Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Brian's Holiday In Afghanistan

Before anyone else nominates Brian Williams for sainthood because he spent a week in Afghanistan, there are some things that Nightly News viewers should know. Brian went to Afghanistan for completely self-serving reasons, both professionally and personally. For one thing, it's no coincidence that Brian went during the beginning of a sweeps period. Sweeps period ratings are used to set ad rates, so networks always try to schedule their most sensational and popular programming during sweeps. Hence, Brian Williams in Afghanistan. (Another example is how FOX successfully lobbied Major League Baseball to delay the beginning of the World Series until the last week in October. That was done to make sure the entire series was played during a sweeps period.)

But Brian's trip to Afghanistan was also made for personal reasons. Anyone who's watched Nightly News knows that Brian is obsessed with the military. He often brags about being on the Board of Directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation. He has an eerily extensive collection of military challenge coins, which he was only too happy to display on the air during the Jan. 14 Nightly News. His interviews with high-ranking military brass are reverential, if not worshipful. When Brian sees stars on a uniform, he gets stars in his eyes. Brian went to Afghanistan so that he could play soldier. He got to dress like a soldier, travel like a soldier, talk like a soldier, eat like a soldier and sleep like a soldier. He got to mingle with the enlisted personnel and hobnob with colonels and generals. The trip to Afghanistan was like a fantasy camp for Brian. In fact, many civilians actually pay good money to "enlist" in fantasy boot camps where a former marine drill sergeant will put them through the rigors of boot camp-style life. Of course, Brian didn't have to pay for his military experience--he continued to draw his 8-figure salary while he was vacationing in Afghanistan. So let's not canonize Brian just yet for fulfilling one of his fantasies. Selfishness is not a virtue.

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