In his latest Best of the Web column, James Taranto explores the “Racist and eliminationist rhetoric at a Common Cause rally” caught on video by Christian Hartsock, whom, as Taranto notes, is “a videographer who contributes to Andrew Breitbart’s BigGovernment.com.” Hartsock attended the Common Cause rally protesting the Koch Brothers, this week’s Richard Mellon Sciafe substitute for the left. As Taranto writes, Hartsock “produced a devastating four-minute video of his interactions with the Common Causer supporters,” which you can see for yourself here:
Taranto responds that in his estimation, “A caveat is in order:”
As is often the case with material published on Breitbart’s websites, Hartsock’s methods would be unethical by the highest standards of institutional journalism. By framing his queries in the first person plural–“what do we do . . .?”–he arguably crosses the line between asking questions and goading his sources. At least one of his comments–“we’re all friends”–is plainly deceptive.Squeaky: “String him up. And his wife, too.”
That said, it appears from the video that the violent and racist sentiments originate with the Common Cause supporters; Hartsock prompts them with relatively innocuous cues about impeachment and Anita Hill. And there is no question that the Common Causers express their ugly sentiments with great relish.
Further, the formerly mainstream media, in their determination to cast the Tea Party movement as violent and racist, have frequently violated their own ethical principles–among other ways, by reporting uncorroborated claims as if they were established fact (“Tea Party Protesters Scream ‘Nigger’ at Black Congressmen,” reads a March 2010 McClatchy Newspapers headline) and even by lying outright (Paul Krugman’s false claim, in the New York Times no less, that Michele Bachmann had used “eliminationist rhetoric”).
We’d venture to say that Hartsock has provided more evidence that Common Cause is a violent, racist movement than all the media put together have done vis-à-vis the Tea Party.
To be sure, there is no reason to think that Bob Edgar or other officials of Common Cause advocate violence against Supreme Court justices or media executives, that they approve of such violent fantasies, or that they personally hold racially or ethnically bigoted opinions. But Common Cause does describe itself as a “grassroots organization.”
I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that “Hartsock’s methods would be unethical by the highest standards of institutional journalism,” considering, as the Wikipedia profile of veteran MSM anchorwoman Connie Chung notes:
In a January 5, 1995 interview with Kathleen Gingrich, mother of Republican politician Newt Gingrich, on Eye to Eye, Ms. Gingrich said she could not say what her son thought about First Lady Hillary Clinton on the air. Chung asked Ms. Gingrich to “just whisper it to me, just between you and me,“ and Ms. Gingrich replied that her son thought of Clinton as a “bitch”. Many people interpreted Chung’s suggestion that if Ms. Gingrich would whisper this statement it would be promised that the statement would be off the record.
Mike Wallace and the late Don Hewitt, both of 60 Minutes, have bragged about using similar techniques; Diane Sawyer has bluffed her way into a hidden camera expose or two. And yes, while on one level, CBS hasn’t had “the highest standards of institutional journalism” since the days of Edward R. Murrow, it’s tough to level the playing field between old and new media without having all of the options in the same playbook available to both sides.
Similarly, in response to the inevitable “selective editing” response from the reactionary left after Lila Rose’s Planned Parenthood video this week, Ezra Dulis of Big Journalism responds, “Dear Journalists: We Dare You to Live up to Your ‘Selective Editing’ Standards:”
Editing, by its very nature, is selective and subjective. You have too much video/audio for the time you believe your audience will pay attention to your message, so you select which footage you want to include. “Selective editing” is as redundant as saying “jacket coat” or “blowhard Olbermann.” But if the MSM believes that the very act of editing video immediately destroys its credibility, then we need to hold them to the same standard.
Take this recent news package from CBS:
[Click over for video; it’s a generic CBS news report on the many feet of global warming that’s fallen in recent weeks — Ed]
In these 4 and a half minutes, there are 65 edits, including title screens. In the Live Action video, there are a total of 14 edits at the beginning, including title screens and a quick montage of lines that are shown in full context later on. As for the hidden camera portion that makes up the bulk of the video, there are eight edits total, including a repeat of a 2-second phrase for effect. So, including the final switch to a title screen, we have 23 edits in a 10:58 video, using the most strident standard against Ms. Rose and her organization. That’s one edit for every 28 seconds of video, whereas CBS’s SOP is one edit for every 4 seconds of video– 7 times as often. From CBS’s careful, objective, even-handed report on the Live Action video, we have to apply the same standard here and hesitate to label the weather in the midwest a “blizzard,” at least until they release the full, unedited footage that eventually became this news segment. Or, at the very least, CBS needs to notify us viewers of how many seconds of video were cut from their raw footage at the end of each show, if only for full disclosure.
Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? Well, welcome to our world. As long as these shenanigans continue– automatically dismissing any investigation because it isn’t cut like the restaurant scene in Goodfellas– we will demand the same of you. So far, James O’Keefe and Lila Rose have both released the full footage of their respective controversial videos, so they’re already one step ahead of you. So please, network news programmers, join us this new era of “No Cutting” journalism. All the bloopers, all the yes/no questions your anchors ask which bring interviews to a screeching halt, all the banter between commercial breaks, all the b-roll. We want it all available on your websites, and we want it now.
Incidentally (just between you and me, as Mike and Connie would say), the Planned Parenthood sting has already gotten results: at least one of their employees has gotten fired as a result of the stings.
Finally, while the left have unintentionally beclowned themselves as a result of their racist and eliminationist rhetoric at their protest, in contrast to the thuggish behavior of the left, as a self-professed “Merry Prankster,” Andrew Breitbart is at least having fun. No matter how monstrous you seem within the left’s collective id, it’s tough to appear all that satanic in reality when you’re cheerfully flittering about on a pair of rollerblades: