What David Gregory said: What is “manufactured consent?”
The term originated with Walter Lippmann, then ran through a 1988 book by Noam Chomsky and Ed Herman. To see the way the practice works, consider what David Gregory said on yesterday’s Meet the Press.
This is the last morning on which we plan to feature the attacks on Susan Rice. But below, you can see what Gregory said about Rice on yesterday morning’s program.
Last Wednesday, Rice made a public statement defending the way she described the attacks on the Benghazi consulate. On yesterday’s program, Gregory asked Republican attack dog Peter King to comment on Rice’s remarks.
Obviously, Gregory’s highlighted comment wasn’t made in good faith. Obviously, David Gregory doesn’t believe the representation which follows. In what follows, he was taking part in the process called the manufacturing of consent:
GREGORY (11/26/12): So you mentioned the volatility in the world. Let's talk about the volatility in Libya that has led to a lot of political questions at home over the fate of Susan Rice.Obviously, Gregory’s highlighted comment wasn’t made in good faith. Gregory doesn’t believe the highlighted account of Rice’s comments.
The U.N. ambassador was on this program and others talking about the fact that it seemed to be more spontaneous—the attack on the consulate at Benghazi, and this has been thoroughly litigated.
She responded to those who said that she willfully misled the public by saying it was a spontaneous incident rather than what we know it was now, and that was an attack on our consulate. These were her comments on Wednesday. I'll play them and get your reaction:
RICE (videotape): As a senior U.S. diplomat, I agreed to a White House request to appear on the Sunday shows to talk about the full range of national security issues of the day, which, at that time, were primarily and particularly the protests that were enveloping and threatening many diplomatic facilities. When discussing the attacks against our facilities in Benghazi, I relied solely and squarely on the information provided to me by the intelligence community. I made clear that the information was preliminary and that our investigations would give us the definitive answers.
GREGORY: Do you accept that, Congressman?
Just look at what Gregory said! Speaking with the attack dog King, Gregory gave a very strange account of Rice’s remarks from September 16.
According to Gregory, Rice came on Meet the Press and said the attack on the consulate “was a spontaneous incident rather than what we know it was now, and that was an attack on our consulate.”
Obviously, Gregory doesn’t believe that. Judging from what Gregory said, you would think that Rice had somehow denied that the events in question were “an attack on our consulate.” You would think that we have only learned that fact in the months since Rice appeared, but that she had somehow denied that claim on those Sunday programs.
According to Gregory, we now know that the September 11 attack was an attack on the consulate. But Rice said something different back then—she said it was “a spontaneous incident.”
None of that makes any sense. Obviously, Rice never denied that the attack was an attack on the consulate. Just as obviously, an attack on a consulate could be some sort of “spontaneous incident.” If that’s what Rice actually said, no contradiction was involved in what she said.
Gregory’s logic doesn’t make sense—and his facts are basically wrong. Why then did he make this peculiar statement?
A naive observer might assume that Gregory simply misspoke. Almost surely, that observer would be wrong.
Why did Gregory make this peculiar statement? Through the process known as manufactured consent, your press corps elites have all agreed to tell a very shaky story about Rice’s conduct that day. Your elites have greed that it must be said:
It must be said that Susan Rice misspoke on those Sunday programs.
Why have press corps elites agreed to advance this claim? Crackpots led by John McCain have pushed and pushed on this matter. In the face of this hurly-burly, press elites have agreed to pretend that the GOP’s claim makes some sort of sense.
In fact, the GOP’s claim doesn’t seem to make much sense; it’s very hard to explain what Rice did wrong on those Sunday programs. But when the press corps agrees to advance a claim, all major players know the rules—the narrative must be advanced.
Almost surely, Gregory offered that strange account because it was the best he could manage. It’s hard to produce a coherent account of what Rice did wrong on those Sunday programs. But Gregory has agreed that he must pretend.
Hence, that peculiar account.
