The Shirley Sherrod debacle was bound to happen sooner or later. With the 24-hour media constantly buzzing and "senior analysts" of think tanks constantly tossing out inaccurate talking points to fit their positions rather than educating the public, someone was bound to get stung.
The only thing that kept this situation from becoming worse was Sherrod's will to stand up herself rather than crumble under the glare of negative media attention.
Now, despite the need to constantly harp on the White House and NAACP for the Sherrod debacle (and some of the harping is very legitimate), one cannot deny that the two entities got overcome by a coordinated right-wing swarm that made their heads spin before they even had time to assess the situation.
A timeline by the group Media Matters details how quickly the Sherrod story moved through right-wing circles. A brief excerpt is as follows:
11:18 a.m.*: Breitbart posts Sherrod video, calls her "racist," claims "Context is everything."
Fox News amplifies Breitbart's deceptively edited video
12:13 p.m.: Hoft runs with Breitbart video.
12:55 p.m.: HotAir's Morrissey: "Breitbart hits NAACP with promised video of racism."
1:40 p.m. (approximately): Fox Nation accuses Sherrod of "discrimination caught on tape" before she resigned.
1:49 p.m.: Ace of Spades picks up Sherrod story, calls it an example of "your government, working for you."
3:31 p.m.: Elizabeth Scalia of the blog The Anchoress raises questions about the editing of Breitbart's video.
4:01 p.m. Ace of Spades reports that CBS' NYC affiliate picked up Sherrod story, declares, "Breitbart gets results."
4:28 p.m. (approximately): Sherrod story hits Drudge.
4:50 p.m.: Breitbart tweets to Media Matters: "Tomorrow's gonna be a long day."
7:51 p.m.*: Big Government links to a FoxNews.com article reporting that Sherrod had resigned and USDA repudiated her remarks.
8:21 p.m.: Allahpundit questions the video's editing, but says he will "assume Breitbart's edit is fair to the spirit of her remarks."
8:50 p.m.: O'Reilly airs Breitbart's Sherrod video
9:04 p.m.: "Fox News Alert": Hannity reports that Sherrod has resigned and discusses the incident with Gingrich.
Say what you will about the right-wing, they know how to coordinate. And I don't think a "we have to investigate this further" explanation would have stood up under the constant, coordinated buzzsaw of innuendo from talking heads and bloggers eager to take revenge for so-called left-wing abuses. This wasn't an attempt to get a story -- it was deliberate move to score points and the facts be damned.
And yet the rest of the media seems to be intentionally sidestepping any conversations about this interlocking of dubious bloggers and supposedly legitimate newsmen and women to the point of absurdity. Talking Points Memo had this to say today:
It's much easier to focus on Obama or Vilsack or 'what it says about race in America' or whatever other nonsense. Because most reporters are simply cowed by Fox and Breitbart and Beck and the rest of the organized forces of bamboozlement -- too afraid, too bewildered, too hapless to apply anything remotely approaching standards in analyzing the fourth estate of which they are the nominal custodians. So what we get is this 'see no evil, hear no evil, speak not at all' routine from reporters and journalists who should know better.
It shouldn't be a surprise. These same people who are sanctimoniously calling out the White House for falling for the conservative blog/Fox News coordinated blitz were some of the same ones who actually defended the so-called news organization last year when the White House took it to task.
Still, irregardless of the how this entire thing ends, progressives would be wise to not miss the forest for the trees.
The right-wing blitz consumed the White House and the NAACP with the skill of an army of fire ants consuming a grasshopper. And if those two entities fell so easily, imagine who else can be put in a harsh spotlight of lies and innuendo. Who else will fall under the right-wing buzzsaw before they have time to gather up a defense?
There is a small silver lining to the situation. My guess is that this incident will be Breitbart's signature moment, forever scarring his already highly questionable reputation. That link is severed.
But like some monster out of Greek mythology, the right-wing noise machine remains strong, because for every one Breitbart, there are probably two or three others willing to stoop even lower to take his place.