A Child Born in Israel

February 18, 2015

By Avi Davis

In July, 1923, a 20-year-old Polish Jew named David Czmielewski and his older brother Yitzhak stepped ashore at the Port of Jaffa determined to help build the Land of Israel. Economic opportunities however were sparse and he found it hard to make a living. Despondent, he was forced to leave five years later. Yet he never gave up the hope of one day returning.

David Czmielewski thereafter traveled to Australia and became David Davis. He was my grandfather.

His dream, never quite realized in his own lifetime, nevertheless transferred through the generations to his son and several of his grandchildren who all established homes in the State of Israel. Today he has twelve great-grandchildren living in the land. Three great-grandsons have served or are serving in the IDF. One is about to enter training in the Golani Brigade and a fifth has been selected as a candidate for a pilot training course in the Israeli Air Force.

Last week, his first great-great grandchild, Shira Perlmuter, was born in Petach Tikva to my niece Avital Perlmuter(nee Davis) and her husband Sagi. She represents the fifth generation of the Davis/ Czmielewski family in the land of Israel.

She is a beautiful, living testament to Jewish determination and commitment. May she live a long, happy, prosperous life and may she be joyously blessed with many children of her own.

 


Boyhood: A Review

February 15, 2015

Featuring; Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, Loralei Linklater

Director: Richard Linklater

Running Time:  2 hrs  45 mins.

by Avi Davis

Coming of age movies are not exactly uncommon in Hollywood.  That is perhaps natural for an industry which focuses its steely gaze on an age range somewhere between the years 12 and 18.  So I might then be excused for my expectation that Boyhood would turn out to be just another boy meets girl flick, a rumination on the tawdry and confused sex lives of our over stimulated youth.

As a result nothing quite prepared me for this quiet miracle of a movie – two hours and 45 minutes which offered a sensitive journey undertaken in the company of a young boy who could almost be our own younger brother or son.

Director Richard Linklater took twelve years to film his subjects, using the same actors as they aged through the various time periods and bringing the two children Mason Jr.( Ellar Coltrane) and his sister Samantha (Loralei Linklater) and their divorced mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) through the trials of growing up.   Through its tender revelations, the children emerge from their mother’s tempestuous 12 year argosy (which includes two disastrous marriages, several hurried moves across Texas, new schools and new loneliness) and into adulthood without being broken or tarnished by the experience.

 

Image result for Images of Boyhood

This is a movie about growing up – that might be true enough; but it is not only the children who we see develop.  Both of the parents also endure the growing pains of maturity- Olivia as she moves from  young and desperate single motherhood to capable provider, doubling as home maker; and the often absent father Mason Sr. (Ethan Hawke) who moves from his free spirited iconoclasm and Disney Dad personality to a recognition of his adult responsibilities and expectations.

Yet the quiet, utter brilliance of the movie is in its subtle examination of children. Rarely do you feel the intrusion of the adult film maker.  The plot moves along in a natural progression and the time lapses, sometimes several years in length, don’t seem to matter; we are so engrossed in the spectacle of seeing a sweet, sensitive young boy mature before our eyes that we can forgive the rough seams needed to patch the story together.  True enough there is a script, but it is a rather loose one and the actors  have been given quite a bit of free rein to ad lib and provide their own dialogue.  This lends the production a lightness and elasticity which takes it well beyond the affectation and casual manipulation that movie audiences are so often forced to endure from over bearing directors.

The subtlety extends to the marvelous use of the actors’ facial expressions to presage the onset of a plot development or of an event which has already happened off screen.   The six -year-old Mason Jr., for instance, upon meeting his mother’s university sociology professor, senses that the teacher’s interest in his mother is more than educational and this sudden realization is caught with a sharp glance at the man himself-  a panicked alarm bell that warns him (and us) of something in his life that is about to change.   Sure enough the next scene has the university professor returning home from his honeymoon with Mason Jr.’s mother in tow.

