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Friday, July 23, 2010

HEADHUNTING

The video wasn't to target Ms Sherrod, it wasn't a headhunting attempt. It was to counter the NAACP's deliberate political misuse of racism when they attacked the Tea Party.

When Van Jones was revealed to be a 9/11 "truther" and a flat out communist, he lost his position as "Green Czar" at the Obama White House. The right leaning blogosphere (what Ace of Spades calls the "dextrosphere") celebrated this exercise of their power. They'd exposed a radical extremist in the Obama administration and toppled him from power. One down, dozens to go.

This sort of political action goes by a lot of names, such as "gotcha politics" which is a bit too slangy for my liking. The left-leaning blogosphere ("sinestrosphere") saw what happened to Van Jones in this light, considering his fall from power as a cruel example of gotcha politics instead of substantive policy disagreement. Unable to defeat him in the realm of ideas, the right used dirty tricks such as accurately publishing his radicalism to the public to beat him.

I call this headhunting. Headhunting is in essence looking for specific targets to demolish in order to gain political power and popular momentum. The Democrats, with considerable help from Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, did quite a bit of this in 2005-2006 during the build up to the November elections. One after another, stories came out about conservatives and Republicans to discredit the party and the right: Tom DeLay, Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, Bob Allen, and Larry Craig all fell to revelations of their secret life and fell from grace, and power.

This sort of thing works; if you can get the public to think of a group as represented by the very few specific examples, then their general perception of that group will suffer. Especially if the legacy media goes out of its way to publicize and sustain these stories. Each time the group in question tries to defend its self by saying "that's just a radical example, we aren't like that."

Recently, the left has started a huge push to portray the Tea Party movement as a pack of bigoted, hate-filled racists. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee said that the Tea partiers took off their Klan sheets and started wearing "uh, clothing, uh, with a name, say, 'I am part of the tea party.' Don't you be fooled." Think Progress created a video splicing together mostly scenes of leftists pretending to be racist members of the movement as part of the hilariously failed "Crash the Tea Party" concept. And the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) put out an official statement declaring that the Tea Party is racist.

Their evidence is scant and typically extremely subjective (such as a man holding a placard saying "monkey see, monkey spend" about congress somehow interpreted as a racist statement about President Obama), but the overall thrust is consistent with leftist policy and tactics right out of the Rules for Radicals handbook: don't bother trying to even discuss or debate, just smear your enemies. The Tea Party membership immediately responded in the way everyone accused this way does: "hey, that's not us, we can't stop a few idiots from joining in the rallies in a free country."

In response, Andrew Brietbart posted video footage on his Big Government site depicting Shirley Sherrod making a speech. In that speech, she spoke of how she shunned a White farmer seeking help although she'd over her career dispensed more than a billion dollars to Black farmers in Georgia as part of her job at the FDA.

The outcry was immediate and targeted by the right: Shirley Sherrod is a bigoted racist who misuses her power with racial inequality! The NAACP shunned her, and the Obama administration within hours asked for her resignation. Sherrod resigned from her position and the right celebrated. Another head rolled, we took another one down! One less radical from the halls of power, we win!

Except... it wasn't a win, necessarily. Certainly Ms Sherrod is a leftist and certainly she didn't help that White farmer as much as she helped the Black ones. But she did help him, and his family spoke out in public supporting her for the aid they received. The rest of the video was released; Sherrod was telling a story about how she used to act, and used that to explain how that's not right and ought not continue. The right ended up with egg on its face, pushing someone out of power for something she didn't really do.

And the problem is that they missed Breitbart's point completely. Publius at Big Government explains:
Breitbart’s argument is simple and straightforward: Regardless of what else is in Sherrod’s speech, the first video released on BigGovernment.com features Sherrod telling a tale of racism that is received by the NAACP audience with laughter and cheers. They weren’t cheering redemption; they were cheering discrimination. Upon hearing the cheers, Sherrod fails to offer any immediate clarification and even smiles right along with them.
The video wasn't to target Ms Sherrod, it wasn't a headhunting attempt. It was to counter the NAACP's deliberate political misuse of racism when they attacked the Tea Party. The NAACP lied about the Tea Party movement for political gain, they cried racism knowing full well it was untrue, using it simply because it still has some power. It would get people paying attention to the idea of racism and the Tea Party on the defensive rather than discussing and thinking about the Tea Party's complaints. It would even get Blacks to think twice before considering what the Tea Party said or joining them.

Breitbart found video of the NAACP engaging in overwhelming racist hate and put it online, not to nail Ms Sherrod, but to show the delight the crowd showed - a crowd including the sitting president of the NAACP - cheering and happy about how this woman stuck it to a White guy while helping Blacks. That's why he didn't show the rest; the story of redemption was irrelevant to his point. Whether or not she learned her lesson and grew up a bit doesn't matter; the point was the organization reveled in this racist act, celebrating and supporting it as a unit rather than as a few extremist hangers-on.

When the dextrosphere leapt on Ms Sherrod and began celebrating her fall from power, they missed the point entirely, and in the process, helped the NAACP deflect from their basic problem. They've gone from a noble organization started by Republicans to fight for equality of opportunity and an end to institutionalized discrimination to a group fighting for Black supremacy. They've accomplished their initial goals and have moved on to advance Blacks ahead of anyone else.

Headhunting ultimately is about people rather than ideas. If you manage to topple a Van Jones or a Ted Haggard, perhaps the country is better off, but you haven't toppled their ideas or why they were in power to begin with. Headhunting avoids the entire debate, offering triumph over one individual in the place of triumph over the ideas and policies they supported and fought for. Van Jones is out of power, but his ideas continue at the Obama administration. He wasn't hired despite his radicalism and leftist "Green" proposals, but because of them.

Our fight is not against individuals or peoples, although sometimes they need to go in order to bring about a better government and society (certainly the Republican party is better off without the likes of Craig and Foley in office). Our fight is against a basic ideology which believes progress trumps liberty and that a small group of politically correct commissars knows better than anyone else what and how to do everything. Lets not lose sight of this in the glee of "getting" one of the enemy.

*I wanted to post this two days ago but it was sent to the Opinion Zone for them to use, and hasn't shown up there yet. As the material is sort of time-sensitive, I've put it up here; perhaps they'll use it yet, in which case I'll have to pull it temporarily.

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