1,098 Segments Is a Lot of Manufactured Hysteria

I would not have figured myself as someone likely to be shocked by evidence of the extent of the Right’s Benghazi! madness. Indeed, I’m pretty sure I was the originator of the italicized-with-exclamation-point brand name for the pseudo-scandal, which has caught on all over.

But now comes a new study from Media Matters. Here’s the top-line summary:

Fox News’ evening lineup ran nearly 1,100 segments on the Benghazi attacks and their aftermath in the first 20 months following the attacks. Nearly 500 segments focused on a set of Obama administration talking points used in September 2012 interviews; more than 100 linked the attacks to a potential Hillary Clinton 2016 presidential run; and dozens of segments compared the attacks and the administration response to the Watergate or Iran-Contra scandals. The network hosted Republican members of Congress to discuss Benghazi nearly 30 times more frequently than Democrats.

The report looks at the data from many angles, including the particular right-wing claims being made about the ontological significance of the “scandal,” the particular show airing them, and the timing of the massive number of segments.

Short of gavel-to-gavel coverage of the Watergate hearings, I’m not sure we’ve seen anything quite like it in modern electronic media. And we wonder why in the strange alternative universe of the conservative movement, jabbering about Benghazi! is like discussing the weather.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.