Thursday, March 08, 2012

It's Always A Conspiracy: Derrick Bell Edition

by Simon Maloy/Media Matters

Yesterday, the Breitbart empire stepped up to the plate, called their shot, swung, missed, hit themselves in the face with the bat, then took a triumphant trot around the bases as spectators looked on with piteous and mocking wonder.
Hug-gate, as it quickly came to be called, was the big story the Breitbart people had been teasing for weeks now -- a videotaped hug between then-Harvard Law student Barack Obama and the late Harvard professor Derrick Bell at a 1991 protest supporting Bell's push to have a woman of color offered tenure at the school. Why the controversy? Because Bell, per the Breitbart indictment, is a dangerous radical who, in the act of pressing his body to the young Obama's, imparted to him all the insane radicalism that now animates the moderate liberal currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.
As's Ben Shapiro put it, in characteristically grandiose fashion: "This is just the beginning. And this video, in its entirety, is the smoking gun showing that Barack Obama not only associated with radicals but believed deeply in their principles - and wanted the rest of us to believe in them, too."
The problems with the story stack high. 1) The video has been online since 2008 and snippets of it wereincluded in a PBS special on the '08 election;  2) David Remnick wrote specifically about Obama's speech about Bell in The Bridge and even noted on page 214 that "his speech concluded, he hugged [Bell] in front of a cheering crowd"; 3) The NY Times reported on Obama's praise for Bell at the rally in 2007; 4) Buzzfeed obtained the video and published it yesterday morning, squashing the Breitbart "scoop"; 5) Derrick Bell was a respected academic, an influential figure in the Civil Rights movement, and nowhere near the dangerous frothing radical the Breitbart team would have us believe; 6) Even if Bell were a dangerous radical, they present zero evidence whatsoever that Obama "believed deeply" in Bell's alleged radicalism; and 7) A hug? Seriously?
That's embarrassing enough, but remember: this is BIG Journalism. And when the journalism is this big, you have to go deeper.
The conspiracy, argues team Breitbart, extends to the media in general and Buzzfeed in particular. Dana Loesch twisted herself in knots trying to explain Buzzfeed's alleged perfidy:
WGBH refused to give the video and didn't even respond to the request for the footage -- but they'll reply to Buzzfeed and license them portions of the video? Isn't that preferential?

Additionally, if the President's embrace of Bell was unimportant, why did Buzzfeed choose not to pay the hundred bucks to license those seconds? If it wasn't a big deal, why cut it?
"If it wasn't a big deal, why cut it?" There should be a word for someone who fails to recognize their own accidental logic. Maybe the Germans have one.
From Buzzfeed it's a quick, utterly illogical hop to the rest of the media, who are alleged to have ignored/covered up this tape, despite having reported on it extensively for several years: "Obama's many mainstream media scribes were either too lazy to find the Bell protest speech or complicit in its suppression." editor Joel Pollak went on CNN this morning to defend the story. It didn't go well. Pressed by Soledad O'Brien to explain what the "bombshell" is in the clip, Pollak said "the bombshell is the revelation of the relationship between Barack Obama and Derrick Bell" -- something we already knew.

Remember, this is all about a hug. A hug that, per team Breitbart, shows the president to be the secret radical they've always believed him to be anyway. And if you can convince yourself that an embrace between two men is "smoking gun" evidence of the president's radicalism, then a media-wide cover-up doesn't seem so far-fetched.
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