Well, it looks as though the Benghazi saga is finally escaping from the “Fox News ghetto” Ace was talking about the other day, since ABC News built from the work of the Weekly Standard (and even acknowledged them!) to report that the notorious Benghazi talking points went through no less than 12 revisions – each more dishonest than the last.
There was still some garbage about “spontaneous inspiration by the protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo” in the initial CIA report, but they were clear about organized terrorist forces involved in the attack, specifically naming the al-Qaeda affiliate Ansar al-Sharia. The CIA was also clear about the steadily deteriorating security situation in Benghazi prior to the attack. All of the valid information was relentlessly purged by Hillary Clinton’s house elves, particularly State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, until only the ridiculous nonsense about video protests remained.
Does anyone else find the spectacle of a State Department spokeswoman ordering the intelligence community to pull hard information out of those talking points a bit odd? And ABC reports there’s no mystery about why she was doing it. In one of the smoking-gun emails, she frets that accurate information about the situation in Benghazi “could be abused by members [of Congress] to beat up the State Department for not paying attention to warnings.”
It’s clearly not a “Fox News story” any more. The New York Times ran a pretty solid front-page piece on the Benghazi hearings, and of course Sharyl Attkisson of CBS News was all over the story, before her bosses had a nervous breakdown about “advocacy journalism” and ordered her tagged and bagged.
But the initial mainstream media breakout is only the first part of a multi-stage process to achieve full public awareness. The transmission belt to water-cooler conversation leads from saturation coverage to pop-culture awareness. That’s the difference between a story the media dutifully mentions once or twice, and something they eagerly want to push deep into the public consciousness.
The process begins with mentions by agenda-setting outlets like the New York Times, but then comes the process of endless repetition, including the funhouse-mirror echoes of news outlets running “context” pieces, “where do we go from here?” ruminations, and even stories about the media coverage – in other words, the media covering itself covering the story. Then we reach the level of pop-culture penetration, in which entertainment programs begin mentioning the story. That’s when “everybody knows about it,” and even the most casual news consumer feels compelled to discuss it with friends, because they wish to appear well-informed.
It might still be possible for the Obama and Clinton partisans in the press to hunt the Benghazi story down and march it back into the ghetto, if they can keep coverage from reaching saturation levels. Let’s see how things shake out after the weekend talk-show circuit sets up next week’s news coverage.