Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | July 21, 2010

It’s WHO Rushed to Judgment…And How They Rushed

Conservatives (and no doubt some of the more thoughtful on the left) are mulling this incident with the video of Shirley Sherrod, Breitbart’s posting of it, and Sherrod’s subsequent resignation, under pressure, from her post with the federal government.

Rovin makes the point at Hot Air’s Green Room that the Alinskyite left has been basically hoist on its own petard in this instance – which in one sense is true, although I’m not sure we’ve seen the conclusion of the whole story yet.

It’s a valid question how “Alinskyite” the Breitbart editorial decision actually was.  It appears the original video posting cut Ms. Sherrod’s comments off without her follow-on explanation, in the speech she was making, that she recognized the racism in her own attitude (toward a white farmer) during the incident she was describing.  It seems unlikely that the Breitbart video editor didn’t recognize the mitigating quality of this acknowledgment by Sherrod.

But there is a difference between poor journalistic judgment and Alinskyite cherry-picking.  Selecting the quotes or passages that make your point (as opposed to the original speaker’s) isn’t identical to selecting the ones that, out of context, make the speaker look bad.  From what I can tell about this incident, it appears the Breitbart editorial decision fell in the gray area of potential overlap between these two practices, where a flashing neon light should have gone off for somebody.

**UPDATE**  TOC rushed to publish, and has just learned that Breitbart says he received the video originally in its edited form.  So the whole discourse here on editing video would be better couched as a comment on researching edited videos when they’re sent to you.  Small-time bloggers don’t necessarily have the resources to do that (and should therefore be extremely careful what they link to), but Breitbart does have them. **UPDATE**

Video is a medium in which the editor of a clip has a special responsibility to ensure the full context is available, if he expects to be understood as showing good faith.  A blogger quoting from another online source can simply link to the original and inherently make the whole context available, even if he doesn’t block-quote it from top to bottom.  A video editor is presenting a stand-alone snatch of information or story, and should employ a stricter standard for what he decides to leave out.

So I do think Team Breitbart showed bad judgment in the editing of the original clip.  Andrew Breitbart said on CNN that the purpose of airing the clip was not to attack Shirley Sherrod but to demonstrate that racist attitudes are common and receive sympathy at NAACP gatherings – with the larger point being that this is what the NAACP official recently accused the Tea Party movement of.  Well and good; but the barest modicum of professionalism would, in my view, have chosen a different and less questionable point at which to cut the video clip off.  Now that Glenn Beck has weighed in, the infosphere is buzzing with the mangled theme that Breitbart doctored the video (which I don’t think Beck said, and of which there is no evidence, but I am certainly seeing the garbled rumor crop up in my email queue and across a sampling of blogs).  There’s is a negative theme developing about his editorial integrity that Breitbart could have avoided.

But all that said, the real story here is that there was no temperate, dispassionate due process applied by her superiors in the case of Ms. Sherrod’s job with the Department of Agriculture.  The department simply reacted like Pavlov’s dog hearing a bell ring.  Everyone feels sorry for Ms. Sherrod – I do myself – but the fact is that she did say what she was captured saying in the video of the NAACP event (a discourse that implied she treated a white farmer unfairly, although apparently the event she referred to occurred before she was employed with DOA).  In no sense of justice does it matter whether Breitbart edited the video to cut off part of her comments.  She said the words; she is not being accused falsely, and Agriculture should have had no difficulty obtaining the whole, unedited video, or investigating the event to which she alluded.

But it appears Agriculture didn’t try, before pressuring her to resign.  And that is the problem.  That’s the story here:  she was pressured to resign over this, without the hearing and the review process that would have been required for the department to fire her.  She was not given the benefit of the rule-of-law doubt that our governments at the federal and state level have routinely proclaimed to be unbreachable for all workers, public and private.  Should any American, of any race or ethnicity, be subject to that?

