Andrew Breitbart died the other day. He was the star of American right-wing, radical, political photo-shoppers; i.e., those that help build a wall of lies around any issue or topic to convince the public that non-ultra conservatives — especially President Obama and anyone associated with his administration — are bad for us. He was exceptionally good at using videos and his blog, unwittingly promoted by mainstream media, to achieve his goals.
Nastiness and lies aside, Breitbart was a genius. A brilliant man who understood which button to push, who to go after and when, and how to weave a story that reputable, national media outlets readily print and repeat first and investigate later after the bell is rung. He understood well that it matters not so much if your lie is exposed, rather, how much traction can a lie gain as “truth” and how much momentum can it build, heightening the damage that can be done, before its exposed. It’s the kind of traction that resulted in others, often originally allies of the victim, delivering the blow of destruction on whomever or whatever Breitbart’s target was.
He was quite successful in using race and hate-baiting such as he did with ACORN that forced “a tough-minded advocate of social justice into Chapter 11.” [….] His editing and cutting up of a video of a speech before the NAACP by former USDA official Shirley Sherrod is a prime example of how he got the media and practically everyone else to act first and ask questions later. Breitbart convincingly turned Sherrod’s speech of “overcoming bias and helping indigent white farmers save their livelihoods … into “video evidence of racism coming from a federal appointee and NAACP award recipient.” [….] The immediate result (proving lots of traction and momentum was gained), Sherrod was initially fired (USDA later offered her her job back, which she refused) on the phone while on her way to work after her employer was made aware of Breibart’s “photo-shopped” version of her speech that was played repeatedly on every major news station. Even the NAACP turned against her at first.
Breitbart has left a long list of victims to his pen and camera. One bit of truth that cannot be denied, he was a genius, a talented man. Somewhere in his zeal to show us his genius, he chose to walk down a path of insidious behavior and destruction that blinded him to the greatest truth: he had the freedom of choice to use all his talent to destroy those who didn’t believe as he did, or look like him, or not. Perhaps the immediate take away from Breitbart’s endeavors can be of value for all of us, namely, to cherish the freedom of choice for ourselves and others thereby preserving it.
In closing, I leave you with the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. taken from his article, The Purpose of Education, written in 1947 for The Maroon Tiger, Morehouse College Student Newspaper. In his article, King argued that education has both a utilitarian and a moral function, and at one point, uses the example of Georgia’s former governor Eugene Talmadge a known White supremacist. King asserts that intelligence and reasoning ability is not enough.
As I engage in the so-called “bull sessions” around and about the school, I too often find that most college men have a misconception of the purpose of education. Most of the “brethren” think that education should equip them with the proper instruments of exploitation so that they can forever trample over the masses. Still others think that education should furnish them with noble ends rather than means to an end.
Education must also train one for quick, resolute and effective thinking. To think incisively and to think for one’s self is very difficult. We are prone to let our mental life become invaded by legions of half truths, prejudices, and propaganda. At this point, I often wonder whether or not education is fulfilling its purpose. A great majority of the so-called educated people do not think logically and scientifically. Even the press, the classroom, the platform, and the pulpit in many instances do not give us objective and unbiased truths. To save man from the morass of propaganda, in my opinion, is one of the chief aims of education. Education must enable one to sift and weigh evidence, to discern the true from the false, the real from the unreal, and the facts from the fiction.
The function of education, therefore, is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. But education which stops with efficiency may prove the greatest menace to society. The most dangerous criminal may be the man gifted with reason, but with no morals.
The late Eugene Talmadge, in my opinion, possessed one of the better minds of Georgia, or even America. Moreover, he wore the Phi Beta Kappa key. By all measuring rods, Mr. Talmadge could think critically and intensively; yet he contends that I am an inferior being. Are those the types of men we call educated?
We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.
If we are not careful, our colleges will produce a group of close-minded, unscientific, illogical propagandists, consumed with immoral acts. Be careful, “brethren!” Be careful, teachers! [….]