J.J. Goldberg

First They Slimed Sherrod. Then Obama. Then the Jews. You Expected Otherwise?

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Well, well. I seem to have a missed a rather busy news week. I was cut off for a few days and didn’t have time to blog or follow the news, first because I was busy saying goodbye to a friend and second because I was sitting in a hotel in Portugal attending a United Nations seminar on the media and the Middle East (more about this in my Good Fences column later in the week). When I resurfaced I found the world had gotten even stranger than I remembered it.

I got back home and discovered that President Obama is in trouble because a mid-level administration official named Shirley Sherrod got slimed in the right-wing blogosphere and her boss, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, fired her before getting the facts. I suppose everybody but me has heard all about it by now, and I know these things shouldn’t shock me anymore, but they do.

Then there’s the other bizarro scandal that I missed, which I’m still trying to figure out: the Journolist flap. More slime from the right — this time, it seems, smeared onto an Internet group of liberal journalists who had the unspeakable gall to discuss their feelings with each other.

What’s not surprising is my other discovery, as I try to pursue these things to their beginnings, that the Jews are at fault. More on this later, but first, a quick summary of what I’ve found out:

Sherrod, I’m finding out, is a veteran crusader for racial harmony who was addressing an NAACP meeting and few months back and recalled a moment a quarter-century ago when she briefly felt racial resentment and didn’t want to help a poor white farmer — until she came to her senses, did the right thing and helped him save his farm. A quarter-century ago. A right-wing crank grabs her speech and lifts a few words to make it sound like she is currently opposed to helping poor whites. And his slime gains traction and she gets fired by a panicked Democrat , Vilsack, who’s worried that the administration will have this new albatross hung around its neck (why would anyone worry about a thing like that?).

And when it turns out the facts were the opposite and the administration apologizes and offers to re-hire her, the administration gets blamed for her troubles (here, here) while right-wingers continue piling more slime on Sherrod.

Then I move on to this Journolist scandal, which I’m still trying to figure out. As near as I can tell, Washington Post policy-wonk Ezra Klein started a listserv a few years back where liberal-leaning journalists can vent and share their frustrations and hash out ethical dilemmas about how to do your job and write the news down the middle when it feels like the world is burning around you and you want to scream. So another right-wing crank comes along and publishes the list’s posts as though they were a conspiracy to join hands and do the things that the writers are fantasizing and agonizing about while they’re off-duty.

Here’s the man who bravely blew the whistle on Journolist, Jonathan Strong of the right-wing Daily Caller, explaining why the liberal chat-group is so insidious:

On Journolist, there was rarely such thing as an honorable political disagreement between the left and right, though there were many disagreements on the left. In the view of many who’ve posted to the list-serv, conservatives aren’t simply wrong, they are evil. And while journalists are trained never to presume motive, Journolist members tend to assume that the other side is acting out of the darkest and most dishonorable motives.

That’s right. These liberal journalists assume the worst about liberals and make unfair assumptions about their motives. Unlike conservative journalists, like Ann Coulter, author of the best-selling “Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism” (no presumed evil motives there, is there?) and frequent Fox News guest, or Laura Ingraham, author of “Shut Up & Sing: How Elites from Hollywood, Politics, and the U.N. are Subverting America” (no presumed evil there, either) and regular Fox News guest host, or, for that matter, Sean Hannity, Fox News staff journalist and author of “Let Freedom Ring: Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism, Deliver Us from Evil: Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism” (no presumed evil or turning opponents into enemies there, right?).

The difference is that while the liberal journalists of Journolist try to work through their personal struggles in private (more or less) and among friends, sticking to business when they’re in public, the conservatives of Fox trot their hatred out in public for all to see. They raise bigotry and demonization as banners for followers to salute and rally around. Their goal isn’t to identify prejudice or foul play so they can avoid it — they openly seek to write their opponents out of legitimate public discourse.

