some (piss) poor writing about hillary’s “role” in benghazi

Es­ti­mated reading time is 8 min­utes.

THE LAST WORD ANYONE would use to de­scribe me is “conservative”—at least not re­garding most is­sues re­lated to pol­i­tics. But there’s more to life than pol­i­tics: I re­main old-fashioned on the issue of pre­scrip­tive versus de­scrip­tive dic­tio­naries (strongly be­lieving in the former) and the misuse of the des­ig­nated hitter in major league base­ball (not at all what you think).

And I am adamantly con­ser­v­a­tive about the cor­rect use of grammar and punc­tu­a­tion and op­posed to piss poor writing in all sizes and shapes. Oh, and I still think vanilla malt shakes are yummy! 1


Guess what? Ab­solutely NO Amer­i­cans were in­volved in the at­tack on the US Em­bassy at Beng­hazi in 2012!


Nonethe­less, I have sub­scrip­tions to sev­eral po­lit­i­cally rightwinged newslet­ters, which I read daily. I con­fess to having a dif­fi­cult time with their ob­ses­sive musing over such is­sues as our fellow trans­gender Amer­i­cans, no­tably Caitlyn Jenner and anyone wanting to use a public re­stroom. What the hey, right? It’s all there to broaden my own point-of-view.

But today I will stick to ba­sics and ad­dress an ex­ample of pos­sibly poor writing in an ar­ticle in one of those newslet­ters. This poor writing was one of two things: 2

1. un­in­ten­tional (poor writing com­bined with no second-party proof­reading, which could have hap­pened on any site), or 

2. in­ten­tional (poor writing in ser­vice of an ideology).


Poor Hillary cartoon JohnCole 800

Eight Rep*lican-led, bi-partisan com­mit­tees have in­ves­ti­gated the at­tack on Beng­hazi and Amer­ican re­sponse. None found ev­i­dence of wrong-doing by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion. There are no car­toons in the media or on the In­ternet by rightwinged artists ad­dressing their he­roes end­less flog­ging of this dead horse. This car­toon by non-righty artist John Cole ad­dresses that issue gamely.

Secret soldiers of Benghazi

The ar­ticle, which I shall call “The Se­cret Sol­diers Of Beng­hazi,” con­cerned a major po­lit­ical and his­tor­ical event of the 21st cen­tury. Here is a sum­ma­tion of that event in my words:

On Sep­tember 11, 2012, Is­lamic mil­i­tants at­tacked the United Sates Em­bassy in Beng­hazi, Libya. During the (ap­par­ently) un­pro­voked as­sault, four Amer­i­cans were mur­dered, in­cluding J. Christo­pher Stevens, the first US Am­bas­sador killed in the line of duty since 1979.

Now, please read that para­graph again and see if there is any­thing in­cor­rect or gram­mat­i­cally faulty about it.

It’s black and white, with no po­lit­ical col­oring, slant, or spin.

Poor writing in service to an agenda?

Back to the ar­ticle! Writing about the movie 13 Hours: The Se­cret Sol­diers Of Beng­hazi, the ar­ticle states:

13 Hours de­picts the 2012 at­tacks at a US com­pound in Libya and high­lights the re­sponse of an armed forces team as a re­sult. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been harshly crit­i­cized for her role in the at­tack that killed four Americans.”

Now, please read that para­graph again and see if there is any­thing in­cor­rect or gram­mat­i­cally faulty about it.

Hope­fully you caught the problem: the second sen­tence can be easily read to mean that the Sec­re­tary of State of the United States had some kind of role in the at­tack on the Amer­ican Embassy!

This is the kinda crap that people-who-vote-Rep*blican read and be­lieve every day!

Nor did Pres­i­dent Obama.

Nor did any other Amer­ican. 3

The at­tack was car­ried out by the per­pe­tra­tors I named above, Is­lamic militants.

Clinton, Obama, and other Amer­ican officials—government, mil­i­tary, or intelligence—did have a role in the re­sponse to the at­tack, but not in the attack.


Dash Elements

“Make def­i­nite as­ser­tions. Avoid tame, col­or­less, hes­i­tating, non-committal lan­guage.” Hmnnn, well I sup­pose that our plucky writer may have had William Strunk Jr in mind when she penned the state­ment that is the center of my essay.

