The Shirley Sherrod story has been an embarrassment to just about everyone concerned. The White House, the Department of Agriculture, Fox News, and many in the conventional news bureaus and the conservative Internet. Sadly the person who should be most embarrassed is Andrew Breitbart who, due to his suffering from an acute case of sociopathic narcissism, is incapable of registering normal expressions of shame or decency.
Surprisingly, this unfortunate affair has produced a remarkable eruption of insight from an unlikely source. Mark Halperin of Time Magazine has owned up to a failing of the Convention Media that is not often acknowledged by someone within their own ranks:
“The Sherrod story is a reminder […] that the old media are often swayed by controversies pushed by the conservative new media. In many quarters of the old media, there is concern about not appearing liberally biased, so stories emanating from the right are given more weight and less scrutiny.”
No shit! This is something that has been obvious to conscious observers for years. The right has so befuddled the cowardly martinets of the media that any whiff of potential liberalism is received with a near hysterical recoiling. Regardless of how rooted in the truth it is, grown reporters and editors flinch and quickly avert their brains. This is an acquired response brought on by decades of conservative behavioral training – AKA working the refs.
Halperin’s sudden wakefulness is not universally held. Last month the ombudsman at the Washington Post, Andrew Alexander, published a demented apology to conservatives, going so far as to declare that…
“…traditional news outlets like The Post simply don’t pay sufficient attention to conservative media or viewpoints.”
Alexander’s position that conservatives don’t get sufficient attention is in stark contrast to Halperin’s position that conservatives are given more weight. Alexander cited stories about ACORN and Van Jones to support his thesis. As it turns out, both of those stories were as phony as the one about Sherrod being a racist, but I have yet to see the Post’s correction or adjustment to their editorial policy. In fact, Alexander’s journalistic dyslexia is precisely what Halperin is warning against. Halperin continues…
“Additionally, the conservative new media, particularly Fox News Channel and talk radio, are commercially successful, so the implicit logic followed by old-media decisionmakers is that if something is gaining currency in those precincts, it is a phenomenon that must be given attention. Most dangerously, conservative new media will often produce content that is so provocative and incendiary that the old media find it irresistible.”
What this boils down to is old-fashioned greed. Whether lured by the success of Fox News or the lust for controversy, these are both aspirations that translate into dollars. So the old media is simply aligning itself with the oldest profession.
The saddest part of this is that the White House has once again been seduced by these whores. This is pretty much what they should expect after allowing themselves to be bullied into casting off Van Jones. That sort of victory is like blood in the water to rightist thugs. Now they think they can get whatever they want by fabricating smears and disseminating falsehoods to a compliant press corps. That’s why they do it.
We’ve come along way from the days when former White House Communications Directer Anita Dunn told CNN’s Howard Kurtz that Fox News is “the communications arm of the Republican Party.” Or the days when David Axelrod and Rahm Emanuel went on the air and correctly pointed out that Fox News is “not a news organization.” How did we get from there to last week’s disgraceful submission by the administration to Breitbart’s deceitful campaign of lies?
It is well past time that people recognize that Fox News, Breitbart, and the rest of the rightist press, are not credible practitioners of journalism. We don’t have to respond to their invented scenarios. We must not assign them credibility. We can turn down their invitations to appear on their programs. They do not deserve to be treated as if they were legitimate journalists. And above all, never make an important decision because of some story they initiated. They are liars!
Is that clear enough? If Mark Halperin can see it, then surely the rest of the media can.