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Last week, the nation witnessed a somewhat bizarre scene play out in American media and national politics. The sensationalist, rightwing propagandists Andrew Breitbart ‘s posted on his website BigGovernment.com another one of his highly edited videos designed to tear down another liberal organization based on lies, misinformation, and the manipulation of facts. Their intended target this time was the civil rights pioneering organization the NAACP and a middle level FDA official named Shirley Sherrod. For the liberals, this kind of false, personal attack is nothing new. One thing is certain, as soon as there were politics there were political opponents attacking each other with lies and misinformation. However, there are two things that make the recent events surrounding the manipulation of the NAACP video of former FDA employ Shirley Sherrod interesting. One, just how fast Fox News jumped on Big Government’s phony video, and reported it as breaking news. And two, just how often Fox News plays into the racial fears of its mostly white, middle aged audience. Now that the Sherrod charade is starting to blow over, we see Fox News once again promoting the phony New Black Panther controversy.

Last week, the nation witnessed a somewhat bizarre scene play out in American media and national politics. The sensationalist, rightwing propagandists Andrew Breitbart ‘s posted on his website BigGovernment.com another one of his highly edited videos designed to tear down another liberal organization based on lies, misinformation, and the manipulation of facts. Their intended target this time was the civil rights pioneering organization the NAACP and a middle level FDA official named Shirley Sherrod. For the liberals, this kind of false, personal attack is nothing new. One thing is certain, as soon as there were politics there were political opponents attacking each other with lies and misinformation. However, there are two things that make the recent events surrounding the manipulation of the NAACP video of former FDA employ Shirley Sherrod interesting. One, just how fast Fox News jumped on Big Government’s phony video, and reported it as breaking news. And two, just how often Fox News plays into the racial fears of its mostly white, middle aged audience. Now that the Sherrod charade is starting to blow over, we see Fox News once again promoting the phony New Black Panther controversy.

In America, around the time of 1777 signing of the Articles of Confederation, there were conservative Americans that would have been happy to replace the royal appointed officials with the new American aristocrats. While, the more liberal leaning Americans called for a social Democracy, that allowed for all the workers, farmers, and freed slaves who fought for America’s freedom, to participate in a government, "For the people, by the people." And right off the bat the name calling and mudslinging began. Many would address President George Washington as, "King George."

During the early years of our nation, newspapers took on explicitly partisan tones. For example, while one newspaper labeled Andrew Jackson an adulterous and a murder, the paper printed across the street might call "Old Hickory" a true American hero. And so, character assassinations of political figures are nothing new in American politics.

In 1949, congress passed the Fairness Doctrine. Essentially, the rule required news broadcasters to dedicate some of their time to discussing contrasting views on controversial matter of public interest. The rule did not actually require equal time for contrasting views; it simply called for opposing views to be presented. Although the Fairness Doctrine was held up in the Supreme Court, Republican FCC Commissioner, Mark Fowler believed the rule infringed on First Amendment rights. He earnestly worked to repeal the rule. At the time, Fowler received a good deal of pushback from his fellow Republicans. Many on the right believed at the time the three big networks would go for Reagan’s blood if the Fairness Doctrine was repealed. Nonetheless, Fowler was eventually successful in the repealing of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987.

With the repeal of the Fairness Doctrine, Rush Limbaugh was able to set up shop. No longer did talk radio have to provide contrasting views on important matters of public interest. Once again, political discourse reflected the burly world of unfettered, and unsubstantiated free speech. This opened the floodgates for highly personal, partisan character assassinations, without presenting repudiating arguments (Thinking of you Ms. Shakespeare Sarah Palin). In fact, Limbaugh has openly declared the reinstatement of the Fairness Doctrine would put him out of business.

Once again, there is nothing new about partisan mudsling. It’s been around forever. However, what is new is the speed in which ugly, smear campaigns can get around. Nowadays, nearly every American is plugged in. There are dozens of local talk radio programs available for just about any American to listen to on their drive to and from work, the three big networks still air nightly on T.V, along with a half dozen cable news programs, and of course, there is the internet, with all its wonderful blog sites, like the one you are reading this article on.

What is new is the speed in which people receive their news and the response time it takes for stories to spread into the national discourse. The problem is many of the stories coming from the rightwing blogs and talk radio folks are not actually legitimate news stories. Rather, like in the NAACP/Sherrod episode, the story was just another piece of rightwing propaganda designed to simultaneously harm a venerable liberal organization and the President of the United States. The rightwing blogs and talk radio programs are inundated in wild conspiracy theories, distortions and flat out dishonest smear campaigns directed toward their political opponents.

For example, in previous articles, I have clearly documented the Big Government’s ACCORN pimp video was a complete sham. Fox News and the preachers of propaganda started going after ACCORN well before the phony pimp video. In fact, the rightwing media spin machine has spread lies about ACCORN and voter fraud during the last three presidential elections. The aristocratic class targeted ACCORN with a relentless smear ever since the organization took up a campaign to raising the minimum wage for workers. And every time prosecutors and courts looked at the voter fraud, and a host of other rightwing allegations, they ruled in ACCORN’s favor and against the smear mongers. Nonetheless, that didn’t stop Fox News, Limbaugh, and Big Government from repeating the very lies that were disproven by multiple Attorney General investigations and dismissed by courts nationwide. As the old adage goes, "It you repeat something enough times, it makes it true." Still to this day, Fox News and the rightwingers repeat the lies that ACCORN was involved in criminal behavior. In spite of the fact that they were exonerated dozens of times, the rightwing continues the spread their lies about the organization they have already effectively destroyed. This false narrator Fox News propagates has a deep racial undertone.

