Many leftists employ a standard debating tactic wherein they assure you of their Republican credentials . . . just before they start into some inane diatribe about how crazy Republicans are “these days.” It’s rare to go a week without reading about some allegedly “lifelong Republican” who has had it with the dishonesty of conservatives nowadays, and found himself siding with Barack Obama and the Democrats because, by God, common sense demands it! Usually investigation reveals that the “lifelong Republican” is anything but — and yet, the tactic persists.
The trick is as old as the Greeks — it’s a part of ethos, one of Aristotle’s modes of persuasion. The idea is to show you are a disinterested party. The speaker’s declaration that he is neutral — or better yet, one who is naturally inclined to believe the other side — allows the speaker to portray himself as simply swept away by the compelling force of his own arguments. Why, I didn’t start out to be a Democrat! I am naturally one who leans Republican! It’s how I was raised! But I just can’t help but notice how extreme and radical those Republicans are nowadays!
It is amazing to me that, when Ron Schiller repeatedly employs this trick in the NPR video released recently, it is described as Schiller speaking warmly of Republicans. Thus, if James O’Keefe cuts that part out, he is (so the leftists claim) being deceptive.
A piece for the Blaze accuses James O’Keefe of deceptive editing. For example:
Schiller’s negative comments about Republicans and conservatives have gotten a great deal of attention.
He clearly says some offensive things, while being very direct that he is giving his own opinion and not that of NPR. Still — a wildly stupid move!
But you may be surprised to learn, that in the raw video, Schiller also speaks positively about the GOP. He expresses pride in his own Republican heritage and his belief in fiscal conservatism.
Yeah, Schiller reveals himself to be a huge fan of the Republican party in the Blaze’s clip. He describes an anti-intellectual move that he sees developing in the current Republican party. Then he starts waxing on and on about how he was raised Republican — but, since he is a pure Democrat, he catches himself and acknowledges that he has “voted mostly Democratic lately.” (“Mostly” my ass!) He loves Republicans’ fiscal conservatism, he claims (which I guess is why he votes for those fiscally conservative Democrats). Then he describes the current Tea Party as “fanatically” involved in people’s personal lives and “very fundamentally Christian, and I wouldn’t even call it Christian, it’s this weird evangelical kind of move.”
To characterize this as genuine praise for Republicans is to miss the rhetorical trick he is employing.
SPEAKING OF MISSING CONTEXT: Note where the Blaze clip ends: at time stamp 12:53:27. Do me a favor: go to the original video and scroll to that timestamp. Do it right now; I’ll wait. You’ll see it at about 30:24 on the running scroll bar at the bottom of the full video.
See what happened? The Blaze’s clip was neatly snipped right before the Muslim guy said this:
As a black Muslim, I am truly and highly offended by the racism and the bigotry and the Islamophobia that is coming out of the tea party or tea baggers or whatever you call them, what is NPR doing and what can we do to help ensure that this kind of situation can be curtailed and stopped?
Watch Schiller’s body language during this description of “tea baggers” as bigoted racists. He nods his head in clear agreement. You will also see him shake his head around the word “Islamophobia” before nodding again. If you actually watch it, the effect is one of pure agreement, with the brief head shake reflecting sympathy for the Muslim at the table who has to suffer through this Islamophobia and bigotry. He answers the quoted question by talking about how NPR is the voice of reason.
Why did the Blaze choose to cut the clip right before that passage?? Did the Blaze delberately choose to hide evidence that Schiller agrees with accusations that the Tea Party is racist, to bolster their claim that Schiller honestly praised Republicans?
I doubt that the omission was intentional, just as I doubt that O’Keefe’s editing intentionally distorted anything. Both were trying to make their points as effectively as possible, and both are subject to endless charges that “you left out this!” and “you left out that!”
But it is . . . ironic that a piece that complains of missing context should omit such crucial context itself.
Now we come to a more difficult issue, because I do have some criticism for O’Keefe here. Once again, I will quote the Blaze and show their video.
NPR exec Ron Schiller does describe Tea Party members as “xenophobic…seriously racist people.”
This is one of the reasons why he no longer has a job!
But the clip in the edited video implies Schiller is giving simply his own analysis of the Tea Party. He does do that in part, but the raw video reveals that he is largely recounting the views expressed to him by two top Republicans, one a former ambassador, who admitted to him that they voted for Obama.
At the end, he signals his agreement. The larger context does not excuse his comments, or his judgment in sharing the account, but would a full context edit have been more fair? See what you think:
I think it’s impossible to deny: O’Keefe should not have edited the clip this way. If a person is describing the views of someone else, you can’t edit the clip to make it look like they are describing their own views.
But here’s the thing: when you look at the body language, listen to the tone, and put it in context with the rest of the video, it’s clear that Schiller is describing his own views here. He’s just using that old Aristotalian device of putting his words in the mouths of ideological opponents, to give those words more credibility.
Watch the above video and tell me that he is not signalling his agreement.
Even if, like Dave Weigel, you want to insist that this is somehow unclear, you have to look at the context of the rest of the video. (By the way, stay with me until the end of the post for an amusing bonus story about Weigel blocking me on Twitter over all this.) The rest of the video provides context, and — once again, ironically! — the critics of O’Keefe are omitting the context that makes it so clear that Schiller agrees with every word of this criticism.
