I'm happy to learn that Brian Williams has been suspended without pay for six months because now I can foresee a moment that's recently seemed unimaginable -- a moment when we're not talking about Brian Williams anymore. We'll no longer be pondering deceptions so egregious that even new-media gotcha squads didn't notice them in real time. We'll no longer be engaged in endless hand-wringing about the integrity of a news broadcast few of us actually watch, hosted by a man so vital to our national current-events conversation that hardly anyone ever quoted him before this month. We have more Williams dirt to sift through (did he really lobby NBC executives to let him leave the news division and take Jay Leno's job at The Tonight Show, as New York magazine's Gabriel herman reports?), and the dirt-dishing, plus reports of other moments of truth-shaving, will probably make it difficult for him to come back after the suspension ends (as Dylan Byers notes at Politico), But in a week or two we'll move on to other subjects. I can't wait.
The Williams suspension coincides with the news that Jon Stewart will leave The Daily Show sometime this year. Stewart's show has been hit-or-miss -- too many bits have devolved into a cascading serious of dick jokes -- but when he locks on a target, he does extraordinary work. Someone will get Stewart's show, and his proteges are all over TV now, but I suspect that no will ever express pure, visceral loathing for Fox News in the way he has on a sustained basis. That's been his bit -- in comedic terms, I think there's so much respect for him that his successor will change the emphasis, for the same reason that Stephen Colbert probably won't do Top Ten Lists at CBS. I'm not saying Fox will never be a target on the post-Stewart Daily Show. But Fox was Stewart's white whale, and I'm betting it won't be for whoever replaces him.
The real shame is that even though members of the non-"fake" news media respected Stewart, and spoke reverentially about his influence on their understanding of their own business, no one in the legitimate press followed him up Bullshit Mountain to pursue Fox News as a story. Do you understand what I mean by that? Fox isn't just a news organization with a somewhat different take on current events - it's an Orwellian propaganda ministry for a large, white nation-within-a-nation that votes in every election and therefore decides the political course of the larger America no matter how much of a lock Democrats seem to have on the presidency.
What Fox has done to America is the great untold news story of our generation. Jon Stewart got that, and mainstream-media figures admired him, but the mainstream press never followed up on his stories. The MSM figured he had it covered (or, more likely, figured that he never had to worry about suddenly needing a job in an industry where only Murdoch seemed to be expanding).
So Stewart, along with the comics he'd mentored, were alone on the media equivalent of Tora Bora. And Murdoch and Ailes got away. We got Saddam Williams, but the liars who really committed terrorist assaults on the truth escaped.
Crossposted at No More Mr. Nice Blog