RACE TO THE TOP! Gerson said the right has been wrongand the left as well: // link // print // previous // next //
MONDAY, JULY 26, 2010
Refusing to tell the people/Andrew Breitbart edition: Last week, Michelle Cottle told her pals in the press corps that they should ignore Andrew Breitbart (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/23/10). This is the familiar shut-your-mouth, play-it-safe strategy people like Cottle have always taken toward conservative hit men like Breitbartand Drudge, and Hannity, and Beck, and Coulter, who got applauded in the New York Times because her pathologically inaccurate book had so many footnotes.
Never mind that if you checked those footnotes, they rarely said what Coulter claimed (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 7/22/02).
Life is easierbetter by farwhen you dont report on such people. Life in the press corps can really be grand when you do what Cottle recommendswhen you pretend youre refusing to do your job as an act of high principle.
Given the notoriety of the Sherrod case, will big newspapers report on Breitbarts past misconduct? This morning, the New York Times presents a news report on the Sherrod matter which is a virtual parody of serious reporting. (Click here, then weep for your species. More tomorrow). That said, one journalist did a good job this weekend, recalling the previous innocent party Andrew Breitbart got fired.
People! Shirley Sherrod isnt the first innocent person Breitbart got canned from a job. Do you recall the guy he got fired last year? According to Nexis, only one journalist has mentioned his name in the week since this new story broke.
That journalist is Annette John-Hall, a columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer. In last Fridays column, John-Hall remembered Juan Carlos Vera, another innocent party Breitbart got fired. Like other columnists, John-Hall named a string of parties who bungled in the Sherrod firing. But she also remembered the innocent person Breitbart got fired last year:
As John-Hall helps us recall, the firing of Vera was very similar to last weeks firing of Sherrod. It stemmed from the Breitbart-promoted ACORN matterfrom Breitbarts first use of edited tapes.
Like Sherrod, Vera was instantly fired when edited tapes made it appear that he had engaged in wrongdoing. Since that time, two major inquiries have seemed to conclude that Vera, like Sherrod, was unfairly judged. One of these inquiries was conducted by Jerry Brown, Californias attorney general. (Brown investigated the ACORN incidents which took place in California.) Below, well post the portion of Browns report which dealt with the firing of Vera. But lets be clear: Given Breitbarts sudden notoriety, a real news division would tell the public about this earlier affair, even if Lady Cottle is begging them to stop.
We know, we know! The press corps swallowed the ACORN con, and big news orgs dont like to admit that they, and their readers, got tooken. But the editing of the ACORN tapes was especially clownish and dishonest, what with the splicing in of James OKeefe in that pimp outfit and all. By normal journalistic standards, the Vera story has high entertainment valueas well as an obvious connection to the events of last week. The public deserves to be told of the lengths a con man like Breitbart will go to.
Overwhelmingly, Americans have agreed that Shirley Sherrod was wrongly fired. They deserve to know that Juan Carlos Vega was wrongly fired last year too, even if scuts like Cottle are begging their colleagues to clam.
Will big newspapers report on Breitbarts past conduct? Well believe it when we see it. Lady Cottle knows how her cohort works. More on this topic tomorrow.
From the Brown report: Attorney General Jerry Brown published a detailed report on the parts of the ACORN flap which took place in California. He found significant wrongdoing by some ACORN officials. But this is the way he described what happened after Breitbarts pair of youthful crackpots left ACORNs San Diego office, where they had spoken with Vera (click here, scroll to page 15). Throughout, the Brown report links Veras claims to telephone records:
To all appearances, Vera was trying to do the right thing, just as Sherrod did in her speech. But so what? Through use of those edited tapes, Breitbart got both parties fired.
Do readers deserve to know these facts? Or will Cottles advice prevail?
RACE TO THE TOP (permalink): Last week, the American public quickly agreed that Shirley Sherrod had been wrongly fired. Black people could see that she had been wrongedbut white people could see this too. A bit of good news is lurking here: When it comes to so-called matters of so-called race, the public isnt quite as tribal as it may have been in the past.
That said, a lot of race-baiting has been floating around, and it hasnt all come from the right. In last Wednesdays Washington Post, Michael Gerson surveyed the sceneand we thought he did a good job cataloging recent events. As he went through those events, he kept seeing things on the one handand then again, on the other.
Quite rightly, this type of reporting is often mocked, because it can serve as a dodge. In this case, we thought it made sense. Heres how Gerson started his column. We thought he was fairperhaps too fairto those of us on the left:
On the one hand, Gerson said, liberals have a tendency to blame the broad revolt against Obama's fiscal policies and economic failures on latent racism. In some ways, we think hes too kind. In our view, some liberals have been amazingly eagerand amazingly willingto offer vast, sweeping claims about everybody elses racism. For our money, this shows a lack of good judgment, of various kinds.
On the other hand, Gerson said that some conservatives seem unwilling to acknowledge racist and nativist elements in their midst. (Before long, Gerson named a few of those racist/nativist elements.) We tend to avoid the R-word ourselves, thinking it tends to shed more heat than light. But especially when he began naming names, we thought Gersons judgments were fair.
On the one hand, then on the other! As he continued, Gerson described some of the racial turmoil from the week beforeevents involving the NAACP, the Tea Party, and the always-repellent Mark Williams. But Gerson was soon noting hopeful signs from both sides of the aisle. On the one hand, and then on the other, her saw people trying to be fairoffering small but significant signs of sanity:
Well go along with those judgments, although we think Gerson is extremely generous in the way he describes the NAACPs framing of that resolution. (You think this profoundly important organization screwed things up last week? They behaved strangely the week before too. More on this topic tomorrow.) As he continued, Gerson continued to play with both hands, criticizing the way Fox News obsessively played video showing two members of the New Black Panthers wearing military gear outside a Philadelphia polling station in 2008. More Gerson, and what he says is correct: Voter intimidation is a serious thing and a federal crime. But two men engaged in revolutionary political theater do not a conspiracy make.
Gerson continued to play with both hands all through last Wednesdays column. As he closed, he said that reactions [have been] disproportionate across the political spectruma claim with which wed agree. As he closed his column, he offered advice on the one hand, then on the other:
We agree with all of thatbecause we think the NAACP did behave poorly, even in the week before they threw Sherrod under the bus.
Racial conflict is America's deepest wound? This is obviously trueand this of course includes the wars of extermination and subjugation waged against Native Americans. Because the history is so profound and so vile, we find it offensive when those on our side seem to toy with this deep, evil wound. Its always easy to note the way the other side is misbehaving in some such area. But in the past year or two, our side has sometimes been quite foolish and quite cavalier about this deepest wound too.
We think Gerson was more than fair to our tribe. More on this topic all week, beginning with that resolution.
Tomorrow: Concerning that resolution