"Context is everything"

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That's the first sentence of Andrew Breitbart's explosive recent article, "Video Proof: The NAACP Awards Racism–2010", posted on his web site biggovernment.com.

Breitbart is a sort of new-journalism entrepreneur who developed the Huffington Post for Adriana Huffington, but is better known as the current proprietor of various popular right-wing web sites, and the promoter of last year's controversial ACORN undercover videos. And the "context" that he had in mind was the media furor over the NAACP's call for "Tea Party leaders to repudiate those in their ranks who use racist language in their signs and speeches".

The explosive part of Breitbart's article was a video clip, a bit less than two minutes long, presented under the title "NAACP: Bigotry in their ranks". The video's content is taken from a speech at the NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet, 3/27/2010, given by Shirley Sherrod, who was then the US Department of Agriculture's Director of Rural Development for the state of Georgia. Graphics in the intro to this video proclaim that "Ms. Sherrod admits that in her federally appointed position, overseeing over a billion dollars, she discriminates against people due to their race". In the video, Ms. Sherrod describes what happened when a white farmer came to her for help in saving his property from foreclosure. She indeed says that that she reacted to him in racial terms, and "didn't give him the full force of what I could do".

But there's this issue of, as Mr. Breitbart says, context.

A less maliciously edited version of Ms. Sherrod's speech would provide three important pieces of context that have been omitted from Breitbart's version.

First, the events described took place in 1986, when she worked not for the U.S. Government, but for the New Communities black farm cooperative in Georgia, a private land trust that she had helped to found.

Second, in the parts of her presentation that were omitted from Breitbart's video, she describes how she came to realize that her first reactions were wrong, went on to help the farmer save his farm, and started a friendship with him and his wife that has lasted to the present time.

And third, the intended rhetorical force of the story, as she told it to the NAACP banquet earlier this year, was that racial divisions can and should be transcended: "We have to get to the point where race exists but it doesn’t matter".

Before these aspects of the context emerged, the NAACP rushed to dissociate itself from her and to condemn (what Breitbart represented as) her remarks. A day later, when the context was better understood, they took it back and apologized. But meanwhile, Tom Vilsack, the Secretary of Agriculture, had fired Sherrod. And so far, at least, there's no sign that the administration will take that back — and maybe she wouldn't return if they asked her to. [Update: the White House has asked for reconsideration, and both the White House and Tom Vilsack have now apologized.]

Paul Krugman explains the situation succinctly ("Fooled Again and Again and Again", NYT 7/21/2010):

It was basically as if I said, “Some people say that violence is always the answer; they’re wrong”, Fox ran with the story “Krugman says violence is always the answer”, and the Times fired me.

Indeed, Andrew Breitbart nailed it: "Context is everything". And in context, his post was a vicious lie, even though its center was a two-minute-long video of Shirley Sherrod telling a story, without (as far as i know) any internal edits.  Overall, an excellent case study for a class in rhetoric, and a bad week for American politics.

Breitbart's clip:

A video of Shirley Sherrod's full speech:

A CNN interview with Roger and Eloise Spooner:

And another (?) interview:

Andrew Breitbart doubles down:

Some other comments:

Joan Walsh, "The shame of right-wing journalism", Salon 7/20/2010.

It's a disgraceful story with no heroes — except Sherrod and the white farmers who came forward to support her, Roger and Eloise Spooner. Caught off-guard by the right-wing frenzy over its resolution asking Tea Partiers to condemn the racists in their midst, the NAACP overreacted, took Breitbart's word about Sherrod, and denounced her. (Ben Jealous has now, rightly, apologized.) Tom Vilsack fired her. The White House insists it didn't tell Vilsack to let Sherrod go — but it won't tell him to take her back, either.

Charles Johnson, "Farmers in Sherrod case: 'She saved our land"", 7/20/2010:

I don’t know how Andrew Breitbart sleeps at night. What he did to Sherrod is beyond despicable. This was one of the most loathsome episodes of creepy right wing dishonesty I have ever witnessed.

And that’s saying plenty.

A prediction from David Frum, "Shirley Sherrod and the shame of conservative media", The Week, 7/21/2010 :

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." [...]

When Dan Rather succumbed to the forged Bush war record hoax in 2004, CBS forced him into retirement. Breitbart is the conservative Dan Rather, but there will be no discredit, no resignation for him.

Some reactions from across the political spectrum are here: "Media across the board reject Breitbart's race-baiting lies", Media Matters 7/21/2010.

