Saturday, October 9, 2010

Brian Williams's Obsequious Narcissism (Or: Born To Run Off At The Mouth)

Of all the grotesquely narcissistic displays that Brian Williams has put on over the years (and that is a long, long list) nothing comes close to his fawning and obsequious two-part "interview" with Bruce Springsteen that aired on Nightly News this past Wednesday and Thursday.

Wednesday's segment consisted of one-minute-and-forty-seconds of Springsteen bloviating about the economy. I'm not really sure how a faded 80's rock star qualifies as an expert on this subject, but Brian seemed to hang on Springsteen's every word. So what's next on Nightly News? Vanilla Ice discussing the Pakistan-Afghanistan situation? MC Hammer on education? Howard Jones and Rick Astley engaging in a point-counterpoint debate about the relative merits of the bank bailout? I think it's time for the Nightly News producers to update their pop-star news experts. How about Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber discussing the upcoming mid-term elections?

But Thursday's segment was one for the ages. For more than three-and-a-half minutes, Brian was like a squealing fourteen-year-old girl at a Beatles concert. His fawning narcissism was revolting. As usual, much of his interview was about him. His "interview" contained a ridiculously high number of personal pronouns like "I", "me", "my", "us" and "we". Brian talked about HIS love of Springsteen. How HE followed Springsteen around from club to club in the 70's. What Springsteen meant to HIM. Here's how Brian began the interview: "When you grow up in New Jersey, you sometimes need a thick skin. You are often called upon to defend the Garden State. That is, until Bruce Springsteen came along. You see, he became everything to those of us growing up during that time at the Jersey Shore." Here are some more gems from the interview:

* "While we were chasing Bruce up and down the Shore every weekend trying to figure out where he was gonna play on a given Saturday night, he was in the town next to ours unbeknownst to us in a rented farmhouse making his masterpiece follow-up album."
* "Would it have killed you to call a buddy in Middletown? I was three miles away at most...Would it have killed you just to reach out to a brother and say, 'We're having trouble with some of these tracks--come on over we need you'?"
* "'Born To Run' comes out--cover of Time magazine--causes guys like me to say to people, 'Yes, I'm from New Jersey'--becomes a source of great pride..."
* "And a funny thing happened during the interview. I could tell something was bothering Bruce. It turned out he thought the wrong man was holding the guitar." So Brian takes the guitar and spews out a line from "Thunder Road": "I got this guitar and I learned how to make it talk." Gross.

That interview is one of the most grotesque displays of narcissism I have ever seen. In what alternate universe does this belong on a network news broadcast? How many actual news stories were not covered on Wednesday and Thursday so Brian could air five minutes of his love-fest with Springsteen? Isn't there anyone at Nightly News who has the courage to stand up to Brian and tell him what is inappropriate for a newscast? Sadly, no. There isn't anyone with enough nerve to do that.

Of course, Springsteen's shameless promotion of "Darkness on the Edge of Town" is pretty sad, too. Springsteen is essentially an oldies act, a purveyor of greatest hits. He goes from town to town playing the same tired old songs he's been playing for a quarter-century or more, not unlike the members of Styx or Journey. His "Glory Days" are far behind him. By plugging "Darkness" now, he's shamelessly trying to squeeze a few extra bucks out of an album he released more than 30 years ago. That really is kind of sad.

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