Michael Gaynor
Conservatives beware! Andrew Breitbart changed teams, not tactics
By Michael Gaynor
July 22, 2010

We need the truth to prevail, not lies, and conservatives do themselves a debilitating disservice by embracing Alinskyism instead of truth.

Abraham Lincoln was right: "If you once forfeit the confidence of your fellow citizens, you can never regain their respect and esteem. It is true that you may fool all the people some of the time; you can even fool some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time."

Andrew Breitbart is no Abraham Lincoln.

In "Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism 2010" (http://biggovernment.com/abreitbart/2010/07/19/video-proof-the-naacp-awards-racism2010/), Breitbart, publisher of BigGovernment.com, lead with a declaration that "[c]ontext is everything" and followed with a claim that "you will see video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient."

The claim was bogus, but the illusion was powerful.

Breitbart wrote:

"We are in possession of a video from in which Shirley Sherrod, USDA Georgia Director of Rural Development, speaks at the NAACP Freedom Fund dinner in Georgia. 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.

"In the first video, Sherrod describes how she racially discriminates against a white farmer. She describes how she is torn over how much she will choose to help him. And, she admits that she doesn't do everything she can for him, because he is white. Eventually, her basic humanity informs that this white man is poor and needs help. But she decides that he should get help from 'one of his own kind.' She refers him to a white lawyer.

"Sherrod's racist tale is received by the NAACP audience with nodding approval and murmurs of recognition and agreement. Hardly the behavior of the group now holding itself up as the supreme judge of another groups' racial tolerance."

NOW we know that this was grossly misleading.

Breitbart cleverly reported in the present tense, but the video really showed Ms. Sherrod 'fessing up to racially discriminating nearly a quarter of a century ago and regretting it.

It turned out to be bad for Ms. Sherrod, and the Obama Administration, and the NAACP, and basically the media across the political spectrum that took what Breitbart provided at face value.

But the truth quickly came out and on July 21, 2010, David Frum was inspired to post an impassioned piece titled "Shirley Sherrod and the shame of conservative media" (http://theweek.com/bullpen/column/205190/shirley-sherrod-and-the-shame-of-conservative-media).

Frum's main point: "When Andrew Breitbart unveils a selectively edited tape to defame a federal employee, conservatives blame Barack Obama."

The truth is that the Obama Administration, the NAACP and the news media overreacted greatly to a grossly misleading report.

That doesn't excuse any of those "snookered," of course, but Breitbart and his apologists have discredited themselves and the sins of others do not absolve them.


"You want to see media bias in action? Okay look at the conservative media reaction to the firing of Shirley Sherrod.

"Sherrod is the former U.S. Department of Agriculture employee fired for supposed anti-white racism. On July 19, Andrew Breitbart's BigGovernment.com website posted a short video clip from a speech Sherrod had delivered to an NAACP gathering in March.

"In the clip, Sherrod confessed to having deliberately declined on racial grounds to help a white farmer faced with a foreclosure on his farm. She was immediately terminated by the USDA and condemned by the national NAACP.

"But a second look at the tape made it obvious that the tape had been severely edited, abruptly cut short. Within hours it emerged that the story on the tape was exactly the opposite of the story Breitbart had wanted to tell.

"Conservative pundits justify fraudulent journalism on the grounds that all is fair in war."

The solution to left-wing Alinskyism is not right-wing Alinskyism, but in the Breitbart world that's the belief. See "Context Is Everything. NAACP's Jealous 'Snookered' Himself" (http://biggovernment.com/laborunionreport/2010/07/21/context-is-everything-naacps-jealous-snookered-himself/#more-146946), where Breitbart is praised for "brilliantly" using Alinsky Power Tactic #13 ("pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it" against the NAACP and the White House is criticized for being "unintentionally caught...in the net as well" and "attempting to pose as victims to some nefarious trickery" even though "[t]he flaw in their argument...is that they did it to themselves."

Frum continued:

"Sherrod was telling a story about overcoming her own racial antagonisms. She had repented, had helped the white farmer, had saved the farm, had formed a friendship with the farmer and his family that lasts to this day. Besides which: The episode in question dates back to 1986, long before Sherrod ever went to work at the USDA.

"By the morning of July 20 the Sherrod-as-racist narrative had collapsed.

"What is most fascinating about that second day, however, was the conservative reaction to the collapse. At midday on the 20th, Rush Limbaugh was still praising Breitbart: 'I know that Andrew Breitbart's done great work getting this video of Ms. Sherrod at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and her supposed racism and so forth saying she's not gonna help a white farmer.'

"By the evening of the 20th, however, conservatives were backing away, acknowledging that an innocent women had been defamed."

We need the truth to prevail, not lies, and conservatives do themselves a debilitating disservice by embracing Alinskyism instead of truth.

Frum lamented:

"But you'll never guess who emerged as the villains of the story in this second-day conservative react. Not Andrew Breitbart, the distributor of a falsified tape. No, the villains were President Obama and the NAACP for believing Breitbart's falsehood.

"Breitbart went almost universally unmentioned. Erickson even justified Breitbart's falsehood as a tragic but necessary and justifiable measure of conservative self-defense: 'This is what we have become in politics because of the unrepentant race-baiting on the Left. It has become a tit for tat war of retribution. ... That war has casualties on both sides. Ms. Sherrod is the latest. It is not fair. But that's how the Left plays and the Right must fight on offense or not fight at all. It disgusts me to have to say it, but that is so very sadly where we are.'

"Breitbart himself had this to say about those who would manipulate the public record for ideological purposes: 'Journalists love whistle-blowers. Just not when the whistle is blown on them. Journalists love transparency. As long as they're not the ones being exposed. No steadfast journalism rule is unbendable when it comes to justifying and protecting the racket that is modern journalism, specifically, political journalism in the United States today. The ends justify the means .... They lie when they claim to be objective. They lie when they claim to be unbiased, because these so called "truth seekers" are guilty of engaging in open political warfare. And when the whistle is blown, they simply double down.

"But that of course was not a confession or apology. Breitbart continues to defend his own 'ends justify the means' bending of the truth...."

Frum is confident that Breitbart will move on undamaged (and that would be bad for conservatives).


"On the phone on the evening of July 20, a friend asked me: 'Can Breitbart possibly survive?' I could only laugh incredulously. I answered: 'Of course he'll survive, and undamaged. The incident won't matter at all.'

"There will be no apology or statement of regret for distributing a doctored tape to defame and destroy someone. There will be not even a flutter of interest among conservatives in discussing Breitbart's role. By the morning of July 21, the Fox & Friends morning show could devote a segment to the Sherrod case without so much as a mention of Breitbart's role. The central fact of the Sherrod story has been edited out of the conservative narrative, just as it was edited out of the tape itself."


"With regard to the initial media coverage of the resignation of USDA Official Shirley Sherrod, we have come to the conclusion we were snookered by Fox News and Tea Party Activist Andrew Breitbart into believing she had harmed white farmers because of racial bias.

"Having reviewed the full tape, spoken to Ms. Sherrod, and most importantly heard the testimony of the white farmers mentioned in this story, we now believe the organization that edited the documents did so with the intention of deceiving millions of Americans."

Conservatives lose when they turn to Saul Alinsky as a role model or accept from Alinsky acolyte Breitbart tactics they would excoriate radicals for using.

The lesson that needs to be learned: don't blithely accept stories at face value and seek the whole story, IN CONTEXT.

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
(See RenewAmerica's publishing standards.)

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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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