I'll note that Andrew Breitbart claims that the video clip was sent to him pre-edited, which would mean that he's merely malicious and credulous to the point of incompetence, rather than actively deceitful. On the other hand, his story about this has apparently changed over time — at one point he said that he had the whole tape but wasn't allowed to release it.

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44 Comments »

  1. Freddy Hill said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 10:47 am

    Not to defend Breitbart, but if he's telling the truth about receiving the video already edited, his incompetence and credulity is at the same level as that of the NAACP and the White House. All three viewed the same tricked video and and reached the very worst conclusion without bothering to get Sherrod's view, as any real journalist or fair employer would have done.

    [(myl) Actually, it's worse than that: Sherrod says that she tried to explain the context to her bosses at the USDA, but no one would listen. However, Breitbart's conduct in acting as ring-master of the whole circus is orders of magnitude worse. It's sad to think that anyone will ever give him any credence again.]

  2. Ellen Markers said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 10:49 am

    Yes, Andrew Breitbart is merely malicious and credulous to the point of incompetence, rather than actively deceitful. He is America's rightwing writ large, sad to say. Friend and protege of Matt Drudge, as you know…

  3. Mark P said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 11:28 am

    Breatbart's behavior is no surprise, but the administration's behavior is a disappointment. And, of course, the real shame is that someone who appears to be a good public servant is tossed out amid a manufactured scandal.

  4. Allison said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 11:41 am

    I find it really frustrating that it can be so much more destructive to a career to suggest racism on the part of a minority than it seems to be when the racism is the more traditional kind – the privileged group towards the underprivileged. I originally said it was puzzling, but I suppose it's not – it's actually more racism itself. The Obama Administration taking sides in this kind of dispute leads all the voters who have nightmares about "The Blacks Taking Over" and handing out privilege to other African Americans and toppling the racial power structure. The argument that led to the beer summit gave the president a bit of a bloody nose, public relations wise.

    I don't think any thinking person thinks racism is acceptable, whether in the heart of a person who has been the victim of it or the beneficiary, it's just not *worse* when it comes from a minority.

  5. Nathan said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 12:02 pm

    We have to get to the point where race doesn't exist. It's a social construct that isn't useful to moral people.

  6. Zubon said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 12:04 pm

    Allison, you are making a rather extraordinary claim there. You're suggesting that a white official would have received more lenient treatment if he talked about discriminating against black homeowners? That we would give any respectability to a NAAWP? What is the source of the claim that it is "*worse*"?

  7. Jon Weinberg said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 12:43 pm

    Zubon: This is OT, but since you asked, many white political figures in this country today engage in expressions of casual racism on an everyday basis. Tom Tancredo, for example, the former Congress member and Presidential hopeful who is likely to to be the next Republican candidate for governor of Colorado, said (among other things) that the people who put Obama in office "could not even spell the word 'vote', or say it in English." 'Nuff said. For a black politician to say anything comparably racist would be career-destroying.

  8. Scott said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 1:20 pm

    "Breitbart is a sort of … racist … who … maliciously … nailed … Shirley Sherrod … I don’t know how Andrew Breitbart sleeps at night. What he did to Sherrod is beyond despicable."

    There. It can happen to anyone.

  9. Tiffany said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 1:42 pm

    What I don't understand is why the NAACP and the USDA didn't look further into this story before having any reaction at all! This event happened 24 years ago and wasn't brought to anyone's attention by the people it involved, it was merely a posted story. In this case, Breitbart, the NAACP and the USDA all look ridiculous, and Ms. Sherrod, a person who was doing some good in the world, is now unemployed. How sad.

  10. jed waverly said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 1:52 pm

    This is yet another example of what happens under the knee-jerk over-reaction when "zero tolerance" is proclaimed as a policy. It tends to spawn too quick a response instead of careful scrutiny. The principle should be banned in Federal agencies.

  11. Rubrick said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 3:29 pm

    I think the administration's response has been niggardly at best.

