Breitbarting, the practice of artful editing so a subject seems to be saying the opposite of what was actually said, was happening well before Andrew Breitbart slandered Shirley Sherrod. But that incident did bring the practice into a period of bright hot sunlight.
Shirley Sherrod, a minor, but rising, Agriculture Department official, made a speech in front of a small audience of NAACP members at a banquet hosted by a rural Georgia chapter.
She told of racial feelings born of horrible incidents: Her father murdered by a white farmer when she was a teenager, a white jury that ruled the murder was okay, a cross burned on her family's lawn, a close relative lynched. Then she talked about a time, years later, and a white farmer who came to her for help. He was being forced out of his farm by the dirty dealings of a financial corporation. Ms. Sherrod relived her own prejudices and overcame them to help the farmer and his wife win out. The audience applauded warmly at the story of anguish, hatred, and redemption.
Conservative Andrew Breitbart posted a severely edited video on his website. It had been sliced and diced, remixed to make Shirley Sherrod appear to boast about turning away the farm couple, the couple she had actually helped, because they were white. The video showed the mostly black audience, the audience that had applauded appreciatively at hearing how she had overcome her anger at white people, instead laughing and clapping in delight at putting one over on those whites.
Fox News, of course, replayed the bogus video repeatedly. The NAACP and the Obama administration believed the Breitbart and Fox presentations. Benjamin Jealous, the President of the NAACP, publicly condemned what he thought was a racist speech encouraging hatred of white people. Acting on the wishes of the Secretary of Agriculture, the department forced Shirley Sherrod out.
It turned out that there was another video, a full video, an unedited video, that the perpetrators of the hoax hadn't known about. When it came out, and the white farm couple made their way to television cameras to angrily defend Shirley Sherrod, the truth became manifest.
Re-editing remarks to make it seem as if the speaker says something quite different didn't stop with Shirley Sherrod. Later, Mr. Breitbart performed the same sort of stunt with professors at the University of Missouri. One was fired for endorsing union violence that happened in years past. In fact, Breitbart had posted a video in which that professor had paused in his lecture to condemn violence, but the video was sliced and spliced to show the opposite.
Not all breitbarting has been authored by Andrew Breitbart. In fact, some instances have been circulated after Andrew Breitbart became the late Andrew Breitbart, having died from heart failure this past March. And sometimes the targets are more prominent than the decidedly unfamous Agriculture official that Shirley Sharrod once was.
The director of the EPA, Lisa Jackson, was breitbarted. She was quoted by Fox News and others as calling Republicans "Jack Booted Thugs." In reality, she was remembering how ATF officers had, years before, been referred to as "Jack booted thugs" by the NRA. Now EPA employees were encountering the same sort of conservative hostility. She praised members of her department for their hard work and patriotism, despite "the people who cited the 230,000 new EPA jack-booted thugs."
Not all breitbarting is for the purpose of smearing the subject. The practice sometimes is only for the purpose of distorting the truth. The Director of the Congressional Budget Office was breitbarted last year. A presentation to a congressional committee was edited to make it appear as if he had announced that Obamacare would cost almost a million jobs. He actually said that almost a million people who could not retire for fear of losing health benefits would feel free to retire if Obamacare allowed them to get affordable coverage on their own.
Still, it was surprising to me when the subject turned out to be much more significant than that. No, I'm not talking about the President, this time, although that would certainly be possible.
My very conservative friend, T. Paine, was perturbed at my words concerning his opposition to marriage equality. In his response, he takes breitbarting beyond Shirley Sherrod. He goes bigger than the Environmental Protection Agency. He transcends the Congressional Budget Office. Little professors in Missouri can't compare. Even the President of the United States ("You didn't do that") doesn't come close.
Breitbart was okay, as far as he went, but T. Paine is made of sterner stuff: My friend breitbarts Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of humanity.
My words, to which T. Paine objects:
Then, unexpectedly to Christians like me, he quotes Jesus himself. Seems Jesus thought married men and women should stay married. Which proves, dontcha see, that Jesus hated gay marriage. Seems like a fun game to me. Let's see. Jesus liked figs enough to kill a fig tree that had run out of figs. Since he liked figs, he hated lobsters, right?
There is more. You can read it here.
T. Paine responds, in part:
It seems that the main point you got out of my post was that “Jesus thought married men and women should stay married.”
I should pause here to make one correction that my friend may think minor. No, it was not the point of his article. It was the obvious point of the words spoken by Jesus. I can understand the confusion. It is a constant temptation for Christians to perform that variant of transubstantiation. Lloyd Bentsen had fun when all Dan Quayle did was compare himself with JFK. Imagine "Senator, I know Jesus..."
The other night I got a call from my loved one. The garage door had jammed and wouldn't close. She was nervous that it might not be easily fixable, that it might entail some considerable expense. I didn't realize how nervous she was until I came in and announced that I had affected a minor repair. The garage door was fixed. She put her hands together and exclaimed, "Thank you, Jesus!" I waited a second, then said, "You know, when we're alone, it's okay to call me Burr."
A little later in his response, T. Paine gets to the heart of his argument. Jesus hates gay marriage.
Let’s look closely at what Jesus said next: “Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 19:12). The implications of Christ’s words are absolute then. A man’s ability to be united to his wife sexually is was what made him a candidate for marriage. If he was unable to achieve sexual union because of a birth defect, castration, or a vow of celibacy, then marriage was not his vocation. Consequently it would seem that the foundation of Jesus’ whole argument is indeed biological. Unless “a man” and “his wife … become one flesh,” there is no valid marriage. For Jesus, and for anyone committed to His teachings, it is impossible to speak of a “Christian same-sex marriage.” Jesus’ words rule it out absolutely.
So, what Mr. Paine sees as an implication, something not said but rather implied, must then be an absolute. We might go to what Jesus says explicitly, without torturing Mr. Paine with the task of telling us what Jesus didn't say but what Mr. Paine discerns he really meant.
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?"
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."
I like that last sentence. It explains why he would send his disciples to openly break the laws of scripture, why he would break those laws himself. The Apostle Paul expands on the debate Jesus has with the T. Paines of those days. All things are lawful, he says. But not all things are helpful.
Literalists seem to perpetually miss the point of a single overarching law, involving the recognition of the value of all God's children. They look past a transcendent message that fulfills all spiritual law with the basics from which all laws flow. Love God, love all. Instead, they suggest that the old set of laws were valid, but morality was changed and the new set of laws replaced the old set. So new rituals, new arbitrary rules. New missing of the point.
Sometimes, when a friend puzzles out something I fumble in getting across, I'll apologize, "I forgot to translate into standard English from BurrSpeak."
T. Paine, not satisfied with the plain words of Jesus, helps him out by translating for the rest of us from MessiahSpeak. If we want to put our little minds to work, we could go directly to Jesus without putting T. Paine through the trouble.
And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one's wife for any cause?"
He answered, "Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female,and said, `For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."
They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?"
He said to them, "For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery."
The disciples said to him, "If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is not expedient to marry."
But he said to them, "Not all men can receive this saying, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it."
Lots there about the hardness of the human heart and the everlasting value of love. Even something about folks who are asexual, having no sexual feelings. There is mention of those who forego sexual relations. And there is the explicit. Men who simply put their wives aside without cause, which was considered okay in those days, are simply wrong.
Anything in there about gay equality? Anything at all?
How about after Mr. Paine breitbarts the Lord?
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