Getting the Village band back together
I missed this press briefing so I didn't catch the classic Village behavior. Brian Beutler did. It doesn't bode well, I'm afraid:
Last week, after Republicans pivoted to Benghazi in unison, The Huffington Post's Sam Stein observed an interesting phenomenon.
When it came time to put White House press secretary Jay Carney in the hot seat, reporters for smaller outlets—whose correspondents are consigned to the back rows of the briefing room—were interested in real, unfolding dramas: Ukraine, the Affordable Care Act, the Snowden disclosures, and so on.
But when Carney moved to the big-name journalists at the front of the room, the only thing anyone seemed to care about was Benghazi.
Oh Lordy, here we go again. Beutler points out the irony in the fact that the only people who've been damaged by this Benghazi! story so far have been big name journalists like Lara Logan and Jonathan Karl, burned by their GOP sources in ruthless fashion. He analyzes the phenomenon correctly, I think:
It suggests that something other (or more) than a zest for producing informative news is driving them. Actually, I think it's a few different pressures, none of which are new, but which in this case combine to create a perverse incentive to create a story where none exists.
Deja vu all over again. This is the phenomenon we saw in play for years back in the 90s. It's hard to believe they might be getting the band back together particularly since Benghazi is obviously a made for TV Clinton scandal. It must be some kind of sense memory.
There's a Drudge-like effect that drives reporters to tackle stories that they know will become widely consumed news products. Drudge himself is much less relevant than he used to be, but his influence is still detectable every time the press corps gloms onto a story that's already lighting up marquee ideological outlets. In the old days, conservatives depended on Drudge to push stories from the ideological margin into the mainstream. But as media has polarized—and as electioneering has evolved from convincing the undecided to simply rallying the faithful—a meme that mainly plays out on conservative outlets is good enough for the GOP.
There's also a related pressure to prove bona fides to conservative referee-workers, as if they might possibly be satisfied and will eventually stop making unfalsifiable charges of liberal bias.
And separately, when they feel that their subjects have withheld information from them, mainstream reporters become consumed by a trade association–like mentality, where the relevance and news value of the information become less important than making a point about transparency and the consequences of freezing out the press. Here I sympathize up to the point at which the withheld information turns out to not have any bearing on the story itself, as is apparently the case with the latest Benghazi disclosure.
Put it all together, and you get this weird phenomenon where less-prominent beat reporters have their eyes on the balls that are actually bouncing in front of them, and the press corps' celebrities are fixated on one that popped a year ago.
The only thing that Beutler leaves out is the way these scandals are engineered to snowball without any real resolution but to snowball into to an "atmosphere of scandal" that keeps on rolling and getting bigger with each new addition. Benghazi! is just the beginning.
I had been hopeful that the mainstream media would have wised up by now but apparently not. I guess never.