The Lessons Not Learned

July 21, 2010

The good news is that Shirley Sherrod is being offered her job back. The bad news is that she never should have been forced out in the first place. The badder news is that Andrew Breitbart, the glowering wingnut troll who got her in trouble by posting that maliciously edited video, will suffer no repercussions from his vending of lies and distortions. The even badder news is that the journo-buffoons covering Breitbart’s clown show are still pretending they aren’t the ones who keep the spotlights trained on his antics. And the baddest news of all . . . well, I’ll get to that.

It’s long been obvious that the Republicans have taken the measure of our mass-market media and learned how to plays its weaknesses like a nasty-sounding fiddle. Take this Daily Beast writeup by Lloyd Grove. Savor the smug insidery tone, the feigned obliviousness to the role Grove himself plays in providing this grubby smear merchant with a national platform, the craven avoidance of anything resembling a direct challenge to Breitbart’s pretzel-twisting and weasel-word evasions. Wouldn’t want to be accused of liberal media bias, after all.

Gutless simp. There are entirely too many like Grove in our national press corps, so I don’t really think anything is going to change. I mean, Breitbart’s sordid habits were well known before this. Nobody can say any of the subsequent revelations about the nature of the video, and the way it was edited to turn a speech about overcoming racism into an example of it, were a surprise. The only principle he recognizes is constant partisan attack, without regard for the facts or the personal damage he does. Despite repeated demonstrations of his unreliability, Breitbart knows he need only lay back a while and throw out another piece of poisoned bait. Our media figures will chase after it like stampeding pigs.

As of today, I will hear no more condescending lectures about how liberals and progressives have no reason to complain about the Obama administration, how we should all just zip up and let the realists and centrists chart the course and content ourselves with the half-loaf, quarter-loaf, or whatever other fraction of a loaf is supposed to leave us breathless with joy.

I held my tongue while the “realists” threw out the public option before negotiations even started, left an insurance-company stooge like Joe Lieberman in a position of influence, watered down the financial reform bill, and generally acted as though the Republicans were legitimately interested in the good faith stewardship of national government. The plain fact of the matter is that these realists got rolled. And they didn’t get rolled by some master tactician, either. They got rolled by a professional snake-in-the-grass whose modus operandi is so  well known that even a Faux News host refused to soil his hands with the story. For such a band of competent, hard-headed realists, that’s a pretty shallow learning curve. Maybe its time to start listening to those wacky, starry-eyed hippies. They could hardy have been more gullible.

It may be the case that the Republicans have gotten so crazy, so hateful in their behavior and so blatant in their moves to hinder economic recovery, that voters will reject them in November.  We can only hope. That’s the baddest news of all — we are reduced to that hope. Our side has the best ideas and the best way forward, and yet we have to cross our fingers and hope Congress will not be overrun by an even bigger bedlam of liars, loons, and looters. What a disgusting situation.

There’s a scene toward the end of Sweet Smell of Success when Sydney Falco confronts the corrupt columnist J.J. Hunsecker and says, “J.J., you have such contempt for people, it’s making you stupid.” Breibart, the wannabe Hunsecker, has been brazenly telling all and sundry that he had no idea who edited the video, and that he simply posted it on his site without regard for even rudimentary fact-checking. That’s pretty stupid on his part. In fact, I’d call that an admission of reckless disregard. I think a judge would call it that, too. I hope Sherrod finds herself a good lawyer and sues Andrew Breitbart into next Sunday. He’s got enough money to buy his way out with a settlement, but a lawsuit might begin the long overdue process of cleansing our hoplessly polluted national discourse.

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