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(image courtesy cswriter/Twitter)

The most astute reaction to news anchor Brian Williams’s claim that he “misremembered” being present inside a US Army helicopter when it was shot down in Iraq can be found in a meme now ricocheting through the Twitter-verse. It features a picture of Lord of the Rings’s Boromir beneath the text, “One does not simply ‘misremember’ being shot down by RPG fire in Iraq” — a play on the character’s oft-quoted warning against walking into Mordor.

It’s too bad Williams never got the memo, because the disgraced journalist and managing editor of NBC News has become social media’s clown du jour. The hashtag #BrianWilliamsMisremembers trolls his knack for telling yarns by placing him at the scene of history’s most recognizable events. “The food at the last supper was pretty terrible, so I ordered pizza,” he brags from within da Vinci’s famous painting, where he’s pictured crashing Jesus’s final meal. In the past few days, Twitter users have sited Williams everywhere from JFK’s convertible to Tupac Shakur’s passenger seat, making the question of where he was or wasn’t ever more complex.

Williams is only the latest in a painfully long line of fallen journalists who have twisted the facts, including The New York Times‘s Jayson Blair, USA Today‘s Jack Kelley, The New Republic’s Stephen Glass, and The Washington Post’s Janet Cooke. But unlike Williams, none of them have had to face up to the digital crowd. In recent years the time honored tradition of roasting public figures — the delight of every newspaper cartoonist — has become increasingly democratic. Might the laughing masses be enough of a deterrent to future would-be fibbers?

Let’s hope the conversation doesn’t stop there. The absurdity of the Williams debacle shows just how greatly we need thoughtful and analytic criticism to address how the media slid to a place where the most recognizable face in news thought he could get away with a lie and did so for 12 years. At a time when journalists around the world are being murdered for telling the truth — as former Washington Post writer Betty Medsgert noted more than a decade ago, an observation that holds true today — serious self-examination is in order. In the meantime, though, have a laugh.

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Laura C. Mallonee

Laura C. Mallonee is a Brooklyn-based writer. She holds an M.A. in Cultural Reporting and Criticism from NYU and a B.F.A. in painting from Missouri State University. She enjoys exploring new cities and...

12 replies on “Everything Else Brian Williams Might Have Misremembered, in Memes”

  1. This is getting ridiculous. It is disturbing to me that so many seem almost gleeful in tearing this man apart.

    1. Well, it is the job of newscasters to be the face of truthful reporting around the world. Lying about being shot down in a helicopter, with an entire NBC news crew turning a blind eye to it because they want to keep their jobs, is worth social scorn. He needs to find a new line of work.

      EDIT: Since this comment is getting so much attention, I’d like to link to what I think is a strong defense of Williams. Looks like his situation wasn’t so clear cut.


      1. Perhaps, but I understand why the military and everyday citizens are angry. What I am really talking about is the networks and bloggers. They have no room to talk and yet they blasting him over and over With almost joy.

        1. I don’t watch network news or read many news blogs, so I am oblivious to the conversation around this. I do think it is dispiriting to dehumanize the man, or anyone, for doing something stupid (even repeatedly stupid over ten years in telling, then changing the story to make it more perilous). There’s no reason to think we or anyone are better people than him. But he did break people’s trust, tried to cover it up, and lost integrity required to perform the job he was getting paid to do.

      2. Where does it say that newsREADERS must be the face of truth? This notion is a fallacy which people want to be true, but the sad fact is that most of the news we hear and see is tainted either by a newsREADER who is inflating his ego or by the government jamming some war propaganda or misleading unemployment statistics down our throats.

        As the thieves and corrupt of the world say, “It is only illegal if you get caught.” Unfortunately, out of the thousands of false stories reported in any given month, and all the lies told to us by corrupt politicians, Brian Williams had the misfortune to get caught in a lie with a story that had little consequence or importance for the average Joe, but has since brought down his career. At least he wasn’t lying about weapons of mass destruction or the war crimes committed by our elected representatives.

        So, let’s make insignificant Brian the icon for all that is wrong with the news and its spread of propaganda which we are fed daily. Which brings us to FOX “news.” What should be done with those who lie to us every day about more important issues than Brian Williams’ ego?

  2. He reported for a network that omitted stories, and reported falsely to get Obama elected. Williams deserves every minute of mocking, and maybe some sheep will realize NBC can’t be trusted either.

  3. How is it that Brian Williams is getting ripped apart, but Chris Kyle, who has many stories that have been disproved, is being heralded as an American folk hero? Both men told mistruths.

    1. Make me a list, so I can understand what you are talking about. Then, I will tear it apart. Take your time… I have a lot of Brian Williams memes to go through.

    2. Chris Kyle was sued by Jesse Ventura over false allegations he made against him in his book. Ventura won the suit against Kyle’s estate after Kyle was killed. He was awarded something over a million dollars. I think people understand that Kyle was pretty disturbed. A very effective sniper, yes, but pretty messed up.

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