The news cycle has become the enemy of justice
A news cycle that operates at warp speed has become the enemy of simple justice. This has happened because politicians worry more about the next minute in that news cycle than basic fairness. And if the internet makes the spread of news and information faster than ever, it does exactly the same for lies and half-truths.
Those are the obvious lessons from the firing of Shirley Sherrod, for which the White House has now apologized. I broadly agree with what my colleagues Richard Cohen and Greg Sargent have already written. I am especially glad that Greg has pushed for more understanding of the White House’s role in this -- I find it very hard to believe that Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack acted entirely on his own. And Greg was also right in saying this: “As for whether the White House learned anything from this disaster, the real tell will be how it handles itself the next time the right-wing media gins up a fake controversy ‘proving’ the Obama administration is riddled with rampant anti-white racism.” Exactly.
The problem in our dealing with these instant scandals -- including completely fabricated “scandals” -- is that politicians and other public actors are so alarmed at the prospect of even a few bad hours in the news cycle that they act precipitously from self-protection without any thought of decency toward others. As my friend Bill Galston (who happens to be a philosopher) said today, the daily life version of “Innocent until proven guilty” is “Start by giving someone the benefit of the doubt.” That instinct should not be obliterated by sheer terror over what Glenn Beck might say.
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