Anatomy of a Meme: HuffPo Retracts Patently False Breitbart Smear, But Adweek Says They 'Caved'

Earlier this week, the Huffington Post published an article suggesting Andrew Breitbart may have doctored a video published here and Breitbart.TV that made CBS’s Norah O’Donnell look like the biased liberal she really is. Of course, Breitbart did no such thing. After HuffPo brass was alerted to what their bloggers and editors were up to, they jettisoned the article and posted a correction and apology in its stead.

Attempting to marginalize conservatives is beneficial to the left for at least two reasons: 1) the left doesn’t have a lot of effective arguments, and 2) even if they did, discrediting a person once burns far fewer calories than debating each point they make one by one. It’s easier to call someone a racist/sexist/bigot or a liar than it is to prove your own arguments are intellectually sound time after time; after all, who would take what a bigot or a liar has to say seriously? By painting a person with that brush, the left has preemptively won any future debate they ever have with the “discredited” person.

In the case of Andrew Breitbart, this is exactly what the left has tried to do. If people hear that “he’s the guy who doctors videos” over and over, they’ll eventually believe it, even if it’s not true, and will no longer think of one of the right’s most effective communicators as a credible source. NBC, Media Matters, HuffPo, and countless others have tried for years to employ this guilty-until-proven-innocent method of character assassination.

We’ve heard this story before, and we will hear it again… right now. From Tuesday’s Adweek:

So there you have it, HuffPo caved to Breitbart. Not “HuffPo Righted a Wrong Done to Breitbart,” or “HuffPo Retracts a Baseless Attack on Breitbart,” Adweek’s editors want readers to focus on HuffPo’s capitulation to the devious Breitbart and his ability to make the liberal media bend to his will. The word “caves” implies that HuffPo may have been making an important point, but Breitbart somehow applied such unbelievable amounts of pressure that they had no choice but to let the man have his way. As it happens, the rest of the piece was mostly accurate, but the tone of any article is set by the headline, and that’s exactly why the Adweek editors gave this post the title they did.

This whole saga is a lesson in how a meme is created; for those of you unfamiliar with the term, here is the definition*:

A cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

In the age of the internet, media moves lightening-quick, and any misinformation can be global news before people even have time to wrap their minds around what really happened. As we’ve pointed out at BigJournalism, false facts are routinely printed on the front page while the correction is buried on page A32. A lot more people tend to see the misinformation than see the correction. The liberal media uses this fact to their advantage; it’s their M.O.

So, even though the Huffington Post smear ultimately got nuked and those who were responsible likely got an earful from the higher-ups, the “Breitbart doctors videos” meme got just a little life injected into it, and that gave Adweek the chance to twist the knife a bit as well. Now, through no fault of his own, controversy is swirling around Mr. Breitbart, and that is precisely what the left wants.



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