Archives for: July 2010, 22
I remember those times fondly as the days of my daughter's developing sense of fun. I had said or done something to provoke her mirth. I don't even recall what. What is memorable is her look of unselfconscious joy. "We're not laughing at you, Daddy," she said. "We're laughing near you."
Those images arise at uneven times. I could be reading, or commiserating with a grieving friend. In this case, I was angry, having watched a smear artist on television justifying his actions. Andrew Breitbart had gotten hold of a video of a black woman talking about why race should be irrelevant in the face of crisis. She told of her own personal transformation from racial suspicion to full court press effort to save the farm of a white couple decades ago. Shirley Sherrod, a Deputy Director at the United States Department of Agriculture was speaking humbly to a sympathetic gathering at a local meeting of the NAACP in Georgia.
Ham handed editing of that video made it seem as if she, with the appreciative support of her audience, was boasting about how she is now able to get back at white people. It was the exact opposite from her actual message. It was not only distortion. It was deliberate distortion. The altered video was posted on Breitbart's internet site. Fox played it continuously over a news cycle with a Greek Chorus of television personalities denouncing Ms. Sherrod. It was tailor made to fit the worst fears and expectations of the conservative audience. "Tailor Made" is the term.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack demanded and got Shirley Sherrod's resignation. It was a partial replay of the red scare of 60 years ago. In those days, the Truman administration did not really believe that every mildly liberal government employee was a communist agent. But conservative accusations would distract them enough to keep them from doing their best work, and so they were fired. Vilsack explained his actions in similar terms. "When I saw the statements and the context of the statements, I determined that it would make it difficult for her to do her job." Fox made the next development clear for viewers. Obama was placing black militant racists in sensitive positions, letting them go only when caught.
Then the white farm couple, the supposed victims of Sherrod's discrimination, appeared on television to defend her. The game changed, and the Fox narrative changed with it. It seems some television organization somewhere had gotten the story mixed up, and Obama had trashed this innocent lady.
I was most interested in Breitbart's rationalizations. At first, he attacked the elderly white couple for defending Sherrod. How do we know they aren't fakes? Then he too adapted. He has a lot of sympathy for the victim and just doesn't understand why "the media" would do that to her. His real target, he says, was the NAACP. The fact that Shirley Sherrod's audience were laughing during her presentation was a sure signal that they supported, not her redemptive transformation, but rather the original racial antagonism that she rejected. That laughter was proof the NAACP was "more than happy to exploit this nation’s sensitive racial schism for possible political gain." No kidding. That racial-exploitation-for-political-gain is a quote.
We aren't laughing at you, Mr. Breitbart. And we are learning the dangers of laughing near you.
You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?
- - Joseph Welch, Special Counsel for the US Army, June 9, 1954
to Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI) in reply to a televised attack on Welch's
assistant for prior membership, as a young man, in a Lawyer's Guild