E.J. Dionne, the normally temperate, understated Washington Post columnist, got it right today in his response to the Sherrod debacle:

The mainstream media and the Obama administration must stop cowering before a right wing that has persistently forced its propaganda to be accepted as news by convincing traditional journalists that “fairness” requires treating extremist rants as “one side of the story.” And there can be no more shilly-shallying about the fact that racial backlash politics is becoming an important component of the campaign against President Obama and against progressives in this year’s election.

And a note to those Jewish conservatives who think the right is your friend — here’s a thread on the Media Matters blog responding to the Sherrod-NAACP flap. It’s one of many that fixes the blame for black racism and the victimization of the downtrodden whites squarely where it belongs, on those scheming Jews:

by blk-in-alabam (July 23, 2010 9:39 pm ET)
Certain Jewish people need to get out of the racism promotion business.It would bring about positive results.If you promote the race game this makes you fair game.I will leave it at that.The end result wil not be what they expect.In the long in will omly unite black,white,and hispanic people against Jewish people having nothing to do with this.Nobody wants to take the blame so an uninvolved party will be the easiest ones to blame.If you get involved in a married couple,or family fight,when they make-up they will blame you for starting the fight. People in the USA blood is mixed all kinds of ways

by bluhawk7398 (July 25, 2010 5:01 pm ET)
Curious… how in the heck does this become a “world against the Jew” argument???! Sherrod’s story(yes folks… it was a story to illustrate that she had advanced beyond race-themed thinking) was hardly racist and undeserving of termination. Now everyone is scrambling to be on the right side of public opinion….makes me sick!!! Vote everyone out and demand term limits and the end to congressionial pensions and we can fix the ills in this country.(namely the exclusivity of the two-party system)

by blk-in-alabam (July 25, 2010 5:28 pm ET)
John Boehner,Eric Cantor

That’s right. Jews like John Boehner are ruining our country. You heard it here first.

Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Tom Vilsack, Shirley Sherrod, Laura Ingraham, Journolist, Ezra Klein, Ann Coulter

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • Are Michelangelo's paintings anti-Semitic? Meet the Jews of the Sistine Chapel: http://jd.fo/i4UDl
  • What does the Israel-Hamas war look like through Haredi eyes?
  • Was Israel really shocked to find there are networks of tunnels under Gaza?
  • “Going to Berlin, I had a sense of something waiting there for me. I was searching for something and felt I could unlock it by walking the streets where my grandfather walked and where my father grew up.”
  • How can 3 contradictory theories of Yiddish co-exist? Share this with Yiddish lovers!
  • "We must answer truthfully: Has a drop of all this bloodshed really helped bring us to a better place?”
  • "There are two roads. We have repeatedly taken the one more traveled, and that has made all the difference." Dahlia Scheindlin looks at the roots of Israel's conflict with Gaza.
  • Shalom, Cooperstown! Cooperstown Jewish mayor Jeff Katz and Jeff Idelson, director of the National Baseball Hall of Fame, work together to oversee induction weekend.
  • A boost for morale, if not morals.
  • Mixed marriages in Israel are tough in times of peace. So, how do you maintain a family bubble in the midst of war? http://jd.fo/f4VeG
  • Despite the escalating violence in Israel, more and more Jews are leaving their homes in Alaska to make aliyah: http://jd.fo/g4SIa
  • The Workmen's Circle is hosting New York’s first Jewish street fair on Sunday. Bring on the nouveau deli!
  • Novelist Sayed Kashua finds it hard to write about the heartbreak of Gaza from the plush confines of Debra Winger's Manhattan pad. Tough to argue with that, whichever side of the conflict you are on.
  • "I’ve never bought illegal drugs, but I imagine a small-time drug deal to feel a bit like buying hummus underground in Brooklyn."
  • We try to show things that get less exposed to the public here. We don’t look to document things that are nice or that people would like. We don’t try to show this place as a beautiful place.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.