Since the news broke, last Wednesday, that conservative Judicial Watch had obtained a White House email that #Benghazi cultists insisted was a “smoking gun” in an alleged White House conspiracy to describe the events in Benghazi as accurately as they could, there have been three White House daily briefings. The email in question (which was at least a real email this time) didn’t actually prove anything at all, but that didn’t stop it from being a hot topic in briefings, at which Benghazi was mentioned a grand total of eighty-five times.
There is some encouraging news in that statistic, though. How many of those Benghazi mentions do you think were from Tuesday’s briefing? If you guessed zero, you win. The topics covered at yesterday’s briefing ranged from the kidnappings in Nigeria, to climate change, to Ukraine, and even to Judge David Barron’s nomination for a seat on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit. There were zero mentions of Benghazi.
Maybe #Benghazi really did go from The Most Important Topic In The World to complete non-existence in the course of one night, or maybe the Issa Fairy took a night off, or maybe it’s something else. Have a look at the composition of the press corps at these four briefings, and tell me if you notice anything:
Notice anything (or anyone) missing from yesterday’s briefing?
As I’ve said here before, there are legitimate, fair questions to ask about Benghazi (I even asked a few), and when a topic like #Benghazi comes up, other reporters are legitimately drawn in. It is in this way that one influential reporter, or two, can impose their editorial judgment on the rest of the press. One of the most important functions the press serves is to decide which stories are important, and if one reporter (or two) says something’s a “smoking gun,” that story then becomes important to everyone else.
In and of itself, that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when the reporters in question rely on false, or even fabricated, information to press that story, then it becomes a problem. Then, all of the other reporters are put in the position of having the story forced onto their radar, where peril ensues. Maybe the email doesn’t prove anything, but now that you mention it, why wasn’t it released earlier?
This is the conservative media playbook, selling a story with false or misleading claims, then leaving the mainstream media to pick at the bones. From there, it’s a coin flip, with the very best result being muddied waters for news consumers, and the worst being complete, widespread journalistic malpractice.