Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Breitbart Delendus Est

What Andrew Breitbart did wrong:

1) He either edited - or received it already edited - a video of Shirley Sherrod at an NAACP convention discussing her evolving beliefs on race, in which Sherrod admitted that 24 years ago as a state-level agricultural employee in Georgia she wasn't helping a White farming family as much as she would for a Black family.  The video clip that Breitbart shows on his website (I refuse to link to him) ends rather abruptly, suggesting there was more to what she said.  And there was...

2) Rather than present the whole of Sherrod's speech or dig any deeper, Breitbart immediately presents the video clip on his website.  To describe the video clip, Breitbart claims "...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."  Breitbart essentially claims Sherrod is a racist, which can be a defaming and possibly libelous thing to write.

3) Breitbart fails to conduct any pre-posting research or any discernible follow-up, for example doing any work to find the white farming family that Sherrod supposedly discriminated (it's up to other reporters and media outlets to find the Spooners).  If he did any research like that, he doesn't demonstrate it on his website on his own initiative.  For example when other news outlets uncover the full video clip of Sherrod's speech, only then does Breitbart link it on his site.

And why did Breitbart do wrong?

Because Sherrod had more to her tale, and Breitbart avoided or ignored it.

If Breitbart had done his research, or found a full video of Sherrod's speech, he'd have heard the rest of it where Sherrod gains insight, rejects her hardened attitudes towards whites, goes out of her way to work harder to save that White family's farm, and ends up befriending them.  In other words, Sherrod proves she's not a racist (to wit, "It's not about Black or White, it's about being poor"), and openly called on others to think the same.

Linkage to Glenn Greenwald about why Sherrod is the heroine of the month.  Additional linkage to Greenwald letters where he thinks (FINALLY I might add.  I say this because I'd emailed him earlier about OTHER times that innocent people got slimed by FOX News and their ilk) that Sherrod has an actionable case against Breitbart and FOX News.

Personally, as a Journalism college graduate (Bachelors, University of Florida) I sincerely believed Breitbart committed an act of libel.  He posted with malicious intent (calling Sherrod a racist), he posted using incorrect and deceitful materials (the edited video clip), he posted without having done any deeper research into the matter (the thing I would have done: find the white farmers who would have been discriminated against and getting their side of the story.  It's called The Human Element and it gets your readers/viewers' attention a lot quicker).  Worse of all: Breitbart cannot claim a defense against libel because Breitbart WAS NOT TELLING THE TRUTH (he commits Lie By Omission by either editing Sherrod's tale or using an edit given to him.  Given Breitbart's track record, I have every reason to believe he made the edit, and you're going to have to prove me otherwise).

I hope to God Sherrod's talking to a lawyer about going after Breitbart and FOX News (who took Breitbart's story and ran with it).  It has been too damn long that any news media outlet has been held accountable like this.  It has been especially a long time for FOX News to answer for their many journalistic sins.

And until he does go away, either by explusion from an embarrassed conservative media corps or by lawsuit, this is all I have to say about Breitbart from now on.

Breitbart Delendus Est.

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