How Andrew Breitbart, And The Conservative New Media, Failed

Andrew Breitbart is still patting himself on the back for a job well done in the Shirley Sherrod affair. In reality, he failed miserably.

Commenting on Dan Riehl’s Human Events article In Defense Of Andrew Breitbart, Rick Moran explains why the Shirley Sherrod affair is a perfect example of epistemic closure on the right side of the aisle:

It’s not so much what Breitbart did but what he failed to do; explain the context of the video and give a reason why this edited snippet of tape about an incident that occurred 24 years ago  is relevant to making his case. A more vigorous, less closed conservative media might have pushed those questions to the forefront, challenging their colleagues on the basis of fairness and transparency. Instead, no one dared challenge the narrative lest they be accused of being “liberal” or simply wanting to please the liberal media so they would be invited to the best cocktail parties. Since any such challenge would be rejected out of hand, none was made by those who fear to be ostracized by the group for their apostasy.

Moran is exactly right.

Breitbart clearly didn’t bother to check into either the accuracy of the video that he received, or to put it in its correct context, and, after he posted it on Monday morning, it was picked up by the conservative blogosphere with very few people questioning either its relevance or its accuracy. Instead, they fed into a media firestorm that led to audio of the speech being played on Sean Hannity’s radio show that afternoon and, finally, to Shirley Sherrod’s firing in what was clearly a ridiculous over-reaction by the USDA.

There was nobody asking questions like these:

Where did the video come from? Does the unedited version of the video give context that would be important to the story? Why should we care about an incident that occurred a quarter of a century ago — especially since there are more contemporary examples of  blatant racism of the so-called civil rights group?

Instead, most of the people who picked up Breitbart’s story seemed to view it as payback for what they believed were unfair accusations of racism leveled against the Tea Party movement by the NAACP, and nobody seemed to care about the truth. All that mattered was exacting revenge and winning the latest new media war. The result, in some ways, was inevitable, and now, after spending most of yesterday seeming to realize that Breitbart had done something wrong, many of those same people are back cheering him on and falling into the “Sherrod and the NAACP are racist” meme.

For a moment, it seemed like this incident would have been an opportunity for people to learn a lesson about what our political culture has been reduced to. Instead, it just looks like we’re in for more of the same.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Media
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Dantheman says:

    Breitbart hasn’t progressed far from that point still. His apology for this deals solely with the fact that the event referenced was when Sherrod was not working in government, not that the full tape contradicts the points he was raising.

  2. john personna says:

    I think it’s kind of a test, to see who mentions Sherrod’s father, and why he is part of the story. The Riehl piece, for instance, does not mention her father at all. That is really bad, considering what it is, in the story arc.

  3. legion says:

    Doug, are you serious? You really seem to be trying to cast this as a simple mistake, or lapse in professionalism by Breitbart. As is painfully apparent from both his non-apology and his long history of similar acts that this was a calculated, deliberate smear, meant to embarrass the administration by any means necessary, regardless of the truth, its impact on Sherrod’s life, or its impact on America. He manufactures these things out of whole cloth – his entire operation is nothing more than a cheap rumor-rag with a veneer of bought respectability applied over the gunk, aided and abetted by weak-willed tools in the administration and the mainstream media. Please don’t defend d-bags like him.

  4. G.A.Phillips says:

    Who fired the still racist-marxist, and still power abusing Sherrod? the USDA? lol….

    The lesson that everyone missed is that Obama will leave you with tire tracks all across your Back,then blame you for making him toss you under a bus,and the blame the bus driver for running you over, and then blame Bush or anyone who looks like him for leaving the road and the bus there for him to toss you under.

    Same goes for his worshiper apologists.

    It happens over and over and over and over again and it will happen again and again and again and again.

  5. […] the same piece where he talks about Andrew Breitbart and the Shirley Sharrod affair, Rick Moran also points out the real lesson that should be drawn from the JournoList […]

  6. Brummagem Joe says:

    C’mon Doug, you weren’t born yesterday. Someone like Riehl is going to defend Breitbart if he murdered his mother, Riehl’s mother that is, well both mothers probably. The notion that you’re going to get a shred of common decency from these people is a total delusion because the sole reason for their existence is to serve as weapons of attack against Democrats, liberals, the elite, Barbra Streisand etc etc etc. and to stir up dissension amongst Americans. Once they cease to perform this function what is the reason for their existence? The whole payback mantra is also nonsense as there’s obviously been racism in the tea party movement since they themselves just expelled a notorious racist radio jock and his organisation within the past few days. My pa used to say you were known by the company you keep and I’d no more want anything to do with people like Breitbart than I would with the Rev Sharpton or Farrakhan who are similar lowlifes.

