Here we go again.
One year after creating a fact-free bubble in the run up to the last election, media conservatives are once again denying reality, this time in service of reanimating the Benghazi hoax that ensnared news organizations throughout 2012, denying authoritative evidence that should finally put an end to the hoax.
An exhaustive New York Times investigation into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, published on December 28, discredited the key elements of the right-wing campaign to politicize the attack -- a desperate attempt to bring down the Obama administration and sink a possible presidential run by Hillary Clinton.
Significantly, the Times definitively debunked the myth that al Qaeda played a central role in planning the attack.
Daily Beast contributor Eli Lake, who has been a key validator of the Benghazi hoax, pushed back against the Times, insisting that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack. Contrary to what the Times reported, Lake claimed, "evidence has emerged in the last year that does show the participation of militias and fighters with known ties to al Qaeda." Lake specifically cited comments made by Congressmen Mike Rogers (R-MI) and Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Lake's insistence that al Qaeda was responsible for the attack is in line with Fox News' response to the Times report. Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, a Fox News contributor often portrayed as legitimate voice in the national media, accused the Times of covering for Democrats with its report.
This denial of reality is reminiscent of the way the right retreated to a bubble throughout the 2012 election, and poses a real threat to Americans' understanding of international terrorism.
The relentless campaign to insist that al Qaeda was responsible for the terrorist attacks in Benghazi misinforms the public understanding of that terrorist group and the role that local extremist groups play in international relations. In responding to critics of its reporting, the Times editorial board explained:
Americans are often careless with the term "Al Qaeda," which strictly speaking means the core extremist group, founded by Osama bin Laden, that is based in Pakistan and bent on global jihad.
Republicans, Democrats and others often conflate purely local extremist groups, or regional affiliates, with Al Qaeda's international network. That prevents understanding the motivations of each group, making each seem like a direct, immediate threat to the United States and thus confusing decision-making.
As The New Yorker's Amy Davidson noted, a failure to acknowledge the complexities of extremist groups could lead to tragic real-world results:
Not every angry Muslim, not even every angry Sunni Muslim, is part of Al Qaeda. Using the name so generically and broadly is a deliberate decision not to understand who our enemies are, or to care--if they don't like us, they are Al Qaeda, and we can stop listening.
And how, then, are we supposed to know who our friends are? Insisting that any Muslim who attacks us is Al Qaeda also means that, when we are standing around handing out guns to strangers--something we do a little too often--we'll assume that those who don't strike us as Al Qaeda types won't attack us.