An almost identical scene plays out several years later when as a young college professor herself, Olivia has invited some of her mature aged students back to the family home for a Thanksgiving dinner; and in one of these guests Mason senses his mother’s more than casual interest.    The next scene, a few years beyond, portrays a family dinner, yet this time it is the contemptuous look in the mother’s eye as she responds to a comment from her beer guzzling new husband that explains all we need to know of what has transpired in the interval between scenes.

As the movie progresses through the various stages of Mason’s life we see him confronting the many challenges all boys must endure at one time or another: the bullying of younger schoolboys; the experiments with drugs and alcohol;  fumbling through the unknown mysteries of sex; the heartbreak of youthful romance and the desperate attempt to latch on to an individual identity. Yet though these changes – which are prefigured by changes in hairstyle, physique, facial hair, the political environment and music, Mason’s inner self changes little; his goal has remained constant –   right into his late youth: the dreamy, sensitive child desperately searching for something real to hold onto.

This perhaps provides the special magic of Boyhood.  It is an argument for the notion that while our environment changes and we move through different styles, fashions and experiences, the inner person within us rarely changes.  Character, Linklater seems to be saying, is formed very early in the human species – perhaps even before we emerge from the womb – and while it will receive heavy bombardment from environmental factors, it remains resistant to change.  As we leave the bearded Mason on his first day of college, sitting shyly and a little awkwardly with a girl he has just met on a rocky outcrop in a national park, his wonder of the world and his sense of his place in it, does not seem to have changed much at all from the moment we had met him two hours and 45 minutes earlier, as a six-year- old, staring questioningly at the blue sky.

Those of us lucky enough to have children of our own also know how the changes in them can be captured by certain occurrences which register within us with something akin to shock:  The day we transform from “Daddy” into “Dad”; the long silence in the drive home from school when all answers to our questions are suddenly monosyllabic; the tendency to reject any advice we might have to offer and the growing contempt for our musical tastes.

But the real changes in our children are often imperceptible because they take place beyond our reach or our observation.  It is Boyhood’s special achievement in allowing a view of the developing mind of a child, which ultimately elevates the film above almost any other coming of age movie I have seen.  It is an education in itself and makes me long for another Linklater film, to appear in 12 years time, which will chronicle the same boy’s struggles through the pains, struggles, mistakes and ultimate triumphs of early adulthood.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone


The E.U.Contribution to Perpetual War Between Israelis and Palestinians

February 13, 2015

By Avi Davis

For many years the European Union’s involvement in the Israel- Palestinian peace process has been one of benign benevolence on the outside but a malevolent interventionism in reality.

Rather than contributing to peace, the European Union has often done quite the opposite – backing the Palestinians on their wayward policies which directly and unambiguously contravene their international commitments, funding  NGOs who foment anti-Israel sentiment and encouraging the Palestinians to reject negotiation with Israel as a means of achieving statehood while pushing towards open conflict.

Now the pro-active stance of Europe has spiraled into an open conflict with the Jewish state.

The decision of the Swedish Parliament to unconditionally recognize a State of Palestine, with its borders marked by the 1949 cease fire lines was the first salvo. The parliaments of the U.K., France, Ireland and the Netherlands have followed suit with provisional recognition which the respective parliaments of these countries could convert into de jure recognition at the apprpriate time.

The European support of the Palestinian candidacy to the International Criminal Court was another attempt to circumvent the process.  The Palestinian Authority is legally proscribed from joining any international body until negotiations over the disposition of the territories is settled. Of course the Palestinians wish to use the court as leverage against the Jewish state – ludicrous when you consider how open to indictment it leaves the Palestinian leaders themselves.

Now comes reports of actual European Union settlements being erected in areas of the West Bank.  That is not Palestinian settlements just financed by the European Union but rather settlements stamped with the European Union brand.

 

Regavim, an Israeli non-governmental organization issued a report this week which detailed the construction of 400 homes in Area C of the West Bank, an area designated by the Oslo Accords and subsequent agreements where no  Palestinian construction could take place without prior Israeli approval.

According to the report, the structures are being built in the E1 area of the West Bank within the municipal boundary of the settlement of Ma’ale Adumim, adjacent to and northeast of Jerusalem. They largely resemble prefabricated caravans.