  7. Oh I never thought Riehl would do anything other than what he’s done, he isn’t the type of person I was referring to

  8. Samuel Dijk says:

    I would take your argument seriously if “real” journalists were held to the same standards. Tell me the last time CBS/NBC/ABC/CNN tried to”explain the context of the video and give a reason why this edited snippet of tape about an incident that occurred 24 years ago is relevant to making [its] case”?

    This is the classic double standard, moving the goal post argument.

    Give me a break.

  9. Brummagem Joe says:

    Samuel Dijk says:
    Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 16:14

    “I would take your argument seriously if “real” journalists were held to the same standards.”

    I don’t have a very high opinion of the media but if you think think they are remotely comparable to Breitbart then you must have blinders on.

  10. The Q says:

    Breitbart is a clown, a buffoon, a loon…the guy in the back of class making fart noises and saying to the Japanese kid, “hey rather nippy out today huh”.

    As a Jew, what Breitbart did wasn’t too far from the anti semitic screeds and propaganda of Goebbels and Hess. and he should know better since he utilized the same horrific tactics against an innocent woman as the SS did to jewish sympathizers.

    And GA Phillips, you sound like one of the brown shirts…”Hey, its not the Nuremberg laws we should be looking at, its the Jews and how they’re parasites and backstabbers.

    You as$*oles should be ashamed of yourselves.

    Thjs woman’s father was murdered by a Klansman you idiots (and I mean Steve Plunk et al).

    For Mr Phillips to deflect the real intent of Breitbart’s cowardly race baiting and somehjow turn into a an Obama-Marxist rant is truly mind boggling.

    It is apparent that logic, rationality, argument is lost on such dimwitted nimrods as Phillips and Plunk and perhaps the only recourse is the feeling of bone crushing against knuckles.

    Because, if not right wingers, if allowed to spill their bile, ignorance and adolescence will do this, to quote Mr. Phillips “over and over and over and over again and it will happen again and again and again and again.”

    Until they and their hate and stupidity are obliterated from public discourse forever.

  11. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Andrew made public what he had. If you read the story rather than speculating you would have known he did not have the whole tape. However Ms Sharrod is not the issue. If you watch the entire parts that Breitbart posted you know at the end she switches from racist to marxist. Governments job should deal equally with both haves and have nots. Breitbart was responding to the NAACP’s claim of racist elements in the Tea Party. Particularly at an event which took place at the steps of the Capital building. Black caucus members claimed the were the subject of racial slurs hurled at them from a gathering to Tea Partiers. No evidence exists to show that happened in spite of a sizable reward. Breitbard went on to prove racism exists at the NAACP. If you missed it, listen to the people listening to Sharrods speech. Breitbart did not fire Sharrod. She was not the intended target. Just in case there are lazy readers of this post. When Sharrod stated she did not give the white farmer the full force of what she could have done for him. Listen to the audience. That is racism. What the full video did reveal is Sharrod was at that time a federal employee and federal employees are forbidden to express polical views. She claimed the GOP was racist because they oppose Obama because he is black. False. They oppose Obama because he is RED. Red like Stalin, Red like Mao, Red like Castro. Red like Chavez. Red like Lennin. Red like Ayers. Red like Wright. Red like his staff. Doug, DM is becoming the equal of BS.

  12. Zelsdorf Ragshaft III says:

    Q you are an idiot.

  13. Brummagem Joe says:

    Doug you might find this Conor Friedersdorf animation interesting. Sullivan had linked to it so I hope that hasn’t disqualified it for consideration. It’s really quite clever in how it deconstructs the Breitbart modus operandi. It’s worth a few minutes even if the robot speak becomes tiresome.

    http://trueslant.com/conorfriedersdorf/2010/07/22/how-to-argue-with-andrew-breitbart/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+trueslant%2Fconorfriedersdorf+%28Metablog%29&utm_content=Google+Reader

  14. The Q says:

    Funny Zags, about what I expected from a clownish dunce like you.

    Just reading the mindless dreck in your posts makes one marvel how you manage to take a shit every day.

  15. ponce says:

    “If you read the story rather than speculating you would have known he did not have the whole tape.”

    It’s amazing there are still people who believe anything Breitbart says.

  16. Duracomm says:

    rummagem Joe said,

    I don’t have a very high opinion of the media but if you think think they are remotely comparable to Breitbart then you must have blinders on.

    You are correct, the dominant media is much worse than breitbart.

    The News Media vs. the Innocent

    Press freedom shouldn’t mean defending the guilty at all costs

    Steven Hatfill knows where to go to get his reputation back.

