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Right-Wing Still Controls the Paradigm of Public Discourse

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This week reaffirms that America's public discourse remains shrouded under a right-wing paradigm, for which many of us remain codependent enablers.

I call it right wing because I'm at a loss to be more precise. I know the preferred self-identification would be "conservative," but the lot to which I refer bear no genealogical link to Edmund Burke, the 18th century philosopher and statesman widely regarded as the patriarch of conservatism.

The current right-wing movement gleefully touts Ronald Reagan as the titular head of the family, but in many ways it is a rudderless vessel fueled by emotion and slogans.

The current right-wing movement speaks of the original intent of the Founding Fathers, but does not appear to be equally adept at providing specifics as to what that actually means.

Their calls for fiscal discipline seem hypocritical at best.

They were noticeably silent during the six years those they supported controlled the White House and Congress, and systematically and recklessly expanded the deficit by record proportions. Yet, they are outraged that the current administration, given the challenges inherited, is applying basic Keynesian economics that calls for short-term deficits to jump-start the economy.

Many of them proudly adorned bumper stickers and yellow ribbons as America embarked on the worst foreign policy decision in its history -- invading and occupying sovereign nation without just cause.

But make no mistake; it is a right-wing political agenda that is successfully driving the direction of our public discourse.

Shirley Sherrod was the most recent victim of an insidious right-wing propaganda campaign to prove black racism against whites exists and is supported at the highest levels of government.

Her much publicized, heavily edited speech, to allegedly demonstrate Sherrod, who is black, was openly hostile toward whites is tragic on so many levels.

It's tragic because her story was one of redemption. A story of how an individual whose father was murdered by a white man overcame her prejudices to do the right thing to help farmers regardless of color.

Those cable news shows that ran the edited tape without checking sources, immediately calling for Sherrod's resignation, were, in my opinion, just being their consistent fair and balanced selves.

The NAACP saw the edited version of the speech and immediately joined the chorus that called for Sherrod's resignation. Since the speech was given at an NAACP event, couldn't they have called someone who attended the speech or obtained a copy before their public condemnation?

To the NAACP's credit, after reviewing the full context of Sherrod's remarks, an apology was issued, along with calls for Sherrod's reinstatement.

Sadly this is not the first time the Obama administration has succumbed to the pressure of distancing itself from what would otherwise be low-hanging fruit based on right-wing charges that found a forum on Fox News.

Can anyone say ACORN or Van Jones?

While the White House was busy demanding that Sherrod pull over on the side of a Georgia road to resign, could they not have first engaged in the due diligence to ascertain the authenticity of the video?

This is indeed a low point in American discourse. A heavily edited video, originating from an unreliable source on the Internet, goes unchecked, airs on national television, resulting in a woman being unjustly fired.

One can only imagine the type of moral depravity necessary to transform an open and honest public self-examination representing America at its best into something that was portrayed as hateful, symbolizing the nation at its worst.

As for the White House, when will the administration recognize that while it hung a shingle outside that reads "Yes we can," the right-wing neighbors have posted one that says "No we can't?"

They are an unruly bunch who do not have an ideology, a majority, or a moral direction. And they have proven to be utterly ineffective at running the country. But they still have control of the steering wheel that directs the nation's discourse.

Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist. He is the author of Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War. E-mail him at or visit his Web site

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