The recent attempt by the right-wing propaganda machine to stir up interracial hatred by smearing Department of Agriculture employee Shirley Sherrod should be a call to action for traditional journalists. It is now clear that a component of the right's campaign against President Obama is creating racial backlash through the fabrication of false and outrageous propaganda. The Obama administration wrongly assumed that whatever narrative Fox News might concoct and broadcast about a given situation trumps all else in importance, even at the risk of defaming a reputable government worker. The truth is that mainstream journalism has been beaten into believing that writing a "balanced" story means they must take into account whatever defamatory garbage right-wing extremists produce, and portray it as "the other side of the story." The strategy of fabricating lies to influence policy and elections goes back years now. Claims that Al Gore said he "invented the Internet" and that there were "death panels" in the Democrats' health care bill are just two examples of lies that actually succeeded in influencing debates over substantive issues. The Scott Breitbarts of the world are turning into the traditional media's assignment editors. The Sherrod case should be the end of the line for this type of media climate. The mainstream media needs to summon enough courage to start differentiating real news from outright propaganda.
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