Loyalty and the Shirley Sherrod affair

Erik Kain

Erik writes about video games at Forbes and politics at Mother Jones. He's the contributor of The League though he hasn't written much here lately. He can be found occasionally composing 140 character cultural analysis on Twitter.

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73 Responses

  1. gregiank says:

    While i agree that the firing of Ms. Sherrod made this a much bigger and different story, i think saying briebart isn’t an issue is just wrong. The O admin deserves plenty of blame certainly. But isn’t a prominent partisan “news” outlet putting out a deliberate edited, smear job on a some civil servant an issue. Yeah caveat emptor and all that, but that doesn’t make a shit thrower any less sleazy. Do you think it was a conidence this came so close to the NAACP letter regarding racism? It may have been but i doubt it. There has been a consistent bunching of the panties over the last week about liberal journo’s saying naughty things in private communication yet when a con journo publicly smears somebody that is somehow not an issue.

    One of the disconnects regarding discussions about race is whether people see the statement at question as part of a larger narrative or trend. Smearing Sherrod seems to me like a larger part of the narrative of conservatives presenting themselves as the current victims of great racial oppression.

    FWIW here is a link to a story on TPM regarding some possible context for the Sherrod story.http://tpmmuckraker.talkingpointsmemo.com/2010/07/shirley_sherrod_and_the_discrimination_of_black_fa.php?ref=fpbReport

    • Bo in reply to gregiank says:

      @gregiank, perhaps, but the ACORN tapes were the same way, and the story took an entirely different trajectory. What’s been fascinating is watching conservatives, including Breitbart himself, pivot to slamming the Obama administration for rashly firing her. If this goes on for another week, we’re going to have Breitbart on Fox screaming, “Weren’t you guys around for the Iraq War? We simply can’t be trusted to do any sort of due diligence. Jesus Christ, switch to CNN already. It’s on basic cable too; that’s channel 34 on DC-area Comcast.”Report

      • gregiank in reply to Bo says:

        href=”#comment-61561″>@Bo, Well a lot of people were suckered by the ACORN tapes and don’t know that the tapes were all heavily edited and the same kind of smear job as this was.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Bo says:

        @Bo, Fox didn’t start covering the story until after she was fired.

        Not that that matters, of course. Their bias is demonstrated and can be taken for granted. The point stands.Report

      • Koz in reply to Bo says:

        “…when a con journo publicly smears somebody…”

        You’re talking about Breitbart, right? He didn’t smear Sherrod (and as Erik points out, didn’t get her fired either).Report

        • Mark Thompson in reply to Koz says:

          I’ve been avoiding this story like the plague, but “didn’t smear Sherrod”? You’re really buying the whole “the audience reaction was the entire point of the video” bit?

          Because let’s look at some lines from Breitbart’s original post:
          “In this piece you will see video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee …” That appointee being Sherrod, of course.

          “In her meandering speech to what appears to be an all-black audience, this federally appointed executive bureaucrat lays out in stark detail, that her federal duties are managed through the prism of race and class distinctions.” Class distinctions? Ok, fine. But “race distinctions” is a blatant smear.

          “Sherrod’s racist tale….”

          But hey, the only target was the reaction of the NAACP audience. They were the only ones against whom accusations were made…..rriiiiiight.Report

          • Koz in reply to Mark Thompson says:

            “I’ve been avoiding this story like the plague, but “didn’t smear Sherrod”? You’re really buying the whole “the audience reaction was the entire point of the video” bit?”

            No, actually I’m buying into the Breitbart got the shorter tape bit, and truth be told I hadn’t looked at the original sources (mostly still haven’t because there’s not much disagreement over them).

            I still don’t think it’s a smear but it is reckless which is bad enough considering how hard I worked Spencer Ackerman over for it yesterday.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Koz says:

              @Koz, No, actually I’m buying into the Breitbart got the shorter tape bit

              You may want to reconsider.
              Breitbart didn’t get his story straight beforehand. When people were still calling for the unedited whole thing, he said that he’d post it as soon as he got “permission”.

              Only after that did he say “hey, I got it like this”.Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to gregiank says:

      @gregiank, “Do you think it was a conidence this came so close to the NAACP letter regarding racism?”

