Okay, not yet another commentary on this week's biggest overblown news story, the Shirley Sherrod incident? Yep. But I want to say very little about Ms. Sherrod, confident that as far as I can see, she has been completely cleared of all the false charges. But I do want to reflect on these false charges, where they came from and why. For I think it is indicative of something that is so profound and deep, something that prompts the fear of mainstream American so violently that all talk of it is nearly censored out of popular discourse.
We know pretty much what happened. A sleazy blogger, looking for attention and fame, doctored up an old speech that Ms. Sherrod gave in a way that made her look like she favored black farmers over white farmers many years ago (back in the days, for example, when South Africa was still ruled by a white minority.) Then the rat-infested filth that calls itself the newsroom at Fox News jumped on the story, and gave yet another boost to their undeserved ratings by pouncing on it and making every effort -- without bothering to do the one thing a professional journalist should do more than anything else, which is check the validity of the story -- to pipe it into every TV set in America to prove how racist black people in power are. Then the final blow came when our "hope for change" administration, including President "racism is a persistent evil in America" Obama, cowered in fear of those big, bad, bullies over at Fox and instantly -- again, without bothering to check the facts -- fired Ms. Sherrod, the only sane person in this whole ordeal.
Of course there's lots in here to make even the laziest journalist or pundit happy, lots to prove that political discourse in this country is about on a third-grade intellectual level (except that I can't imagine the worst bullies on my elementary schoolyard being so sleazy.) Yes, Fox News -- if only it's millions of idiot viewers didn't actually believe their crap -- makes even the Daily Show look like old Dick Cavett reruns. What troubles me, though, is their very deliberateness that they displayed in this affair. And it is only one particularly grievous example of what they do every day. But as an example of what they do every day, I want to examine it for a moment because I do think it reveals something about the deepest fear in America -- the fear that if "we" give them any power, people of color might turn out to be almost as bad as the white people who have ruled this country for the past two centuries. The fear, in other words, that white people's privilege might yet turn out to be ill-gotten gains, and that judgment day is coming.
We all know, of course, that Hannity, Beck, and all those other blowhards are just that -- blowhards. But they, and more importantly their "editors" are not stupid. (I put the term editor in quote marks because I'm not sure what you call a decision-maker at an entertainment organization that poses as a news organization; I suppose "decision-maker who plays the role of an editor" would do, but that's kinda long.) I have complete confidence that these people at Fox knew that this story was a sham, and they probably figured that they would get "busted" for it -- but they went with it anyway. Why? Because they knew it would sell. That's what they do -- sell entertainment. Why did they know it would sell? Because it was an image that people fear more than anything else -- a black woman, allegedly in a position of power, saying that she just might have the guts to every now and then treat a white person the way that black people have been treated for just about forever. Oooo, white people don't like that -- it's almost like saying that white people might deserve to be treated like that sometimes, which is awfully close to the truth. Maybe we don't actually deserve it, but it would be understandable if it were to happen. That's why white people fear it so much, and that's what white people fear about Barrack Obama. The demagogues at Fox News are eagerly awaiting (and seeking out) confirmation that Obama's hidden agenda is to give whites what they, in many respects, deserve, which is second fiddle.
Of course, as his reaction demonstrated, that fear is unfounded. As one of those hard-core lefties who never had much faith in Obama from the start, this episode was not surprising to me. It was not surprising that he cowered more quickly than an ostrich can even find the ground in which to duck his head. It was not surprising because we've seen it happen before -- with candidate Obama. Remember how quickly he distanced himself from his Pastor, Rev. Jerimiah Wright, when the same sleazeballs assassinated his character? Obama distanced himself, called Rev. Wright some obligatory bad names, and then boosted his popularity by making a stirring speech about the persistence of racism in America. It was obvious then that Mr. Obama was all talk and no action -- for action would have been to actually stand up for his friend and fellow citizen and defend Rev. Wright as one who is entitled to express his views, even if his views make some people uncomfortable. Furthermore, upon election, Mr. Obama would have included Rev. Wright as a key member of his special anti-racism team that he would have appointed on his second day in office. That would have been action.
One day, these sleazeballs might actually find someone, a person of color, working somewhere in this person of color's administration, who might actually have the audacity to, even once or twice, side with a person of color in an effort to correct history. When they do find such a person and crucify him/her, I'll know who the real hero is.