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Brian Williams came under fire a couple of years ago for dressing up stories as he reported them from various Middle Eastern countries, and now, he's in trouble once again.
Last night, the breaking news anchor for NBC News interrupted Rachel Maddow's program - a move that was policy for the network, but one that still drew ire as people felt that a seasoned professional such as Maddow could have ably handled reporting on the airstrikes - to report on the Syrian airstrikes, and got taken to task almost immediately for his commentary.
Here's what the anchor said: "We see these beautiful pictures at night from the decks of these two US Navy vessels in the eastern Mediterranean," Williams said. "I am tempted to quote the great Leonard Cohen: 'I am guided by the beauty of our weapons.' And, they are beautiful pictures of fierce armaments making, what is for them, a brief flight over to this airfield. What did they hit?"
Some 50 or so missiles were shot at a Syrian airbase, igniting condemnation from Syria and Russia, who promised to help Syria fortify its air defences.
According to A.V. Club, Leonard Cohen once described "First We Take Manhattan" as a "terrorist song," which further colors Williams' words in a negative light. Williams went on to add, “They are beautiful pictures of fearsome armaments making what is for them what is a brief flight over to this airfield."
The air attacks were in response to the suspected chemical attack that occurred April 4, where some 70 or more Syrians were killed.
Leonard Cohen wasn't known so much for his lyrics about beautiful weaponry or the wonderful landscape created by war as he was for his words about the fragile nature of humanity and the beauty of women. Perhaps his biggest hit, "Hallelujah," is one of the most covered, haunting melodies that Cohen released; it hit the airwaves in 1984 and remains probably one of Cohen's best-loved works.
Cohen himself might very well be reeling right now if he'd heard Williams using his words to describe the airstrike in Syria. The singer once said that "pacifism is a luxury of wealth and power" at a 1988 press conference held in Reykjavik, Iceland, and many of his lyrics are downright bleak in their worldview - consider, for instance, the lyrics from "The Old Revolution," which say "even damnation is poisoned with rainbows" as "all the brave young men/ they are waiting to see a signal/ which some killer will be lighting for pay." However, he also noted there was some cause for optimism even as the desolation and destruction he suggested was to come in some of his songs threatened; in "Anthem," he says that "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
#BrianWilliams has caught a fair bit of heat for quoting #LeonardCohen's line about "beautiful weapons," and some have suggested his words have taken on a bit of a jingoist tone. Others on social media have also said that based on Williams' prior track record of embellishing stories, the line is the very last he should have considered using, given the terrible nature of what was happening between the United States and Syria the evening of April 6.
Twitter user Kris MG tweeted, "I'm a fan of Brian Williams but I must say going into description about its beauty leaves me speechless, it seems wrong on any level its war."
John Haltiwanger, senior politics writer at Elite Daily, tweeted to Williams in the form of a letter. "Dear Brian Williams, There is nothing "beautiful" about war. Hell only exists because humans keep creating it."
User Rypley Rendar kept his or her thoughts far simpler. "Wtf is wrong with Brian Williams....jesus...."
There has been no response from NBC News about the words used by Williams, and while it is nice to see Canadian singer Leonard Cohen's words continue to make an impact, it's highly likely that Cohen himself would never have predicted it would have come like this.