Truth should be obvious

Once said—no Amer­i­cans were in­volved in the at­tack—the truth of the state­ment should be man­i­festly ob­vious. Here is how the writer’s state­ment should have read:

13 Hours de­picts the 2012 at­tacks at a US com­pound in Libya and high­lights the re­sponse of an armed forces team as a re­sult. Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been harshly crit­i­cized for her role in the Amer­ican re­sponse to the at­tack that killed four Amer­i­cans.” 4

So then, why would a pro­fes­sional journalist—or one who pre­tends to the po­si­tion (such as an un­paid con­trib­utor to on on­line journal)—write the words the way that she did? I will re­state two pos­sible answers:

a.  She did not know that she was writing the in­for­ma­tion incorrectly. 

b.  She did know that she was writing the in­for­ma­tion incorrectly.

Nei­ther al­lows us to form a pos­i­tive opinion of her.


Poor Hillary cartoon JohnCole2 800

An­other gem by John Cole.

Poor writing but with distinction!

So, now for a little back­ground on the writer, pro­vided by the newsletter: she at­tended a good col­lege and grad­u­ated cum laude (with dis­tinc­tion) with a de­gree in com­mu­ni­ca­tion and jour­nalism. “After grad­u­a­tion, Kayla was awarded a media re­la­tions fel­low­ship at a global se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence firm in Wash­ington, DC.”

So, I must make a basic as­sump­tion here: the first being that most col­leges teach their com­mu­ni­ca­tion and jour­nalism ma­jors the fun­da­men­tals of writing.


To as­sume that the writer doesn’t know the fun­da­men­tals of writing would be rather insulting.


The second being that these grad­u­ates leave col­lege with the ability to create sen­tences with nouns, verbs, and mod­i­fiers (in­cluding prepo­si­tional phrases) in their proper place. 5

I also as­sume that these grad­u­ates are also taught the use of plain­speak and dou­ble­s­peak, es­pe­cially in ad­ver­tising and pol­i­tics (and, ahem, se­duc­tion, an­other old-fashioned con­cept for­ever cor­rupted by An­drea Dworkin and her ilk). 6

To as­sume otherwise—that she doesn’t know those fun­da­men­tals of writing—would be rather in­sulting to her. So we will as­sume that the writer knew ex­actly what she was doing.

So, I have to as­sume that the “poor writing” was not a gram­mat­ical error, but po­lit­ical spin, as it shades Clinton negatively.

So, let’s look at the rest of her bio: “she was awarded a media re­la­tions fel­low­ship at a global se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence firm in Wash­ington, DC.”

So, what does that mean?

Why not just state the name of the in­sti­tu­tion that awarded her this po­si­tion, this “fel­low­ship”?

Per­haps be­cause the global se­cu­rity and in­tel­li­gence firm is a rightwinged think-tank?



13 Hours: The In­side Ac­count Of What Re­ally Hap­pened In Beng­hazi is the sto­ries of five CIA se­cu­rity con­trac­tors who were there as told to au­thor Mitchell Zuckoff. Only one of the men claims to have heard the “Stand down” order; the others heard it from him. The CIA chief de­nies having given that order and the mul­tiple Con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tions have found no ev­i­dence to back up the con­trac­tor’s story. That didn’t stop the book from top­ping the New York Times Best­sellers list or mil­lions of people from lining up to see the movie.

Those nebulous fellowships

Not co­in­ci­den­tally, rightwinged think-tanks offer these neb­u­lous “fel­low­ships” where a person with po­lit­ical or media con­nec­tions is given an of­fice, some busi­ness cards, and an an­nual stipend—often very gen­erous indeed—to come up with ideas to fur­ther the rightwinged cause.

This often in­cludes taking non-paying po­si­tions with In­ternet jour­nals and then passing along every­thing opinion pieces to slanting “fac­tual” state­ments to out­right misinformation.

If my guess is re­motely ac­cu­rate, then the writer’s words make per­fect sense: she crafted a state­ment that most readers will read and pass over without thinking about it, grasping the es­sen­tial fact­ness of the state­ment, but not con­sciously catching that they are being told that Hillary Clinton somehow had some­thing to do with the at­tack on the US Em­bassy and the death of four Americans!