First, if you did what I asked you to above, you have already watched Schiller nod as the “black Muslim” complains about the racism of the Tea Party. Remember the set-up to that. You have already watched the latter part of the 12:52 time stamp, wherein Schiller explains that he is going to “talk personally” and waxes about the “anti-intellectual” movement within the Republican party. You have already watched him admit that he votes mostly Democratic, and claims that the current Republican party, especially the Tea Party, is “fanatically involved” in people’s personal lives — adding: “I wouldn’t even call it Christian, it’s this weird, evangelical kind of move.” (The Tea Party is “evangelical”?? You don’t say!) And then he nods when the other guy calls Tea Party people racist.
Elsewhere in the full video, Schiller says that, in his personal opinion, liberals are more educated, fair, and balanced. It’s the typical arrogant claptrap we are used to from the elite crowd, and he is fully immersed in it.
That stuff I just described is elsewhere in the tape. That’s not even the part we’re currently discussing, where he sets forth the views of the Republicans who hate Tea Partiers.
Which, by the way, how does that come up in the conversation? Well, there is a discussion about whether educated people watch Fox News. Schiller says that there is an educated component to it, but it’s mixed up with the rest that comes along with it. This is where, kind of out of nowhere, he starts in with a discussion of how many people in Aspen are Goldwater types who never thought they could vote for Obama, but they think of Tea Partiers as clearly racist and so forth — the parts you have seen so many times.
When he relates that they are “seriously racist,” he is, I will grant you, very arguably still in the mode of describing the views of his Republican friends. But he is invoking those friends to show that “even” Republicans think this! It’s much the same as when people cite the Blaze criticism of O’Keefe’s editing: even Glenn Beck’s site is criticizing O’Keefe! It’s a variant of the old tactic I described at the head of the post of appearing neutral: you cite people on the other side from you and say: “even the other side is saying this!”
The most amusing example of this tactic I ever saw was L.A. Times columnist Michael Hiltzik, who once came over to my site posing as someone else and argued with a Hiltzik critic. Then, back at his own blog and under his own name, Hiltzik pointed his readers to the alleged shellacking that his alter ego (which he did not reveal to be his alter ego) was giving his critic at my site . . . and then, he delivered the coup de grace:
For anyone interested, Specter is getting his head handed to him over at the Patterico blog for trying to sleaze out from under his flat misstatements of fact. And that’s a conservative blog. Follow the link above, and enjoy the carnage.
Hahahahaha. “And that’s a conservative blog.” See what he did there? He came to a conservative blog under a phony name, made some arguments, then retreated to his own blog and cited the arguments of Mr. Phony Name, which — voila! — now had extra credibility because they were at a conservative blog!
That’s what Schiller is doing here, and his body language and pro-leftist views elsewhere on the tape make that clear. Here is a guy who clearly, giving his own opinion, calls the Tea Party weird and fanatical. He nods when the Tea Party is called racist. He talks about how the left is more educated, fair, and balanced, and talks about how the Republicans have really lost their way. Somewhere in there, he relates a critique of the Tea Party that he enthusiastically relates as being from Republicans — and we’re supposed to believe he doesn’t agree with every word?!
Yeah, this guy is totally vindicated!
And yet, that’s what the left is seriously saying. It’s the “pimp costume” deal all over again — when O’Keefe edited this video, he wasn’t wearing a pimp outfit. Therefore . . . VINDICATION! As they did with the ACORN videos, the lefties are making it seem as though the editing is everything, and the underlying facts, which O’Keefe supplied himself, don’t even exist. You have the Bob Cescas of the world saying:
Eric Cantor and the House Republicans, along with certain members of the media, owe Ron Schiller an apology.
I have a dream that one day when a liberal organization somewhere is “caught” by one of these idiotic stings they will demand to see the whole damned tape before they start firing people. I live in hope.
Now hold on just a darn second. The whole damn tape has been released And that is a point that can’t be emphasized enough. The so-called “exculpatory evidence” — which, I have taken pains to explain, isn’t — all comes from O’Keefe himself. I guess he should have handled things Big Media style: record nothing, make up quotes, and never release any context.
The full video O’Keefe released clearly shows a leftist dripping with elitism for Tea Partiers. As I said to Weigel on Twitter, after he claimed that point 4 in the Blaze analysis (the second point discussed above) was “pretty devastating”:
“‘Devastating” is a pretty strong word. Why “devastating” — given that Schiller makes it clear he agrees with every word?
And now it’s time for that amusing story I told you. Within minutes, Weigel had blocked me:
Why did this occur? I had left him five messages, mostly challenging him on how he could argue that Schiller didn’t agree with the negative views of the Tea Partiers that he had passed along. Weigel thought better of it the next day and unblocked me, explaining:
I block anon Twitter accounts sometimes if I’m bored by the comments. You have rejoined the land of the unblocked, tho
Except, I am not anonymous. Which I explained. Then he said:
Oh, my fault for not checking. Generally tho I get more tired of responding if critic is anonymous, had no stake in it.
Except that he never responded to me, even once, before blocking me. So how could he have gotten “tired” of responding to me?
The next time someone cites that Blaze post, point them here. Ask them how, in light of the full context, they could possibly argue that Schiller doesn’t agree with every word of what he said about Tea Partiers.
They’ll soon “tire” of the discussion.
UPDATE: Verum Serum has more on the Blaze piece here.