Saturday, November 22, 2014

Another day on Planet Fox

Hey, kids! What do you suppose was the takeaway point of Friday afternoon's report from the House Intelligence Committee?

Washington Post: An investigation by the Republican-led House Intelligence Committee has concluded that the CIA and U.S. military responded appropriately to the attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, dismissing allegations that the Obama administration blocked rescue attempts during the assault or sought to mislead the public afterward.

AP: ... Debunking a series of persistent allegations hinting at dark conspiracies, the investigation of the politically charged incident determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.

Fair 'n' Balanced Network: A leading Republican wants to expand the House investigation into the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attack by adding a Senate probe, as a new House Intelligence Committee report Friday concluded that the initial CIA assessment found no demonstrations prior to the assault and a primary purpose of the CIA operation in eastern Libya was to track the movement of weapons to Syria.

You can see why it takes Fox until the eighth paragraph to get to the boring stuff:

... On Friday, with little fanfare,* the House Intelligence Committee released the findings of its two year, bi-partisan investigation into the terrorist attack. The 37 page report found that the first, internal CIA assessment was accurate -- that no protests were involved -- but then-CIA Director David Petraeus, Morell and the administration latched onto information that supported the flawed demonstration scenario.

Fox News was first to report on September 17, 2012, one day after Rice's controversial Sunday talk show appearances, that there were no protests when the attack unfolded.

Fox isn't giving itself enough credit here. It was also among the first to blame the attack on "Muslims angered by anti-Islam film posted to Web." As we've noted before, it got ahead of the WashTimes on that score (the latter did manage to talk to "several residents in Benghazi" who described "a relatively peaceful demonstration" that "did not turn violent until a group of heavily armed militants showed up and 'hijacked' the protest"). And the Times -- credit where due -- is (hem) kind of frank about (kaff) several points today:

The report dents many of the claims some Republicans have advanced, including rejecting the claim that CIA security officers were told to “stand down” and not try to rescue State Department personnel at the diplomatic compound under assault, and that the White House forced the CIA to alter talking points to delete references to a terrorist attack.

Investigators said the CIA had received 21 reports that the attack involved a protest. It wasn’t until a few days after the attack that the first CIA analysis began to challenge that version — even though President Obama, in a White House Rose Garden statement on Sept. 12, had referred to “acts of terror.”

That's the false dichotomy that has been at the core of the fabricated BENGHAZI!!!!!!! scandal from the outset. I don't know if the Times, Fox and their party bedmates are genuinely so clueless as to think those conditions are mutually exclusive.** That basically entails the belief that "terrorism" was invented sometime in the early afternoon of September 10, 2001, which would make you very, very bad at understanding how political violence works but very good at seeing the world in ways that serve Fox's ideological ends. And that, I think, gets at the question that twisted the knickers of the Baltimore Sun's TV writer last week:

... I think one of the reasons for this latest evolution of ratings dominance might be that Fox was a far better watchdog on the Obama White House than any other TV news organization. ... And now with viewers seeing the contempt this administration had for them and the truth, they respect what Fox did the last six years.

Or maybe, it’s what some critics of Fox say: That those who watch the channel only want to hear one side of the story, and that’s all that Fox gives them. The implication here is that Fox viewers are stupid, to borrow an offensive term that Jonathan Gruber, the administration's $400,000 adviser on Obamacare, used to describe American voters.

You tell me.

The answers matter. And we shouldn’t let our biases blind us to the serious media criticism that demands to be done.

Well -- Liebling's dead, throw strikes. It doesn't take "serious media criticism" to point out that Fox's watchdoggery consists largely of overinflated pseudo-scandals, fabular Slaughters of the Innocents in the culture wars, and the occasional out-and-out lie; hell, that's barely even observation. The Gruber hip-check**** tells you a lot about who's letting whose biases blind whom, but in doing so it gets closer to the point.

Fox might or might not think its viewers are stupid, but it certainly doesn't seem to mind when they're happily misinformed about the world at large. Rational viewers aren't good for Fox, because they might turn into rational voters: able to make autonomous, evidence-based decisions that reflect their own interests about stuff like terrorism, immigration, the climate, and the threats posed by infectious diseases, apology tours and Muslim baby names. That, in turn, makes it harder to enforce a sense of national panic in which you hand your civil liberties over to friends of Roger Ailes for the duration. (If that's starting to sound like a seminar in Copenhagen School securitization theory, there's a reason for that.)

Fox isn't the first media outlet to dominate its market through paranoia, jingoism and tabloid fascination with celebrity culture, or the first to take a histrionic dive when the ref was watching. You could call it a living tribute to the McCormick-Patterson axis, putting it rather squarely in the mainstream of Industrial Age journalism. To borrow from another Baltimore media critic, Fox has figured out what The People want and gives it to them good and hard. Fox viewers don't have to be stupid as long as they continue to get the drama of inconvenient truth mixed up with the thrill of convenient fiction. Benghazigate, Grubergate and those friendly games of chance at the county fair were made for such an audience.

* This is known as a "document dump" when the Kenyan usurper and his minions try it, in case you're scoring along at home.
** It is kind of telling that the Post categorizes the Friday report as a "national security" story, while Fox puts it under "politics" (which is also where unemployment stories moved after the Kenyan was elected***).
*** Sorry, "elected." 
**** Whether a writer who thinks Jonathan Gruber coined the term "stupid" can provide serious criticism at all is a different question.  

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