Politico editors baffled by strange new world of Andrew Breitbart’s shamelessness

Jim VandeHei's takeaway from the Sherrod affair: Don't trust partisans!

Topics: Politico, War Room, Andrew Breitbart, Media Criticism, Shirley Sherrod,

Politico editors baffled by strange new world of Andrew Breitbart's shamelessnessAndrew Breitbart

One thing that’s becoming increasingly apparent about Politico editor Jim VandeHei is that he has no idea how to navigate the current media landscape. He understands that there is a Breitbart on the right and a Huffington on the left, and both of them are Bad because they are not Balanced like Politico.

That is the thesis of the Thinker he wrote today with his Politico co-founder, John “the considerably less annoying one” Harris. It is called “The Age of Rage,” and it is about how no one will learn any lessons from the recent Breitbart/Sherrod affair. I share their pessimism, actually. But I don’t think they’re blaming the right parties.

The VandeHerris conclusion is that no one will learn any lessons because of the vile Internet partisan media that plays so rough.

Responsible people in power and in the mainstream media are only beginning to grapple with this new environment — in which facts hardly matter except as they can be used as weapon or shield in a nonstop ideological war. Do you dive into the next fact-lite partisan outrage — or do you stay out and risk looking slow, stupid or irrelevant? No one is close to figuring it out.

Actually, VandeHarris, lots of people figured this one out! It was really easy! This is how it worked:

Andrew Breitbart has repeatedly demonstrated that he has no concern for the concept of truth, and he has a documented history of posting misleadingly edited videos. The Shirley Sherrod video he posted was obviously stripped of context. But anyone who watched the edited clip Breitbart himself posted should’ve known his interpretation of it was a lie. In the edited clip, Sherrod mentioned that Chapter 12 bankruptcy for family farms had just been enacted. One simple Google search reveals that the events she is recounting took place around 1986, many, many years before she worked for the USDA. So there is two seconds of research that call Breitbart’s post into question.

Even right-wing bloggers who watched the clip noticed how abruptly the clip ended, just as Sherrod seemed to be getting to the point of her story.

Real-life reporters are supposed to be baffled as to how to respond to this fact-lite outrage? Shouldn’t they have just found the full video, or interviewed Sherrod, like the Atlanta Journal-Constitution did? If you have to write about the latest Breitbart outrage RIGHT THIS SECOND, you write, “Bomb-throwing propagandist with history of disregard for factual accuracy posts race-baiting video intended to score political points against NAACP and black people in general.” It was a really easy story! And the next Andrew Breitbart outrage will be the same story! It is not “partisan” or “biased” to call Andrew Breitbart a liar, because he lies.

At POLITICO, we have an unusual vantage point on this new reality. We are both an enabler (in the eyes of some critics) of the deterioration of political discourse, and a target of it (as we try to defend our values as neutral journalists amid constant criticism from activists who think we fail at neutrality or are disdainful of the goal in the first place).

No, guys, we know your goal is neutrality. It’s just that the “neutrality” you subscribe to is its own bizarre ideology.

VandeHei — who is married to a former Tom DeLay staffer and Bush appointee — is fanatical about the appearance of balance. But he’s part of the crew of Old Political Journalists who dutifully record what Serious People think about the issues of the day. Their problem isn’t that they’re being bamboozled by partisans (they really don’t seem to care when a member of the Cheney family lies to them), it’s that they can no longer figure out who the Serious People are. They think Breitbart is one of them, because he goes to Tammy Haddad’s parties.

Clearly, VandheHarris are just lost:

Over the last 36 hours, articles on Breitbart, Sherrod and Tucker Carlson (whose conservative Daily Caller broke the story about journalists taking partisan sides on JournoList) have shared space atop our site with more “substantive” stories on the failed climate bill and the charges against Charlie Rangel.

Haha what? What does that parenthetical mean? You guys are the editors of this Politico newspaper, right? You are just placing that nonsensical statement in a parenthetical and moving on? Tucker Carlson’s conservative Daily Caller “broke the story about journalists taking partisan sides on JournoList.” Sure. That is an accurate description of what is going on and it does not at all demonstrate that you two fools have no clue how to read and interpret the partisan press. Wow.

Alex Pareene

Alex Pareene writes about politics for Salon and is the author of "The Rude Guide to Mitt." Email him at apareene@salon.com and follow him on Twitter @pareene

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