      Breitbart’s original post makes no bones about this and expressly emphasizes that the NAACP resolution was the motivation.Report

  2. Rufus F. says:

    I don’t know that Breitbart has to be in the cross hairs. He’s just not a reliable source of news. It might be that he’s a liar- I tend to think instead that he’s just too stupid and angry to report the news correctly. So he loses credibility. The same thing has happened to plenty of “professional” journalists and should probably happen to plenty more.

    I do think that “Vilsaking” should become a verb. But my sense with Obama isn’t that this reveals him to be disloyal. I think the problem, instead, is that his hands off managerial style is completely ill suited to his position. He’s frequently being embarrassed by subordinates in a way that makes it look as if he hasn’t got control of the situation at all, and so of course his political enemies pounce. Frankly, I’d like to see him fire a few more people.Report

    • Michael Drew in reply to Rufus F. says:

      @Rufus F., The president should micromanage all his Cabinet secretaries’ personnel decisions in their bureaucracies? This is evidence that Vilsack is an inferior manager and perhaps Obama should now think of moving him out (I happen to think this is not nearly so bad as it has been made out to be), but if there’s one thing a president needs not to be having to review personally, it’s low- and mid-level Department of Agriculture hiring and firing decisions. IMO.Report

  3. 62across says:

    You say you again with Millman, but you seem to be completely missing his point. He is saying that the outcome would have been worse for the Obama administration, and likely Sherrod’s reputation, had the resignation NOT been forced. This is not to vindicate Vilsack’s actions and in no way do I think it was planned that way, but I think Millman is exactly right.

    Since it seems there is no longer any such thing as objective truth in journalism, this story would have played out as another instance of differing interpretations. We already have Koz here saying Breitbart didn’t smear Sherrod. Imagine if only the WH had vindicated her, instead of just about everyone.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to 62across says:

      @62across, I think you’re missing the point. Millman is saying that the Obama admin benefited from firing Sherrod; I’m saying that the Obama admin is the real bad guy for doing that. The two are connected statements.Report

      • 62across in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain, I got that you see the Obama admin as the bad guy in this. I’m not saying they are not. They screwed up here, no question.

        All the same, I think Noah is correct in that the firing was ultimately beneficial to Shirley Sherrod’s reputation, despite the drag through the mud. Being wronged by both sides, she ends up being defended and exonerated by both sides, though for their own self serving reasons. Had there been an internal USDA investigation and she had not been fired, inevitably the framing of the story would have turned to protecting their own and cover-up. Even the unedited videotape would not been enough to quell the conspiracy talk at that point (see Obama; birth certificate).

        Any positive outcome for the Obama admin comes from their willingness to acknowledge their error and apologize for their actions. Accepting their accountability puts them ahead of the Breitbart/Fox faction.Report

  4. dexter45 says:

    I think the teabaggers made a huge mistake trying to smear Ms Sherrod by editing her speech. They were trying to make her a racist, when the reality is that her speech was about how she overcame her anger and came to see people as people. That is something that scares the powers that be. I think the scariest thing that could happen to the rulers is for the teabaggers realize that melanin doesn’t matter and that government comes in two forms–good and bad. The government now works for the elites and the middle class and the poor just have to take their lumps.Report

  5. Bob Cheeks says:

    I have a problem I’m sure you fellows can help me with, it’s to do with political correctness, and Lord knows I need help.
    The part of the tape (and I haven’t heard all 45 min.) that intrigued me was when she said something to the effect that she “directed him (the po white farmer) to one of his own kind.” Now, I put that in quotes but it’s not exactly verbatim but close enough…you get the drift.
    My problem is with that little phrase. It’s apparently ok for a Black woman to use that terminology (own kind) but if a white dude would have said that I gotta believe there’d have been a commie-dem shitstorm. Am I right about that? Or, am I just a whining palecon?
    One grows weary of the Left’s hypocrisy!Report

    • @Bob Cheeks, If a white dude made that kind of a statement in the context of expressing why the thought process that underlies that kind of a statement is wrong, there’d be no shitstorm unless the video. Well, at least as long as some liberal journalist didn’t selectively edit the video so that statement was all that you could hear.Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to Mark Thompson says:

