Mike the Mad Biologist

A Question for Alterman About Breitbart

In an otherwise excellent article about the Breitbart scandal/Sherrod non-scandal*, Eric Alterman writes the following:

To be fair, Kurtz does come up with one legitimate example [of liberal excess]. He quotes MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann, observing that Sherrod’s reputation had been “assassinated by Fox News”–which is undeniable–but who also referred to and “that scum Breitbart.” Olbermann is always the example that conservatives use, but even though he does go too far on occasion, his antics are in no way comparable to those of Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh.

What’s more, there are more accurate ways to refer to Breitbart, such as a “deliberate liar” and a “purposeful character assassin”….

While Olbermann can be a bloviating blowhard, I don’t see what he did wrong here. Granted, he could have been more specific: “deliberately lying scum” or “character assassinating scum” would have been more accurate.

But Breitbart is scum. I bring this up because science bloggers, when we’re not making Virginia Heffernan clutch her pearls, have discussed ad nauseum how scientists should deal with denialists and other flat-out liars. Yet there is, with rare exception, unanimity about the actual nature of denialists–they are viewed as disingenuous hacks. Instead, the debate focuses on the best tactics and strategies to oppose them (i.e., should we call them hacks?).

If we consider Breitbart’s support for the ACORN sliming–which involved falsehood, quote mining, and highly selective editing–and which led to the demise of ACORN, it has to be viewed as something only scum would do. While the political press focused on ACORN as a get-out-the-vote organization, that really wasn’t ACORN’s primary focus.

ACORN was critical in helping poor and low-income people find and keep housing (when I lived in Long Island, they uncovered widespread rental housing discrimination, and were part of the solution). They opposed lending predation. ACORN also helped the needy navigate the confusing maze of assistance programs. It is not hyperbole to say that, every years, thousands and thousands of people were lifted out of destitution because of ACORN’s efforts.

Breitbart et alia attacked ACORN (and these claims have been shown to be false) to weaken the turnout of Democratic-leaning voters (Remember: when ‘real’, white Americans are organized, that’s canvassing, and when minorities and the poor are organized, that’s like totally HITLER!). In other words, to help his allies gain political power, he destroyed an organization that helped some of the neediest among us.

So how is calling this man “scum” going too far?

Then there is the whole–again, entirely false–campaign against Sherrod. And, as before, Sherrod actually spent her career reaching helping those in need, and reached across the racial divide to do so.

If Alterman thinks it’s inappropriate for a prominent figure to call Breitbart scum because it will backfire politically, fine. Make and support that argument. But someone has to state for the record that he is a disgusting, reprehensible excuse for a human being. Until the Coalition of the Sane repeatedly points out that reprehensible actions define reprehensible people, there is far less cost to Breitbart’s kind of crap than there should be.

*While Breitbart and many others sucked, Sherrod did nothing wrong here. We should remember that.

Comments

  1. #1 BaldApe
    August 13, 2010

    I was put off at first by Olbermann’s manner. I almost always agree with him, but, as you say, he’s a blowhard.

    OTOH, anybody in the press who is willing to call a liar a liar, and call scum scum, is OK with me.

    And it’s refreshing that Olbermann and Madow don’t pretend to be unbiased, unlike a certain “fair and balanced” network we could name.

  2. #2 Atypical
    August 13, 2010

    Obermann a blowhard. Hardly.

    There is nowhere on television that repukes/cons are called out on what they really are. Dems are wimps, unorganized and apparently afraid of…what? That’s why Olbermann gets criticized. Because he is almost alone in his assertive dissent.

    Consider: Iraq war because of lies, 911 due to imcompetence, billions spent/stolen in Bush’s unnecessary defense/war activities, a gay escort given White House press credentials, spying on Americans without cause, tax cuts for the wealthy during war, lax/ineffective enforcement of govt regulations and emasculation of govt controls on illegality and excess (Finacial Meltdown anyone?), support for a television “network” to become a propaganda arm of the Bush cabal, allowing this country to become a corporatocracy, and … there are hundreds more examples but don’t ever get angry and say “I’m not going to take it anymore”. Just feel bad and go back to what you were doing.

    Just calmly say, “that’s not good. Something should be done about that”. And don’t be rude!

    There should be nore Olbermanns/Maddows/Schultzs – in newspapers, tv, radio and the streets. Look at the tea idiots. They get coverage, support and respect from the “liberal press”. (which never existed) And don’t ever expect the MSM to help. They are ineffective, cowed and totally owned by big business. Instead we criticize one of the few who fights the dangerous, vicious, hateful, crap that’s destroying the country.

    That’s why this stuff happened in the first place – FEW REALLY COMPLAINED AND WORKED HARD TO STOP IT. And where we had an effect we gave up too early and worked against ourselves.

    The cons are right. Some of us just want to sing Kumbayah.

    Go read some Chris Hedges, Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi and Chalmers Johnson, Naomi Klein, Jeff Sharlet, Russ Baker, Antonia Juhasz, Jeremy Scahill, John Gorenfield, John Dean, and Wendell Potter.

    Then we’ll talk.

  3. #3 JG
    August 14, 2010

    But someone has to state for the record that he is a disgusting, reprehensible excuse for a human being.

    I think you’re far too kind to him. It beggars belief that the man isn’t in jail for the known frauds he’s perpetrated.

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