Bewildered Brian Williams 'Paralyzed' with 'Fear' by Paper vs. Plastic Checkout 'Dilemma'

Apparently, it doesn't take much to flummox Brian Williams. He wrapped up Monday's NBC Nightly News with a whole story devoted to a “paralyzing question” which “can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear.” The dilemma? “Paper or plastic” at the grocery store. “The grocery store dilemma,” he teased, “'paper or plastic?' What is the right answer to that paralyzing question in the checkout line?” Williams repeated his terminology in plugging the story before an ad break: “What is the right answer to that often-paralyzing question at the checkout, 'paper or plastic?'”

Williams introduced the eventual May 7 story by fretting about how people “are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision.” Maybe if you're a self-obsessed environmental extremist with too much free time, but I doubt most people feel such pressure and are able to easily make the choice without liberal guilt. Williams asserted: “Tonight, as part of our ongoing series of reports on the environment, 'America Goes Green,' we take on the question that can make otherwise competent adults quake with fear. We've all been there. You come to the end of the checkout line and then comes that question, 'paper or plastic?' For that one brief moment, we grocery buyers are made to feel like the fate of the planet hinges on our decision. Is there a correct answer?”

Reporter Anne Thompson turned to a left-wing activist group, naturally unlabeled, for the answer:
“To find out what to do in the grocery store, we turned to Alan Hershkowitz of the Natural Resources Defense Council. Plastic bags threaten wildlife along the coast. So if that's where you call home, Hershkowitz says the choice should be paper. In the heartland, he says, it's plastic.”
She elaborated:
“To make all the bags we use a year it takes 14 million trees for paper, 12 million barrels of oil for plastic. The production of paper bags create 70 percent more air pollution than plastic. But plastic bags create four times the solid waist, enough to fill the Empire State Building two and a half times. And they can last up to a thousand years.”
The bottom line: Avoid both, as she concluded:

“Re-use and recycle is the environmentalist mantra for plastic and paper. But the best choice, they say, is cloth or canvas and B.Y.O.B. -- Bring your own bags.”

Related NB item (Ken Shepherd | May 8, 11:50 EDT):

This post reminded me of another item posted earlier on NewsBusters suitable for the "Ways Brian Williams Is Not Like Joe Sixpack." It's my colleague Paul Detrick's March 7 item, "Men's Vogue Magazine Worships 'Nightly News' Anchor." (excerpted here):

NBC Nightly News anchor, Brian Williams graces the cover of Men's Vogue this month and is profiled by Deputy Editor Ned Martel as being an anchor who, because of "today's debunking culture" (Wink Wink Newsbusters.org), is both "in the know and in on the joke."

Martel panders to Williams as an anchor who is "affable", "witty", and even "an unapologetic throwback to the era of Cronkite".

Martel says that viewers can relate to Williams because he, "has a vast interest in so many of their passions." He further says that Williams "embraces his regular-guy status" and "trumpets his middlebrow tastes".

Williams apparently considers his "instinctive understanding of Middle America" to be a payoff for Nightly News. That understanding must be a tall order for someone who wears a "black-faced Rolex and Supreme Court cufflinks" and splits his time between a "pied-a-terre in a new Upper East Side tower" and a "restored farmhouse in Connecticut".

Brent Baker
Brent Baker
Brent Baker is the Steven P.J. Wood Senior Fellow and VP for Research and Publications at the Media Research Center