But these are not your run -of- the-mill illegal settlements.  In order to stay the demolition of the houses, the report notes the village(s) fly the EU flag and the houses themselves sport the EU logo.

Asked about the report, an EU spokesperson, Maja Kocijancic, denied any wrongdoing, insisting that construction had not  yet taken place:

“The EU’s funding will provide training and expertise, to help the relevant Palestinian Authority (PA) Ministries to plan and build new infrastructure and enable people to reclaim and rebuild their land there,” she said. “To date, no construction has started yet under these programmes. The EU is not funding illegal projects.”

But Shadi Othman, a spokesman for the EU in the West Bank and Gaza, told the Daily Mail  THAT construction was indeed taking place.

We support the Palestinian presence in Area C. Palestinian presence should not be limited Areas A and B. Area C is part of the occupied Palestinian territory which eventually will be Palestinian land. Palestinians have a right to live there, build schools there, have economic development,” he said. 

Hmm.  One would think that the EU would be better at coordinating the messages of its spokespersons.

But no matter.   There is plain evidence, gathered from its combined actions over the past 20 years, which provides solid proof of  the EU being a entirely prejudiced miscreant in the region, favoring the very organization whose supporters are now fomenting riots in their own cities, burning cars and plotting the next terrorist atrocity a la Charlie Hebdo.

The Israeli government will react to the construction of the EU villages with a demolition order – and probably, although not certainly, with a demolition;  which in turn, of course will spur more  West Bank protests and then further calumnies which will pour down on Israel from the august offices of the European Union in Brussels.

In this way the Europeans continue to fecklessly contribute to the downward spiral of relations between Israelis and Palestinians until open, violent conflict becomes inevitable.

The ultimate truth, of course, is that violent conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in this regard is really only a proxy war.  The Europeans long ago declared war on the Jewish state – having  now found just the right agents provocateurs to hasten the onset of a deadly confrontation.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of  The Intermediate Zone

 


Greece vs Germany: A Tussle to the Death

February 12, 2015

by Avi Davis

Now that Greece has demanded additional reparations from Germany for that country’s WWII crimes on Greek territory, many other countries might well fall in line with their tin cups extended. Soon enough Russia will be demanding reparations from France for Napoleon I’s invasion of 1812 and India might make the same demands of Uzbekistan for Tamerlane’s brutal incursion of the 14th Century.  And lets not forget the Anglo-Saxons who might want some compensation for the 300 years of Norman occupation of  England from 1066 onward.

 

Don’t get me wrong.  The Germans committed heinous acts in Greece 1941-44, occupying that country for four very long years during the Second World War, deporting hundreds of thousands and exacting a terrible price from the Greeks.

But the Germans already paid and the Greeks accepted extensive reparations in the 1950s and 60s. That includes about $54 million to Greece and its citizens, an amount that would be roughly $450 million today when adjusted for inflation. No Greek public figure has made a claim for extra compensation from the Germans since that time and extra reparations have certainly not been a focal point of Greek/German relations in any sense in the intervening years.  But now some Greek politicians claim Germany owes the country more than €160 billion ($181 billion) in reparations.

Why now then? Because the Greeks need leverage to use against the Germans in attempting to restructure ( another word for forgive) their debt so that that they can climb out of the crater their new leftist government is presently digging them and from which there will be no way out except via a rope thrown down by the Germans.

To me this sort of reads like the kid who skips school for the entire semester and then blames his teacher and the school’s bias for his failure in the year’s final exams.

It should not be lost on anyone that three years ago the Germans rescued the Greek economy from certain collapse when Government debt – already at 180% to GDP  – was spiraling so far out of control that it looked like if the drain on Europe was not plugged it would empty the entire European economic experiment into the Aegean.  The Germans came to the rescue but demanded substantial reforms – and thus the imposed austerity measures about which so many Greeks are today complaining and which ushered in the leftist government of the inexperienced Alex Tsirpas.

