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.

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.
        -- GreyHawk



Hat-tip Lordrag of Delphi Forums for the link to the Media Matters information.


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You can also find this over on DailyKos.

but I think I'll leave this right here at the top of the frontpage for a while.

I had to laugh a bit when someone tried to compare FOX news for the right wing to MSNBC for the left.

My reasoning? They are pplaying to completely different Demographics.

FOX is playing to a bunch of people that seem to be searching for a simple reinforcement of their worldview.

While MSNBC viewers? They are looking for facts.

That may be generalizing a bit but it is true to a large degree.

How many times have you seen a right wing Blog post something completely inaccurate and they all just cheer it in comments and trounce anyone that points out what is wrong with the post? Whereas at a left wing Blog there tends to be immediate response to asking a diarist to fix inaccuracies. Even by people that agree with what you are trying to prove. They are kicking you, me and everyone to do it honestly.

Opinions can vary but, on the left and generally, we hate when people try to distort the facts to build those opinions.

Like I said, there is some generalizing there about both sides, but this seems to be the case for the most part.

dKos is a good example of that when heated topics get going and there are dueling diaries on subjects. You will have two diaries with near exact opposite opinions. You will find both sides bashing up against each other to determine the real facts. Ugly process but sometimes yields good results.

Facts matter.

Almost none of them in the media conducted any real due diligence on this story before it broke. No background checks, fact checks, no nothing. CNN was the first to start doing so, with all of the rest of them not even bothering beyond quoting CNN's fact checking, and I believe even CNN ran with the story before they did that, from billiegirl at the daily dose:

NYT, WAPO and Politico all quote CNN, none use the telephone

Here’s what the publications  reported:

Politico: “On Tuesday, the family of the Georgia farmer Sherrod was speaking of in the video came forward to defend her. Sherrod also went on CNN to defend herself and attack the NAACP for criticizing her without first calling her to confirm details. She also charged on CNN that the White House wanted her to resign – a claim the White House denies.”

New York Times: “Ms. Sherrod took to the airwaves, especially those of CNN, on Tuesday. She told the network that the N.A.A.C.P. was ‘“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,’” she said.”

Washington Post: “But before all the facts were in, Sherrod lost her job. She told CNN that an undersecretary at agriculture told her that the White House wanted her out. The White House denies this. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said the decision was his. Meanwhile, the wife of the now-deceased farmer told CNN that Sherrod saved their family farm.”

NOT A SINGLE ONE of these reports have AN ORIGINAL quote for their publication from Sherrod herself or the farmers she could have directed them to.

Even one of the national papers of record, what was once the best paper of record, IMHO, the New York Times is relying on second hand quotes... And long after they rushed to report the video as racist along with the rest of the media.

And many of them in the media don't even recognize what they did.

Did you watch the media gaggle at the White House where the 24/7 media hacks were demanding of Gibbs why the White House/Vilsack responded and reacted to the 24/7 media cycle by firing her? No, they did not put it that way but that is how it sounds if you've been paying attention.

Even if most of the media seems to refuse to accpt responsibility for what they did, the same kind of due diligence should be expected from the government and the NAACP before they push to fire someone.

Because they cannot rely on the media.

And I still think that the fact that Breitbart was the first pushing this story up should have been a huge ass red flag just based on his record of purposeful distortions and lies. Nothing he or anyone from his Big Government site says, writes or produces should ever be taken seriously in any way shape or form.


deserves ridicule interwoven with contempt.

Allowing such drivel to thrive and propagate unchallenged is a major failing. Reacting to it in a way that further hurts our nation, after all the damage that Conservatives have done already, is criminal.

when there is a police shooting, before blame is leveled, the police person is put on paid administrative leave pending investigation. Seems this would have been the correct route to follow by Vilsak.....instead of the hair on fire routine.

My kudos go out to Ms. Sherrod for how she handled herself on various TV interviews............ As I have said many times, never tick off a woman, she set her jaw and told her raised voice...not one mention of the word "look" to get her point across.

Ms. Sherrod stated she began to receive hate mail on her government issued blackberry before she was able to turn it in. Is someone checking that blackberry and tracing hate mail? How did people get her id? Was her email addy posted

Thank you epluribus media for insisting and training any of us connected with it to "fact check". Perhaps the Obama administration could use some of US... Wonder if anyone's head rolled at the WH..cause it should have for being so utterly clueless.