Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sherrod thoughts

Some thoughts from PowerLine blog:

 David Frum, who as far as I know still calls himself a conservative, is a case in point. He thinks the episode demonstrates "the shame of conservative media." By which he means, apparently, Andrew Breitbart and a handful of bloggers, that being about the extent of "conservative media," if you add in Fox News.

all video clips are "severely edited." Andrew received the clip in the form in which he posted it, and passed it on to others, including us. I reviewed the clip carefully, as I am alert to the possibility that video clips could be edited in a misleading fashion. I watched this one twice and concluded that it was damning to say the least. It didn't occur to me, as I'm sure it didn't occur to Andrew, that the anecdote in the clip might be framed by Sherrod's recantation in a way that would undermine the apparent point of her story. So that was a mistake, but Frum isn't satisfied with a mere error

Frum continues:

Breitbart went almost universally unmentioned.

This is false. If you follow Frum's links, you will find that Glenn Reynolds mentioned Breitbart in the first word of his post and at least five times thereafter; the Anchoress and her commenters mentioned him 67 times; Erickson mentioned him four times in the linked post; and Lowry not only mentioned Breitbart but criticized him here.

So, which is worse: Breitbart's failure to investigate enough to determine that the clip he was sent was misleading, or Frum's linking to a series of posts and excoriating the authors for not mentioning Breitbart's role when, in fact, they did? Did Frum link to the posts without reading them, or was he trying to mislead his readers?


Frum equates Andrew Breitbart with Dan Rather. But that is absurd. CBS News foisted a series of faked documents on the American people and tried to use them to influence a Presidential election. The documents were obvious frauds, but Rather swore to his television audience for two weeks that they came from an "unimpeachable source" and therefore could be relied upon. He was lying, as neither he nor anyone else at CBS had any idea where they originated. The video clip that Andrew posted was not a fake, and when the broader context came to light, Andrew did not deny it, but argued that it didn't rebut his point. Whether you agree with that or not, his posting of an accurate clip from a video is hardly on a par with CBS's use of fake documents to try to influence an election on behalf of the network's favored candidate.

Rorschach Test

Yesterday I asserted that Andrew had made a mistake and owed Shirley Sherrod an apology. Whether I am right or wrong about that, I also think he is right to withhold it under the circumstances. Taranto captures some of the conflicting considerations:

It is entirely fair to observe that Breitbart's Monday report on Sherrod was journalistically shoddy. He misinterpreted a quote whose meaning was at best ambiguous. He should have sought out the full speech (the NAACP has posted it here), and he should have given Sherrod an opportunity to comment.

But the NAACP's defense that it was "snookered" by Breitbart--and [David] Frum's implication, in turn, that Breitbart is the only "villain" of the piece--is laughable. Are we to believe that Ben Jealous thought Breitbart was what Dan Rather, before his fall, claimed to be--an impartial and reliable purveyor of facts? In the unlikely event that the answer to that question is yes, doesn't his failure to know better reflect a stunning incompetence?

No, you can't cheat an honest man. Breitbart set a trap for the NAACP, and the NAACP walked right into it. He was able to do so because he correctly identified the organization's moral weakness. Confronted by a video showing apparent racism at an NAACP function, its leaders appear to have panicked and made a snap decision to denounce one of their own so as to pre-empt the charge of employing a double standard.

It was a very effective bit of Alinskyite political theater, and in a way more so for Breitbart's having gotten the story wrong. As it turned out, the NAACP condemned Shirley Sherrod based on a false, secondhand accusation of racism. Members of the Tea Party movement know just how she feels.

From Buckley to Breitbart

Andrew Breitbart shouldn't have posted the video excerpts of Shirley Sherrod's speech with the comment that "the NAACP awards racism." It was a mistake to do so. He was had.

Others including ourselves should not have followed suit. It was a mistake to do so. We extended our apologies to Ms. Sherrod as soon as the unedited video of the speech was made available.


The shafting of Shirley Sherrod came to an end within something like 24 hours. As I see it, she was owed apologies by those from whom she has received them, in addition to one from my friend Andrew, from whom she has not. She has become a celebrity and an advertisement for racial redemption.

Breitbart was induced to post the videos as a result of the NAACP's false imputation of racism to the Tea Party movement. Breitbart has done heroic work to rebut the charge. See his post linked above.

Prominent reporters and news organizations such as Matt Bai of the New York Times continue to assert that Tea Party protesters of Obamacare subjected Rep. John Lewis et al. to racial abuse on Capitol Hill on March 20. Rep. Lewis et al. went walking through the crowd apparently hoping to touch off a racial incident, but there is no evidence other than the congressmen's say-so that one occurred.


Glenn Reynolds has collected much outstanding commentary expressing points of view that emphasize points other than mine. Glenn himself comments: "[W]hen the JournoList crowd was fomenting deliberate lies about the tea parties, the Frum-types were happy to join in the pile-on. A lot of us noticed. Don't expect us to be impressed by your self-proclaimed ethical standards now. . . ."

The Shafting of Shirley Sherrod

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