The Allegory of Credibility
The recent fabrication scandal of the celebrity anchor Brian William speaks volumes about the meaning of credibility in the age of Internet and social media.
The embattled anchor’s credibility plummeted after he admitted having exaggerated his involvement in a helicopter incident in Iraq in 2003. Shortly after the acknowledgement, he was suspended from his duties as the head anchor of NBC news for six months without pay. This is a steep and harrowing descent considering he had been drawing 9.3 million viewers a night and was considered one of the most trusted celebrities in the nation.
In the days since he’s admitted his mistake, Mr. Williams has been relentlessly mocked and pilloried online with amateur truth squads calling into question and investigating the veracity of his other reportage. The public outrage could be explained by the fact that he had earned, or had been given, his celebrity status as a journalist, someone who is bound by external ethics and internal morals to uphold and tell the truth. The interest in the scandal might very well be connected to the joyous schadenfreude that comes from dragging a celebrity through the mud. After all, the culture of public shaming has been around as long as people have formed societies.
On the other hand, although Mr. Williams erred and breached the public's trust, it isn’t beyond the scope of imagination or forgiveness to accept that the anchor really had conflated the events or wanted to seem a little more badass than he actually is.
The lightning-fast public inquisition and punishment is emblematic not only of the scrutiny that celebrities face, but to some degree, what businesses and marketers must deal with. No matter what the public, legal, or personal verdict on the affair might be, what we can glean from this is the price of credibility and the importance of accountability in an environment where no stone remains unturned.
In an age where it’s becoming ever so complicated to garner attention, instead of clamoring for it, it seems saying your truths and keeping your integrity might be the safest bet.