Monday, July 26, 2010

E. J. Dionne on the Sherrod Situation: Good One

I haven't said anything here about the Shirley Sherrod situation, mainly because I was so upset by it. A news story does not usually affect me so personally, but this one did. To summarize, the NAACP said the teabaggers need to get rid of the racists in their group, and so a teabagger took a video of a lady who works for the Agriculture Department talking at an NAACP convention, and they edited it to make it look like she'd said the opposite of what she was really saying, they made her look like a black racist. So far that is kind of typical dirty trick that we have often seen from the Nutty Ones, it is a kind of lying that we are familiar with. I usually don't even bother to mention those things when they happen.

But then the NAACP saw the video and immediately denounced her. Her talk had been about how she overcame prejudice in her own life after her father was murdered by white racists and a white farmer came to her for help. The edited video only showed the part where this white farmer came to her and she had reservations about helping him, but the rest of the story was that she thought about it and realized she supported poor people, not black ones only, and she ended up helping the man keep his farm.

The office of the Secretary of Agriculture saw the teabagger's video and called Ms. Sherrod and forced her to resign. Pull over to the side of the road right now and text in your resignation before Glenn Beck runs this, she was told.

Again, I am not surprised if rightwingers lie. That is really the reason exists, to counter those lies, and we are very well familiar with the techniques. Our approach in Montgomery County has been to stand up to them. We call them nuts when they're nutty, we publicize their lies and offer the truth in its place, and the result has been that our county's rightwing nuts never got a foothold here. They may speak up for conservative positions, but they never got anywhere with dirty tricks and they never will.

The Shirley Sherrod situation has largely retreated from the front page, but E. J. Dionne had a very good summary piece in The Post this morning.
The smearing of Shirley Sherrod ought to be a turning point in American politics. This is not, as the now-trivialized phrase has it, a "teachable moment." It is a time for action.

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that "fairness" requires treating extremist rants as "one side of the story." And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year's election.

The administration's response to the doctored video pushed by right-wing hit man Andrew Breitbart was shameful. The obsession with "protecting" the president turned out to be the least protective approach of all.

The Obama team did not question, let alone challenge, the video. Instead, it assumed that whatever narrative Fox News might create mattered more than anything else, including the possible innocence of a human being outside the president's inner circle. Enough right-wing propaganda

I can't read the minds of those who made and publicized that video, but they did not have good intentions toward the President and his administration. Maybe they meant to show that there are black racists in the government, and maybe they meant it as a set-up, to show that the White House is a bunch of cowering fools who will surrender under any attack. They did succeed at that.

Dionne is good this morning.
Obama complained on ABC's "Good Morning America" that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack "jumped the gun, partly because we now live in this media culture where something goes up on YouTube or a blog and everybody scrambles." But it's his own apparatus that turned "this media culture" into a false god.

Yet the Obama team was reacting to a reality: the bludgeoning of mainstream journalism into looking timorously over its right shoulder and believing that "balance" demands taking seriously whatever sludge the far right is pumping into the political waters.

This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he "invented the Internet," but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had.

There were no "death panels" in the Democratic health-care bills. But this false charge got so much coverage that an NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll last August found that 45 percent of Americans thought the reform proposals would likely allow "the government to make decisions about when to stop providing medical care to the elderly." That was the summer when support for reform was dropping precipitously. A straight-out lie influenced the course of one of our most important debates.

The traditional media are so petrified of being called "liberal" that they are prepared to allow the Breitbarts of the world to become their assignment editors. Mainstream journalists regularly criticize themselves for not jumping fast enough or high enough when the Fox crowd demands coverage of one of their attack lines.

And remember here, E. J. Dionne is part of the traditional media. He writes for the Washington Post, and in his analysis they take the blame as much as anyone.
Thus did Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander ask this month why the paper had been slow to report on "the Justice Department's decision to scale down a voter-intimidation case against members of the New Black Panther Party." Never mind that this is a story about a tiny group of crackpots who stopped no one from voting. It was aimed at doing what the doctored video Breitbart posted set out to do: convince Americans that the Obama administration favors blacks over whites.