        @Mark Thompson, Dude, you’re way to smart for me. It’s a very simple phrase: “I directed him to one of his own kind (or something like that).”
        Now obviously it’s ok if a Black woman says that phrase. My question is, is it ok for a white dude to use that phrase?
        We can forget the video, we can forget the fact she’s a ‘federal’ employee, it’s just the usage of the phrase that interests me.Report

        • @Bob Cheeks, My answer is that it depends on the context, just as whether it was a problematic usage in this case depended entirely on the context.Report

        • John Howard Griffin in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

          @Bob Cheeks, this is a joke, right? You’re a flaming liberal that’s trying to give conservatives a bad name, aren’t you?

          You obviously didn’t listen past that part when she talked about the white lawyer taking the farmer’s money and not doing anything, so she ended up taking him to a black lawyer, and then said (about the farmer):

          Well, working with him made me see that it’s really about those who have versus those who don’t, you know. And they could be black; they could be white; they could be Hispanic. And it made me realize then that I needed to work to help poor people — those who don’t have access the way others have.

          She admitted to thinking something racist herself, and then how she realized that her thinking was wrong.

          Or, are you just trying to further the smear that she is really a racist. Just like all black people, right Bob?Report

        • Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

          @Bob Cheeks, I think it’s more like this, Bob… she was in the middle of telling a story much like a testimony.

          “Once I was blind, I was a bad person, I did X, Y, and Zed.”

          To stop the story there is fundamentally unfair. It’s not good that she did Zed. That’s bad. Indeed, as the story progresses, she learns that she was wrong to do Zed. And Y! And X!

          We get to the end of the testimony where she says “AND NOW I SEE!”

          And you’re asking about Zed.

          Zed’s dead, baby. Zed’s dead.Report

          • Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, no, respectfully, I think the phrase stands oh so very well on its own..it reveals, intent in the context of the little story she’s telling (klnd of a personal revelation if you will), God bless her.
            JB, usually your arguments are made of significantly sterner stuff.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

              @Bob Cheeks, I got the feeling that she was saying “so I did thing that was wrong, for reason that was wrong” in such a way that her audience immediately understood.

              “I sent him to one of his own kind” is probably heard by the folks in that room significantly differently than you or I would hear it.

              We hear it and say “if I said ‘you people’, I’d get crucified!!!!”, when they hear it, they hear “she treated them the way we’ve been treated. She ‘you people’d them.”

              I’m just guessing, of course, but you’re focusing on the “still a sinner” phase of the testimony.Report

            • Bob Cheeks in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

              @Bob Cheeks, Thanks JB, I can always count on you for an honest evaluation.
              The problem is, of course, two standards of measure; one for blacks and one for whites (maybe three if we count Hispanics).
              Based on that I’d have to take issue with the premise, or the outcome you want.
              Another question: when are we all even-steven. I tried to ask this question at a Kent State seminar where yours truly was the only ‘conservative’ and damned near got lynched (a rich irony indeed), but I wouldn’t back down and never got a straightforward answer. So let me ask the august member of the League who with the exception of JB aren’t going to address my first inquiry, when is it all even-steven between blacks and whites?Report

            • @Bob Cheeks, When we stop worrying whether it’s all even steven?Report

            • Bob Cheeks in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

              @Bob Cheeks, Mark, apparently the idea of an open exchange of certain ideas is sometimes intimidating. I thought the League was better than that.
              If I get a chance I’ll blog this over at PoMoCon…that is if the blog’s allowed to stay up.Report