But so far the Germans are having none of the Greek petulance and seem unlikely to yield on their demand that in order to renew loans due on February 28th the Greek government must absolutely commit to the same austerity measures which essentially brought down the last government.

Greece's new Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras visits a shooting-range site on the outskirts of Athens in January. Members of the Greek Resistance were executed by Nazi occupation forces at the site during World War II.

 

No one , however, should mistake this for a stalemate.  Tsirpas’ government may think that it has the upper hand because skittish EU bureaucrats in Brussels, looking down the long barrel of the rapid devaluation of the Euro, will not allow Greece to simply walk away from the currency – which would be the inevitable result of a massive default on government debt.

However the German central banks – which are the real power behind the Euro – have so far expressed remarkable determination and show no willingness to renegotiate Greek debt with Tsirpas’ envoys.

Which brings us to the issue of the reparations.  They are a clearly transparent and cynical means of building resentment against the Germans, adding fuel to a fire which had already caught ablaze among the Greek public and has enticed them into this present sleep walk over a very steep fiscal cliff.

And here’s what that fiscal cliff looks like:

Greece’s bailout from the eurozone runs out on Feb. 28. At that moment, without an extension, it will lose its last €1.8 billion disbursement from the currency union’s bailout fund, €1.9 billion in profits from Greek government bonds held by the European Central Bank and around €11 billion still sitting in Greece’s bank bailout fund. The fate of a €3.5 billion transfer from the International Monetary Fund is less obvious, since the IMF’s program for Greece runs until the end of 2016. What is clear is that Athens won’t get any money from the fund without an agreed aid deal with the eurozone.

Greek government officials have said that they could run out of money in early March, especially if tax revenues deteriorate further. At that point, the government won’t be able pay things like pensions and public-sector salaries. Crucially, for the eurozone and the IMF, it also won’t be able to repay its creditors, including the fund and the ECB. Between March and August, Greece has to repay €4.7 billion in old IMF loans and €6.6 billion in bonds held by the ECB and national central banks. Those numbers don’t include interest payments to private creditors, the fund and the eurozone along with a few smaller redemptions. They also don’t include €13.4 billion in short term debt, so-called Treasury bills, that Greece needs to roll over by the end of August.

So in order top restructure that debt, the Greeks desperately need time – or else the trains, which rarely run on time anyway, will really stop running altogether.

So what happens now?

Almost certain default. Cut off from rescue funding, Greek banks would suffer dramatic cash outflows as depositors worried about Greece being forced out of the single currency region. Currently, the European Central Bank’s emergency liquidity assistance program, operated by the national central bank, ensures that Greek banks have enough cash to cover depositor outflows. Because depositors know this, there hasn’t been a stampede of funds out of the banks.

Yet.

But without the ECB, the flight of funds would cascade, threatening a Greek banking collapse. Greece would be forced to put up capital controls, limiting withdrawal of funds, and force the banks’ creditors to take losses.

Ernest Hemingway once wrote there are two stages to going bankrupt: “Gradually, then suddenly.” He could just as easily have been referring to the process of being ejected from the eurozone.

Greece’s sudden banruptcy will hurt everyone – even us here in the United States.  But it might be preferable to have a temporary electric shock than a long painful death from a million minor cuts.

Avi Davis is the president of the American Freedom Alliance and  the editor of the Intermediate Zone


What To Do About the Jews?

February 10, 2015

By Avi Davis

After his gaffes at the National Prayer Breakfast last week, it might be expected that President Barack Obama would now be a little more circumspect in his pronouncements about sensitive racial and religious topics.  But just as the howls of protests over his recondite comparison of 21st Century Islamic barbarism to 12th and 15th Century Christian fundamentalism have begun to fade, along comes yet another Obama lancing wound.

In an interview on Vox.com, the President seemed rather unclear about the nature of the attack on HyperCacher, the French kosher market in Paris where four Jews were murdered by Ahmed Coulibaly on January 7th.  He certainly did not seem to grasp that the attack was profoundly anti-Semitic and that Coulibaly chose his target with great care.