  12. J.R. Omahen said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 4:17 pm

    Mark,

    I do have to point out a bit of undue bias without having the full context of the events. :) One side says that Breitbart maliciously edited footage and pushed it to the unknowing public, while the other side says that the footage was provide pre-edited. Someone is indeed lying, and I don't see any clear evidence to point either way. However, while some conservative media has unecessarily overreacted, and the liberal media as well, we must remember that:

    "'Context matters': As you’ll see, Beck makes the same point verbatim. He was actually named by Sherrod today as someone whose reaction to the tape the White House was worried about, but instead of attacking them for hiring an alleged racist, he throws them a curveball by attacking them for firing an innocent woman before the full context of what she said could be determined. He also knocks the NAACP, quite correctly, for using Sherrod as a pawn in its war with the tea party: The only reason they moved to denounce her so quickly, of course, was to prove their own alleged saintliness on racial issues so that they could continue to lecture tea partiers on their sins. " Hot Air post

    As far as I can tell, we have the following facts (in approximately chronological order):

    Breitbart released an edited video, presenting Shirley very clearly mid-story, with no surrounding context. It is unsettled whether he edited it, or it was edited for him.
    Some bloggers and Fox News picked up the video and ran with it. Some commentators, both within Fox and without, made rash conclusions based on scant to no evidence in the video.
    No other video seems to be available anywhere online, just the short clips that Breitbart has provided. Logically, the NAACP is in posession of the full video, yet does not release it.ac
    Very soon afterwards, Shirley is "forced to resign". She claims the White House was responsible based on what was told her in direct phone calls. Tom Vilsack, her former boss claims it was him, and the White House denies responsibility. Another point of contention: who is lying?
    Glenn Beck picks up the story a day late, and cautions viewers to keep context in mind. He claims it is curious how the NAACP and (possibly) the White House reacted without giving her the benefit of the doubt in this situation. He calls for the complete video to be revealed by the only source that has the full video in posession: the NAACP. (see above source).
    Shortly afterwards, statements from government officials as well as the NAACP say that they were finally viewing the full context, and were reconsidering her "forced resignation".
    The full video is released by the NAACP.
    Stories are run, often lumping Fox, sweeping generalisations of conservative bloggers, and A. Breitbart in the same camp of deceiving the populace.

    What I find curious is the series of events themselves, regardless of the comments made by those involved. The video itself is old, and is talking about an event that happened decades ago; why did it come out now? With both government officials and the NAACP reacting extraordinarily fast to the unfolding of events, eyebrows should be raised over the lack of questions, investigation or concern. It is unlikely that either were truly afraid of the reaction of the conservation media and new media. As well, why did the White House explicitly deny any involvement prior to the release of the full video, then go out of its way to apologise to her when the full context was revealed?

    With unanswered questions, and no hard evidence coming out (other than the video), there is sure to be no clearly defined resolution on the matter. If Breitbart was culpable in the editing, then he should be denounced by the conservative media. However, a short video clip released in a limited sphere of influence should not logically cause both the government and a very large civil rights organisation to decry her actions and cause her resignation. While there are questions on both sides, I must ask why is no one questioning the actions of the Administration, the USDA and the NAACP? Linguistically, check the news reports. Lots of ambiguity with agents (or lack thereof) surrounding the editing of the clip. ;)

  13. Lee Dembart said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 4:22 pm

    What does any of this have to do with Language Log?

    [(myl) "Context is everything."]

  14. Mark Liberman said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 4:37 pm

    J.R. Omahen: "While there are questions on both sides, I must ask why is no one questioning the actions of the Administration, the USDA and the NAACP?"

    There are dozens of those "nobodies" out there. In the body of the post, I quoted Joan Walsh, who wrote "It's a disgraceful story with no heroes [...] the NAACP overreacted, took Breitbart's word about Sherrod, and denounced her. [...] Tom Vilsack fired her. The White House insists it didn't tell Vilsack to let Sherrod go — but it won't tell him to take her back, either."

    If you look around in recent news and commentary, you'll find many other sources "questioning the actions of the Administration, the USDA, and the NAACP". CNN yesterday quoted Sherrod herself saying "The NAACP has not tried to contact me one time, and they are the reason why this happened. They got into a fight with the Tea Party, and all of this came out as a result of that."

    On the same show, David Gergen said that "This is not about Rush Limbaugh. This is about a very simple case, a woman who gave a speech that was distorted and twisted on the Internet, as so often happens, and an administration and an NAACP and a lot of other people who jumped the gun in going after her and crucifying her. First, they hung her. And now we're going to get around to a trial."

    Campbell Brown responded: "I don't think there's any question. Everybody screwed up, and everybody needs to admit they screwed up. End of story."

    Glen Beck and other Fox News commentators lost no time in beating up on the administration for its hasty over-reaction.