    But upon arriving there, he finds the door blocked by someone who says her privileges are more important than his good name. That someone, of course, is a journalist. And, not surprisingly, she enjoys the broad support of other journalists, who have proved to be slow learners about the obligations they share with their fellow citizens.

    Federal Judge Reggie Walton concluded that the claims have “destroyed his life” even though “there’s not a scintilla of evidence to suggest Dr. Hatfill had anything to do with” the anthrax attacks.

    The news media keep losing these cases, yet journalists and their attorneys refuse to recognize reality. They continue to insist on their right to keep evidence of wrongdoing and lawbreaking from the courts, no matter what the collateral damage.

    But when the press finds itself protecting the guilty at the expense of the innocent, it’s made a wrong turn somewhere.

  17. Pug says:

    I wonder why Breitbart has never released unedited videos of his big ACORN coup?

    The only problem he had this time is that someone else, the NAACP, had the entire video.

  18. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***And GA Phillips, you sound like one of the brown shirts…”Hey, its not the Nuremberg laws
    we should be looking at, its the Jews and how they’re parasites and backstabbers.***

    lol, like you know wtf a brown shirt is kool aid drinker…….your socialist leader or one of his minions fired this racist, you know the follwer of Jeremiah Wright.

    Have you heard what she has said about fox news, you know fox news the ones that were snookered by the clip after the Obama intellect collective fired this Marxist still racist twit?

    ***For Mr Phillips to deflect the real intent of Breitbart’s cowardly race baiting and somehow turn into a an Obama-Marxist rant is truly mind boggling.***

    Dude I could show you a glass of green kool aid and boggle your donkey crap generator!

    ***Until they and their hate and stupidity are obliterated from public discourse forever.***

    And that’s what it all boils down to with you of the new age nazi pagans.

    Im poking you with your own hardened racist bulls$$t and you don’t like it. So you want to shut me up forever…. good job Mr. as a Jew.

    Clueless historyless poop holes like you are how millions and millions and millions of people get killed and by the reason of clueless historyless poop holes like you millions and millions and millions more are put to death.

  19. Samuel Dijk says:

    Pug wrote:

    “I wonder why Breitbart has never released unedited videos of his big ACORN coup?

    The only problem he had this time is that someone else, the NAACP, had the entire video.”

    Well, if you want to listen to the unedited audio of the recording, they are on the Big Government site and have been there all along. Go to http://biggovernment.com/acorn/

    Of course, you are going to bother doing that, are you? As a typical liberal, you would rather smear than read.

  20. Sirkowski says:

    First she was racist. That didn’t work so well.
    Now she’s a Marxist.
    Next she’ll be a space lizard from Planet X working for the UN.

  21. wr says:

    GA — We speak English in this country. You might want to learn to write in it.

  22. G.A.Phillips says:

    ***GA — We speak English in this country. You might want to learn to write in it.***

    You speak knucklehead and you can’t even spell your whole name, so whats your point? And stop being such a racist!

  23. john says:

    The story isn’t about Sherrod,it’s the approval of her story from the audience. The racists are out the. That’s the lesson of the tape. Sherrod’s firing was a distraction ftom that.

    On another note…remember when MSNBC.(or was it CNN?) zoomed in on s picture of a gun to prove how racist the tea parties are? Only problem was that a black man was carrying the gun.

    I suppose that was ok tho.

  24. john says:

    Actually there’s another, perhaps larger lesson here…someone was accused of racism based on out of context quotes and video snippets. Gosh…the left would NEVER do that.

  25. Sirkowski says:

    And the goal post has been moved.

  26. wr says:

    John — The tape was released. Breitbart said it proved Sherrod was a racist. His little followers jumped up and down and said this was proof she was a racist.

    The real tape came out. Breitbart looked like an evil toad. So he said it was never about what Sherrod said, it was proving that the audience was racist.

    Anyone with a brain would have realized Breitbart was desperately covering his ass.

    Except for those tiny few who jumped up and down and said it was about proving the audience was racist.

    Do you really think no one was paying attention? Are we all supposed to forget what happened two days ago simply because the official story was changed?

    And what does it say about those — including you — who are willing to say whatever they’re told to say?

  27. […] this further bolsters what Doug Mataconis was saying yesterday:  How Andrew Breitbart, And The Conservative New Media, Failed. Filed Under: Media, Steven Taylor, US Politics Tagged With: […]

  28. john says:

    wr, no one has told me what to say. Tho from you response you apparently have been. I’ve never even read anything Breitbart wrote about this. Saw the video via some local TV site.

    In conclusion tho, if the new conservative media did indeed fail here, the old media failed long, long ago.