Now that it’s “official” (and, more importantly, almost guaranteed to be true) that there is no Michelle Obama “whitey” tape, I think it’s a good time to look at the whole mess and try to learn what lessons ought to be learned from it.
I’m feeling a bit arrogant about this topic; I figured from the outset it was bogus, and stayed the hell away from it, and now I feel a bit validated — and want to crow a little.
The first lesson is one I’ve repeated many times: “The more something tends to confirm your own beliefs and prejudices and desires, the more suspicious you need to be about it.” There are a lot of us who do not want to see Barack Obama elected president, and some of us aren’t overly concerned with how he is defeated. To those people (not me, I feel I must say), the “whitey” tape was a gift from the heavens.
I’ve fallen for this a couple of times, and I still nurse grudges over those who deceived me. I have yet to forgive the London Police Department after they killed a suspected terrorist on a subway. The guy turned out to be innocent, but he’d done everything wrong to make the police believe he was a dangerous, fleeing terrorist.
But he didn’t. One cop made a bad call, and the rest of the department covered for him and lied and threw as much dirt as they could on Mr. de Menzies to cover up their own screwup, and I don’t know when I will ever put much stock in them — or if I ever should.
The next lesson is “know your sources.” From the outset, the only people willing to go on the record and talk publicly were Larry Johnson and Bob Beckel. Johnson traded on his background in the CIA, but was a staunch Hillary Clinton supporter. And Beckel is a lifetime Democratic activist with, shall we say, some shady moments in his past. Both men had a great deal to gain in seeing the rumor spread, and neither was willing to “put up or shut up.” To me, this waved its arms and shouted “Danger, danger, Will Robinson!”
This doesn’t mean that they were automatically wrong. Indeed, sometimes such people are the best sources — they are the most strongly motivated to root out such things. But they are also the ones who are the most tempted to just make things up, to suit their own ends. Don’t put any stock in their word alone — verify it before you run with it.
The third lesson is one I am ashamed that I didn’t learn beforehand. It’s that there are those on the left who will cheerfully commit the most unethical and underhanded deeds, then later turn around and blame it on the right. And the media will not only allow them to get away with it, but will cheerfully aid and abet them in doing so. This whole “whitey” tape is a perfect example. It was pushed by a lifetime Democratic activist and party bigwig, and a hyper-partisan Hillary Clinton supporter.
But that is being quickly brushed under the carpet. Now, if you pay attention to the current narrative, it was right wingers in the blogosphere and talk radio who were hyping the hell out of the story. Indeed, in what could be the new definition of chutzpah, Bob Beckel himself is on record as saying “let these crackers and right-wingers prove it” before they come out with these rumors.
This whole story is degenerating into the kind of paranoid fantasy that is often laid at the feet of Karl Rove. Except, in those cases, it’s aimed the other way and so cunningly crafted that there is never any actual evidence that points to Rove — which, of course, is just absolute proof that he was behind it all anyway.
So, what do we do about it? Two things come to mind:
Keep up our skepticism about any new “bombshells” being peddled, especially by those who have no reason to love us and every reason to see those bombshells We, as a group, did pretty good at resisting this one.
But more importantly, don’t let the second part of the smear succeed. The primary target was to “get” Barack Obama, and it failed miserably. But the secondary target, the consolation prize, was us — to get the blame for the rumor pinned on “right-wingers” when it blew up.
Guess what, Bob Beckel and friends: it wasn’t us. It was you. We have documented proof of it, and we will NOT let you stick us with holding YOUR bag.
No matter how hard you and your co-conspirators in the media try to push it.