Fox News: The Lynchmob’s Ticket Agent

sherrodThe media-manufactured spectacle that is and was the Shirley Sherrod incident tells us all we need to know about Andrew Brietbart, Fox “News” and the dangers of extremist hack media – unregulated, irresponsible and unethical – run amok.

Of course, I speak of the firing of the U.S. Department of Agriculture official, based on a heavily edited video of a speech she gave at an NAACP event in Georgia. Ms. Sherrod is the wife of a SNCC cofounder, and she became a civil rights activist after her father, a black farmer, was lynched by a white farmer. Ms. Sherrod described how she overcame her reluctance to give her all in helping a white farmer who acted superior towards her. In the end, she helped him. She realized that the issue was not as much about race as it was about poor whites and poor blacks finding themselves in the same situation. And good for her.

But the doctored-up video, brought to us by conservative blogger and hatchet manAndrew Breitbart, made Sherrod appear as if she denied assistance to the white farmer, end of story. And Breitbart has lots of practice at this sort of thing, fraud, that is, as the “person” who introduced to us, via Fox News, the fabricated ACORN pimp video that brought down the nonprofit organization.

It’s not as if we should have been surprised this time around, yet some people were. Many reporters were snookered. The NAACP was hoodwinked. And most of all, the seemingly invertebrate Obama administration was so fooled, or scared, or both, that they fired the woman without due process. I’m sorry, even worse, they forced Ms. Sherrod to pull over the car and type her resignation on her blackberry. And as awise man once said, “There’s an old saying in Tennessee – I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee – that says, fool me once, shame on – shame on you. Fool me – you can’t get fooled again.”

To watch the lambasting of Shirley Sherrod on Fox News, before the facts were known, was unbearable. At the same time, one should not depend on Fox for actual news. You could conceivably drink a tall glass of soy sauce with dinner and pretend it is a beverage, but it wasn’t intended for that purpose.

It is safe to say that Fox News, like its movie and television divisions, is pure entertainment, that is, if you get your entertainment from a lynchmob.

And lynchings in this country once were considered a form of entertainment by some, believe it or not. Often the victim – typically a black man accused of insulting a white woman, or perhaps a black man having the nerve to wear his army uniform, or just any black man walking – was beaten, burned, stabbed or hanged. Often, torture and castration was involved, and various unspeakable body parts were cut off as souvenirs. White women and young children were on hand with picnic basketsto observe in the family-like atmosphere. Railroad agents even sold tickets to the events. And frequently among the instigators and participants were not only lowlife good ol’ boys, but the community’s business and political leadership.

In today’s polarizing political climate with declining journalistic standards, sloppy fact checking and faltering government oversight, Fox News serves as the ticket agent to the lynching. They even handle the promotion and advertising. They participate in a high-tech media lynching of sorts, somewhat akin to what Justice Clarence Thomas described at his confirmation hearings, except that he was (and still is) full of it.

Like the politicized Bush Justice Department under the guidance of Karl Rove, Fox News and other conservative media decide on a narrative beforehand, and lie and fabricate to fit that narrative. The Bush DOJ, stacked with an army of televangelist law school graduates, pursued imaginary cases of voter fraud, anti-white voter intimidation and discrimination against Christians. Those prosecutors who did not comply were fired.

Similarly, Fox is filled with vacuous news models who dutifully read the scripts prepared for them. The hot topic these days among the conservative movement is the myth of rampant black racism against whites, and the truth be damned. This narrative serves an important purpose for Republicans, which is to energize the Tea Party base, and kick out the Democrats in the midterms and in 2012. Then once they impeach Obama, they’ll finish off the job of ruining the country through asupply-side nightmare that Bush came close to fulfilling. It’s that deep, and yet that simple.