And as Rovin implies, what we need to remember is who carried out this kind of mob rule: this abandonment of the rule of law because of a passing paroxysm of sentiment.  If George W. Bush were still in office, I am very certain that Shirley Sherrod would not have been pressured to resign without the due process to which all federal employers are entitled under the U.S. Code.

Cross-posted at Hot Air.



  1. Besides having received the tape as he posted it (which you updated your posting to say), Breitbart also called on the NAACP to review the entire tape (which they had) before rushing to judgement. He also called on the NAACP to send him a copy of the full video so that he could correct any errors that he might have made.

    I think this shows the difference between the “Left” and the “Right”. Not only did he acknowledge what had happened, but he asked the NAACP to send him the video so that he could correct himself.

    Note that the NAACP and the Administration did not bother to check the full video (which they had) before rushing to judgement.

  2. The NAACP has been denouncing “racists” on the flimsiest of evidence and even clearly false “evidence” for decades. It’s a little late in the game for the organization to get all scrupulous.

    Sherrod almost certainly got exactly the treatment she would have dished out had the shoe been on the other foot.

    • Sherrod almost certainly got exactly the treatment she would have dished out had the shoe been on the other foot.


  3. No, opticon, the real story here is that Breitbart pushed the lie far enough that people bit.

    Blaming the government is entirely appropriate and the government has a duty not to act on the word of a worthless man such as Breitbart.

    But pretending that Breitbart hasn’t done this before and won’t continue to deceive people for as long as he is able, is also wrong.
    It’s what he does and what he thinks that he should do.

    He’s just wrong.

    • I’m not very familiar with Breitbart.

      You call him a “worthless man” and state that he “pushed a lie”.

      Do you dispute the comment of Sabba Hillel above that Brietbart “called on the NAACP to review the entire tape (which they had) before rushing to judgement. He also called on the NAACP to send him a copy of the full video so that he could correct any errors that he might have made”

      If you don’t dispute it, how do you square the contradiction between those public actions and your characterization of Brietbart as “worthless”?

      Specifically, when and how has Breitbart “done this before”?

      You state that Brietbart will “continue to deceive people for as long as he is able…It’s what he does and what he thinks that he should do”.

      What evidence can you provide in support of such a serious charge?

      Finally, an inability to provide such evidence, would be itself evidence in support for your basically implying that the very act of questioning liberals on the left is tantamount to, ‘an intention to deceive’. Which would make you an intellectually dishonest ideologue.

  4. Consider the possibility that Breitbart was had. Dump a selectively edited video on the opposition, then spring the trap if he takes the bait.

    Ms. Sherrod’s real offense was being more honest than this Administration’s minions are permitted to be.

  5. Cousin V — that’s certainly what a number of commenters are thinking over at Hot Air. Obviously it’s not something I have insider insight on.

    GB — a noble response to fuster, if probably something of a misuse of time. Perhaps fuster will supply us with links to when Breitbart has “done this before”?

    The formulation is at least a good pretext for humor. I can think of thousands of circumstances in which one of us might say something — e.g., “Did you hear about Murder Suspect X being identified?” or “I see an accident up ahead” or “Oh, darn, there are ants coming in behind the sink” — and fuster describing us as “pretending this hasn’t happened/been done before” because we didn’t list all the instances that other people might be aware of in which something similar transpired.

    I have no knowledge of Breitbart accepting and publishing an edited video in this manner and with this kind of outcome before. But I’d appreciate any links you have, fuster.

    • see O’Keefe.

      • Link?

      • Here’s the I publish it, and endorse it, but I’m not really responsible for whether it’s true, opticon…..

        “How can I describe the video I watched? Is it a put on? I almost can’t believe what I am seeing. But with regards to ACORN, the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, I am quite cynical. So I do believe it.

        But I still find myself wanting to believe it is fake. It’s just too weird. It’s too wrong. But James continuously reassures me it’s real.”’keefe/


  6. I don’t think Breitbart was “had”. I think he was attempting to do what he set out to do, although I admit that while I took it to be an indictment of the NAACP I see where others took it to be an indictment of her. I just think Breitbart should have more directly noted that so as to allay any confusion. Of course at the time he only had the clip – and probably was unaware of the nuance of Sherrod’s comments.

