Benghazi: Everything You Knew Was Wrong

A narrative is unraveling.


Robert Wright reminds us how much the Benghazi narrative has changed in the last few days:

Here is the narrative that pretty much everyone was buying into 36 hours ago: Crude anti-Islam film made by Israeli-American and funded by Jews leads to Muslim protests that boil over, causing four American deaths in Libya.

Here is what now seems to be the case: the anti-Islam film wasn't made by an Israeli-American, wasn't funded by Jews, and probably had nothing to do with the American deaths, which seem to have resulted from a long-planned attack by a specific terrorist group, not spontaneous mob violence.

In retrospect, the original narrative should have aroused immediate suspicion. If, for example, this lethal attack on an American consulate in a Muslim country was really spontaneous, isn't it quite a coincidence that it happened on 9/11?

And as for the funding of the film: The filmmaker was said to be describing himself as Israeli-American and volunteering the fact that "100 Jewish donors" financed his project. Well, 1) 100 is a suspiciously round number; and 2) If you were this "Israeli-American," would you be advertising that this incendiary film was a wholly Jewish enterprise?…Maybe one reason these questions weren't asked is because the original narrative fit so nicely into some common stereotypes–about crazy Muslims who get whipped into a death frenzy at the drop of a hat, about the backstage machinations of Jews, and about the natural tension between Muslims and Jews. (How many Americans had ever heard about intra-Egyptian tensions between Muslims and Coptic Christians, which may well have been the impetus for this film? How many had even heard of Coptic Christians?)

I disagree with a small part of this: If the protest over the movie served as cover for a preplanned attack, that doesn't mean the movie "had nothing to do with the American deaths" (unless he just means that the movie isn't to blame for the deaths, in which case I agree). Otherwise I can't dispute Wright's passage. And I recommend reading the rest of his post, in which he suggests some other ways the popular understanding of the story may have to change.