Where does consensus come from: The ongoing assault on Susan Rice has been profoundly instructive.
It has been a long time since the nation’s press corps bought such a bogus tale from the right—although this conduct was very common in the days of the Clintons and Gore.
What happens when the mainstream press corps adopts a bogus attack from the right? Over the weekend, we were quite struck by this post at the Atlantic—a post by Ta-Nehisi Coates.
Coates is not a man of the right. Beyond that, he isn’t silly or dumb or fatuous or numb-nutted or even inane or foolish. For all these reasons, we were struck by the extent to which he advanced the right-wing narrative about Rice, even in a post in which he plainly takes Rice’s side.
Most of all, we were struck by the way Coates gathers the most basic information.
To evaluate Coates’ post, you’ll have to read the whole thing for yourself. But in the passage which follows, he recommends that we “revisit” Rice’s “original statements”—the actual things Rice said on September 16.
At this site, we have done that again and again and again. But good God! This is the way Coates did it:
COATES (11/23/12): In cases like this [I] find it always worthwhile to revisit the original statements. From Susan Rice:“This is deceptive,” Coates says, after presenting the long excerpt we have italicized. Although his writing is unclear, we take that to refer to Rice’s original statements. (Beyond that, we’ve added one word to the first line we quote. We assume that reflects Coates’ intention.)
On Sept. 16, Rice said on Meet the Press that the violence sweeping the Islamic world at the time was "a spontaneous reaction to a video, and it's not dissimilar but, perhaps, on a slightly larger scale than what we have seen in the past with 'The Satanic Verses' with the cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad."This is deceptive. And perhaps you believe that the White House, no matter the opinion of the intelligence community, has the responsibility to say all that it thinks it knows as forthrightly as possible, as soon as possible. But that isn't what Republicans are arguing. They are arguing that the CIA was the honest broker, and the White House intentionally played dumb in order to reap the political benefit of not saying America is under attack by terrorists.
She then elaborated on the specific attack on the US consulate in Libya: "Putting together the best information that we have available to us today, our current assessment is that what happened in Benghazi was in fact initially a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo, almost a copycat of the demonstrations against our facility in Cairo, which were prompted, of course, by the video."
Rice added, "Obviously, that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation."
Coates goes on to defend Rice in various ways; he ends by wondering about the possible racial motivations behind this ongoing attack. But he seems to say, at this juncture, that Rice’s original statements were, in fact, deceptive.
We wouldn’t be inclined to agree with that judgment. But what is most striking about this post?
Feast your eyes on what Coates does when he instructs us to review Rice’s original statements! In the material we have italicized, he isn’t presenting Rice’s statements from the September 16 transcripts.
Good lord! Instead, he is presenting Andrea Mitchell’s account of what Rice said on those Sunday programs. He gives us Mitchell’s account of what Rice said, from this NBC news report!
Sorry, but we thought that was stunning—and extremely instructive.
It’s amazing that anyone would think that this is the way to “revisit” Rice’s “original statements.” Instead of posting the actual words which were spoken by Rice herself, Coates presents a fellow journalist’s edited version of What Rice Said On Those Programs.
And uh-oh! Mitchel isn’t a person of the right, but her account of What Rice Said strikes us as highly selective—and highly distorted. More precisely, Mitchell cherry-picked Rice’s statements in the manner which quickly became standard as the press corps bent to the GOP’s will in this ongoing matter.
As everyone and his crazy uncle has done, Mitchell quoted the first part of What Rice Said about Benghazi on Meet the Press. She then omitted the second, more relevant part.
She quotes Rice saying that the events in Benghazi were “initially” a spontaneous protest. But she omits what Rice said next.
Much like Gallant refuting his twin, we will quote Rice directly:
RICE (9/16/12): What we think then transpired in Benghazi is that opportunistic extremist elements came to the consulate as this was unfolding. They came with heavy weapons, which, unfortunately, are readily available in post-revolutionary Libya, and that escalated into a much more violent episode.For whatever reason, Mitchell cherry-picked Rice’s original statements in precisely the way John McCain has done.
Obviously, that's our best judgment now. We'll await the results of the investigation, and the president has been very clear—we'll work with the Libyan authorities to bring those responsible to justice.
She presented the less relevant part of What Rice Said—the part about what “initially” happened. She omitted the more relevant part of What Rice Said—the part where “extremists” armed with “heavy weapons” came to the consulate as the protest was unfolding, producing “a much more violent episode.”
For whatever reason, Mitchell omitted that second part of What Rice Said. She thereby extending the cockeyed version of Rice’s statement which has been aggressively pimped by McCain and his various crackpot friends.
And good God! When Coates told us that we should review Rice’s “original statements,” he didn’t post Rice’s words as she spoke them. He directed us to Mitchell’s cherry-picked version of Rice’s statements, not to the statements themselves.
You live in a very strange country. As we’ve noted, Coates is universally thought to be brighter than the average journalist. It is that fact which makes his post such a remarkable document.
Your lizard brain will tell you we’re wrong—that we’re somehow misconstruing that post. In the end, Coates tied this episode to race, and that made your lizard brain glad.
But in the process, Coates extended a cherry-picked, misleading account of What Rice Said on those Sunday programs. It is the cherry-picked, misleading account which came from Saint McCain himself, and from other strange men of the right.
What happens when the mainstream press adopts Bogus Accounts from the right? We start believing the darnedest things!
We start believing (and saying) that Al Gore said he invented the Internet. We start believing that Susan Rice said the attack was a spontaneous reaction to Cairo.
Neither person said any such thing—until you start reading The Standard Account found all through the “press corps.”
Coates is thought to be much brighter than most people in that sad guild. That’s why his post about Rice was so stunning, although your lizard says different.
Coates didn't present Rice's actual statements. Instead, he gave us Mitchell's account!
Does anyone know how to play this game? Here within our very strange world, the answer
seems stunningly clear.
Tomorrow: The Puppy and the Kool Kidz
Musical accompaniment: Why not enjoy the Waterboys singing their highly relevant song, "Strange Boat?"
"We're sailing in a strange boat," the 'boys observe, "heading for a strange shore."