On Tuesday night MSNBC’s Brian Williams bluntly told his panel on the channel’s flagship prime time program, The 11th Hour, that “our job tonight actually is scare people to death” over North Korea. The remarks came in the midst of a vigorous discussion which included Andrea Mitchell giving a detailed description of what the potential death toll on the Korean peninsula might be should a ballistic missile exchange occur. The panel also included MSNBC contributor Malcolm Nance, to which Williams’ remarks were specifically directed.
Williams begins his revealing comment at the 2:00 mark.
In response to Williams’ unexpected and very revealing comment, Mitchell appeared to shake her head, though it’s unclear if she was approving or disapproving of what he actually said – there was no push back by the panelists or attempt to seek clarification on Williams’ words.
Though the world is currently witnessing a dangerous and escalating war of words between President Trump and the so-called hermit kingdom, mainstream media reporting has long been driven by simplistic fear mongering concerning the geopolitical dynamics driving tensions in the region. The American public is generally woefully uneducated regarding to history of US-North Korean tensions and war.
According to the 20th century theologian and political commentator Reinhold Niebuhr, fear is a prime means which leading public institutions and elites utilize to keep the masses loyal. Fear and sensationalized coverage is also good for ratings and advertising revenue. Niebuhr says society’s “myth-makers” – an apt description of today’s major corporate media – constantly give us mere illusions divorced from truth:
Rationality belongs to the cool observer, but because of the stupidity of the average man, he follows not reason, but faith, and the naive faith requires necessary illusion and emotionally potent oversimplifications which are provided by the myth-maker to keep the ordinary person on course.
While the media’s job ought to be the at all costs investigative uncovering of truth and accurate analysis in its role as the Fourth Estate, Brian Williams apparently thinks it’s his and NBC’s job to induce constant fear in the public. He openly stated just that.
Last April, Williams was widely mocked on social media for his comments in response to Trump’s bombing Syria. Responding to a Pentagon video which showed US cruise missiles being launched on an airfield in Syria, he said live on MSNBC that he found himself “tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: ‘I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons.”