And never mind that, to her great credit, Abigail Thernstrom, a conservative George W. Bush appointee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, dismissed the case and those pushing it. "This doesn't have to do with the Black Panthers," she told Politico's Ben Smith. "This has to do with their fantasies about how they could use this issue to topple the [Obama] administration." Instead, the media are supposed to take seriously the charges of J. Christian Adams, who served in the Bush Justice Department. He's a Republican activist going back to the Bill Clinton era. His party services included time as a Bush poll watcher in Florida in 2004, when on one occasion he was involved in a controversy over whether a black couple could cast a regular ballot.

Now, Adams is accusing the Obama Justice Department of being "motivated by a lawless hostility toward equal enforcement of the law." This is racially inflammatory, politically motivated nonsense -- and it's nonsense even if Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh talk about it a thousand times a day. When an outlandish charge for which there is no evidence is treated as an on-the-one-hand-and-on-the-other-hand issue, the liars win.

The Sherrod case should be the end of the line. If Obama hates the current media climate, he should stop overreacting to it. And the mainstream media should stop being afraid of insisting on the difference between news and propaganda.

Liberals tend to believe in a democratic process where all opinions are respected. And that would work if conservatives felt the same way, but they don't. The other side feels that their viewpoint is inherently correct and that they should get their way no matter what anyone else thinks. You can't have a debate like that, democracy cannot succeed under those conditions. At some point, somebody needs to tell the offenders to sit down and shut up and let the grown-ups talk.

Because citizens can't attend every event, can't have firsthand knowledge of everything that happens, we rely on the media to inform us. And the media are intimidated by rightwing thuggery -- well, look, the government of the United States is intimidated by rightwing thuggery. How in the world can we make good decisions when the information we receive is packaged and presented by ideological extremists?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This goes way back. Al Gore never actually said he "invented the Internet," but you could be forgiven for not knowing this because the mainstream media kept reporting he had."

Sure, way back. Like when the inanestream kept saying Sarah Palin said she could see Russia from her back porch whe she hadn't ever said that.

Or, the memo Dan Rather produced showing GW Bush dodged the draft which was written on fonts created years after the Vietnam War ended.

"Liberals tend to believe in a democratic process where all opinions are respected."

Actually, this is not true. The concept of political correctness began with liberal college professors.

"And that would work if conservatives felt the same way, but they don't. The other side feels that their viewpoint is inherently correct and that they should get their way no matter what anyone else thinks."

this atttitude develops on both sides

liberals are more prone to it than conservatives

July 26, 2010 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

I can't read the minds of those who made and publicized that video, but they did not have good intentions toward the President and his administration. Maybe they meant to show that there are black racists in the government, and maybe they meant it as a set-up, to show that the White House is a bunch of cowering fools who will surrender under any attack.

According to his July 20 interview with Hannity on FOX News, Breitbart said he showed this edited video because:

"...What this video shows … is not just that Shirley Sherrod, what she said was wrong, but that the audience was laughing and applauding as she described how she maltreated the white farmer. … The point is that the NAACP, at a dinner honoring this person, is cheering on a person describing—describing a white person as the other...."

And on his own BigGovernment website, Breitbart wrote:

"...Watch the video again, listen for the approval of the crowd as she talked disparagingly about the white farmer and how she sent him to one of his own for help. You see, Ms Sherrod's story doesn't change the fact that the NAACP audience seemed to have approved of her actions when she talked about not helping the white farmer...."

Fortunately, William Saletan at has taken the time to go through the full video segment by segment. He goes through Breitbart's claims and the video of Sherrod's speech and reports:

"...So, let's review the Breitbart gang's allegations:
When … she expresses a discriminatory attitude towards white people, the audience responds with applause.False.
The NAACP … is cheering on a person describing a white person as the other.
The NAACP audience seemed to have approved of her actions when she talked about not helping the white farmer.
They weren't cheering redemption; they were cheering discrimination.
As Ms. Sherrod recounted the first part of her parable, how she declined to do everything she could for the farmer because of his race, the audience responded in approval.

First Breitbart and his acolytes falsely accused Sherrod of discriminating against whites as a federal employee, despite having no evidence for this charge in the original video excerpt. Strike one.

Then they misrepresented Sherrod's story as an embrace of racism, when in fact she was repudiating racism. They later pleaded ignorance of this fact because they didn't have the full video. Strike two.

Now, with the full video in hand and posted on their Web site, they're lying about the reaction of the NAACP audience.