    NPR had a story Shirley Sherrod becomes Obama political problem", full of negative evaluations of the administration's responses.

    And this is a little long, but if you go to the end, you'll see that even Rachel Maddow's main criticism is of the Obama administration's response:

    You don't even have to look hard to find more of the same — just read the index pages of the news organizations and the watch a bit of cable news.

  15. Nathan Myers said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

    It would be more honest to say "fraudulent" than "controversial", in reference to the ACORN videos, given that the dialog was dubbed in.

  16. J.R. Omahen said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 4:55 pm

    Mark,

    I stand corrected. :) This is why I don't comment. I'm going to go do something useful, like debate Quenya syntax. :p

  17. W. Kiernan said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 9:03 pm

    Commenter jTuba at the Pandagon blog has created a new verb, "to breitbart," meaning to maliciously edit videotapes for the purpose of (here's another excellent pretty-recent verb that probably hasn't made the OED yet) "ratfucking" political adversaries. That's a lot of meaning concisely packed into two compact syllables; I like it!

    [(myl) Believe it or not, "rat-fucking" is a widely documented term, listed in the Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang, with citations back to 1944.]

  18. Xmun said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 9:21 pm

    What is debatable about Quenya syntax? Just briefly, please.

  19. Robert Ayers said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 10:02 pm

    Perhaps LanguageLog could discuss the meaning of the verb "edit". What I read is that the Breitbart tape is truncated. When I hear "edited" I think of "altered" as in "I edited his draft to improve his syntax". Has anyone suggested that the Breitbart fragment has been manipulated in any way other than being truncated?

    [(myl) Consider the way Paul Krugman put it:

    It was basically as if I said, “Some people say that violence is always the answer; they’re wrong”, Fox ran with the story “Krugman says violence is always the answer”, and the Times fired me.

    Is that editing? I'd say so -- it's a combination of selection and omission that completely inverts the intended meaning.]

  20. ShadowFox said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 11:12 pm

    Add to all of this Breitbart's nonapology–it's not even a non-apology apology. He just started saying how he felt for Sherrod, but then, without any attempt to take responsibility simply blamed "the media" for distorting the meaning of the video–the video that he not only provided, but also commented on, quite unambiguously.

    Of course, it gets better. While Bill O'Reilly tries to smooth it out by blaming the "Obama administration" for firing her (or pressuring her/Vilsack to end her employment in any way possible), information from both the White House and from Vilsack disclaims WH involvement. At the same time, O'Reilly and a few other conservative commentators are looking for any excuse to label Sherrod a "racist" and a "Marxist" by referencing her other recorded comments. Rush Limbaugh, on the other hand, does not even pretend to look for an excuse–he simply claims the original charge is true because, well, she said what she said, even if she also said something else.

    Shameless… Except for one FNC host–Sheppard Smith–who claimed that his show was the only FNC show NOT to go after Sherrod because he doesn't trust the source (Breitbart).

  21. Kylopod said,

    July 21, 2010 @ 11:19 pm

    @W. Kiernan

    I could well see that catching on. It's choppy enough, and it's been done before with other figures. (For example, the verb "to Bork" referring to the campaign that sunk Robert Bork's nomination to the Supreme Court.) It depends on how long this incident remains in the memories of politics junkies, and that of course will depend on the outcome of this case, which still is unclear.

  22. Tom Saylor said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 5:20 am

    Ms. Sherrod says:

    “So I took him to a white lawyer that we had — that had…attended some of the training that we had provided, 'cause Chapter 12 bankruptcy had just been enacted for the family farmer. So I figured if I take him to one of them, that his own kind would take care of him. That's when it was revealed to me that, y'all, it's about poor versus those who have, and not so much about white — it is about white and black, but it's not — you know, it opened my eyes, 'cause I took him to one of his own and I put him in his hand, and felt okay, I've done my job.”

    Questions: Is it generally acceptable to use the phrase “his own kind” or “one of his own” to indicate racial identity? Would a government official (and, in particular, a white government official) who used either of these phrases in reference to a black or Hispanic or Asian person face criticism? If such usage is not acceptable, is it to be forgiven in Ms. Sherrod’s case on the grounds that, in describing an attitude that she held decades ago but no longer holds today, Ms. Sherrod consciously lapsed into language associated with that attitude in order to make her narrative more vivid?

