NBC’s Brian Williams extended the concept of moral equivalence into the territory of the absurd in tonight’s installment of the NBC Evening News. The new anchor discussed the story about Iranian president-elect Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s possible involvement in the 1979 American embassy takeover in Teheran and subsequent hostaging of its staff. As I argued earlier, Williams noted that even if true, it wouldn’t make much difference in how we interact with the Iranian government, which supported the takeover and quickly co-opted it themselves.
However, as Dread Pundit Bluto noted, Williams instead argued that the British likely faced the same dilemma after the creation of the United States. After all, Williams says, one can easily confuse people like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi with George Washington:
The White House and most official branches of government are ducking any substantive comment on this story, and photo analysis is going on at this and other news organizations. It is a story that will be at or near the top of our broadcast and certainly made for a robust debate in our afternoon editorial meeting, when several of us raised the point (I’ll leave it to others to decide germaneness) that several U.S. presidents were at minimum revolutionaries, and probably were considered terrorists of their time by the Crown in England.
Did Washington bomb women and children indiscriminately in order to chase the British out of North America? Did John Hancock send teenagers with bomb belts into marketplaces to kill as many people as possible to destabilize colonial society? This comparison insults the intelligence and the memory of those who fought on both sides of the Revolutionary War, which (despite what’s commonly thought) mostly saw European-style, set-piece combat between uniformed forces.
Williams indulges in the same, tired moral equivalency that led Michael Moore to declare Zarqawi as the Iraqi version of the Minutemen from our war of independence. This minimizes the cruelty and inhumanity of the enemies of freedom that use civilians as their targets while trying to impose tyrannies far worse than anything George III could ever have dreamed in his most feverish illusions. It also continues the generation-long effort to rewrite American history to eliminate the idea of American exceptionalism, where all forms of government are relatively equal and democracy is simply another choice with no special moral value over monarchies or autocracies.
Shame on Brian Williams, and shame on NBC.