The excuses are all used up, Mr. Breitbart...."

July 27, 2010 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

And let's not forget, Breitbart's BigGovernment is not the only website hyping his lies about Shirley Sherrod and the NAACP. Joan Walsh at Salon reports on a strange discussion she had on CNN's "Reliable Sources" with AU Professor and former FOX News contributor, Jane Hall, in a piece she titled Fox News' 50-state Southern strategy

...Did the right-wing propaganda arm run with the Sherrod story before or after her resignation/firing from her post at the USDA? I'm not entirely sure why that matters: What matters is she was slandered by two alleged news organizations, who didn't bother to try to get to the truth about her inspiring message of racial reconciliation to the NAACP. But I also want to state for the record: Fox ran with the story before Sherrod was fired. It was on during the day on Monday, July 19; it's gone now, so I can't check the exact time it was posted.

But I don't need to: actually bragged about having already hyped the story in a follow-up, after Sherrod was forced to quit. "The Agriculture Department announced Monday, shortly after published its initial report on the video, that Sherrod had resigned." Likewise, Bill O'Reilly taped his performance, calling for Sherrod to resign, before she did so; the fact that the resignation had been reported by the time O'Reilly aired (he can't be bothered to work live at 8, like his competitors do? Poor guy) is meaningless.

But even after Sherrod was gone from USDA, Fox continued to hype Breitbart's false story. (As you can imagine, anti-racist activists Sean Hannity and Newt Gingrich had a ball with it that night!) Then CNN and the Atlanta Journal Constitution discovered and disseminated the truth early Tuesday; Fox anchors were blathering about Sherrod's "racism." By Wednesday, Fox had ignored its own role peddling lies, and turned the Sherrod story into a problem for President Obama. How unusual for Roger Ailes' non-news organization.

Matt Lewis of Politics Daily got the job of defending Breitbart on CNN today; you can judge for yourself how well he did in the clip below. Lewis had already run a glowing interview with Breitbart this week; it ended with a breathless "Anything else you want folks to know about Andrew Breitbart?" as though he was talking to some young boy-band star who's new to national attention. And in a segment devoted to checking facts before you report them, Lewis tried to diminish my arguments by claiming I was doing the show from "Netroots Nation" in Las Vegas. Um, I've never been to that great lefty blogosphere convening; maybe next year. I was home. The attempted slur was silly.

The most important point is this: Fox News has, sadly, become the purveyor of a 50-state "Southern strategy," the plan perfected by Richard Nixon to use race to scare Southern Democrats into becoming Republicans by insisting the other party wasn't merely trying to fight racism, but give blacks advantages over whites (Fox News boss Roger Ailes, of course, famously worked for Nixon). Now Fox is using the election of our first black president to scare (mainly older) white people in all 50 states that, again, the Democratic Party is run by corrupt black people trying to give blacks advantages over whites (MSNBC's Rachel Maddow laid out this history last week).

July 27, 2010 8:26 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Consider four of the biggest stories the network has peddled since Obama entered the White House:

Glenn Beck and others went after "green jobs czar" Van Jones, an African-American, false claiming Jones signed a 9/11 "Truther" petition, correctly noting he'd said some not-nice things about Republicans. Jones resigned.

Then the big story was ACORN, the community-organizing group run by a black woman, Bertha Lewis, and known for working in low-income black communities. First, remember, ACORN allegedly committed voter fraud in the 2008 election (in fact, the voter registration problems at ACORN were self-reported, and the fraud was on ACORN, because they paid some scam-artist workers to register voters that ultimately didn't exist – and thus wouldn't vote). Then Fox hyped the big Breitbart video lie: that James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles went into various ACORN offices dressed outlandishly as pimp and prostitute, and got advice on how to beat taxes and set up a child prostitution ring. In fact, once law enforcement officials began examining those charges, they found they were false. Fox owner Rupert Murdoch's New York Post even had to headline its story: "ACORN set up by vidiots: DA."

More recently, Fox has been pushing the story of how the Obama administration protected the New Black Panther Party from charges of voter intimidation, stemming from complaints by three Republican poll workers that the "Panthers" were intimidating mainly black voters in Philadelphia in 2008. No intimidated voters were ever found, and conservative Abigail Thernstrom blasted other GOP members of the U.S Civil Rights Commission for trying to use the non-story to "topple" Obama.

Then came Shirley Sherrod. I have no doubt that, if CNN hadn't found Roger and Eloise Spooner, the white farmers helped by Sherrod, Fox would have peddled Breitbart's lies all week, to further its paranoid and politically driven narrative that Obama is a "racist" who's out to oppress white folks as "reparations" for the centuries of discrimination blacks have endured. It's crazy, sure, but Ailes worked for Richard Nixon, who pioneered the "Southern strategy."

Remember that Pat Buchanan has compared the Tea Partiers to "George Wallace voters," and bragged that he won them over to Nixon. Buchanan and Ailes are trying to do it again, and having a black Democrat in the White House makes them think it will be even easier this time.

July 27, 2010 8:29 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Honestly, it won't be easier. There are too many people of every race who are genuinely not racist, or open to naked racial appeals. I truly believe the vast majority of American voters will judge Obama on his accomplishments or lack thereof in 2012, not the color of his skin. But older white voters scared by social change are a small but reliable base for Ailes and Buchanan to rely on.

Finally, host Howard Kurtz and poor Matt Lewis ended the segment talking about how Sherrod has now gone too far, calling Fox and Breitbart "racist." I defended Sherrod, and Lewis (and now Brent Bozell's minions at Newsbusters!) claimed I was arguing Sherrod should get a pass to say whatever she likes about race, because her father was murdered by a white man, who was exonerated by white Georgia justice.

Watch the video for yourself, and see what I said. First of all, the idea that any journalist is wasting his or her time policing Shirley Sherrod's rhetoric on race, after what she's been through, is absurd. But what I said was, I think her charges of racism by Fox and Breitbart are justified. Both are peddling a false story of all the nonexistent ways white people are hurt and/or oppressed by blacks; in particular, our black president. In my book, that's racist; others may disagree. I didn't give Sherrod carte blanche to peddle hatred of white people (not that she would if I gave it to her).

It's not my job, either way. Fox and Breitbart are far more powerful, and dangerous, than Shirley Sherrod. They should be ashamed of themselves, but they're shameless.

July 27, 2010 8:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bea is quite taken with this story that would be very minor if it weren't for the reaction of the White House.

Obama has once again proven that he lacks judgement.

Last year, he was conducting a Putin-style harassment of Fox and now he jumps at anything reported there without checking the facts.

Reporters sometimes display bias in all news organizations. Think about why Dan Rather doesn't still read the news on CBS.

The man-bites-dog story here is that a President would end someone's career without getting to the facts.

We may have the worst presidency of all time developing.

And given the history, that would take some doin'.

July 27, 2010 11:06 AM  
Anonymous Aunt Bea said...

Only Anon would consider lies being spread by tea bagger Breitbart and more widely disseminated by FAUX News even after the full video had been posted on line to be a "very minor" story, while bad mouthing Dan Rather and CBS. We see who is lacking judgment.

Note for Anon: There were exactly zero FAUX NEWS LIARS rounded up and jailed on trumped up charges by the Administration during what you imagine was some sort of "Putin-style harassment of Fox."

Unlike some other Presidents before him, when Obama errs, he holds himself accountable for it and makes the wrong right. There will be no "Those [federal employee firing manuals] have to be somewhere!" slides shown at the Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner next year.

The most recent addition to the list of worst Presidents of all time is George W. Bush, who so crippled our economy by pillaging the federal treasury for his rich cronies that it will take years to right his wrongs. The good news is President Obama's policies have already begun to turn things around: we've stopped hemorrhaging hundred of thousands of jobs every month and the stock market is doing much better than when Bush left office and it was reported: With George W. Bush As Prez, Dow Drops Most Points Ever:

"...George W. Bush leaves office today with the Dow Jones industrial average off 2,306 points from when he took over: The worst performance for any U.S. president.

The blue chips closed Friday -- the last full trading day of Bush's term -- at 8,281, way off of the 10,588 that the index stood at when Dubya took office in 2001..."

July 28, 2010 9:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

prior to Bush's presidency, we had an internet bubble, similar to the electric light bubble many eons ago

Barack Obama is the most divisive President since Richard Nixon

he has actively sought to inflame class and race tension for political purposes

the American wanted something different and won't be renewing his contract in 2012

July 28, 2010 11:43 AM  

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