Controversialization — Rob Long

Sharyl Attkisson, the CBS News reporter who was either forced out or quit, depending on your level of tolerance for weasel-wording, because she wouldn’t let go of the Benghazi story, used an interesting word to describe the Obama administration’s strategy when dealing with the entire Benghazi scandal: “controversialize.” It’s a mouthful, and it’s not particularly elegant, but it is certainly descriptive. From Mediaite:

Attkisson was asked for her thoughts on how the White House has reacted to the latest release of emails pertaining to the response to Benghazi, particularly [David] Plouffe’s appearance on ABC News’ This Week in which he said the investigation into the attack was driven by a “delusional minority” of the GOP.

“The key words they use, such as ‘conspiracy’ and ‘delusional,’ are in my opinion clearly designed to try to controversialize a story — a legitimate news story and a legitimate area of journalistic inquiry,” Attkisson submitted.

“To some degree, that’s successful,” she added. “But I think primarily among those that don’t want to look at this as a story in the first place.”

“I see that as a well-orchestrated strategy to controversialize a story they really don’t want to hear about,” Attkisson continued.

I hadn’t encountered that word before, but I like it, despite its clumsiness. The only question I have here is, why has the strategy been so successful? The events in Benghazi seem to fit the description of a general-interest non-partisan disaster for the Administration. But, for now at least, as galling as it is, it’s hard not to give the Obama Administration (and the other villain of the tale, Hillary Clinton) points for managing the public’s reaction to the (possibly preventable) murder of a United States ambassador and the flurry of lies that followed it.

Why does this work? Or, alternatively, does it work?

My concern here is that our side tends to look at something utterly indefensible like this — “controversializing” a genuine news story — and say, “This won’t work.” Or: “This shouldn’t work.” Or: “This wouldn’t work if we all kept Tweeting about it.” But for now, at least, it’s working. Why?