    But as to that, I think she also isn’t so worthy of pity. Watching the entire video tells us 1) she did discrminate against the farmer and and gave the token advice only because he was poor – a wealthy white farmer she would have continued to allow her prejudice to flow unabated.

    Andy McCarthy has printed some of her final comments and to me she is an unmitigated racist still – I think it makes her look as bad as the initial video.

    Breitbart caught the racists at the NAACP.

    • I watched the entire NCAAP video. At the 23.50 point in the video Sherrod makes the statement that Republicans (aka “white people”) are racists. All because they oppose ObamaCare due to the fact that Obama is a “black” president.

      Yes, the clip that Breitbart posted may not have have shown her to be racist with that particular statement but there is no doubting the fact that Shirley Sherrod IS a racist.

  7. Honestly, they demand that Breitbart do everything,
    well he wasn’t there, he got the clip from someone,
    the Media throws template after template out there
    mostly founded on misperceptions or out right lies

  8. It’s conceivable, specially considering the Pigford settlement with her coop, her long standing radical
    roots, than Vinnie’s conclusion is right.

    OT, it’s become increasingly impossible to be at the Czar’s blog of late, I see why some have come here, it feels like the argument clinic over there

    • The stream over there at ZC seems to have become excuse city and truth is not something we would like to find. It feels like a junior high social studies class where the teacher is trying to tell you that executing adultresses (who were raped by their male relative/husband) is a nuanced reaction that requires better understanding of Islam – not a condemnation. If everything is relative, there is no truth and it comes down to who is willing to push the hardest for their way.

      Not sure why it turned that way, but its a free country you can do what you like how you like.

  9. The link is fun, fuster, but now I’m not sure what point you’re making.

    Do you suggest that what was revealed through the O’Keefe videos was later demonstrated to be incomplete or to represent editing with a political motive?

    I’m not aware of any factual demonstration that the content of the O’Keefe videos is either invalid or misleadingly selective. That’s what would make the O’Keefe situation analogous to the Sherrod situation. Breitbart’s caveat in presenting the O’Keefe video isn’t a logical analogue to anything that happened with the Sherrod video.

    • yeah, I am suggesting that it was both incomplete and dishonest.
      perhaps the CA AG report about O’keefe’s tapes 4/1/10 might actually have said the same.

  10. Link, please?

  11. karenoid — welcome, and my apologies for the delay in your first comment appearing. That only happens once (unless, like some of the treasured regulars here, you tend to flit from email address to email address when entering comments. When that happens, there has to be another one-time approval).

    Anyway, it keeps down the spam. Unfortunately, Shirley Sherrod did say things that can only be construed as racist. Apparently her family was brutally harassed by the KKK when she was a child, and that does make a difference to how I perceive her “racism” — not, that is, as an attitude she put on unthinkingly, out of blind adherence to a social pattern, but because of wrongs she suffered personally. Of course, we all “should” be able to see beyond race, and not blame whole races for the actions of a few, but I can understand why it may take people a lifetime to let go of some injuries from the past.

    The real wrong being done, in my view, is by our political leaders who have encouraged and exploited the resentment harbored by some of us against others. Someone like Sherrod gets away with bringing her grievances into her professional activities because that feeds the beast of Victim Politics. Demagogues don’t care that it makes an individual miserable to spend her life resenting injustice and wanting to repay it eye for eye. They encourage the worst in people because it serves their purposes, regardless of what it does to others.

    I think we need to make it Job 1 to get our politics out of that destructive, self-reinforcing do-loop. It’s not true, as too many “independents” and leftists claim, that all politicians stir us up against each other. That’s a cop-out. There are politicians who don’t, and we need to go more for them and less for the demagogues.

    Again, welcome to the blog, and don’t be shy.

  12. nay it’s not heretical dualism fitting deplored, but revival of the flittest apres a computer crash and burn.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: