James Butler's Blog

The Sherrod Charade

July 21, 2010 10:42

The supposed outing, then demand for resignation, then resignation, then rehiring of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod over the past several days is an example of how unethical behavior from a blogger can have a big impact on our world.

I won't link to the blog, because I don't want to be a part of popularizing Andrew Breitbart's free speech, and because you could easily find it yourself, if you really wanted to.

I will link to a summary of the story with video, visitor comments and whatnot on MSNBC.com, though.

Please do look up the blog in question, so you can form your own impression of the work you find there. In the meantime, here's my take on this.

The use of various forms of media to attack public figures is not new. It's arguably the raison d'etre for a majority of grassroots publications, and has played an entertaining role in politics for as long as there have been politics. Breitbart's use of his blog to attack political figures is also nothing new. It's his raison d'etre, judging by his output.

In this instance, and in others, but this one has deeper interest, the Sherron video segment that he posted was not only absent its context, but he trimmed the video specifically to misrepresent the context in order to use the fragment as a weapon.

This is worse than Time magazine's Photoshopping of O.J. Simpson's face on its cover, years back. This is malicious manipulation of source material in an effort to cause the removal of a Federal employee and to distract from a significant milestone the current Administration was poised to achieve ... and by that I mean the enactment of the financial reform bill, finally accomplished, today.

This is just one of many such stories we can expect to see spat out of various blogs and media outlets to coincide with announcements of achievement. I am certain of that. It is a campaign to disparage the Administration's accomplishments, and to generate division among the citizenry.

And that is shameful.

For the first decade or so the blogsphere was primarily opinion and information. But as the world's attention has turned to social media, so have the forces that drive the political engine, and, as it does to everything it touches, that attention is beginning to corrupt and destroy the format.

This blatant, completely unethical manipulation of source material by Breitbart and the slavering, unquestioning response to it by cable news and other media, who couldn't put the video into heavy rotation and set up some talking heads to discuss what a racist Sherron was fast enough, speaks volumes about the priorities of "news" organizations.

The NAACP's response was equally shameful, especially considering that they already had a copy of the complete footage with Sherron's comments in context, and should have focused on the story of revelation and cooperation that she was actually telling, instead of giving juice to Breitbart's fakery. (Their original press release has been removed from the NAACP website, so here is CBSNews.com's version of the day the "news" broke. However, I do appreciate the NAACP mea culpa followup, issued today.)

The Obama Administration's response was also a real shame. In the time it took to prepare the demand for Sherron's resignation, they could have watched the full video and realized what Breitbart was attempting to perpetrate. Then they could have called him on it, and gotten back to work, thereby disposing of the incident and getting back to the business of promoting their latest significant achievement. Instead, they rushed to judgement, and now are paying the price for it by having to slink back and ask Sherron to return to the Federal fold.

The announcement of the signing into law of the financial reform package was completely buried by this fabricated issue. Shame on the press.

It absolutely stinks that this tactic was a success. And by "success" I refer you to the (long) screenshot, below, of the MSNBC.com home page. Note where the Sherron issue is located, and where the financial reform news is located.

As reported by MSNBC.com: "Republican Representative Darrel Issa called Obama's bill signing a 'charade' ..."

An unethical "charade" is what the GOP pulled off, with Breitbart and the media's help.


Long screenshot from the MSNBC.com home page on July 21, 2010



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