The Need For And Role of Journalistic Integrity: Thwarting Breitbart Bias And Propaganda
More manipulation, propaganda and incitement stir the airwaves and reverberate through the internet as the Shirley Sherrod controversy unfolds before us. This marks yet another time that a heavily edited, doctored and flagrantly erroneous video was successfully used to smear and tear down a target of the right-wing. And yet again, the source was found to be lacking integrity; the story told by the video a complete fabrication. But the public and officials still choose to react to such trash without question, even after repeatedly finding that the source has intentionally deceived and mislead in order to affect negative change.
How can we stop this mad dash toward insanity and push for a greater degree of accountabilty, if not from the sources of such misdirection then at least in some form or capacity that prevents a knee-jerk reactionary response to such trash without a pre-requisite pause to question and verify?
Perhaps we can't. Then again, perhaps by driving home the growing facts regarding the importance of personal due-diligence, it may be possible to at least provide some underlying guidelines to protect against further future misdirections. In the spirit of optimism that such efforts would prove useful, here's a list of documented distortions made by Breitbart, taken from Big Falsehoods: An updated guide to Andrew Breitbart's lies, smears, and distortions over on Media Matters. Each link goes to the appropriate entry on that site, where there's more information about each event:
Updated July 21, 2010 3:24 pm ET
Following the dissolution of Andrew Breitbart's smear of former Obama administration official Shirley Sherrod, Media Matters provides an updated look at how his sensationalist stories have been based on speculation, gross distortions, and outright falsehoods.
- The "video evidence" of Shirley Sherrod's "racism" (NEW)
- "Nationwide ACORN child prostitution investigation" (UPDATED)
- Platform for anti-gay Jennings smears
- Breitbart-promoted O'Keefe Census tape features selective editing (NEW)
- Breitbart-promoted video falsely accuses Democrats of reconciliation hypocrisy (NEW)
- Wild accusations over Gladney case
- Breitbart's websites make baseless claim that NEA engaged in lawbreaking
- Bertha Lewis' nonexistent White House visit
- The Maoist Christmas tree ornaments
- The ACORN "document dump"
- False claims of community organizers "praying" to Obama
Over the jump, I'm concluding this piece by quoting selected excerpts from Holding America To Her Principles from the USPatriotsUnited blog, with permission. The excerpts focus on the importance of a free and independent media, and provide some hints to the role that such a media should play in our society today. I selected them in particular because they provide some insight about the "how" and "why" the rise of the blogosphere and citizen journalism in prominence is a result of the failure of the traditional media to faithfully discharge its role.
If you find this post useful, please talk it up and send links to it far and wide. We must, as a nation of concerned citizens seeking a better & brighter future, start encouraging others like us to do our part to quell the fires of incitement.
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While our founding fathers designed a government based on the separation of powers and provided a formal set of checks and balances to help preserve the underlying structure of government, it is the duty of the citizens to ensure that these checks and balances are upheld. Part and parcel with such responsibility is the duty to hold leaders accountable for their decisions and actions, particularly where those actions could undermine the balance of powers or restrict or obstruct our liberties, rights, and freedoms.
The principles of free speech, and the importance of a free and independent media, constitute an additional set of checks and balances outside of those expressly outlined within the Constitution as part of the government’s function. They lay squarely upon the People to enforce. Our Founding Fathers included them as part of the First Amendment, to ensure the preservation of both freedom of speech and of the Press. Freedom of the press is not only another form of free speech, but it is extended to include members of news-gathering organizations and the processes involved in obtaining information for public distribution. Former President Teddy Roosevelt once said:
"Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free."
Even former President Richard Nixon, during the height of the Watergate scandal, recognized this when he stated:
"It was the system that brought to light the facts and that will bring those guilty to justice - a system that in this case included a determined grand jury, a courageous judge and a vigorous free press."
...An important reason that freedom of speech and the freedom of the press are explicitly protected in our Constitution is to ensure that a medium exists by which our citizens can remain informed, and share their thoughts with others as well as with our representatives.
There are inherent dangers in restricting these two crucial elements of our representative democracy. Through the use of "media manipulation", government and other sources can impose restrictions and control the free flow of information through a variety of methods. Some are outwardly obvious, such as censorship. Some are insidiously hidden, such as the gradual and growing monopolization of the media outlets under the auspices of a very few corporations and individuals. The former leads to a dearth of information and the silencing of dissent. The latter leads to the propagation of propaganda. Media manipulation and the strangulation of the flow of information impedes the ability of A True US Patriot from his or her Constitutional duties of vigilance and dissent. This only leads to frustration and increased apathy.
We have, of late, experienced both within our great nation – much to our detriment and dismay.
Fortunately, the advent and virtual explosion of the internet has led to the rise of a new type of information sharing – blogging. The "Voice of the People" continually rises to be heard. Here, too, are those who would seek to control and influence the flow of information, but amidst the competing and often contradictory blogs, it is still possible for citizens to find the truth. By reading blogs, then checking outside of our own media sphere to the rest of the world, it is possible to recognize the spin, who spun it, and what information was left out or misrepresented.
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Thanks for taking the time to read through all this, folks. Have a great day.
Hat-tip Lordrag of Delphi Forums for the link to the Media Matters information.