Don Williams
Photo by Justin Williams

Don Williams is a prize-winning columnist, blogger, fiction writer, sometime TV commentator, and is the founder and editor emeritus of New Millennium Writings, an annual anthology of stories, essays and poems. His awards include a National Endowment for the Humanities Journalism Fellowship at the University of Michigan, a Golden Presscard Award from Sigma Delta Chi Society of Professional Journalists, a best Commentary Award from SDC, Best Feature Writing from the Associated Press Tennessee Managing Editors, the Malcolm Law Journalism Prize from the Associated Press, Best Non-Deadline Reporting from the United Press International, Best Novel Excerpt from the Knoxville Writers Guild, a Peacemaker Award from the Oak Ridge Environmental Peace Alliance, five Writer of the Month Awards from the Scripps Howard Newspaper chain, and many others. In 2011 he was inducted into the East Tennessee Writers Hall of Fame. His 2005 book of journalism, Heroes, Sheroes and Zeroes is under revision for a second printing, and he is at work on a novel and a book of journalism. His columns appear at and have been featured at many other well-known websites. To run his column, gratis, at your website, post this link to a dedicated spot: Need a speaker, panelist, tv commentator or teacher for your group or to lead a writing workshop, in your town? Email

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Fire! Polite Applause
(Copyright by Don Williams, All rights reserved   03/23/2007)

Barring a change of heart on someone else's part* this is my last column for Knoxviews. Here's all I know about the reasons why. On Monday, Randy Neal left a fragmented message on my answering machine, telling me he was cutting me back….

Just kidding! Yes, it's my last column at, but not because of any strained relations or secret maneuverings. Relations with Randy have been open and generous. The reason my column's moving is because Dane Baker at Knoxville Voice, has offered me a long-term deal to write for that publication and I've accepted. I'll leave it to the Voice to make any further announcements regarding this turn of events.

My four-week run at Knoxviews has been a happy one. It helped me leave the News-Sentinel without missing a beat and with more money in my pocket. I've sailed more formal opinion out over the Internet in the past month than at any period in my career to date. Buzzflash, OpedNews and other websites have picked up columns, extending my reach.

It's been bracing to see -- during our nation's state of denial, distraction and dysfunctional Big Media -- just how dedicated to truth some writers and editors, such as Randy Neal and Dane Baker remain. Networks from Fox to ABC and newspapers from the New York Times to the Knoxville News-Sentinel have failed the public outrageously the past decade when it comes to issues of impeachment, elections, global warming, human rights and the so-called War on Terror, among others. Through it all, many in media have been complicit with the forces of destruction and dishonest with the public. That sad beat goes on.

When a courageous journalist occasionally points out that something horrible is happening, it's as if someone stands in a crowded restaurant, points and screams "Fire!" and everyone applauds politely, then turns back to devour shrimp and cheesecake. Examples abound.

* Reporter Seymour Hersh, writing in the New Yorker, reveals that America stands cocked and loaded, poised to bomb hell out of Iran at a moment's notice, with a fleet in the Persian Gulf complete with Patriot missiles, aircraft carriers, submarines and more. Yes, it's common knowledge now, but it took months for this story to get any traction on the networks.

* Next comes Hersh's astonishing revelation in the March 5 New Yorker that Bush is providing money to terrorists linked to al-Qaeda in order to make illegal war on their Shia enemies in Iran. Yes. Bush is funding al-Qaeda! And you're right. This should be show-stopping news.

* Now we hear that Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM, as some say) has admitted to 31 heinous crimes or attempted crimes, including masterminding 9/11, personally beheading journalist Daniel Pearl, bombing the World Trade Center in 1993. He's admitted to everything short of assassinating Kennedy and sinking the Maine. Hmmm, a few more seconds of water-boarding maybe….

* Now you have scientists predicting both the north polar ice cap and Antarctica are melting away, followed by Al Gore on Capitol Hill warning on Wednesday of a global emergency.

I could go on to discuss the new nukes being planned for England and America at Cold War levels, including new Hydrogen bombs and many other outrages, but in the interests of brevity, let's take the case of KSM.

You'd think Big Media would respond in one of two ways to a story like that. Either it's all true, or else something fraudulent and evil elicited a string of lies from the terrorist. If it's true that he's guilty of all he's admitted to, this should be the biggest media story since 9/11. I can imagine this headline:

Bust of the Century: 9/11 Mastermind Admits to 31 Crimes. Or this one…

Call Off the War On Terror, We Caught The Guy. Or…

Torture Works! 31 Crimes Solved!

But if the experts in Big Media deem KSM to be lying about anything on the list, you'd think they would report the disturbing news that our government is fabricating and torturing and holding kangaroo courts to beat the band. In that case, one might imagine a headline like:

Bush Administration Tortures Man Into Unbelievable Confessions. Or like…

Tortured Man Denied Right to Call Witnesses. Or…

Once Again a Terrorist is Tortured Into Telling Whoppers.

So how did Big Media play this story? They tried having it both ways naturally. They politely applauded, then went back to dining on roast Britney and warmed over Anna Nicole. For instance, the day the story broke, NBC News led with a report about Alberto Gonzales, followed that up with something forgettable, maybe another ho-hum death-dealing car-bomb attack in our mind-numbing war in Iraq, then played the story about the KSM masterminding 9/11 and some 30 other crimes third! in the evening news report.

So what else is new? As I wrote in my March 22 column for Knoxville Voice, "I found it amusing when ABC News told us on March 13--as if breaking a major investigation--how a man codenamed Curveball convinced our government that Saddam possessed mobile labs for making anthrax. Many of us had commented on such lies for years, not only about Curveball, but also about other Iraqi stooges that lured us into this quagmire in Iraq. Listen up. The following should be a mantra.

"Much of our pre-war intelligence came from three sources.

"A man code-named Curveball, who we bribed.

"A man named Chalibi, who conned us.

"And a man named al-Libi, who we tortured into telling lies."

I can prove the truth of the entire mantra, which I document in the Voice article, to any reasonable jury, and this is what the American public ideally should be, in a manner of speaking. Unfortunately, major media have been complicit in duping the jury by applauding politely as the courthouse of international norms burns down, igniting fires that threaten the world.

Alternative outlets like Knoxviews, Knoxville Voice, Buzzflash, Truthout, CommonDreams and OpedNews demonstrate, however, that not all media go along with mass deceptions that endanger the world. In the end they just might save us all.


* The first line of this column is a Humorous reference to a phrase that is becoming all too familiar to longtime readers. It was the opening line to my last column for the Knoxville News-Sentinel, which the editor refused to publish, though he later posted it without permission at his blog, The Upfront Page. Scroll down at that link to see my last column.