The contrast between the way the Government/Mediaplex behaved toward the Sherrod story as injected into the public square by Andrew Breitbart and the WikiLeaks "War Log" story as carefully handled by the Consortium of Media Partners Which Included WikiLeaks (aka Julian), the New York Times, Der Spiegel, and the Guardian UK, could not be more striking.
Yet there are many similarities.
In both cases, "incendiary" individuals were given a platform -- indeed, multiple platforms -- from which to "incite." Exactly what is being incited is never really clear. I guess it depends on what emotions are stirred up. Breitbart was given a platform to stir up racial animosities, and -- even on FOX -- he was pretty quickly shot down. Certainly CNN squashed him and his little false story line like a bug. The issue became one of the inappropriate influence "bloggers" have on the mainstream "news," and the outrageousness of Government reacting to this sort of incitement.
"Bloggers" are circling the wagons, though the lefties want to leave Breitbart outside the protective circle. It seems clear though that there is a deep underlying admiration for Breitbart throughout the blogosphere: he can git 'er done. He absolutely ruled the media and the government for a whole week. That is Blog Power!
Julian is not considered a "blogger" but instead is seen more as a muckraker or investigative journalist. To me, that's an extraordinary stretch, but whatever. The point is that Julian causes a ruckus among the Powers That Be -- much like Breitbart -- by "exposing their secrets," except that what Julian exposes is not really all that secret, and the ruckus is typically between factions within the Government (for example between the Pro-War and the Slow-War factions) rather than engaging the public.
There's the difference right there: Breitbart does engage the public in his phony little crusades; to a surprising extent, Julian does not.
Breitbart is a useful tool to some very powerful interests, but they don't seem to be interests within the Government. They appear to be essentially Southern racist elements outside the Government that insist on trying anything in their power to get the Government/Mediaplex to react embarrassingly. And they are very successful. It's not just about provoking a reaction though. It is -- at least from all appearances -- about provoking a reaction that 1) harms the Government as an institution; 2) harms specific black people who have run afoul of the provocateurs.
Julian, on the other hand, seems to serve the interests of factions within the Government, factions that are almost entirely out of public view, and the reaction more strongly resembles a contest between two equally bloodthirsty elements in the Government, with the Mediaplex serving almost as referee/mediator.
The "Collateral Murder" video last April went into very heavy rotation and Julian was on all the shows declaring his dedication to the Truth, yadda yadda, and then it went away. Another investigation was done and the soldiers involved were cleared. But some of the soldiers involved in the incident have gone public with their own reservations about what took place in that incident, but even more importantly they have reminded Americans that what happened in the video is policy that goes on every day. It's not an aberration.
Many Americans, unfortunately, think that's just grand.
The WarLog Document Dump was initially seen as relatively benign because it was vetted by three well-regarded members of the Global Mediaplex and assurances were made that nothing that would jeopardize "security" -- whatever that means -- or put individuals at risk would be revealed. Instead, there would be a coordinated, high profile, media release timed with the WikiLeaks release to clarify and amplify what the documents show.
At least that was the plan.
Now it seems to have gone off the rails because (according to some reports) individuals are named and the documents weren't scrubbed thoroughly or even very well, and this is causing no end of heartburn in all the Powerful circle where it was at first believed that this would not be a problem. Indeed, until the last couple of days, Julian had all but been adopted by his "media partners" (and one would assume the Government) as a "responsible" member. Well, that may not come to pass in the end.
The irony is that they seem to want Julian as part of the Team whereas they seem to be saddled with the likes of Breitbart instead.
Meanwhile, Shirley and Charles Sherrod have emerged as quintessential Americans and the military and the Government have once again been put on the spot. How it will shake out after Labor Day is anybody's guess. But if the Sherrods (Shirley says now she will sue) can maintain the profile they've cultivated through this mess, I have real hope for the future.
There will always be a question in my mind about Julian's real role in all this though. More and more people are growing suspicious of him and his motives and just what he's setting out to accomplish and on whose behalf. It seems clear that he is working for somebody. The fact that we don't know who may be the tip off.
At the same time that more and more people are growing suspicious of him, more and more are hailing him The Hero and putting their Faith and Hope and Trust in him and his ability to provide leaks of Secrets. I know people need that hope and want to have faith, so it's hard for me to criticize it too much. On the other hand, after the immense disappointment so many self-described progressives have with the Obama team, it might be better in the short and the long run not to put faith and hope and trust into any media-driven Heroic Figure.
It's a thought...