The Closing of the Conservative Mind

Over at The Week, former Bush speechwriter David Frum writes:

On the phone on the evening of July 20, a friend asked me: "Can Breitbart possibly survive?" I could only laugh incredulously. I answered: "Of course he'll survive, and undamaged. The incident won't matter at all."

There will be no apology or statement of regret for distributing a doctored tape to defame and destroy someone. There will be not even a flutter of interest among conservatives in discussing Breitbart’s role. By the morning of July 21, the Fox & Friends morning show could devote a segment to the Sherrod case without so much as a mention of Breitbart’s role. The central fact of the Sherrod story has been edited out of the conservative narrative, just as it was edited out of the tape itself.

When people talk of the "closing of the conservative mind" this is what they mean: not that conservatives are more narrow-minded than other people — everybody can be narrow minded — but that conservatives have a unique capacity to ignore unwelcome fact.

Indeed, Andrew Breitbart has doubled down on dumb, tripled up on hate.

Digby, over at Hullabaloo adds that the conservative "rank and file are misinformed because they are being purposefully led astray by the same conservative intelligentsia which owns and operates the right wing media" and that this episode is not the result of 'epistemic closure'" but rather the "result of professional propagandists successfully applying their trade. " As Digby notes, this was no accident, it was by design.

Perhaps this episode in my search for an ex malo bonum exit will finally bring full discredit to a vile, perversely vitriolic, sycophantic race baiter. If a lunatic rants in a padded room, does he make a sound?

Over at The Atlantic, Joshua Green, one of the best young journalists in the country today, aptly describes the Breitbart Circus:


Awhile back, particularly during the Clinton administration, the media would flagellate itself every so often for rushing, lemming-like, to cover some story or other that was being touted on the Drudge Report, and then, after a period of reflection, deciding that it shouldn't be. There was usually a Howard Kurtz column to demarcate such an episode. But the recidivism rate was high. Invariably, the media would chase the next Drudge rumor, and the whole cycle would repeat.

That doesn't seem to happen anymore, at least not with Drudge. But it does happen, and more powerfully than ever, with Andrew Breitbart, who has inherited Barnum's instinct for what will cause a circus and the certainty that suckers are still being born every minute. One difference is that Drudge usually focused on sex scandals and tawdry personal humiliations, which, in the end, is hardly worth getting worked up about. Yes, yes, shame on reporters for taking the bait. But c'mon.

Breitbart focuses on race. Today's episode with Shirley Sherrod, who was forced to resign from the Agriculture Department on the basis of a doctored and intentionally misleading videotape, is an especially ugly case in point, calculated to stir the very worst racial resentments. This time the political world--the NAACP, the Agriculture Secretary--moved as quickly as the media world to unthinking response, and I suspect it happened precisely because race was involved. I don't doubt that the administration's understandable desire to avoid racial issues played a big part in how this turned out.

But what's galling to me--gut-wrenching, really, like watching old news footage of blacks being beaten and clubbed at lunch counters--is that Breitbart obviously understood the powerful effect his tape would have, posted it anyway, and then assumed the role of ringmaster, expertly conducting the media circus, fanning the flames. It's hardly the first time. But the moral ugliness of what's just happened is glaring, and it's hard for me to see how the media can justify continuing to treat Breitbart as simply a roguish provocateur. He's something much darker.


We need to treat Breitbart for what he is, a race baiter who has no place in the national conservation until he modifies his behaviour. There are standards of human decency and standards of journalistic integrity. On both counts, Andrew Breitbart has disqualified himself. 

Tags: Andrew Breitbart, Right Wing Movements, Race Relations in the United States (all tags)



RE: The Closing of the Conservative Mind

It's not just Fox and Friends - NPR's report on All Things Considered mentioned or whatever it is, but not Brietbart by name. (Which was odd since he was quoted in the next story on another subject.)

