Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Cohen down a bumpy road

Even before Brian Williams of NBC News got in all that trouble for claiming to have been in the thick of a battle in a helicopter landing, I always thought he was trying juuuuuuust a bit too hard to come off as momentous... ponderous...memorable.

Such as...the night of the Virginia Tech shootings ten years ago, when he opened his newscast by saying, "You will always remember where you were and what you were doing when you heard the news of this mass attack on a college campus..."

Well, no, and not because that was not an awful event, but because it occurred in what has become a whirling vortex of terrorist attacks across the nation, it really does not achieve singularity in our memory. Can you name the killer, or how many people died there? Chances are, you can't, and that is a shame, because the killer deserves infamy and the departed deserve our honor, but they were just more people in the morbid montage of America Today.

And now that B-Dub has been demoted to the minor leagues of MSNBC, forced to do a late-night newsreel review, he seems to be itching for a chance to knock one out of the park. So recently, when the USA sent missiles to ruin a Syrian military airfield in response to unspeakable acts Syria did to their own people, killing 70 in a chemical attack, Williams took official Pentagon footage of the American bombs bursting in air and got all rockets'-red-glare about it, quoting "the great" Leonard Cohen, of all people, calling
the bombing "beautiful."

The footage showed Tomahawk missiles sent from Navy destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea, lighting the decks and the night sky as they homed in.

I'm willing to admit the possibility that Williams may have been nonplussed at the sight of war live on late evening television, and maybe that's why he used the word "beautiful" to describe it.

"We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two U.S. Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean. I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: 'I am guided by the beauty of our weapons,'" he opined.

"They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield," he added before asking a guest, "What did they hit?"

The song he was taking the quote from is "First We Take Manhattan." one of Cohen’s best-known tracks. The verse says:

I’m guided by a signal in the heavens
I’m guided by this birthmark on my skin
I’m guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

The late Leonard Cohen said this song is a "terrorist song,"
and when the song came out in 1988, he actually said he admired certain types of extremism:

There’s something about terrorism that I’ve always admired. The fact that there are no alibis or no compromises. That position is always very attractive. I don’t like it when it’s manifested on the physical plane — I don’t really enjoy the terrorist activities — but Psychic Terrorism. I remember there was a great poem by Irving Layton that I once read, I’ll give you a paraphrase of it. It was 'well, you guys blow up an occasional airline and kill a few children here and there', he says. 'But our terrorists, Jesus, Freud, Marx, Einstein. The whole world is still quaking.'
I believe that all Americans are entitled to free speech, and that the above is a perfect example of why some Americans should keep that entitlement folded up and unused. And of course, Brian Williams, who used to enchant audiences of late-night talk shows with his casual hip relevance...maybe someday, he will find someone not so Leonard Cohen-ish to quote.


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