Obviously, Rice didn’t deny that the attack was an attack on our consulate. But how about this? Did she even “say it was a spontaneous incident?”
Actually, no, she didn’t say that—not if you know how to read. David Gregory does know how to read—but he also knows what he must do when his guild manufactures consent.
Below, you see what Rice said on Meet the Press on September 16. We will highlight one key word, although there are several others:
GREGORY (9/16/12): Can you say definitively that the attacks on our consulate in Libya that killed Ambassador Stevens and others there, security personnel—that was spontaneous? Was it a planned attack? Was there a terrorist element to it?Over and over, in various ways, Rice told Gregory that this was a preliminary assessment. But please note: She only said that, according to the current assessment, the events at the consulate began as “a spontaneous reaction to what had just transpired hours before in Cairo.”
RICE: Well, let me tell you the best information we have at present. First of all, there is an FBI investigation, which is ongoing, and we look to that investigation to give us the definitive word as to what transpired.
But 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.
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.
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.
(That’s what “initially” means.)
She said the events began in a spontaneous way—but as she continued, she said that something else happened after that. After that, she said “extremist elements” armed with “heavy weapons” came to the consulate and produced “a much more violent episode.” On two other programs, she said that these extremists “hijacked” ongoing events.
How “spontaneous” was the conduct of these “extremists?” Gregory didn’t ask, and Rice didn’t say, as you can see from that transcript—if you know how to read.
Were those extremists motivated by the video? Was their violent conduct a spontaneous, same-day reaction to the anti-Muslim video? Or was their attack preplanned in some major way? For example, was it designed to coincide with September 11?
Concerning all these points, Rice wasn’t asked, and Rice didn’t say. And she kept reminding Gregory that she was only giving him “our best judgment now.”
It’s hard to build a rational case against those statements by Rice. But by now, everyone has agreed that the press will pretend that Rice said something wrong that day.
It’s hard to form a coherent account of what was wrong with Rice's statements. So Gregory did the best he could. He lobbed an incoherent softball, and King went on the attack.
This is manufactured consent—a process by which career pseudo-journalists agree to tell a certain tale, no matter how far they must stretch facts and logic to do so. Gregory’s account of Rice’s alleged mistake was especially incoherent. But others have helped manufacture consent about Rice in the past week.
This blog post by Ta-Nehisi Coates make remarkably little sense. But at one point, Coates says Rice’s statement on September 16 was “deceptive.” We’ll look at this post tomorrow.
In this segment from yesterday’s program, Chris Hayes defers to Eli Lake’s claim that Rice “contradicted” the state of intelligence on September 16. Rice’s presentations didn’t contradict the intelligence—but The Puppy agreed not to say so.
(Why was the hapless Lake even allowed on this program? To review Hayes’ earlier groaners concerning Rice, see THE DAILY HOWLER, 10/21/12.)
Last Wednesday, the Washington Post ran this strange news report about an attack on Rice mounted by ninety-seven GOP solons. In his report, Ed O’Keefe couldn’t come up with a coherent account of Rice’s alleged misstatement. But so what! He offered a fleeting puddle of piddle, pretending that things were in order.
One day later, the New York Times published this Reuters account of Rice’s statement in her own defense. Its account of Rice’s statement on September 16 is basically incoherent.
This is the look of manufactured consent. This is what news reporting looks like when professional journalists agree as a group that they must advance, or defer to, a plainly bogus story.
By now, all news orgs have agreed to pretend that Rice said something wrong that day. It’s hard to say what she said that was wrong—but that doesn’t slow the process.
When consent is manufactured, even defenders of Rice, like Coates and Hayes, will seem to act as part of the process. Chomsky explained this general process way back in 1988. That’s why Chomsky has been banished from the major mass media.
Tomorrow, we’re moving on to a new central topic. But we'll look at that post by Coates, and at that segment by Hayes.
In the end, Coates and Hayes each defended Rice. But oh, what kind of defense is this, which goes from bad to worse?