The Pentagon released video of the launch of the Tomahawk missiles that would fly from the destroyers in the Mediterranean Sea to their target, an airfield in Syria — retaliation for the use of chemical weapons by the government there earlier this week. The images gave broadcast TV networks something to air that was not human beings being blown to bits by American weapons, but rather something visually akin to fireworks or a rocket launch. And it worked. Brian Williams couldn't get over the Tomahawk missiles' "beauty" while playing the DoD video. Then Twitter got outraged; here's why.
Essentially Williams used the word "beautiful" several times while describing the images on his MSNBC show, The 11th Hour:
Then he transitioned to an interview with his guest. "What did they hit?” he asked. But the damage was already done for many of his viewers, and even more who watched clips on Twitter and YouTube.
Williams quoted Leonard Cohen's lyrics from the song "First We Take Manhattan," which came out in 1988 and according to Cohen, was about terrorism — maybe not something you want to compare the American military to.
The fact that he quoted it seriously, in order to wonder in awe of destructive weapons, is troublesome. Just in case you forgot, Williams is on MSNBC now because he was caught in 2015 for lying about reporting in Iraq and New Orleans. That was the topic of many Twitter jokes. He claimed to have been under fire while reporting from Iraq in a book (supposedly the helicopter he was in was shot and forced to land) — but that wasn't true.
You'd think a guy who had experienced the horrors of a missile attack like Brian Williams wouldn't be so enthralled by a missile attack.— Everywhere Jeet (@Ugarles) April 7, 2017
User @ugarles wrote, "You'd think a guy who had experienced the horrors of a missile attack like Brian Williams wouldn't be so enthralled by a missile attack." Had Williams actually been on the other end once, like he said in his book, perhaps he would be a little more thoughtful of the plight on the receiving end — even if they are the "enemy."
Some observers believe that maybe it's time for him to retire, once and for all. A user who goes by Nicole wrote, "OMG I do not watch @MSNBC & I did not know Brian Williams was still a 'journalist' but after watching this video, it is time to retire Brian." That may be the feeling of many without cable. In the mainstream press, there hasn't been much word on Williams since then.
In any case, Twitter largely held that weapons of war are not actually beautiful, as Williams said. Rather, they are deadly weapons that must be used as sparingly as possible — with respect for their ability to take human life, as opposed to their visual appeal.