  23. Breffni said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 6:28 am

    Tom Saylor: it seems pretty clear to me that she was deliberately invoking the language and attitudes she might have had at the time, in a kind of free indirect style. Nothing to forgive in that.

  24. [links] Link salad dances like a spirit in the night | jlake.com said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 8:00 am

    [...] "Context is Everything" — More about Breitbart and the Sherrod video. Also, Scrivener's Error with a great rant on the same topic. [...]

  25. chris said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 11:37 am

    @W. Kiernan, Kylopod: Well, it worked for (or perhaps against) Bowdler.

  26. Kylopod said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 12:46 pm

    @chris

    Obviously there are many examples of verbs-from-surnames:boycott, lynch, mesmerize, gerrymander. I was thinking more of informal terms that have become jargon among political junkies but aren't found in dictionaries, like "to Bork" a nominee. I'm sure there are other examples, but I can't think of any at the moment. I doubt "to Breitbart" could ever become as well-established a term as "to lynch," but it could potentially have some staying power in the political world, depending on the outcome of this case, who wins the narrative war, and how well-remembered it is.

    [(myl) Well, fisking has been pretty durable as "A point-by-point refutation of a blog entry or (especially) news story".

    But I think that breitbart is too phonologically heavy (two closed syllables with complex nuclei) to catch on as a verb meaning "to attack using misleadingly edited videos" or whatever, as much as Mr. Breitbart may deserve the honor.]

  27. George Amis said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 3:06 pm

    @Robert Ayers (and myl):
    In film, of course, editing always means cutting, and I think it does in a lot of other cases as well. For instance, when I worked for a newspaper, editing a press release always meant cutting it.

  28. Robert Ayers said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 4:01 pm

    MYL comments:

    Consider the way Paul Krugman put it:
    It was basically as if I said, “Some people say that violence is always the answer; they’re wrong”, Fox ran with the story “Krugman says violence is always the answer”, and the Times fired me.
    Is that editing? I'd say so — it's a combination of selection and omission that completely inverts the intended meaning.

    I would agree with the above — consider the editing within sentence structure — except that I think that the Krugman analogy is false.
    It seems to me that a much better analogy would be this:

    It was basically as if I said, “I used to think that violence was always the answer. I don't anymore.” and CBS ran with the story “Krugman says he used to think that violence was always the answer”

    The latter might be shoddy journalism, but it is not false. Truncation, not editing.

  29. Kylopod said,

    July 22, 2010 @ 5:26 pm

    @Robert Ayers

    It was basically as if I said, “I used to think that violence was always the answer. I don't anymore.” and CBS ran with the story “Krugman says he used to think that violence was always the answer”

    I see no difference between those two statements. "Krugman says he used to think" implies he no longer thinks that way.

  30. chris said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 12:32 pm

    I didn't know "fisking" was an eponym.

    It's interesting that the Jargon File attributes it to the blogosphere; I could have sworn it went back to USENET. (Lots of user overlap, of course.)

  31. Breitbart - Tech Support Forums - TechIMO.com said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 1:29 pm

    [...] also this post at Language Log. Breitbart's piece on Sherrod began, "Context is [...]

  32. ed t said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

    Not being an American, I think I don't have the "understanding" of Sherrod that would send millions in the States to her defence. Knowing the state of "hatespeech" and the like in the UK, what she said would certainly be considered racist. It doesn't matter that she was obviously giving an example to show how she was working an issue through. It doesn't really matter that her reminiscence was about losing a racist approach; by using it as a current office holder she endorses the racial lense through which she and her audience perceive society. It would not be tolerated in a white person except as a resignation speech following revelation of some such racial optics.

    It's interesting that her heartfelt perspective resolves itself with a kind of pseudo-Marxist teleology: in the end it's all about "poor people". This shows precisely why racism is unacceptable: it's an irrational perspective that breeds irrational ideology and injustice; it's not possible to soften it except by another fixation.

    [(myl) If it's really true under current English law that "hate speech" includes describing a racist reaction in order to advise against it, then libel isn't the only area of English law that's seriously in need of reform.

    But I think it's more likely that you're speaking out of bitterness rather than knowledge. Can you cite any evidence for this extraordinary claim?]

  33. Google 1st » Friday Recap: Positively Peachy Edition said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 3:01 pm

    [...] check out the opening line of Andrew Breitbart's post that unleashed the video: "Context is everything." Jaw, meet [...]