Don’t get me wrong, freedom of speech is a beautiful thing. As a writer, I appreciate the ability to speak and write freely about this or any other issue. But inciting a lynchmob is quite another matter. What we’re witnessing is the use of the media specifically to spread lies, defame, and hurt groups of people, in this case based on race, solely for political gain. And that’s downright dangerous and antidemocratic. Why, that’s the type of thing you would expect from one of those fascist and communist governments that the ultra-conservatives so vocally decry, guilty as they are of psychological projection.

david lovePropagandists without shame, the folks at Fox and others of their ilk would have done well for themselves under the employ of a repressive regime. Surely they would have used their media manipulation skills to publicly dehumanize unpopular groups. Certainly they would have shaped public opinion by scapegoating defenseless minorities, thereby paving the way for laws to make them disappear. And I can’t help but think that someone such as Glenn Beck, or the troubled, attention-craving, perpetually angry Breitbart, would have felt at home in aRwandan radio station in 1994, inciting violence by encouraging Hutus to exterminate the Tutsi “cockroaches”.

Harsh words? No, harsh people. There’s no telling what they’d do if given half the chance.

David A. Love

This article first  in The Black Commentator and is republished with permission.

Published by the LA Progressive on July 30, 2010
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About David A. Love

BlackCommentator.com Executive Editor, David A. Love, JD, is a lawyer and journalist based in Philadelphia, and a contributor to the Progressive Media Project, McClatchy-Tribune News Service, In These Times and Philadelphia Independent Media Center. He contributed to the book, States of Confinement: Policing, Detention, and Prisons (St. Martin's Press, 2000). Love is a former Amnesty International UK spokesperson, organized the first national police brutality conference as a staff member with the Center for Constitutional Rights, and served as a law clerk to two Black federal judges. His blog is davidalove.com.

Comments

  1. Stephanie says:

    Thanks, The Black Commentator. Always great articles.

    Here is what Keith Olbermann had to say last week about the incident, the Fox News propaganda machine, and much more:

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3096434/#38353508

    While searching for the above clip to watch it again, I found this guy’s commentary about the Fox News “made-up stories”:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=US8ZqwitKGM

  2. Marshall says:

    I notice no one wants to talk about or give credit to fox Beck show for taking up for the lady. It must really hurt that you can not also list Beck as a jerk who spoke against Sherrod. As for Breitbart,who had the NAACP tape for months, only released the part he had (he did not have all) after the NAACP meeting starting calling the “tes bags” names and he wanted to show that “ALL” groups have some folks who are not perfect. As for the pimp tapes, that may have been a hit job, but it disclosed the truth to all, some people will do anything for money and it showed how dishonest ACORN was and is. You can say one thing for progressives, they will say what they want the truth to be and the facts be dammed.

  3. Breitbart instigated the high-tech lynching of an uppity black organization.

  4. Well, we cannot regulate what people say; we’ll get into endless trouble with all the Principalities and Powers of the World if we allow that.

    But we can hold people accountable for what that they do. If the Godfather tells his two goons, “I want you to take him for a ride”, nodding to the guy tied up on the chair, he really cannot claim the First Amendment as a defense in court; no more than if he yells “Fire” in a crowded theater.

    The distinction between speech and action is inevitably a bit blurry, but we have done fairly well at protecting it in the past. Our libel and defamation laws are not perfect, but pretty good, for example.

    I think spending millions to blanket the media with advertising about politics, as about cigarette smoking, is action, not free speech.

    Making a political pamphlet (“Common Sense”) freely available does involve action, but as long as people are not forced to read it, as long as it does not blanket their lives and preempt other messages, but spreads maybe hand-to-hand, by word-of-mouth, or nowadays as a chain on the Internet, that seems like it should be protected.

    All this must be worked out in Congress (dysfunctional), and the courts (with SCOTUS implacably riding herd over them).

    Which brings me back to November. Let’s get out there and protect our bare grip on Congress and expand it if we can. It is OK to be the underdogs for the moment, as underestimating the enemy is a prescription for disaster. But let’s not despair or acquiesce in a desperate situation. Obama has pulled rabbits out of the hat before.

    Tutu said, “We are prisoners of hope.” He should know.

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