Questioned by journalist Matthew Yglesias about whether he feels the media sometimes overstates the level of alarm people should have about terrorism, he answered: 

“Look, the point is this: my first job is to protect the American people. It is entirely legitimate for the American people to be deeply concerned when you’ve got a bunch of violent, vicious zealots who behead people or randomly shoot a bunch of folks in a deli in Paris. We devote enormous resources to that, and it is right and appropriate for us to be vigilant and aggressive in trying to deal with that — the same way a big city mayor’s got to cut the crime rate down if he wants that city to thrive.”

Inevitably both White House press secretary Josh Earnest and State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki received questions about this response today at their press conference. And the questioning lead to this bizarre exchange:

Question: Does the administration really believe that the victims of this attack were not singled out because they were of a particular faith?
Psaki: Well, as you know, I believe if I remember the victims specifically there were not all victims of one background or one nationality so I think what they mean by that is, I don’t know that they spoke to the targeting of the grocery store or that specifically but the individuals who were impacted.
Question: They weren’t killed because they were in a Jewish deli though, they were in a kosher deli?
Earnest: John, these individuals were not targeted by name. This is the point.
Question: Not by name, but by religion, were they not?
Earnest: Well, John, there were people other than just Jews who were in that deli.

Lets not forget that the White House made no bones about recognizing the attacks as distinctly anti-Semitic when they occurred in early January. Later, after their press conference, both Psaki and Earnest pretended as if they had  never said what  they had plainly said and issued tweets announcing this.   No doubt the White House will seek to walk these comments back in the next few days and paste the whole thing over as a silly misunderstanding.

But the gaffes betray a deeper discomfort of the President and his White House representatives in dealing with the world wide spread of antisemitism.  How many times have you heard the President speak about the unquestionable rise of anti-Semitism as a worldwide phenomenon, rather than just a series of unrelated incidents?  The answer is zero, zilch, nada.

And it is for this reason:  by bringing attention to the spread of anti-Semitism, the President is forced to recognize that Jews might actually need or desire a homeland which is safe and secure – free from the rampages of Islamists who would target them for murder as they simply shop for their Sabbath meals or merely walk their children into school.

One of the historical justifications for a Jewish state – in fact the very incidents which gave rise to Zionism and the demands for a secure Jewish homeland in the late 19th Century – were  acts such as the one which occurred in the Kosher market on January 7th.  State sanctioned pogroms in Russia, attacks on Jewish property in Paris, blood libels in Syria and Egypt – these all contributed in the mid to late 19th Century to a sense that the position of the Jews, even in enlightened, liberated countries – was hopeless.

The safety and security of the Jewish state, which offers the single most important buffer against the recrudescence of anti-Semitism, is something of an obstacle now to the president’s attempts to remold the Middle East.   Committed to building a coalition against ISIS , the President  is now moving in the direction of allowing Iran’s Mullahs the room to flex their nuclear muscle so as to win, in exchange, their support for the war against ISIS.  In this he knows he must sacrifice Israeli security concerns which he is almost certain are overblown anyway.

But the Israelis are nervous for one very good reason: the Iranians have repeatedly stated their intention to destroy their country.   The annihilationist rhetoric is of course anti-Semitism writ large, as febrile and determined as anything planned or executed by Nazi Germany.

Is it any wonder then that Barack Obama and his Administration do not want to recognize or accentuate the worldwide rise of anti-Semitism?  It offers an increasingly annoying distraction – what to do about the Jews?

With so much else at stake, it is the last thing this President wants or needs to worry about.

 

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of  The Intermediate Zone.

 


The Growing U.S. Barrier to Sharia Courts

February 9, 2015

by Avi Davis

There is good news coming out of the State of Montana.   Montana State Senator Janna Taylor has introduced a bill, “Primacy of Montana Law,” that would nullify any “court, arbitration or administrative agency ruling” that relies on any foreign law. This is Montana’s version of an anti-Sharia law bill, modeled off similar legislation that has passed in other states.

