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Context Matters

I’m sure this post won’t win me any additional friends from my conservative brethren and it may lose me some. It needs to be said anyway.

Let me start by saying that, as the title of this post conveys, context matters. All too often in the media, comments are taken out of their proper context and twisted to fit someone’s agenda. Web sites like Media Matters and, yes, even the conservative Media Research Center, often do this. Now whether they do it purposely or simply gloss over the whole truth because of ideological blindness is another matter to be determined. The point is, it happens and it happens often.

The most recent and now well-known example of this is the case of Shirley Sherrod, the now (as of the writing of this post)  former employee of the Agriculture Department. Video of a speech Sherrod gave at an NAACP gathering was released showing her relating a story of how she discriminated against a white farmer back in 1986, or so we were led to believe. The video is fairly short and ends abruptly when Sherrod is finished sharing the story.

Now if that’s all you saw of Sherrod’s speech, you’d probably think what I did when I first heard it. It sounds pretty racist, doesn’t it? The problem is, she goes on to relate how she learned from that experience and repented from her racist views. The farmer she helped has also come forward to support her version of the story.

This story was broken by Andrew Breitbart on his web site BIGGOVERNMENT. Breitbart claims that he was given the clip and did not have the full speech available to him. On ABC news this morning, when pressed by George Stephanopolous, he also claimed that he believes the clip still shows racism inherent in the NAACP because the audience laughs as she relates the story about the farmer. Whether that’s true or not, I don’t know. I haven’t listened closely enough to the clip or to the entire speech to know if anyone in the audience is laughing. I do know that Breitbart is at least an imbecile for breaking the video in the first place when it’s impossible to tell the context of what was said. Considering the abruptness of the clip’s ending, he should’ve known better. In the Stephanopolous interview, Breitbart did his best to duck and weave in his attempt to paint the NAACP as racist, saying his intention was to show their bigotry and hypocrisy concerning their speaking out against racism in the ranks of the Tea Party movement.

Of course, some conservative commentators such as Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly also jumped the gun and blasted both Sherrod and the NAACP for racism. They are just as guilty as Breitbart in this case. Jumping the gun is dangerous because sometimes you also get shot by it.

Speaking of conservative commentators, Sherrod claims that when she was contacted and forced to resign by someone in the Obama administration, it was told to her that she “was going to be on Glenn Beck tonight”. To Beck’s credit, he did not air the video on his show that afternoon after it broke, though he did air it yesterday and discussed how it was taken out of context.

Lastly, the Obama administration is also culpable. As are the others, they’re guilty of reaching conclusions without full knowledge of all the events. As a side note, it’s interesting to hear that they’re monitoring Beck’s program. I thought they didn’t take Fox News or Beck seriously? But that’s for another time. I’m just sayin’…

FYI, you can view the entire speech by Sherrod here on Youtube.


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