Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Embellishment Versus Lying: Stolen Valor and the Brilliance of Aaron Sorkin

Aaron Sorkin is not only a genius writer but apparently a fortune teller. For all lovers of the "Newsroom" you know the fallout of telling lies or embellishing when it comes to the news. Even in a fictional world it is not something you overcome easily or quickly. When it comes to trusting those who provide us with facts about the world, we cannot write off a flagrant mistake as "better luck next time." If you want that, then read internet news and bloggers. We have no checks and balances and can say whatever we want. I also don't bring home well into eight figures.

Brian Williams has come up with a doozy of excuses as have his counterparts at NBC. This is a full breakdown in the news, make no mistake. Not only did Brian Williams lie but a series of people let him tell that lie, knowing it was in fact a lie. This isn't the "Newsroom" where one man knew the truth and kept it a secret. A series of cameramen and producers tried to bring it to the attention of the higher ups and they said, "aw, it's close enough to the truth." That is unacceptable.  I am tired of the people making excuses for his behavior. I am really disgusted by his half-hearted apology where he never admits to actually lying but rather "misremembering" facts.

I can tell you it has been decades since a car accident I was in. I remember every detail of it like it was yesterday. You better believe if I was in a helicopter hit by an RPG or behind a helicopter hit by an RPG I would remember every second of it as would he. You don't misremember that. You misremember a birthday. You misremember a funny story. You misremember a name. You LIE about being on a helicopter you weren't on to look cool.

If he were in the military he would be court marshaled for stolen valor. That says a lot. A lot about what it means to be in service for this country and a lot about honor and even more about lying. We all tell interesting stories where we amp up the dialogue (to try and be more like Mr. Sorkin) and where people are a little more daft and a little more witty. But you cannot be the authority on topics around the world and tell large numbers of people you were personally shot at when you weren't. You are held to a different standard because you are revered by a different standard.

Brian Williams enjoys many perks from his job. He gets to go places he otherwise wouldn't get to go. He makes a small fortune for telling "facts." He enjoys the ability to delve into topics the rest of us might just be curious about and meet the real players in the world. Heck, he is a real player in the world. He can help shape the conversation. His choice, and it was a choice, to lie makes him untrustworthy.

I am all about redemption. I am all about people owning up to their mistakes. But lying is not a mistake. Lying is a choice. A mistake is finding out your research was flawed and having to straighten out the facts. Lying is telling people things about you that are not true and you know they aren't true. Yes, people deserve second chances, but he is not 23 trying to increase his stature. He has the stature. He is a grown-up who knows better. Yes, you can tell interesting stories on the news, but at the end of the day they must be true. They must be as accurate as you can make them.

I don't think Brian Williams deserves the desk he sits at. I think he needs a big, long time out and then maybe he could write a book or two. The truth is we aren't taking away his livelihood. He is not a regular employee who will not be able to support himself anymore. He has plenty. He may not have as much as he once hoped but he won't be homeless and he can book another gig. Maybe he can even start a website, then he can tell all the stories he likes.

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