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Breitbart and the Assault on Truth

There’s a stunning video out (h/t Emptywheel) of MSNBC’s David Schuster attempting to “interview” bloated righty nutcase Andrew Breitbart about the Teabugger case. In it, Breitbart plays the broken record, yowling about irrelevant and provably false nonsense so that Schuster can’t get a word in edgewise, repeating phrases over and over in the manner Goebbels helpfully suggested to those propounding the Big Lie. (Maybe that should be Breitbart’s next, of many, ”Big” ventures….) More disturbing, however, than the Nazi tactics Breitbart maniacally and proudly employs, is the knowledge that his fans will watch this tape and, disregarding whatever facts are involved, come to the desired conclusion that the “liberal media” are hopelessly biased, and thus Breitbart is right and the MSM, as usual, are wrong. Welcome to the new world of right-wing “journalism,” where stunts and nonsense carry much more weight than what really happened, and this isn’t a bug, but a feature.

I have a yellowed clipping on my bulletin board from a few years ago wherein a NYT reader says that the reason there are so few “conservative” academics is that, “Academics look at evidence and come to conclusions. Today’s conservatives start with a conclusion and then try to find anything to support that conclusion, regardless of contrary evidence. Their arguments fall apart under the lightest scrutiny.” The writer only left out, “then comes the shouting.” Thus was the case with the talented Mr. O’Keefe. Conservatives were beside themselves that ACORN was registering voters who, in sufficient numbers, would spell their doom, so they decided that ACORN needed to be silenced. A “sting” was ordered. Out of nowhere, a demonstrably unhinged but unalterably committed schoolboy was found, funded, and sent around the country to stage video that, properly edited and hyped, could get rid of ACORN, once and for all, and thereby at least temporarily forestall the GOP’s imminent demographic demise. As luck would have it, there was already a huge infrastructure of right-wing “journalism” in place to mindlessly promote O”Keefe’s “work,” and better yet, to once again intimidate what remained of the mainstream media into covering his “revelations,” regardless of whether they had been deliberately manipulated or were outright false. Everybody, including Congress, fell for it, and to the casual observer, it appeared that O”Keefe had found a “scoop” that the hapless liberal media had either missed or consciously ignored. The subsequent court cases that largely exonerated ACORN were lost in the shuffle, and no one ever thought to ask how, why, or with whose money O”Keefe got his expose. Win, win.

Flush with this “success,” Breitbart obviously ate a bunch more doughnuts while O’Reilly and the lesser Foxes waited with bated breath for the next O’Keefe blockbuster. Money obviously changed hands, as we are belatedly discovering, Republican pols and operatives were duly enlisted, and these overconfident propagandists decided, based on past success, to up the ante. Oops. The fuzz showed up this time. Waxing Nixonian, all the establishment righty mouthpieces quickly distanced themselves from this “prank,” or “third-rate burglary,” as RN would have put it, and instead went bananas over any small mistake made by the MSM in reporting it, and started yelling incoherently. Why not? It worked before, and it may well again.

Thus, the whole point of this new phenomenon of right-wing “journalism,” which is to destroy and discredit the very idea of truth , has bumped up against the final barrier to its dominance, the criminal justice system, and it’s quite obvious that they are resorting to the usual misdirection and lies to get out of this unaccustomed pickle. I myself had a Breitbartian exchange with a righty mouth-breather at FDL over the last day or so, who, like Breitbart, repeatedly demanded that I document where, get this, Michelle Malkin had specifically lied about the teabugger incident in her hurried, ad hoc denunciation of O’Keefe. Never mind the many well-documented and ethically dubious political missions of either miscreant; like the Bush defenders of yore who demanded “proof” of how Bush and Cheney had “personally profited” from their wars and other flagrant shenanigans, insisting that anything short of bank statements would prove all critics to be garden-variety liberal liars, I must somehow “prove” some specific lie, or shut up, but fast. The burden of proof, you know, belongs not to the initial lying loudmouth and his/her many media outlets, but to the obscure blogger who asks a few questions.

The success of this venture can hardly be understated. A political movement that is inherently unpopular, focused as it is on harming the many for the benefit of the few, has to get creative, and it certainly has. The hated “liberal media” is hopelessly cowed, along with the political class, and, as long as the cops don’t show up, they have a good thing going, and a few Presidents and Supreme Court Justices notched in their otherwise unblemished bed posts. What they aren’t, and never will be, is Journalists, and the truth, despite O”Keefe’s desperate and probably illegal tweets, will never set them free.

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