Stifled by Soundbites

By Cose, Ellis | Newsweek, August 2, 2010 | Go to article overview

Stifled by Soundbites


Cose, Ellis, Newsweek


Byline: Ellis Cose

The Sherrod brouhaha is distressing evidence of why we can't have an honest public discourse about race.

Taken on its merits and in context, it was a beautiful tale of redemption and reconciliation: a story of one woman's journey from anger to compassion. But in the end, it became something infinitely less lovely: a sign of the stupidity of soundbite culture, of the pitfalls of racial hypersensitivity, and, perhaps most sadly, of the difficulty--indeed, maybe even the impossibility--of having (in this society, at this moment) a truly honest public discourse about race.

The woman at the center of the storm, Shirley Sherrod, was an unsung Department of Agriculture employee until a clip posted on a conservative Web site seemed to show her admitting bias against whites. Conservative talk-show hosts bayed for blood; Sherrod was forced to resign. (The matter was deemed so urgent that she was ordered to pull to the side of the road and compose the resignation letter on her BlackBerry.) Then, when the full-length video of her speech revealed that instead of discriminating against a white couple, she had gone out of her way to help save their farm, Sherrod was swamped with apologies, was offered a new job at the USDA, and received a seven-minute phone call from President Obama.

The American public, meanwhile, was left to wonder what the moral of this tale really is. For starters, it's about the idiocy that can follow when ideology replaces journalistic integrity. Real journalists draw conclusions from facts. The ideologues who attacked Sherrod forced facts to fit their preconceived notions.

But this state of affairs in the U.S. media has broader and more insidious repercussions, as Charles Ogletree, one of Obama's professors at Harvard Law School, makes clear in a new book. The Presumption of Guilt is an exhaustive account of the events that led to the arrest of Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, who initially was suspected of breaking into a home that turned out to be his. After Obama criticized the Cambridge, Mass., police for acting "stupidly," conservative talkers exploded in rage, accusing the president of being a racist himself. The ensuing controversy threatened to derail Obama's health-care package. The White House tamped it down with a silly "beer summit" between Gates and the arresting cop. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Stifled by Soundbites
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.