Those who consume news and opinion exclusively from conservative sources, eschewing the so-called mainstream media, are living in an information bubble that’s often devoid of reality. A lot of my critics who post here come to mind.
I came across a great example that demonstrates how this process works. As a media expert and as a public service, I will dissect it for readers:
On August 13, Fox News’ “America Live” program featured Christian Whiton, a former state department official. The host began the segment by telling viewers “a new theory” on the Benghazi attacks had emerged: the CIA, the host said, was running missiles through Libya and a “bunch of those missiles were stolen.”
The host then offered a sound bite from one Joseph di Genova who claims his “sources” told him “400 missiles were diverted” and had “gotten into the hands of some very ugly people.” Di Genova suggested the missiles might be used to shoot down an airliner.
A viewer would be left understandably shaken and angry, especially since this allegation is layered on top of so many others about Benghazi presented by Fox News.
This story is based entirely on Joseph di Genova’s allegation so, question one, who is Joseph di Genova? Is he a former CIA spook? Was he in Libya during the alleged theft? From whom did he learn that missiles fell into the hands of “ugly people,” i.e. Islamic terrorists?
These are very basic journalistic questions any objective producer would ask in order to establish a source’s credibility - but not at Fox News.
You see, Joseph di Genova and his wife, Victoria Toensing, are both high-profile Washington lawyers and long-time Republican operatives who have a record of playing fast and loose with the truth while trading on bogus controversies like Benghazi. At best, di Genova’s credibility is compromised so no self-respecting journalist would take him at his word.
Now that we know who di Genova is, the second question is, why is Fox News providing a platform for a compromised source to make an unsubstantiated and inflammatory allegation?Most everything the administration has said about Benghazi has been corroborated by multiple independent and credible sources ranging from former CIA Director, Gen. David Petraeus to Greg Hicks, one of the so-called Benghazi “whistle blowers.” There is no scandal, explaining why the investigations looking for one have gone nowhere.
But the Benghazi non-scandal supports Fox News’ relentless assertion that Obama “let Americans die,” a narrative it has pushed for nearly a year. Thus, Fox News must keep Benghazi alive.
Third question: Who is Christopher Whiton? Answer: Whiton worked in George W. Bush’s State Department. He’s a conservative and a frequent critic of the Obama administration on Fox News. Whiton, like di Genova and Fox News, is also heavily invested in the Benghazi non-scandal, having mouthed phony allegations in media interviews.
Whiton was probably supposed to support di Genova’s allegations, so the Fox host must have been shocked when Whiton said the lawyer’s theory “didn’t add up.”
It doesn’t matter. Viewers heard “400 missiles,” “stolen,” Libyan “ugly people,” and “airliners,” so the Benghazi non-scandal lives on at Fox.
If all goes well, the latest non-scandal story sticks and gets repeated by other right wing media types, eventually finding currency inside the conservative bubble. Sure enough, World Net Daily, Town Hall, CNS News and other anti-Obama conspiracy theory web sites and media have repeated di Genova’s unsubstantiated charges.
To summarize: a cable news network headed by a former Republican operative, Roger Ailes, which has invested its tattered credibility in pushing the Benghazi non-scandal, presents another Republican operative’s baseless Benghazi “theory” as fact, then hopes a third Republican operative will support it.
All of this depends on one thing: an audience gullible, stupid or lazy enough to believe it.