And yeah, when even Erickson and Beck criticize the firing and video, you know the guy's a true monster.

by Nathan Empsall 2010-07-21 06:12PM | 0 recs
One innocent person gets caught in a melee of incompetent fools

Our press corp are just pathetic. Even today people cannot get the facts straight about Shirley Sherrod. Twenty-four years ago she did not work for the USDA or the State, she worked for an organization that's stated mission was to help blacks, so that she even entertained a white farmer to begin with shows her magnanimity. But moving on beyond the smears and lies and propaganda, what still worries me is the way the administration reacted.

The role of the WH in this fiasco is murky and what sounds amazing is that Jim Messina congratulated the WH communications department for the way they handled the situation once Breitbart released the video, that is get ahead of the message and fire this woman without an investigation. If this is good communication, then the WH communication dept is being run by incompetent twits who make the Keystone cops look like the paradigm of efficiency. Incompetence, cowardice, capitulation, it's frankly appalling.

by tarheel74 2010-07-21 06:13PM | 1 recs
RE: One innocent person gets caught in a melee of incompetent fools

I agree with you. The way the USDA reacted is disturbing. And the Messina comments are reprehensible.


by Charles Lemos 2010-07-21 06:24PM | 0 recs
RE: The Closing of the Conservative Mind

I agree with your comments re Breithart. Now, would someone please inform the mainstream press.

by spirowasright 2010-07-21 06:15PM | 0 recs
Over at Fox

The well know sexual predator and falafel man gave a backhanded apology to Ms. Sherrod and then went on to convict her as a liberal activist, spent time with Dick Morris describing her as a racist, promising to dig up more quote from her past etc etc. And to think the administration cowered to these bastards.

by tarheel74 2010-07-21 08:35PM | 0 recs
Obama is a coward

The worst individual in this whole sordid affair is without a doubt, Andrew Breitbart. But President Obama has not done himself any favors either by remaining aloof and unconnected to this matter. He is acting as if he is on a foreign trip and isn't getting any up-to-date news about what is going on. He lets his press secretary go before the WHitehouse press and tell completely unbelievable lies about the Whitehouse being completely uninvolved in Shirley Sherrod's firing, and pretends that Americans will believe that a hack like Vilsack would take the fall for this and absolve the President of any complicity in the affair. Vilsack should be fired for poor management of the department and its employees, but Obama needs to be escoriated for continuing to act like he hasn't even heard about this sad story. He has truly forced me to re-evaluate my opinion of him by the way that he has cowardly hidden behind his cabinet secretary and pretended this wasn't a body blow to his own administration. After all, who is really in charge of his administration? Vilsack? When the "buck stops here" is truly applied, that means it all comes down to the President, not some incompetent Ag secretary. Shame on Obama for being such a coward! If he was truly a great leader, he would have picked up the phone unsolicited and given Ms. Sherrod a call and told her he was sorry about the way she was treated by his administration and he would do whatever he had to do to make it right. That didn't happen. Instead, we got blatant lies from his press secretary that he didn't have anything to do with.


Well, I for one don't believe that. And I blame Obama for not stepping up to the plate and doing the right thing. He still needs to have a conversation with Ms. Sherrod, as she suggests, to talk about race and how it affects the little people. But that is unlikely to happen because the littlest person in this whole affair now is the President. And that is a sad commentary on a man who promised to bring a new discourse about race to this nation, and whose silence now speaks volumes about his own cowardice when dealing with this subject. Shame on him!

by mcarnes 2010-07-22 09:15AM | 0 recs
Obama NOT a coward...

Obama is acting more like Neville Chamberlain with appeasement.  There is a mind set that we can ride out the "storm" of ultra-conservatism and that the politiacl seas will steady themselves back to the middle.

I believe a war is brewing...not sure how it will take place or be fought, but I feel that the current uber-conservatives would rather destroy "the world" if it will not act the way they want it to.

If Obama stands up the way it is suggested above, it is the first shot of a war.  Believe it.  I would ask when Obama's Ft. Sumter is coming, not if...I am sorry to say it.  My hope is that the administration is using this time to shore up the non-suicidal conservative position.  Not saying it will come to open warfare, but it will come to something...the pissed-off-older-white-voter genie is not going back in the bottle.

by Hammer1001 2010-07-22 12:03PM | 0 recs


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