The phrase "teachable moment" continues to be repeated ever since the last "teachable moment." It seems that no one, not even White House staffers or Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack, learned from the Henry Louise Gates incident. ENGAGE BRAIN BEFORE OPENING MOUTH. VERIFY, VERIFY, VERIFY. I have come to expect this type of behavior from conservatives and the various forms of right-wing political pundentry, but then again maybe they do.
It seems that even when the rantings and ravings of the conservative talking heads proves once more that they are deaf-as-a-post to issues of race, they boost their readership and trick everyone into looking at the train wreak of social discourse they generate. This was the point that Politico was trying to make in their article today, The Tucker and Breitbart Show. Tucker Carlson, former co-host of CNN's Crossfire, even admits it's hard not to get caught up in the sensationalism needed to generate viewership on their blog. Carlson is one of the conservative pundents that I admire (but don't agree with) because he at least tries to be a real journalist.
There's a name for the type of journalism that has been promoted by Tea Party activists, as well as conservative political operatives: Yellow Journalism. It's that "gotcha" type that shouts "LOOK AT WHAT THEY ARE DOING AND THEY CALL ME A (RACIST, HYPOCRITE, DISHONEST, etc...). It doesn't even try to use facts to support their story, just rhetoric, accusations, and counter-accusations to push their version of the truth.
While I was finish up my undergrad degree I worked in high end hotels, primarily at a place called the Siena Hotel (by the way if this looks like a place you would like to go for a weekend get away, tell Anthony Carey that I sent you). One of the first things you learn in the hospitality industry is that for every person that you provide excellent guest service to, they will tell maybe 1-3 people. For every person that gets bad service, they will tell 10 or more people.
Throughout my political and grassroots advocacy career, this rule has applied. That's why grassroots work for positive social change is so difficult and demagoguery is so effective. It's easier to spread a rumor than to take the time to learn the facts or discover the truth.
The casualty of this latest battle was Shirley Sherrod who, as many of us know, was fired/forced to resign from her job with the USDA in Georgia. The reason was a heavily, heavily edited tape of her giving a speech at a local NAACP banquet where she talks about the event that lead her to her "ah-ha" moment on race and discrimination.
A very teachable event of realization was butchered by Tea Party Activist and conservative political hit man Andrew Breitbart. Thank goodness the NAACP put the whole video up on their web site so we could get the entire context and hear what she really said. Problem with what Breitbart did, he picked the wrong person to accuse of reverse racism. Talk about a major backfire.
If there was any person, any African American person, that should have bigotry in their heart it's Shirley Sherrod. But she doesn't. A woman who's father was killed by a racist, she went on to fight for Civil Rights and against injustice her entire life. While nobody is perfect, and Mrs. Sherrod would I'm certain would agree, she too had to work though a lot to get to the place she is regarding race relations. In many ways, I am no different.
But again, because of Tea Party Activists (the racist and extremist elements of the Tea Party Movement) we are talking about race and discrimination again. The bigotry of the conservative media gets a boost in their viewership and readership, and we are all distracted from the most important issue at hand, getting people back to work and fixing our economy.