In other words, it qual­i­fies as slanting and spin­ning, but not quite die-hard misinformation.

Oh, and it is poor writing . . .


Poor 13Hours 1500 brown

FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is the image being used to pro­mote the movie 13 Hours. I flipped it for use as the header image o that to allow the white let­ters of the title to stand out. Ap­par­ently, the film is ba­si­cally a high-action shoot-’em-up along the lines of other pop­ular movies made by di­rector Michael Bay.

The problem is he or the film’s pro­ducers needed to turn an ac­tion movie into a po­lit­ical state­ment: the key scene re­volves around the CIA chief telling the con­trac­tors to stand down. Even the bi­par­tisan Senate In­tel­li­gence Com­mittee found that there was “no ev­i­dence of in­ten­tional delay or ob­struc­tion by the Chief of Base or any other party.” 7

PS: I sup­pose that I could have simply sent an email to the writer of this piece and ad­dress all the above di­rectly with her. Which might have been a lot of fun, or not. She might have been forth­right and honest, or not. Frankly, any an­swer she gave that didn’t jive with some of my con­clu­sions I prob­ably wouldn’t have be­lieved anyway.

Or not.



1   I also re­main staunchly in favor of some so­cial mores laughed at by many and sundry, in­cluding men-acting-as-gentlemen (holding doors, walking on the out­side on a side­walk, etc.), old-fashioned dating (ac­tu­ally asking an­other person out and then going to dinner, drinks, a movie, etc.), and not farting in mixed com­pany (un­less as a ‘po­lit­ical statement’). 

2   I am not iden­ti­fying the journal or the writer be­yond ac­knowl­edging said writer to be fe­male, as I don’t want them to cancel my free subscription.

3   That we know of. We are binge-watching the tele­vi­sion se­ries Alias where double- and triple-agents run rampant!

Poor Garner 500

I added the ref­er­ence to Alias to the third foot­note above so I had an ex­cuse for in­cluding a photo of Agent Bristow.

4   That is my being po­lite in my as­sault on the writing. If I wanted to point out that the final prepo­si­tional phrase is placed away from the word it mod­i­fies so as to better tie in neg­a­tive emo­tions with Clinton, then I would sug­gest that the state­ment should have read:

13 Hours de­picts the 2012 at­tacks by Is­lamic mil­i­tants at a US com­pound in Libya that killed four Amer­i­cans. It high­lights the re­sponse of a team of pri­vate mil­i­tary con­trac­tors as a re­sult of the at­tack. Then Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Clinton has been harshly and end­lessly crit­i­cized to no ap­parent avail by her Rep*blican op­po­nents for her role in the Amer­ican re­sponse to the at­tack.

5   I may, in fact, be as­suming too much here, but what the heck, I’m in a frisky mood!

6   I hold An­drea Drowkin on a pedestal for her stag­ger­ingly bril­liant, stag­ger­ingly misan­dric state­ment, “Se­duc­tion is often dif­fi­cult to dis­tin­guish from rape. In se­duc­tion, the rapist often bothers to buy a bottle of wine.” Last time I was single, I con­sid­ered having tee-shirts made with that em­bla­zoned on the front ac­com­pa­nied by im­ages of a glass of wine and a bou­quet of flowers. What an in­ter­esting way to meet women that would have been, yes?

7   “The Republican-authored House Armed Ser­vices Com­mittee re­port con­curred, saying that “this issue ap­pears to be set­tled” by the Senate in­ves­ti­ga­tion. 13 Hours’ second major error is even worse: It claims that US air sup­port could have helped end the at­tack, but that the US mil­i­tary pre­vented planes that were in range from taking off. The House Armed Ser­vices re­port found that the De­part­ment of De­fense had no air­craft pre­pared for combat readily avail­able and nearby.” (Vox­World)


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The spin and se­duc­tion of dou­ble­s­peak is subtle as to barely touch the paper upon which it is written! The ac­cusing of Hillary is al­most subliminal!
Not so the praise for use of “pri­vate con­trac­tors”, who used to be better known as mer­ce­naries. The growth in used of such “con­trac­tors” has been soundly dis­mayed by some in the mil­i­tary, and the rise of pri­vate armies should be a cause for public worry. But that’s an­other story for an­other time, soon.

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