Thursday, May 09, 2013

Why bother?

Understanding the world requires some effort. Understanding what happened in Benghazi requires even more effort. Here's a screen shot of the Star Tribune's "Latest News" on their website this morning:

All the news that's fit to print
What this tells you is that, at least in the view of the largest local media outlet, Benghazi is less important than nine other stories and that the events of yesterday's hearing were talking about "confusion" and that there really wasn't any malfeasance at all. Just confusion..

There's no confusion at all about the larger meaning, really. Benghazi is a story that we are not supposed to acknowledge, except in passing. As we've learned repeatedly, it happened a long time ago and what difference does it make?

So why continue to talk about the story? Why beat your head against the wall and pretend that the pixels that fly around a lightly-read website will make any difference at all? Isn't just all a futile gesture, a fart in the wind?

For me, it matters because we need to establish the truth of what happened and to document it, even if the truth is ignored because it isn't especially helpful to people. We need to learn what really was going in Benghazi because there are still a lot of questions left to be resolved, including a crucial one -- what was Ambassador Christopher Stevens doing there at all? Even if we set aside the blame game, there's an important question involved in why an ambassador would be put (or put himself) in harm's way. This is a question that has yet to be answered. Maybe someday we'll find out.

I've never thought that Benghazi would turn into Obama's version of Watergate, or even his version of Iran-Contra, because there's little appetite among the chattering classes to do the investigative work necessary to explain the story to people who are otherwise engaged in things like the Arias trial or the discovery of the missing young women in Cleveland. We really don't have a national conversation of the sort that was possible in 1973, when most people got their news based on the editorial decisions of the New York Times and the Washington Post, filtered through the national news broadcasts of Walter Cronkite, John Chancellor and the like.

Having said that, the editorial decisions of the MSM still matter quite a lot, which is why the Benghazi hearings received less coverage yesterday than when Sally Field, Sissy Spacek and Jessica Lange testified before Congress about farm issues back the day, because they'd all happened to be cast in movies that were about farming.

So it goes. If it falls to a bunch of penny ante bloggers to talk about these issues, that's what we'll do. At least I will.

8 comments:

Brian said...

As of 6:20am PDT, the Benghazi investigation is the top world news story on NPR's web page, and THE top story on PBS's News Hour page.

R.A. Crankbait said...

I read the Strib's drive-by report last night; plenty of "confusion" and discussion on the nature of the attack - stuff that's been hashed out over and over already. Very little about what I think is the key question now: WHO ordered the relief troops to stand down and WHY.

Mr. D said...

As of 6:20am PDT, the Benghazi investigation is the top world news story on NPR's web page, and THE top story on PBS's News Hour page.

Good to hear, but that's a self-selected audience that isn't getting the bread and circuses treatment. And will the Benghazi investigation still be on the NPR web page in a week or two? The key to these stories isn't whether they are "covered," but rather the duration of the coverage.

Bike Bubba said...

Fox is of course covering it, and kudos to NPR/PBS for covering it. One thing that interests/bothers me in the coverage is some Democrats waving around the administration's talking points--more or less "we've heard from the top players and that settles it," when the entire question is whether the testimony of the top players was ever plausible.

And you've got to look at what the lower pay grades say to determine that.

Brian said...

I guess I'm just not certain that media criticism of the form "X is not being covered at the expense of Y and Z which are clearly less important" means a great deal in the context of a media landscape that is huge, diversified, and--as you rightly label it--largely self-selecting in terms of audience.

Nearly every outlet is just responding to the market, or the share thereof that they care to chase. Even the public broadcasters, to an extent.

Personally, I have serious doubts that the direction in and extent to which any particular outlet is slanted politically results from a political decision at bottom, rather than a business one. Rupert Murdoch would shill for Ralph Nader if he honestly thought there was money in it.

Mr. D said...

Brian, I get all that. All I want, at bottom, is accountability. I can hold local government accountable, because I actually know most of the people on the city council in my town. There aren't many people who can get government officials at the national level to be accountable, but the ink-stained wretches and network pretty boys at least have access. When they choose to be stenographers and hagiographers, it's a problem.

And it cuts both ways -- as you've pointed out at your place, the previous administration wasn't held to account on certain matters, either.

R.A. Crankbait said...

So, according to Brian, the violent death of a real-life U.S. ambassador is just another entertainment option: hmmm, should I find out what happened in Libya or catch another episode of 24?

Ooooh, there's a verdict in the Jodi Arias trial. Shiny!

Brian said...

There aren't many people who can get government officials at the national level to be accountable, but the ink-stained wretches and network pretty boys at least have access. When they choose to be stenographers and hagiographers, it's a problem.

THAT. Yes.