Janna Taylor

Montana, for those who don’t know, is very much a red state and dyed in the wool conservative. Its population, the fourth smallest in the continental United States, is proudly Republican and the animus to  western elites – and to Democrats in particular – is intense.  There is a strong feeling among the populace in the state capital of Helena –  a place with which I am particularly familiar, for constitutional rights and a deep sensitivity that develops when they are felt to be endangered.

Senator Taylor explained that her bill would particularly protect the rights of women and children who do not necessarily receive the same protections under other legal systems that they do in the United States. She explained her rationale for the bill by describing a case in which a Muslim man living in Michigan with his wife obtained a divorce in India, unbeknownst to his wife, and under Sharia law she was only granted property that she had brought into the marriage. A Michigan court upheld the Sharia court’s decision until the case was successfully appealed by his wife.

“She had no prior notice, no pronouncement, no right to be represented, no right to a lawyer and no right to be present for a hearing,” Taylor said.

There are at least 50 cases in 23 states in which Sharia law was resorted to in order to decide a case. Wisely Taylor has also pointed out that the  Montana Primacy Law will, in addition, make it increasingly difficult for supranational bodies  such as the United Nations, to impose their  laws, regulations and dictates on the State.

Despite the insistence by Taylor and many of the speakers that the bill is not aimed at any specific group, several of the comments at the initial judiciary hearing  characterized Islam in strong terms.

“My concern is based on an awareness of the price we’ve paid to secure the freedoms that we have, that are enshrined in our Constitution and in our Bill of Rights,” Tom Osborn of Kalispell said. “It’s just unconscionable that we would allow any law, and in particular Sharia law, to violate the integrity of our rights and our country.”  Osborn referred to a case in which a man in New Jersey was acquitted after beating and raping his wife, with the court deferring to its permissibility under Sharia law.  Osborn said ultimately an appellate court overturned the case.

“Emboldened by American weakness in the international arena … they are using the rights guaranteed under our Constitution to push their form of law as a religious right,” Davida Constant said. “This seventh-century, Middle Eastern, barbaric Islamic tribal practice … is now a threat to the civilized world.”

Montana joins three other states –  Tennessee, Louisiana and Kansas who have now passed similar laws, with several other states in the South and Midwest poised to do the same.

It is ironic to note that almost nowhere else in the Western world, with the exception of perhaps Australia, is the same effort being made to protect sovereign legal systems from corruption by foreign laws.  Who can forget the U.K’s Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the highest prelate in the British Commonwealth when he averred in February, 2008 that “as a matter of fact certain provisions of sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law.”  When the question was put to him in a BBC interview which followed the address that: “the application of sharia in certain circumstances – if we want to achieve this cohesion and take seriously peoples’ religion – seems unavoidable?’, ”  he indicated his assent. The full quote from his lecture was as follows:

“… certain provision of Sharia are already recognised in our society and under our law; so it’s not as if we’re bringing in an alien and rival system; we already have in this country a number of situations in which the internal law of religious communities is recognised by the law of the land as justified conscientious objections in certain circumstances in providing certain kinds of social relations.”

The Archbishop and the Church of England furiously attempted to back pedal on the comments but the cat was already out of the bag.  In stating categorically that ” its not as if we are bringing in an alien and rival system,” he was already conceding that Sharia law could one day operate as a subset of English law – within the system but not controlled by it.

Those who believe in the future of western civilization need constantly to be on their guard against apologists such as the Archbishop and as well as national figures such as Prince Charles, heir to the British throne , who has repeatedly voiced similar sentiments.

Thank goodness there are brave and determined U.S. legislators such as Janna Taylor who will not bow to political correctness or expediency but are prepared to take an assertive stand against sharia law and sponsor legislation that would impede its progress.

