The fog of memory

Today’s Doonesbury has Mark Slackmeyer interviewing Roland Hedley about Hedley’s reporting:

(Having Mark, an NPR reporter, turn to Twitter to check out the news is a nice touch.) The interview was touched off by the Brian Williams affair.

Background: On Mark:

Mark Sheldon Slackmeyer is a character in the comic strip Doonesbury. Mark starts out as a radical at Walden College, and leads several peace rallies (in his first appearance, he referred to himself as “‘Megaphone’ Mark Slackmeyer”). … After graduating, Mark goes to work for NPR, where he still works today, sometimes referred to as “‘Microphone’ Mark”. (Wikipedia link)

On large-egoed television reporter Roland Hedley, see the section on him in this 9/7/14 posting.

And on the real-life tv reporter Brian Williams, from Wikipedia:

Brian Douglas Williams (born May 5, 1959) is an American journalist best known for his ten years as anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News, the evening news program of the NBC television network.

… In February 2015, Williams was suspended for six months without pay from the Nightly News for “misrepresent[ing] events which occurred while he was covering the Iraq War in 2003.”

… In a 2007 retelling, Williams did not state that his craft had been hit, but said, “… I looked down the tube of an RPG that had been fired at us, and it hit the chopper in front of us.” This contradicted the statements by the crew of the craft that was hit, that it was at least 30 minutes ahead of the Williams’ helicopter. In a 2013 account, Williams said that his helicopter had been “hit … and landed very quickly.”

Over the years, Williams’s story mutates, which critics took to be evidence that Williams was lying, making things up. But (as I have often written on this blog) memory is a fragile and mutable thing. For a summary of some literature on the subject, see Tara Parker-Pope in the NYT on February 9th, in “Was Brian Williams a Victim of False Memory?”, from which:

Numerous scientific studies show that memories can fade, shift and distort over time. Not only can our real memories become unwittingly altered and embellished, but entirely new false memories can be incorporated into our memory bank, embedded so deeply that we become convinced they are real and actually happened.

So, yes, it could be the fog of memory.

The fog of memory echoes the term the fog of war. From Wikipedia:

The fog of war (German: Nebel des Krieges) is the uncertainty in situational awareness experienced by participants in military operations. The term seeks to capture the uncertainty regarding one’s own capability, adversary capability, and adversary intent during an engagement, operation, or campaign.

The word “fog” in reference to uncertainty in war was introduced by the Prussian military analyst Carl von Clausewitz in his posthumously published book, Vom Kriege (1832), which appeared in English translation in 1873 under the title On War

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