            • @Bob Cheeks, Aw, c’mon! You know we love you, Bob! You’re family!Report

          • Michael Drew in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, I actually think it really wasn’t quite like that. I think that was her intent. But she didn’t say all that that you say she did while she was recounting her earlier attitude about how clearly wrong it was. That was the overall point, but in the way she told the story, she didn’t really say at all while describing the views (unlike how you describe it, Jay) how wrong they were, or preface them with that. She made the storytelling choice to save that until the turn. And that’s a very powerful way to tell a story, and it still reflects poorly on the people who allowed themselves to be snookered after it was partially quoted. But that storytelling choice made that way more feasible. If she’d told in the way you fix it up for here, then there is absolutely no two-and-a-half minute stretch in which it’s not clear what her overall point is. And I would ask everyone this: how many pieces of public speech do we really listen to for two-and-a-half minutes, even if they’re unrepresentative minutes, and not begin to think we have an idea what the person is getting at? I was certainly troubled by them. Even knowing the point, I’m still a bit troubled by them, though I also think it’s a great story. And this is by no means to defend an absurdly hasty, uninformed firing, not at all. This was clearly a colossal mistake by Vilsack and the WH to whatever extent it was involved. But I do to some extent understand the reaction of Vilsack, et al in those early moments, in part because they were joined in it by Ben Jealous as well. That’s kind of a big deal. And again, it’s not to defend the ridiculous administrative decision that was made. But I do think it mitigates the egregiousness of it somewhat. Just too the point where I think this is something you say, “Man, that was f’d up and no one but Shirley Sharrod comes out looking good from it,” but then move on, not talk about it for three more days, because there are actually more important things. But that’s just me, and clearly the Washington media disagree.Report

    • Scott in reply to Bob Cheeks says:

      @Bob Cheeks,

      You won’t get an answer b/c no lefty is willing to admit that a white guy would be lynched for saying such a thing, while a black person can get away with it. Just like when AG Holder ignores the Black Panthers when he would prosecute whites for the same thing.Report

      • Bob Cheeks in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, I didn’t want to think that when I started this inquiry but I’m afraid you’re correct.
        Mark, I love you dude.
        But, the League has to seek the truth of stuff. Not Obama’s truth or the state’s truth but reality in existence and we gotta speak it, and embrace it, and defend it.
        ALL Americans have to be equal before the law and only the law. If we accomplish that, well, it’s a great thing.Report

      • greginak in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, oy …just oy f’ing vey. so your assertion is that if a white guy said the same thing would be lynched. Hmmmmm well i wonder if there are examples….again hmmmm i wonder if there were any white guys with histories of racism, like being in the KKK, but then repudiated that and went on to be a successful Dem politicians in a mid-atlantic state until he was 119 years old.

        No scott if a white guy admitted to racism or racist thoughts but repudiated it that would be cool. Wondering why all those black folks just keep oppressing us poor white guys, is just not the same thing.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

          @greginak, on behalf of Bob Cheeks, I’ll ask what I think he was getting at.

          Imagine, if you will, a white guy giving a speech on racism to a white audience. Have him be a guy who works for the government in a similar capacity as Sherrod… and have him tell a similar story. Have him immediately be turned off when they walk into the office, have him ask himself why he should help these black folks when there are so many white folks who have already been harmed, so on and so forth… and have him send the black folks off to a black lawyer.

          Now, let’s get to the good part. He sees the light, he helps out the black folks, they love him now, they say he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body.

          What would the reaction to this story be like?

          And, my point (I guess) would be: would the sides be reversed and using the arguments they’re now calling specious?Report

          • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, (and, for the record, I know that it’s impossible to make a 1:1 analogy given the history of the colors involved, and the social dynamics, and what have you… the culture will not allow for a 1:1 analogy. I know.)Report

            • Rufus in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, The problem, as far as I can tell is Brother Cheeks poses the question as whether Mark thinks it’s alright for some white guy to say that. Mark doesn’t strike me as an easily-offended PC ideologue, so I’m not sure if he was supposed to say, “If a white man said such a thing, hanging would be too good for him!” or, instead, “Why you’re right! Liberals are hypocritical!” I took the question as asking Mark personally if he would be upset by a white male using specific words in the context of any speech at all, which seemed like the sort of thing that wouldn’t particularly offend me anyway.Report

            • greginak in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, Doesn’t this caveat make the first question a bit moot? In fact your addendum shows why most of the rights racial resentment is poo. Nobody should be racist but the history weighs so heavy that claims of equivalence are ridiculous. And my example about Byrd does seem applicable. he was a KKK member and renounced it. What you grow into is a lot more important then where you start.Report

            • Scott in reply to Jaybird says:


              Why is it impossible to make a 1:1 analogy? Isn’t all racism equally as bad or is this a case where some racism is better or worse than other kinds? Kind of like like when you hear people praising MLK for his message of judging people by their character not skin color but then those same folks turn around and want affirmative action for people of their skin color.Report

            • Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Jaybird, Dudes, Rufus is right! Rufus got it! All I wanted to know is it ok for some white dude to say that he directed some black dude to “his own kind” or something like that without the Left/Blacks/the f*cked up propaganda media causing a shitstorm…that’s all.
              So, boys and girls, what’s up…is the bs over, or are we going to pander a little longer, or a whole lot longer? And, in so doing we are, by definition, questioning the ability of Blacks to live as equal members in community with whites.Report

            • Mark Thompson in reply to Jaybird says:

              @Bob Cheeks, Well if the question is whether I personally think it’s ok for a white guy to say that….well, sure.

              But I thought the question was whether there’d be a shitstorm if a white guy said it. And the answer to that, I think, is context. Whether I think it should cause a shitstorm is another question.Report

          • Bob Cheeks in reply to Jaybird says:

            @Jaybird, Thanks Mark, took us a while to get here.
            Is Ms. Sherrod a racist…well, not in my book. She is rather biased toward or in favor of blacks, e.g. her “people.” I don’t have a problem with that except for one little thingy…she’s a federal bureaucrat dispensing federal largesse and she’s confessed to acting in a biased manner, which she later ‘corrected’ to some degree. She’s guilty of acting in a racist manner against the public, she should’ve been fired…if she were white she’d have been fired, even though she had an epiphany.Report

        • Scott in reply to greginak says:


          Nice try at changing the facts to make the point you want. I’m talking about a white guy doing the exact same thing Shirley did, duh.Report

          • greginak in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, So a more extreme example then what she did doesn’t prove you are wrong….ahhh yeah. And if a white guy had done what she did, you know moving past racism to being a better person, it would be cool.Report

  6. John Howard Griffin says:

    I stopped reading when I got to this line: Most of the stuff you read on blogs is total bullshit anyways.

    The first thing I want to teach is disloyalty till they get used to disusing that word loyalty as representing a virtue. This will beget independence – which is loyalty to one’s best self and principles, and this is often disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes.

    – Mark Twain</blockquoteReport

    • Jaybird in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

      @John Howard Griffin, Good point.

      Loyalty is a handmaiden to the virtues.
      She is not a virtue in her own right.Report

      • John Howard Griffin in reply to Jaybird says:

        @Jaybird, why do humans insist on anthropomorphizing abstract concepts. Is it just a hold over from the Greeks?

        It always sounds strange to my ears.

        But, I agree with your underlying point. Loyalty is not a virtue, and is often a vice. Bush used it as a vice (sorry, E.D., but “Heckuvajob Brownie!” is a virtue?).

        Handmaidens are a poor analogy, unless some of those handmaidens have hidden daggers or are plotting behind the scenes.Report

        • Jaybird in reply to John Howard Griffin says:

          @John Howard Griffin, dude, the Greeks were the bomb.

          It’s more the idea that where you find the virtues, the handmaidens will there be also.

          By themselves, stuff like “loyalty”, “honesty”, “courage”, and whatnot aren’t necessarily virtues. I mean, you can be loyal to a vile person, honestly tell someone that they are physically ugly, or courageously fly a plane into the Twin Towers.Report

          • 62across in reply to Jaybird says:


            “By themselves, stuff like “loyalty”, “honesty”, “courage”, and whatnot aren’t necessarily virtues. I mean, you can be loyal to a vile person, honestly tell someone that they are physically ugly, or courageously fly a plane into the Twin Towers.”

            Beautifully put.Report

  7. ctantiques says:

    ” a white guy would be lynched for saying such a thing, while a black person can get away with it”

    What ridiculous thing to say.

