear it. Well, the Converse sneakers had to be near the top of the pile since I bought them recently to be au courant and intended to be so. And one pair of Allen Edmonds' more informal shoes also begged for a high "ranking". Other pairs, while beautiful and stylish, had not fared well in the test of time and therefore fell toward the bottom of the piles.

But, deep inside my psyche, or perhaps not all that deep, I knew that, in my present situation, I was unlikely to wear almost any of these shoes. After all, I am now retired, seldom "dress up", and almost never wear dress shoes. At home I go mostly barefoot. And when I go out I typically wear either a trusty pair of Ralph Lauren sneakers that have lasted for years, my Keen's sandals, a pair of Sebago boat shoes, or my Johnson & Murphy loafers. And, waiting in the wings, so to speak, if any of these shoes wear out, are unworn pairs of Sebago loafers and Timberland boat shoes, and a well worn pair of Merrill slip-ons.

So is the "answer" finding a job, returning to work, putting myself in a situation that requires that I wear Allen Edmonds, Salvatore Ferragamo, or other "formal" footwear? A collateral benefit would be that I might have occasion to open and pull the pins from six or eight Ralph Lauren dress shirts I also never got the opportunity to wear before retiring! 

The truth is that I cannot part with the shoes, so giving them away or selling them on Ebay is no alternative. I guess I could try starting a new trend of wearing Allen Edmonds on walks along the beach in Belmont Shore. But, short of that, leaving retirement may be the only "solution". For those who might think otherwise, know that therapy is not an option!∆