Shirley Sherrod [Email her] has just announced, at a convention of the National Association of Black Journalists, that she is suing Andrew Breitbart for libel.
The AP story says that she was fired as a result of a "heavily edited" video. But it wasn't "heavily edited", just short. [Fired USDA employee Sherrod to sue conservative blogger Andrew Breitbart, AP, July 29, 2010]
Briefly, the injustice Ms. Sherrod suffered by the shortening process is that it seemed that she had discriminated against a white farmer in her capacity as a government employee, distributing federal funds. But actually she had simply hated a white farmer in her capacity as a member of a private organization, which was distributing federal funds, but she thought better of it. She awakened, as John Derbyshire put it in his Radio Derb podcast
"…to the fact that poor blacks and poor whites are alike victims of capitalist oppression.
"In other words, Ms. Sherrod is a revolutionary radical; and like all revolutionary radicals, she believes that the fight against the oppressor trumps all other considerations. Racial, national, and sectarian animosities are just distractions from the true struggle." [Transcript | Audio]
So Sherrod was taken out of context.
Big deal. When has that ever mattered in the case of a white accused "racist"?
What Kathy Shaidle calls "Ransom Note Racism" is predicated on the idea that everything ever said by every conservative must be quoted against them—and Media Matters will whine about it if they don't.
Sherrod's case has been compared publicly to the Dreyfus Case, (by Keith Olbermann ),and the Bombing of Pearl Harbor (by Mark Potok of the SPLC: Shirley Sherrod and the Right: A Day That Will Live in Infamy | Hatewatch | Southern Poverty Law Center, June 21, 2010.)
This led one conservative woman to Twitter
"Watching a thing abt Sherrod on CNN. She's the f***ing Color Purple. Give her an Oscar and be done with it."
Dreyfus, by the way, spent four years on Devil's Island. And the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the original "day that will live in infamy," killed 2402 American and led to a war that killed many, many more people.
Shirley Sherrod was only unemployed for about ten minutes (all right, two days). But she's been offered groveling apologies from the Department of Agriculture and the White House. The only reason she hasn't got her job back is that she won't take it.
She's now suing Breitbart for unknown, but presumably large, sums of money, and will be eligible to write a book called My Bondage To Fox News And My Freedom.
Some of the MSM stories refer to the "private organization" for which Sherrod worked without naming it. So I looked it up, at The Non Profit Quarterly's website, where Rick Cohen writes
"When we first heard the charges about Shirley Sherrod's alleged statements about providing a lower level of assistance to white farmers than black farmers in danger of losing their land, something struck us as wrong. At NPQ, we have written about the struggles of black farmers against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in both the Cohen Report (here, here, and here) and elsewhere on our website (here, here and here), and our initial exposure to the issue was due to Shirley Sherrod when she worked for the nonprofit Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund. "
(Emphasis and FSCLAF link added).
It's a huge scam, paying not only people who farmed, but also those who tried to farm, and those who meant to farm but never really got around to it, and those who say they meant to try to farm.
The organization that Shirley Sherrod worked for, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, says on its web page that it has been "Fighting To Save Black-Owned Land Since 1967 With Cooperatives" and features two pictures on its front page, one of an actual black farmer, (Irvin Fortune, raises corn), the other of Alice Walker, (author of The Color Purple, writes drivel. )
So it's a black organization for helping black farmers. The helping-a-white-farmer part was obviously extra, possibly because the Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to have a black organization which only helps black farmers.
And Sherrod's status as a (rural, not urban) "community organizer" means that it's crazy for the Department of Agriculture to hire her.
Oh, I don't mean necessarily that she'd deny aid to white farmers—I doubt if she'd deny aid to any farmers whatsoever. That's the problem with "community organizers" and Federal money.
(Well, yes, they did that, too.)
So what have we learned?
And what about Sherrod's law suit against Andrew Breitbart? Well, it's probably barred by New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, 376 U.S. 254.
L. B. Sullivan was a white Southern official who was in charge of the Montgomery Police Department, and sued the New York Times over an ad titled "Heed Their Rising Voices" [See the original ad:JPG] which contained several untruths about the Montgomery Police Department.
The Wikipedia article says, at this time, that "the advertisement described actions against civil rights protesters, some of them inaccurately ". And Justice Brennan said "it is uncontroverted that some of the statements contained in the two paragraphs were not accurate ".
Or, in other words—lies.
As I pointed out during the Jayson Blair scandal, this means that the New York Times had acquired the constitutional right to lie.
Which is good—they kind of need it. We don't, but we do need the freedom from libel chill that the Supreme Court says the Constitution guarantees. And the reason that the Supreme Court granted that freedom from libel for public officials was that they felt that allowing racist public officials to sue their critics would give them too much power.
That's why the court said that you couldn't recover damages unless you could prove "actual malice," or reckless disregard of the truth.
Justice Black, in a concurrence, went even farther:
"In my opinion the Federal Constitution has dealt with this deadly danger to the press in the only way possible without leaving the free press open to destruction—by granting the press an absolute immunity for criticism of the way public officials do their public duty."
Its main purpose is protecting people like Andrew Breitbart from people like Shirley Sherrod.
And people like us from people like Barack Obama.