    Somewhere around 75 percent of all people ever lynched were black. Of the 25 percent who were not black 90-92 perent were lynched for aiding blacks. Somehow I doubt a white man would be lynched for anything.Report

    • Scott in reply to ctantiques says:


      Really, clearly you don’t remember the media lynching that Trott Lott received in the media over attempt to be nice to Strom Thurmond.Report

      • greginak in reply to Scott says:

        @Scott, Even if you take the most charitable view of what Lott said, which i think is ridiculous, there is a wee bit of difference between a media lynching and an actual lynching.Report

        • Scott in reply to greginak says:


          Why do you assume the worst about what Lott said? Is it b/c he is a Repub? Do you usually assume the worst about what people say? Lott lost his political life over the incident.Report

          • greginak in reply to Scott says:

            @Scott, First i don’t know why i wouldn’t take somebody praising a segregationist candidacy seriously. You can say he was just trying to make nice to strom, but ….ummm…segregation was bad, real bad. Why make nice to segregation or its proponents. But is there a reason to think it was innocent, but rock stupid thing to say. No his voting record, and that he had said similar statements about segregation previously, gives no reason to believe he was on the side of the angels in terms of race.

            Look Scott if you think sometimes R’s get bashed too quickly on race issues i would agree with you. Some people are way to quick to throw around serious charges like racism. But many R’s can’t seem to admit anything regarding race is a problem unless a black man is being lynched right at that moment.Report

            • Trumwill in reply to greginak says:

              @greginak, some of the most angry voices I heard at the time were from younger, embarrassed Republicans that desperately didn’t want to be associated with that sort of thing. I find it bizarre that Scott would use that incident of all incidents as an example of a white man metaphorically lynched.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              @greginak, First i don’t know why i wouldn’t take somebody praising a segregationist candidacy seriously.

              Here, try this explanation on for size. (This is not an actual defense of Lott, just one that I want to see if you agree that someone could, in theory, hold it in good faith.)

              Strom Thurmond was older than dirt. He was a million years old.

              He was even older than Your Mom (not *YOUR* mom but Your Mom).

              And they had a birthday party for this guy who was a politician who was also a million years old.

              And, at this birthday party, one of the party type said “oh, grampa! If only more folks had listened to you!”

              He was not saying anything serious. He wasn’t even thinking about what he was saying. He was trying to say something nice to a guy who remembered Oliver Cromwell and people jumped all over him like he had been campaigning for the guy’s policies from way back when he was in the House of Commons in Britain.

              He wasn’t “praising a segregationist candidacy”. He was saying something nice to a guy with one foot in the grave.

              There. That’s my best shot.Report

            • Mark Thompson in reply to greginak says:

              @Jaybird, Perhaps, but of course someone could, in good faith, interpret those remarks otherwise, particularly given that Lott was old enough to have grown up during Jim Crow (b. 1941) and from a certain state that went for Thurmond. And, well, the whole use of the term “lynching” to complain about the way a man was treated for praising a presidential candidacy that was objectively geared towards preserving the actual practice of lynching….well, it’s a bit lacking in the self-awareness department.

              Also, too – it’s not as if the person making the complaint about people who “assume the worst about what people say” is lacking in a history of doing precisely that.Report

            • Jaybird in reply to greginak says:

              @Mark Thompson, at the time, I was calling for his ouster.

              Hell, I *STILL* think we’re better off without him in office. Now, as a lobbyist, I think we’d be better off running him out on a rail… but, hey, he does less damage there than with his hands on the levers of power.

              But, honestly, if someone wanted to argue that Lott wasn’t giving us a brief synopsis of his take on Harry Turtledove’s genre but was instead trying to say something nice/banal to an old man at the old man’s birthday party, I’d probably shrug.

              But only after it was confirmed that Lott was, in fact, out of power.Report

            • Bob Cheeks in reply to greginak says:

              @greginak, Hey, did you dudes determine if Ms. Sherrod was discriminatory against non-poor Caucasians? And, outta curiosity is that a ‘good’ thing, as in getting even for slavery and James Crow, or is fifty years of AA payback enough or do we do another fifty? …just curious.Report

  8. Michael Drew says:

    Quite frankly, I could care less what Andrew Breitbart posts. Dealing with Breitbart, I say caveat emptor!

    Now, E.D. Kain is not a hack conservative looking to use whatever Breibart might throw against the wall that sticks in a way that could harm Barack Obama politically, while avoiding responsibility for his methods.

    Really, E.D. is not that kind of actor. I mean, really really. For real.

    But *if he were*, I know what my reaction to the above quote would be.