They deserve our support and our commendation.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of  The Intermediate Zone

Please note that yesterday’s piece  Brian Williams’ Credibility Deficit was somehow truncated and readers were not able to read the full article. You can access it here now – full and unexpurgated.   AD


Brian Williams’ Credibility Deficit

February 8, 2015

by Avi Davis

It has been some time since a famous news anchor actually became the subject of a sensational news story himself.  So it was with some interest that I read the revelations that Brian Williams, the anchor of NBC News Tonight and one of the leading news personalities in the country, may have concocted or significantly embellished his own status as the survivor of an RPG attack on a helicopter on which he was being transported  during the early stages of the Iraq War.  From the political left to political right the condemnatory commentaries are now pouring in and the media is roiling with indignation.   The soft spoken anchor whose calm demeanor and subtle balance once cast him as a deeply trusted voice, is now being targeted in a manner that most of us would have considered highly unlikely even a week ago.

Now that Williams has taken a leave of absence and has apologized, with a rather shaky explanation which itself is the subject of skeptical analysis, it is occasion for us to look at why this urbane and abundantly successful journalist, who had reached the pinnacle of his career would have needed to embellish or fabricate anything?  Was he not assured of an enticingly remunerative position as NBC’s  star journalist for the rest of his working life – much like Tom Brokaw and Walter Cronkite before him?  Perhaps if he just kept his emotional distance from stories and continued to present the news in his equivocal, relaxed manner, everything would have been fine, right ?

The answer has as much to do with the nature and development of journalism over the past 50 years as  it does with Williams’ personal foibles.   The change in reporting ushered in with the advent of the New Journalism movement, wherein such writers as Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Norman Mailer and Gay Talese and Joan Didion used fictional techniques to render highly stylized reportage changed the face and tenor of reporting.   Often these 60s wunderkinds would place themselves into the story so that readers could see developments through their focused perspective.

Journalism thus grew far more personal in the modern age and the journalist, far from being a mere cipher for facts reported, became a personality whose opinion mattered.  War reporting, a dangerous avocation at the best of times, became a special province of the adventurer/ reporter typified by such leading characters as the Australian Peter Arnett, the Vietnam era reporter Michael Herr and the 1990s Bosnian correspondent Peter Maas.  As the  concept of the embedded reporter gained currency so did the idea of the reporter as celebrity so that today such figures as Anderson Cooper, Geraldo Rivera and Richard Quest have become larger than life characters with huge followings and  whose personalities often overshadow the stories upon which they are reporting.

The problem with the shift in focus to the reporter himself was that reporters began to grow an overdeveloped sense of their own importance, seeing themselves not just as the necessary chroniclers of the story but as essential to its telling, as if the facts could not really have an independent existence outside of their involvement.

It is little wonder then that  Williams, not yet anointed the successor to Tom Brokaw, looked to the Iraq War for his own baptism of fire, something which might bring him within striking distance of his derring-do predecessors. Inventing a story which had him deeply involved in the ground action in Iraq was a way for him to pay his dues without having to undertake the risks of injury or possibly death in the field.

Brian Williams isn’t the first and won’t be the last of our reporters to lay claim to heroics he never performed .  Should he then resign or be forced from his job?  There answer is at best equivocal.  After all, he did commit the cardinal journalistic sin of fabricating  a story and refurbishing fact – although this perhaps pales when compared to the fictions his fellow journalistic transgressors have concocted without suffering any consequences whatsoever. So on this ground alone there might well be room for his contrition and rehabilitation.

Williams’ far graver sin is the liberal bias he allows to color his reporting and commentary which, given across in his appealing non-partisan manner, can be entirely deceiving.   It is this skewed perspective, more than any one thing, which has driven viewers from the older, more established networks and in to the arms of such conservative upstarts as Fox and One America. Sickened by their pomposity and sense of entitlement, viewers have also fled traditional news services altogether for the more instant news offerings which can be obtained on the Internet via Facebook or Twitter.

The media has generally proven itself to be unforgiving when one of its own reveals the inner chauvinism and machismo which undergirds their profession and it has already turned on Williams, much like the flock of blackbirds did to a bird painted by its human captor in Jerzy Kosinki’s 1964 novel The Painted Bird.  If he does fall his ruin may well be offered as a sacrifice by the media of one of its own as penance for its overall sins of hubris.  But this may ultimately be the wrong sacrifice at the wrong time and for the wrong reason.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of the The Intermediate Zone


%d bloggers like this: