What we can all learn from the Shirley Sherrod media frenzy.
By: Dawn Marbury
What you hear isn’t always the truth, just ask Shirley Sherrod. A speech she gave about equality for all races and the needs of the less fortunate class was chopped and screwed into the roasting of white people, and released to the world by Fox News, a beacon of “fair and balanced” reporting. While Shirley did indeed say the comments that got everybody from Glenn Beck to the NAACP up in a tizzy, the context of her statements were unbelievably misconstrued in order to point the reverse racism finger back at the black White House and its supporters. To everyone’s chagrin the unaltered tape actually showed Shirley Sherrod as kind of race hero- a woman whose own father was murdered by the KKK, facing a choice to provide aid to a white farmer that felt “superiority” over her and she actually helped him. In an age of hoopla over what someone says context gets lost, and doesn’t always come back to vindicate.
People are receiving more information than ever. The production of information just in the year 2000 was 37,000 times more than all the information in the Library of Congress. Mail, telephones, and the internet bring us more information than previous generations could ever imagine. All the cool people are blogging their most intimate thoughts on Twitter (in 140 characters or less) and updating Facebook with their problems, rants, and observations. Cellphones allow us the ability to pass notes in the classroom of life without even saying one word. We seemed to be obsessed with information gathering, but maybe we are more obsessed with gossip. Facebook has turned people into private dicks combing their “friends” profiles for suspicious pictures, comments and statuses. What you may be using as a tool for self promotion expression may be interpreted as your last will and testament to the readers seeing your updates. Twitter whose chat room esque elements (minus the anonymity) thrives off of the information and gossipy nature that we have to share information not just about ourselves, but each other. The result is an electronic version of the “telephone game” we played as children, a morphing of facts and truth that blazes through our wi-fi connections with lightning speed- with only remnants of the original details.
Shirley Sherrod could never imagine that words she said about someone she met in 1986 would cause such a national uproar, then national apology. She is one of many people who the flame of wild-fire words has scorched and burned. As a writer, its damning for me to write that tone is very difficult to interpret via text (words alone) and coupling that with the sophisticated technology that can manipulate speech to serve its audience makes deciphering the real truth like finding a size 8 shoe during a Nordstrom’s clearance sale. Fox News has replaced journalism with the same authenticity that we see on reality shows, and internet addicts shoot up all the gossip and info that they can- commenting without caring about sources or validity. The story is what we are after- and the truth may or may not fit with that. As the same folks that demand that the Obama administration rehire the same person they demanded he fire talk out both sides of their faces, its is our responsibility to police our need for that gossip fix by not running with speculation as the real deal. You never know when that speculation could be running after you.
Dawn Marbury is one of our featured writers. She is a talented writer who writes an awesome and an extremely witty blog entitled The Bourgeoisie And The Beast when she isn’t working on her own books. Check out her site, it’s addictive.