Thursday, July 22, 2010

24: Life imitates art (that imitated life)?

This may be a stretch, but just work with me:

One of the best television shows of all time (IMHO) was 24, and while I blogged in past years, I completely neglected it this season.... some suggested I was in mourning, I say I was just too busy.  Regardless, stick with me for a minute:

The main character JACK BAUER is often faced with incredible situations that demand immediate and often incredible choices to be made.  What made the stories so convincing is the great, personal risks Jack took for the greater good (My personal theory is that there are quite a number of real-life law enforcement officers who do a lot of things like Jack Bauer: unsung heroes without which we'd all be worse off in the long run).

(minor spoiler alert!)

In Season 5, Jack Bauer kidnapped the sitting president, Charles Logan, and tried to force a confession of treason from him.   Logan never broke, and the secret service eventually broke up the party, but not before Jack planted a listening device on Logan's person.   Later on, Logan boasts about his crime, and this leads to Jack's exoneration and Logan's removal from office.

In the most recent season, Jack had incriminating evidence of a conspiracy involving another sitting president, and in order to hand it off to a friend of his (to prevent the evidence from being 'lost' by agents of the conspiring president), he orders his friend to shoot him.  When she resists, he points the gun at his head as a last resort.  Fans of the show know (as well as anyone can know about a fictitious person) he was about to pull the trigger to ensure the safe passage of the evidence ... in the end, however, she shot him in the left side of his chest (a through and through) and our hero, of course, survived the wound.

Andrew Breitbart took a video clip of a USDA official, Shirley Sherrod, and released an extended (but not total) clip of a speech she recently gave to the NAACP concerning her conduct in the past.   The clip led the modern-day viewers conclude she harbored racial prejudices.     The NAACP was outraged at her comments, and the Obama Administration moved to push her out of her appointed position.  

Now bear in mind: Mr. Breitbart never called for Ms. Sherrod's termination.  In fact he never commented on her speech directly.    Predictably, a firestorm erupted in many blogs and an several cable news programs, and yes, there were calls for her to be removed, and, as stated, she was.

Then Breitbart revealed the longer clip, which showed Ms. Sherrod having used that story as a basis of her growing, as a person, from when she harbored racial tendencies to where she later became a more civil minded person.    The transformation of Ms. Sherrod is admirable, and when viewed in total the speech she gave was not a reason for her to lose her job.

So why did she lose her job?

She lost her job because everyone - everyone - believed the story she told was not one of a transformation but was, in fact, how she believed, then and there.   And she lost her job because everyone also believed that her jaded view was acceptable in certain circles, just not in the mainstream view.   Case in point: the NAACP was quick to condemn her story only when they saw the Breitbart video, and not during (or immediately after) her speech at their event!  No one in attendance of her speech raised an objection or any form of dissent.  In fact, you can hear murmurs of approval!!   It seems as if the kinds of speeches they were suddenly objecting to were not at all uncommon at their own sanctioned events.

Laughably, the mainstream media bought the story - hook, line and sinker - because it was so credible.

To be fair: not everyone who is a member of the NAACP is a racist by default because those in attendance on this video did not denounce the presumed racism of Ms. Sherrod.   Nor should the members of the black community overall be considered a racist because the NAACP immediately condemned her statements only after the Breitbart video surfaced.    

And to be equally fair: just because there may be one or two sign-wielding idiots spouting racism at a Tea Part event does not make it right to brand all in attendance a racist.   

So Ms. Sherrod pulled a bait-and-switch on the NAACP, and Breitbart amplified the action and made quite a splash.  The media storm surrounding Ms. Sherrod will die down, and she is pretty much guaranteed some sort of high-ranking appointment in the government from here or out.

Andrew Breitbart, however, took a big risk, and while it paid off nicely, will cause every future video from him to viewed with a jaundiced eye.  Not from those who are upstanding and honest partners, but from everyone who accepts the so-called business as usual approach in what they do, since they will be wondering what Breitbart will reveal tomorrow.

For that, Breitbart's credibility has taken a hit in the media, but the benefits of that hit are so illuminating it is far from a bad thing.

Andrew Breitbart is Jack Bauer.

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