    Interesting incentive structure, that.Report

    • E.D. Kain in reply to Michael Drew says:

      @Michael Drew, I’m not following you, Mike. Remind me again why the Obama administration should take what Breitbart posts at face value? Would you fire one of your employees based on a post at Big Government?Report

      • Walter McQuie in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain,
        I’d guess that it wasn’t so much anyone took Breitbart’s work at face value as they were concerned that the media would. The real concern was about the arc of the story and they felt that quick action might keep the right’s framing of it from getting a foothold in the MSM coverage.

        One of the truly amazing and clearly unexpected things about this story is that there was such clearly exculpatory evidence available so quickly. Contrast the ACORN video. Over the course of weeks and months, context and further evidence was brought to light that significantly, but not totally, exonerated ACORN. Too late, the narrative of the attackers had taken hold and much damage was done. Not just to the organization, but to the interests of progressive politics–because their right-wing opposition was so energized by the political narrative that took hold. The nuanced view develops after investigation and analysis and never gets the same coverage as the initial hyperventilated telling.

        Would I fire an employee based on something a right-wing propagandist posts about them. Not if I could help it. But what if I ran a non-profit organization that employed dozens of people and assisted thousands of people with disabilities get the most from federally subsidized vocational rehabilitation programs. And I determined that there was a great likelihood that a lengthy scandal of the type intended by the propagandist would result in my organization losing half its funds and a third of its employees. I’d certainly bemoan the nature of this country’s politics, but would I value loyalty to one employee more that loyalty to the mission of my organization? I’m not as certain where the virtue lies as you seem to be.

        OK, you could care less what Andrew Breitbart posts. I think he is a corrosive influence on our political dialogue. Unfortunately, many people with a lot more power than you or I have to shape the political narrative in this country do attend to his rantings. And he knows it. And he utilizes that knowledge to get media coverage that advances his own political agenda. And he knowingly or recklessly presents information in misleading and even deceptive ways in order to do so. When caught he changes the subject, his supporters rally around, the MSM wrings its hands about being fooled once again, and intellectuals muse about what would have happened if the administration had as much spine as they do. But the propagandist lives to fight another day.

        My question for you: is this the sort of battleground you want our political discourse to be fought out on?Report

      • Michael Drew in reply to E.D. Kain says:

        @E.D. Kain, (Coming back to this much later…)

        Nowhere did I say that the administration should have taken Breitbart at face value, so i can’t remind you of my argument to that end. I’m simply reacting to this sentence,”Quite frankly, I could care less what Andrew Breitbart posts.” I don’t think that’s defensible or sustainable, and quite frankly I don’t think you mean it, but you wrote it. We should care what irresponsible things more-powerful-than-average media figures say. Forget about the administration for a moment (which is not to say let them off the hook – but they’re their not Andrew Breitbart, and you directly gave you view about Andrew Breitbart). It just doesn’t fly to not care what people say – you’re in the business of saying stuff so by your own choice of occupation (if still not your full-time career), and you frequently demonstrate that you do care what gets said by whom and how. But you make the flat statement that you don’t care. (I realize you probably meant that in assessing the admin’s actions, it doesn’t get them off the hook that Breitbart did what he did. Fair enough, but that’s not what you wrote, and my whole point is to point out what you actually wrote.) So I’m saying if you were a hack interested only in how any story might be able to reflect negatively on a politician you don’t like, it’s precisely the most convenient thing in the world to not care where a given story comes from or how it was created if it can achieve that end (even if by totally indefensible overreation on their part). So it just doesn’t fly to say we don’t care. There is absolutely nothing preventing us from finding fault with what the government or other leaders do while we also saying we care about the behavior of the media (or tactics in the case of Breitbart). But you did say (write) that you don’t care. That’s exactly what you wrote, quite frankly.Report

  9. margot says:

    Freedom=Ex.17:1., Deut.7:1-3., Deut.7:16,22., Deut.12:29., Deut.19:1.
    Matth.1:1., Matth.5:13-14., Matth.5:37., Matth.5:48., Matth.18:6.
    Matth.5:13-14., Luke 3:9., Luke19:27., Luke 14:26.Report