Sunday, September 08, 2013

Rly? No, not rly

See, there's this tradition in journalism: When you write stuff in the lede, you're warranting that there will be detailed stuff in the body of the story that supports it.

That's how the whole "inverted pyramid" thing works. When you write, oh, "Four people were injured, two of them seriously, when two moronic texting drivers ran into each other this afternoon at Woodward and Warren," you're sketching the broad outline of the picture you'll fill in later. It's written to be end-cut if necessary. You can stop after the first graf, or any other step in the pyramid, and all you'll miss is a few details. So when you read:

The Obama administration’s effort Sunday to win support for a punitive military strike on Syria is facing opposition and criticism in part because of its handling of the fatal Benghazi terror attacks, which occurred one year ago Wednesday.

... you're not just entitled to assume that it's true, you should expect chunks of specific evidence to back up the general assertions. Shall we look? 

Federal prosecutors last month filed the first criminal charges related to the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans were killed.

Ready for some opposition and criticism?

... “We've been very clear that we will hold those people who carried out this dastardly, heinous attack against our people to account," White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told “Fox News Sunday.” “You know what the United States does? We track every lead until we ...can accomplish what we say we will do."

Still waiting ...

Other issues related to the 2012 attack in which U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed included whether the administration was up-front with Americans about intelligence reports. Officials said at first that the attacks appeared to be in response to an anti-Islamic video, then acknowledged they were terror related.
 
"Terror related," of course, was what "officials" (by which Fox apparently means the appeaser-in-chief) suggested from the outset. Fox is less interested in the complex political phenomenon of terrorism than in the War on Terror® -- which makes sense as long as you don't mind that Fox was happily blaming the "anti-Islamic video" at the same time* the Kenyan usurper was lumping Benghazi in with other "acts of terror." But surely there's a link somewhere to Syria!

“When it happened, [President Obama] promised to hunt down the wrong-doers,” Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz said on ABC’s “This Week.” “Yet a few months later, the issue has disappeared. You don't hear the president mention Benghazi. Now it's a phony scandal. We ought to be defending U.S. national security and going after radical Islamic terrorists.”

Well, yeah. It is a phony scandal. But that Benghazi-Syria link ...


Now administration officials are trying to convince Americans and Capitol Hill lawmakers that Syrian President Bashar Assad ordered an Aug. 21 attack on his own people and his forces used the deadly nerve gas sarin. Nearly 1,500 of Assad’s own people were killed in the attack.

Fox seems ready to accept the death toll at face value; does it really think the problem is believing that the side with the better stockpiles, logistic support and delivery systems actually carried out the attack? (Just for fun, try substituting "Iranian" for "Syrian" in the first sentence.) Still, you know, that link to Benghazi ...

World leaders are also skeptical enough about the administration’s claims about the attack to wait for the findings of a United Nations’ investigation before backing a military strike.

In July, Capitol Hill Republicans sent a letter to new FBI Director James Comey urging him to take action.


That must be it! Republicans want to attack Syria because BENGHAZI!!!!!!!!

"It has been more than 10 months since the attacks," states the letter, spearheaded by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz. "We appear to be no closer to knowing who was responsible today than we were in the early weeks following the attack. This is simply unacceptable.”

Sadly, no. You can go through the entire story, top to bottom, and you will find no evidence to support the lede. And that's another fairly basic thing about journalism. When there's a who-did-what-to-whom up top  -- "effort faces opposition," to put it in subject-verb-object terms -- it needs to be not only true but explicit. You can't rule out "effort faces opposition because of BENGHAZI!!!!!!!!", but based on the evidence presented in the story, you can justifiably conclude that it was invented to please the people who run the Fair 'n' Balanced Network.


* Yes, kiddies, that image is the Fox home page from Sept. 12, 2012.

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