When it came to rushing to judgment on the Shirley Sherrod affair, no one ran further afield than Fox News. They battered away at the story with a unique fury, feeding on pure bamboozlement and lactating the same substance back onto the teevee screen. Sherrod was a crazy racist radical who had "burrowed" her way into the Obama administration to radiate "reverse-racism" throughout the land from her obscure position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The end!
And all of this was utterly wrong. In fact, if Sherrod was radiating any ethos at all, it was this: we're all responsible for confronting our own prejudices and taking the necessary actions to surmount them. That was the "context" of the speech she gave. That was the character that she showed the Spooner family. That was -- or would have been -- a powerful lesson to learn. It's a pity that Fox News didn't afford this lesson much of an opportunity to be instilled.
You know, you got to give Glenn Beck some credit. He said that context mattered, and he found the context: "Now if [Sherrod] is just relating a story from 1986 to make a point about how her racial perceptions changed, this woman deserves her job back." Sadly, this came long after the damage was done.
It didn't have to be this way! Let's listen to Fox News' own Shepard Smith, making perfect sense:
"We here at Studio B did not run the video and did not reference the story in any way for many reasons, among them: we didn't know who shot it, we didn't know when it was shot, we didn't know the context of the statement, and because of the history of the videos on the site where it was posted, in short we do not and did not trust the source."
If that had been the policy in the first place, organization-wide, things would have been very different. It would have not, for example, gone like this:
Video produced by Ben Craw