The Closing of the Conservative Mind
by Charles Lemos, Wed Jul 21, 2010 at 05:46:53 PM EDT
Over at The Week, former Bush speechwriter David Frum writes:
On the phone on the evening of July 20, a friend asked me: "Can Breitbart possibly survive?" I could only laugh incredulously. I answered: "Of course he'll survive, and undamaged. The incident won't matter at all."
There will be no apology or statement of regret for distributing a doctored tape to defame and destroy someone. There will be not even a flutter of interest among conservatives in discussing Breitbart’s role. By the morning of July 21, the Fox & Friends morning show could devote a segment to the Sherrod case without so much as a mention of Breitbart’s role. The central fact of the Sherrod story has been edited out of the conservative narrative, just as it was edited out of the tape itself.
When people talk of the "closing of the conservative mind" this is what they mean: not that conservatives are more narrow-minded than other people — everybody can be narrow minded — but that conservatives have a unique capacity to ignore unwelcome fact.
Digby, over at Hullabaloo adds that the conservative "rank and file are misinformed because they are being purposefully led astray by the same conservative intelligentsia which owns and operates the right wing media" and that this episode is not the result of 'epistemic closure'" but rather the "result of professional propagandists successfully applying their trade. " As Digby notes, this was no accident, it was by design.
Perhaps this episode in my search for an ex malo bonum exit will finally bring full discredit to a vile, perversely vitriolic, sycophantic race baiter. If a lunatic rants in a padded room, does he make a sound?
Over at The Atlantic, Joshua Green, one of the best young journalists in the country today, aptly describes the Breitbart Circus:
Awhile back, particularly during the Clinton administration, the media would flagellate itself every so often for rushing, lemming-like, to cover some story or other that was being touted on the Drudge Report, and then, after a period of reflection, deciding that it shouldn't be. There was usually a Howard Kurtz column to demarcate such an episode. But the recidivism rate was high. Invariably, the media would chase the next Drudge rumor, and the whole cycle would repeat.
That doesn't seem to happen anymore, at least not with Drudge. But it does happen, and more powerfully than ever, with Andrew Breitbart, who has inherited Barnum's instinct for what will cause a circus and the certainty that suckers are still being born every minute. One difference is that Drudge usually focused on sex scandals and tawdry personal humiliations, which, in the end, is hardly worth getting worked up about. Yes, yes, shame on reporters for taking the bait. But c'mon.
Breitbart focuses on race. Today's episode with Shirley Sherrod, who was forced to resign from the Agriculture Department on the basis of a doctored and intentionally misleading videotape, is an especially ugly case in point, calculated to stir the very worst racial resentments. This time the political world--the NAACP, the Agriculture Secretary--moved as quickly as the media world to unthinking response, and I suspect it happened precisely because race was involved. I don't doubt that the administration's understandable desire to avoid racial issues played a big part in how this turned out.
But what's galling to me--gut-wrenching, really, like watching old news footage of blacks being beaten and clubbed at lunch counters--is that Breitbart obviously understood the powerful effect his tape would have, posted it anyway, and then assumed the role of ringmaster, expertly conducting the media circus, fanning the flames. It's hardly the first time. But the moral ugliness of what's just happened is glaring, and it's hard for me to see how the media can justify continuing to treat Breitbart as simply a roguish provocateur. He's something much darker.
We need to treat Breitbart for what he is, a race baiter who has no place in the national conservation until he modifies his behaviour. There are standards of human decency and standards of journalistic integrity. On both counts, Andrew Breitbart has disqualified himself.