What is sad about the ACCORN smear campaign is that the rightwing personally spread lies and attacked not political figures, but thousands of everyday Americans working to help the poor. They besmirched the reputations of thousands of mostly minority aid workers.  They essentially demolished the most successful non-profit organization dedicated to registering poor voters and assisting everyday Americans through the bureaucracy of bankruptcy and foreclosures. This harkens back to the early Constitutional Congress days when we were fighting over a rich aristocratic government or one ruled by the people.

What makes the recent ACCORN, NAACP/Sherrod and New Black Panther stories interesting is the obvious relationship to people of color.  Even before president Obama, our nation’s first African American president, was elected into office the racial smears were being circulated in rightwing blogs and eventually trickled up to Limbaugh radio and Fox News. We should not forget the whole Birther controversy is still alive and well in the extreme fridges of the rightwing running for national office.  

Soon after Obama was sworn in, the rightwing began spreading lies and disinformation against Van Jones, forcing him to resign. Then we saw Fox News openly supporting and even sponsoring Tea Party protests. As we have seen, the Tea Party movement has openly embraced white supremacist and radical militia organizations. In additions, they have embraced Big Government and the Birthers.  Big Government said that they decided to release the manipulated Sherrod speech in order to counter NAACP’s had criticism of the Tea Party. The difference is that the NAACP pointed to the racist elements that have been apparent within the Tea Party movement and the NAACP called on the Tea Partiers to publically denounce and prohibit such influences in the future. What Big Government and Fox News did in response to the NAACP’s criticism is air a vicious smear campaign based on a distorted, out of context, video clip. What Fox News and the screaming rightwing did, once again is personal attack an innocent black person in order to falsely discredit the NAACP and the President of the United States. The fact that that Obama’s administrations fired Sherrod before even hearing her side of the story provided a win-win situation for the rightwing scoundrels.

But Sherrod is so last week, now we see Fox News personalities yapping about the New Black Panther party, which just so happens to be made up of all about a dozen people from Philadelphia. The rightwing blogs have repeatedly aired a one minute YouTube video of a black man dressed up in militia attire and hold a nightstick stand in front of a polling station during the 2008 election. The outgoing Bush Administration investigated this young man’s actions and determined not to pursue criminal charges. However, looked into the case and determined civil charges should be pursued. They charged the man with a civil restraining order, preventing him from standing out in front of a polling station in the 2012 election. However, the rightwing blogs and Fox News has presented this YouTube video as proof the Obama administration is abusing Civil Rights laws and demonstrating a double standard. Fox News has claimed Obama should have criminally charged the young man in the video. Despite the fact that the Bush administration already ruled there should be no criminal charges brought up in this case.

What has developed in the last couple of years is a pattern of Fox News racism, or more generally, rightwing racism. After all, Fox News takes its cues from the rightwing blogs and talk radio. We say it with the build-up to the 2008 election with the Birthers and the false attacks on ACCORN. After the election we witnessed Fox News personalities viciously attempt to destroy Van Jones with lies and misrepresentations.  All the while Fox News was sponsoring the rising, racist Tea Party movement.  Tea Party favorite Big Government then posted the manufactured, misleading, and now infamous, ACCORN pimp video. A video Fox News "reported" on ad nausea.  Fox News failed to cover the fact the ACCORN’s exonerations from all of the false rightwing, Big Government and Fox News allegations.  In 2010 Fox News really started jumping on the phony New Black Panther story, promoted the phony Sherrod story, backtracked form the Sherrod story, and is not back on the phony New Black Panther story.

The lightening speed in which rightwing conspiracy theories become national news stories and eventually effect our government is mindboggling.  In less than twenty four hours, a rightwing propaganda website posts a doctored video to misrepresent the words of a mid-level FDA official and Fox News runs with it. Thus resulting in the Obama administrations firing the poor women based on an intentional distortions used to destroy an innocent women, the NAACP, and the President of the United States.  

Van Jones, the Tea Party, ACCORN, the New Black Panther, NAACP, and Shirley Sherrod are just the most prominent examples. There are other examples that can be added to the list to further reinforce the now obvious pattern of Fox News racism. Demagoguery has always had populous appeal. It should be noted that according to a recent Nielsen Media Research, of a total of 2.102 million viewer audience, only 1.38% or roughly 29,000 are black viewers. Like politics itself, fear mongering has long been an effective tool in the politician’s handbook. Just read Machiavelli. Americans need to realize there is no Fairness Doctrine governing media and political discourse anymore. We are back to letting our leaders rule by "Any means necessary." Personally, I’m not advocating whether we should reinstate the Fairness Doctrine or not. That is for another article. What I am pointing out is that we are once again operating in a media world akin to the great wild west of political discourse. That means, demagoguery and character assassination are becoming mainstream, or as Sara Palin ironically likes to say, the lamestream media. But then again, that does make for good ratings amongst Fox’s key demographics, white, mostly middle aged and up, wealth conservative Americans.

Originally posted to okofay on Tue Jul 27, 2010 at 11:55 AM PDT.

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