  34. Rodger C said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 3:23 pm

    @ed t: Well, you're writing from a country that had essentially no racial minorities till the day before yesterday, but that has been hagridden with class since at least the industrial revolution. It looks rather different over here.

  35. Paul M. Postal said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 3:31 pm

    In the never-ending controversy about racism, is it not a bit ironic
    that organizations like the NAACP and endless left wing individuals
    accuse conservatives, Tea Party supporters, etc. of racism, as
    if that were a bad thing? How can that be? Support for racism
    under euphemisms like 'affirmative action' is policy of the
    Democratic Party and now built into law in various ways. Apparently
    there are new instances in the medical 'reform' bill and even in the
    financial 'reform' bill. That is, these policies explicitly discriminate
    against individuals purely on the basis of their racial characteristics.

    In this and other ways, talk of 'racism' has lost most of its original
    meaning and now is largely a tool to condemn one's political
    enemies by associating things with traditional acts of genuine
    racism which, happily, almost no one engages in or defends.

  36. Rodger C said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 4:07 pm

    Paul, I see you hold to the French view, also apparently ed's, that the main fact about a social evil like racism is that it's irrational and that it can therefore be destroyed simply by disregarding its existence.

    I don't know what ed means by "pseudo-Marxist"–does he mean "quasi-Marxist"?–but concern with justice for the poor is a great deal older than Marxism, as those of us know who were brought up on the Bible, and I'm sure it'll survive Marxism (in spite of current appearances) even though Marx's compelling crypto-gnostic mythology sucked most of the air out of it before collapsing of its own pseudo-scientificity.

  37. Baylink said,

    July 23, 2010 @ 9:35 pm

    Paul holds to the opinion, I would guess, of wherever he copied that posting from to paste it in here — at *my* text size, the unexpected hard line breaks are obvious.

    I suppose I shouldn't allege him of stealing it from somewhere else; perhaps there's a good reason why he'd approach posting his own opinion here that way.

    But it does seem sort of pontificatory, rather than like a reply to something specific someone said here…

  38. ed t said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 1:41 am

    [Responding to comment added above]
    "Hate speech" is not necessarily a legal concept. All we are talking about is a context in which a person might lose their job. However, to give you an idea of the sensitivity in the UK:

    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/2303882/posts

    My tone (such as it was) was one rather of sarcasm. I find it ironic that you would even debate whether Sherrod's comments were racist or not. Talk of taking a white farmer to "his kind" is clearly racist, and intended to make her audience laugh imo. Of course they were racist though. If you agree with her stereotypically sentimental narrative maybe you can excuse that…

  39. ed t said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 1:54 am

    Rodger C: that's exactly right- but the way I see it working is less that the US has "learnt from experience" and rather that they have a lot of deep stereotypes and hang ups. Much though I dislike the language police (metaphor) in the UK, I think it's just good manners gone a bit neurotic; at least from one persepctive. In the US there is an unhealthy set of expectations which seems to distort political reality. The attitudes of Sherrod and the political/media treatment of her (anxiety, revulsion, sympathy and the impulse to look for a scapegoat- Breitbart) are almost touchingly revealing, but unmistakeably flawed.

  40. Rodger C said,

    July 24, 2010 @ 2:30 pm

    I'm sure we're massively neurotic about race, but I don't understand your lack of "sympathy" for someone who was fired from her job by spineless bureaucrats on the unexamined word of a political enemy. If by "scapegoat" you mean that Andrew Breitbart is an easy target compared to the people who actually falsified Ms. Sherrod's words by omission and the shameful behavior of her superiors, then I agree.

  41. Ray said,

    July 29, 2010 @ 4:04 pm

    "I beat my wife at checkers last night.

  42. Reader Question: Did Jesus Teach Legalism? | Eric Pazdziora said,

    August 10, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    [...] more on the story, try this for linguistic observations, and this for social observations. This being a non-political blog, [...]

  43. Jens Fiederer said,

    August 18, 2010 @ 1:15 pm

    In this case, I'm actually a bit more sympathetic to Breitbart than the NAACP (assuming he is more or less truthful). After all, this was video of an NAACP event, so one would EXPECT the NAACP to have better access to the uncut version than Breitbart would get – and Breitbart considered the audience reaction noteworthy.

  44. A few Great Tweets for Writers That You Might Have Missed | Daily Dish Recipes said,

    September 28, 2013 @ 9:51 am

    [...] "Context is everything" http://bit.ly/c2Jo09 [...]

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