Thursday, July 22, 2010

Falling For It

If there’s any justice in this whole Shirley Sherrod story, it might be that finally a lot more people will now learn what a lot of us have been saying for quite a while: there’s a concerted effort on the part of Fox News and some right-wingers to do nothing but try to bring down the Obama administration. As Rachel Maddow points out, once the wheels came off the story, Fox and friends ran away from it as if they had nothing whatsoever to do with getting it going in the first place.

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So now maybe it’s time that we stop this pretense that Fox News is anything other than a house organ for the GOP and the Tea Party. But I don’t hold out much hope for that. After all, remember how everyone got the vapors last year when the Obama administration said quite candidly that Fox News isn’t really an objective news outlet? Pearls were clutched from one end of the spectrum to the other, and the bullies got all weepy because Robert Gibbs was being mean to them. That’s typical bully behavior: provoke the incident, run away from it once it blows up, and then become the victim once retribution sets in. But if the past is prologue, this Sherrod story won’t make any difference, and there will be more like it to come.

There is one thing that this incident reveals, and that’s the perpetual talent the left has for taking the rap for the outrageous claims that people like the goofs at Fox put out there without fighting back, and their almost pathological instinct for self-criticism in public. Perhaps it’s due to an overdeveloped sense of conscience and fair play, but there are times when it is both self-defeating and damned annoying. Keith Olbermann came in from vacation last night to deliver one of his Special Comments on the affair and he was in full umbrage mode to the point of self-parody and taking down everybody connected with the story, including the Obama White House. (Dreyfus? Really? Quick, get Emile Zola… or Ben Affleck.) Yes, the administration made a bunch of mistakes in the beginning — for one thing, falling for one of Andrew Breibart’s news stories is right up there with “Hey, your shoe’s untied!” — but they quickly recovered, apologized both from the White House on the part of Press Secretary Robert Gibbs and from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. And they also moved quickly to make amends. But I’m willing to bet that the newest take on this story will be that somehow the White House and President Obama are to blame for this. It’s the old false equivalency — “there’s plenty of guilt to go around” — and the Villagers like Juan Williams and Mike Barnacle will do their best to declaim soberly that this is bad news for the Democrats.

That is one thing the wingnuts can depend on: if they start a meme, they will be ably assisted by the people they’re going after to enable it. If there’s anyone to vilify in this whole story, it’s Fox News, Andrew Breibart, and the Orcosphere, not Barack Obama, and the left isn’t doing anyone any favors by falling for that part of the story.