April 17, 2006
Misinformation, Misquotes, Misattributions and MatthewsBy Marc Sheppard
'Anchorman' Chris Matthews concluded the April 8, 2006 episode of the NBC show which shares his name with these words [emphasis mine]:
"Yes an anchor is not simply a newsreader or even someone who decides the news items to be featured and in what order. The anchor is also the country's anchor especially when it counts —— When we need some stability in the ship of state. You may have figured where I'm heading with this. Will the verdict on Katie constitute an early verdict on a Hillary sitting in the President's chair? That's right, before we get to vote on Hillary for President we're gonna get to vote for Katie for Anchorwoman. We're gonna be showing our hand about how we feel about a woman with such power. How we are going to feel about the same question in 2008. This time it will be in our living rooms using a remote flicker, the next time it will be in a voting booth. This time it won't be as much about the night to night performance of Katie Couric. It will be more about the emerging roles of men and women in our society and how we feel about her in that chair As the great Edward R. Murrow once said, 'Our future lies not in our stars but in ourselves.' That's the show, thanks for watching. See ya next week."
On the surface, this would appear to be a marginally clever epilogue to a marginally interesting Sunday Talk Show. Sure, its entire framework is based upon the highly uncertain proposition that the name Clinton will be appearing on the National Ballot 30 months hence, and that somehow this ties into the impending coronation of Queen Katie, which is, of course, typical liberal MSM horse—sense.
What I find more disturbing is the line I have emboldened. Do you notice anything peculiar about that line? Here's a hint —— Matthews actually managed to misattribute a misquote.
The quote is, in point of fact, "The Fault, Dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves (, that we are underlings)" and hails from Act I Scene II of William Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar".
Granted, Murrow apparently used the line —— although with much greater fidelity than did Matthews —— and I suspect that the source of Chris' confusion was the 2005 Film Good Night and Good Luck in which the Murrow character, wonderfully portrayed by David Strathairn, climaxes a tirade objurgating the Junior Senator from Wisconsin with "Cassius was right — The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves. Good night, and good luck.'
Now, some of you may be wondering why such a gaffe warrants my time writing and yours reading this op—ed, and I certainly do appreciate your forbearance. Truth be told, I was prepared to let this incident go and file it in my mental drawer containing previous mis—and—half—truths mouthed, penned, or typed by members of the Fourth Estate, alongside all of the things I find loathsome about 'News—people' who wear their duplicity as a badge of moderation.
As for the once Jimmy Carter speechwriter, http://www.msnbc.com/news/330815.asp it would be easy enough to join the endless parade of those inquisitors who hold his feet to the coals for both his blatant bias and his cavalier freedom of misinformation. His penchant for drawing rebuke from both the Right and the Left is, perhaps, unrivaled. Is there any other MSM personality who manages to remain perpetually in the cross—hairs of both the decidedly liberal 'Media Matters for America' and the equally conservative 'Media Research Center', both of whom hold him in opprobrium for his blatant slanting of the news in directions divergent to theirs? Last year, Matthews was singled out by the former as the recipient of their Misinformer of the Year Award, while this year, the latter bestowed upon him not one, but two Dishonors Awards — The Cindy Sheehan Media Hero Award and the prestigious Slam Uncle Sam Award. Quite the contrary and dubious achievements, indeed!
But here's my real problem with him. I must assume that Chris's closing comments are served cold, as I can't imagine this double—edged blunder would have gotten past even the most elementary of fact—checking machinery — Indeed, someone would have recognized the words as Shakespeare's, albeit only from a hilarious episode of TV's 'The Odd Couple', in which they were used as a posthypnotic suggestion trigger. Obviously, his ad—hoc comments and questions are similarly unbridled. This autonomy has empowered him to mix and mince other people's words with apparent impunity. Sure, the conflation was indicative of pure ignorance and, for the most part, harmless to everything save the former Tip O'Neill aide's credibility, had it not gone virtually unnoticed.
But consider this occurrence which had transpired just three months prior.
The reality of the situation was that the First Lady had been asked to comment on a speech recently made by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin in which he said, 'Surely God is mad at America. Surely He's not approving of us being in Iraq under false pretense. But surely He's upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves.' The President's lady jokingly replied that she 'didn't really think she could speak for God', but that she 'believes Nagin wants New Orleans to be rebuilt'. (Hat Tips: Free Republic; Expose the Left)
Matthews spoke the bogus quote twice in a segment with former Clinton White House press secretary Dee Dee Myers and former Bush adviser and Republican strategist Ed Rogers, then repeated it two more times in a subsequent segment with NBC News political analyst Charles Cook and Mike Allen of Time magazine, smugly asking his guests to comment on the outrageous words never spoken.
In one exchange, he says,
Wow! Hearing voices? Joan of Arc? Notwithstanding the self—constructed origin of the quote, these are grossly evocative words to be hurling at the wife of the leader of the free world!
Without doubt, the license to play a boring Know—It—All on Television is issued with certain requisites. It is perilous enough when media personalities drone on endlessly about matters in which they have little or absolutely no proficiency (e.g Global Warming, Gun Control, Economics, Abortion), creating misperceptions of truth amongst the highly impressionable masses through the sheer power of unremitting repetition. Techniques such as paraphrasing and speaking in generalities afford a certain degree of subjective latitude in such allocutions. Direct quotations, and the attribution of those quotations, on the other hand, must be held to a strict and uniform objective standard!
Yes, Chris, the Anchor is the country's Anchor, and, perhaps, by today's measure, you are one. Nonetheless, I propose to you that identical conventions and responsibilities govern everyone we entrust to keep said country informed! Oh, and, Chris — Here's another quote from the Bard of Avon's Julius Caesar, this one from Act V Scene II. 'Why dost thou show, to the apt thoughts of men, the things that are not?'
Marc Sheppard is a business owner and writer residing on Long Island, New York. He welcomes your feedback.