I’m continually amazed by the amount of time, attention, and resources given over to the notion that there’s some sort of scandal or cover-up associated with the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya in 2012.
Don’t get me wrong: I well understand the motivation of Republicans in Congress. The implication is that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did something nefarious and that the GOP is doggedly determined to get to the bottom of things on behalf of the American people. So, continually making unfounded allegations is good for their cause in the upcoming midterm elections and in the 2016 presidential elections too.
But I suppose what boggles my mind is that the allegations seem so devoid of any force. From what I can tell, Congressional Republicans claim they will demonstrate that members of the Obama administration decided to publicly associate the Benghazi attacks with an internet video, but that the video didn’t actually have anything to do with the attacks (which weren’t spontaneous but were instead planned ahead of time to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary). If this is true, then what?
Again, the allegation seems to be that the Obama administration purposely misled the American people in advance of the 2012 presidential election. If the administration hadn’t wrongly focused on the video, voters would have known — or would have known sooner — that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. If this is true, then what?
The presumption, apparently, is that the administration would have looked worse than it did (when it looked as if the administration had no idea what was going on) if the truth of a coordinated terrorist attack was known. This is because the administration had been touting the death of bin Laden and its policies that had terrorists on the run. The new evidence is that White House deputy strategic communications adviser Ben Rhodes sent email messages to Susan Rice to prepare her to speak publicly about the videos at a time when people within the intelligence community already knew that the video wasn’t the impetus for the attack.
And that, it seems, is the centerpiece of the scandal. Perhaps I’m missing something absolutely crucial that’s gotten — and kept — Republicans in such a lather. Because, frankly, this just seems like very weak sauce.
What the Republicans seem to be relying on is the taint of scandal on the administration much more than the actual facts of the scandal (despite their alleged commitment to uncovering all the actual facts). In other words, all that really seems to matter for the GOP is that voters associate the administration — and Democrats more broadly — with some sort of scandal.
I remember thinking back when Bill Clinton was president that his wife’s claims of there being a “vast right-wing conspiracy” were loony and whack.
I no longer think she was crazy.
Oh, no, she’s still not getting my vote in 2016. Just to be clear… this post has nothing to do with her coughpotentialcough presidential run. I’m not a fan. I’m just saying that history has proved her right on this point… there remains a segment of our entertainment-media complex that simply has zero interest in factual reporting, and every time one of my conservative friends or family bring up “the librul media” I just chortle a little bit, deep down inside, as a I realize I’m interacting with an idiotic fool who has no regard for the truth.
3 Athletes just left a panel discussion speaking at Harvard business school. Zero national pub. But crab legs have the media drooling.
That’s why it’s so easy to perpetuate racial stereotypes. No accountability in national media for the garbage they “report.”— Arian Foster (@ArianFoster)April 30, 2014
I am not going to read their script. I am not going to renounce my own reporting on this story. Because the reporting on this story stands, it is true, and now we also know that the Koch brothers do not wish to be associated with the work and the causes that they have funded through their multi-million dollar, multi-year massive funding of networks of conservative organizations… We will not stop reporting on the political actions, and the consequences of the political actions of rich and powerful men, even if they send angry letters every time we do it. I will not read scripts provided to me by anyone else. I do not play requests… I will not renounce or retract reporting that is true, even if the subjects of that reporting don’t like it. Being a political actor means being subject to political scrutiny. If you don’t want to be known for it, don’t do it. Don’t just complain when people accurately describe your actions. Your actions are what we are reporting on and we will do that on our own terms - as a free press. If you want to control the words that are used when your actions are discussed, then speak for yourself. I will renew my invitation now. Mr. Koch, or the other Mr. Koch, you are welcome on this show any time. I would love to discuss these matters with you right here, in person, live and without interruption. Any time. And it would be easy to set up, you apparently already have my number.
The early denunciations of Snowden now seem both over the top and beside the point. If he is a traitor, then which side did he betray and to whom does he now owe allegiance? Benedict Arnold, America’s most famous traitor, sold out to the British during the Revolutionary War and wound up a general in King George III’s army. Snowden seems to have sold out to no one. In fact, a knowledgeable source says that Snowden has not even sold his life story and has rebuffed offers of cash for interviews. Maybe his most un-American act is passing up a chance at easy money. Someone ought to look into this.
Source: Washington Post
This past January, Laura Poitras received a curious e-mail from an anonymous stranger requesting her public encryption key. For almost two years, Poitras had been working on a documentary about surveillance, and she occasionally received queries from strangers. She replied to this one and sent her public key — allowing him or her to send an encrypted e-mail that only Poitras could open, with her private key — but she didn’t think much would come of it.
The stranger responded with instructions for creating an even more secure system to protect their exchanges. Promising sensitive information, the stranger told Poitras to select long pass phrases that could withstand a brute-force attack by networked computers. “Assume that your adversary is capable of a trillion guesses per second,” the stranger wrote.
Before long, Poitras received an encrypted message that outlined a number of secret surveillance programs run by the government. She had heard of one of them but not the others. After describing each program, the stranger wrote some version of the phrase, “This I can prove.”
Seconds after she decrypted and read the e-mail, Poitras disconnected from the Internet and removed the message from her computer. “I thought, O.K., if this is true, my life just changed,” she told me last month. “It was staggering, what he claimed to know and be able to provide. I just knew that I had to change everything.”
Source: The New York Times
Some of what is driving this hostility from some media figures is personal bitterness. Some of it is resentment over my having been able to break these big stories not despite, but because of, my deliberate breaching of the conventions that rule their world. But most of it is what I have long criticized them for most: they are far more servants to political power than adversarial watchdogs over it, and what provokes their rage most is not corruption on the part of those in power (they don’t care about that) but rather those who expose that corruption, especially when the ones bringing transparency are outside of, even hostile to, their incestuous media circles. They’re just courtiers doing what courtiers have always done: defending the royal court and attacking anyone who challenges or dissents from it. That’s how they maintain their status and access within it. That’s what courtiers to power, by definition, do.
Source: Washington Post
That’s about the speed of it, right? I mean, does anybody seriously think we should tolerate routine leaks of classified information? If it’s not important to keep it secret—release it in the normal way. That’s transparency. If it is important to keep secret, don’t release it. I don’t see room for This is a Secret But You Get Access Because Good Old Boys.
(Yes, I know that whistleblowing is a different thing. We can talk about that later when there’s a case that actually involves a whistleblower.)
Stop the leaks. Open the faucet. That’s transparency. That way anybody can have access to the information everybody should have access to. “Stop cracking down on leaks” is not about free information. It’s about dinosaurs squabbling over exclusive grazing.
If the occasional leak was leading to a golden age of jouralism, I’m sure I’d feel differently. Maybe I’d feel that a select few news outlets were doing such a great job of disseminenting information in a socially responsible manner that nothing should be done that risks upsetting the balance. Maybe I’m missing a golden age of journalism behind the celebrity trial and the news report on what’s trending on Twitter.
Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking soundbites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, ‘that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘The Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machinegun?”
The obscure 1995 Leonardo DiCaprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.
The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. Kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”
In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, “The NBC Nightly News” and other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them.
The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.
A Roger Ebert quote that sticks out in my mind
From his review of Gus Van Sant’s Elephant