The early Soviets coined the word “agitprop” as a blend between the Russian agitatsiya (agitation) and “propaganda.”
Although the Soviet Union may have passed away, its communication techniques are alive and well, nowhere more demonstrably than in the media firestorm ignited on March 20 at the nation’s Capitol.
At 4:51 that afternoon, roughly two hours after the incident in question, William Douglas, an African American reporter for the liberal McClatchy Newspapers, posted a story that would have made Lenin proud. Its inflammatory headline read, “Tea party protesters scream 'nigger' at black congressman.”
That the headline was false in every detail would not deter an increasingly partisan media from spreading the libel and amplifying it.
Such agitprop is not something new. The Comintern, the international Soviet propaganda arm, had been quietly slipping toxins into the American melting pot since the Sacco and Vanzetti trial in the 1920s.
As Mark Shields notes in his study of the Mitrohkin files, the Soviets hoped “to weaken the internal cohesion of the United States and undermine its international reputation by inciting race hatred.”
Here the motive was more starkly partisan: cull the Tea Party movement off from the Republican Party and scare American blacks out of the clutches of either.
Agitprop, however, is harder to get away with in the age of the Internet and the ubiquitous video camera. I have put together a composite video to show the mendaciousness of the whole enterprise.
According to a source who was there on the scene, Greg Farrell, certain members of the Black Caucus leave the Cannon Building for the Capitol about 2:30 that afternoon.
Led by civil rights icon, John Lewis, they choose to walk through the protestors rather than to take the tunnel. This is the “agitation” part.
As the numerous videotapes show, they pass without violence, threats of violence, or even profanity.
They walk without incident until an inattentive Representative Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), flanked by a police officer, passes right in front of a man who has been shouting “kill the bill” through cupped hands for at least the last ten seconds.
The shouter “allowed saliva to hit my face,” Cleaver would later tell the Washington Post. Visibly angry, he pokes his finger in the man’s face.
About a minute after the incident, Cleaver returns to the scene of the presumed crime with a Capitol Police officer. As the video makes embarrassingly clear, Cleaver fails to recognize the shouter even though he is standing right in front of him, and he and the officer head back up the steps.
At about 3:15 PM, the congressmen return to the Cannon Building again through the crowds. As Farrell observes, “If what these congressmen said was true, wouldn't it be logical to think that there would have been many more Capitol Police officers escorting these gentlemen back into the Cannon building when they returned?”
In fact, there were only two police officers, and they were walking behind the congressmen.
By 4:51 PM, only 90 minutes after the return to the Cannon Building, Douglas—with an assist from James Rosen--has been able to interview Emanuel Cleaver, John Lewis and Barney Frank and post the damning article, all 800 words of it.
Although the “congressman” in the headline is the iconic Lewis, the only one who reports having heard the word “nigger” is Cleaver, and even he suggests that it was uttered by one individual and not screamed.
Thus, the headline, “Tea party protesters scream 'nigger' at black congressman,” is false on at least three counts and probably four.
In the 90 minutes after the return to the Cannon Buildding, Cleaver’s office puts out a press release and Douglas reports it to the effect that Cleaver had “been spat upon and that Capitol Police had arrested his assailant.”
Douglas also quotes the release to the effect that “the congressman has chosen not to press charges."
This is all inarguably false. "There were no elements of a crime, and the individual wasn't able to be positively identified," a spokeswoman for the Capitol Police tells FoxNews.com. "[Cleaver] was unable to positively identify." The video clearly supports the police.
At 5:41 PM on that Saturday, March 20, Brian Beutler of the Talking Points Memo cranks up the agitprop meter with a story headlined, “Tea Partiers Call Lewis ‘N****r.’”
Beutler, a recent Berkeley grad and a leftist, relies on the word of Andre Carson, (D-IN), one of only two Muslims in Congress and a member of the progressive caucus. Carson claims to have been standing next to Lewis when he had “a particularly jarring encounter with a large crowd of protesters screaming ‘kill the bill’... and punctuating their chants with the word ‘nigger.’”
Carson’s charge so defies the reality of life in America circa 2010 that Beutler should have sought confirmation. He does not get it from Lewis. Lewis is only quoted as saying, "People have been just downright mean."
At 7:21 PM that same evening, not to be outdone, Douglas responds with a new posting, “Tea party protesters call Georgia's John Lewis 'nigger.’”
Again, Lewis fails to confirm the slur. "They were shouting, sort of harassing," Lewis told Douglas. What they shouted, Douglas reports, is “kill the bill, kill the bill.” The headline hinges on Cleaver’s charge, and Cleaver has already proven unreliable.
House majority whip James CIyburn, who walked with the contingent, hears no racist remarks either. “I experienced some of [the anger],” Clyburn tells Keith Olbermann on March 22. “I didn’t hear the slurs.”
Despite Andrew Breitbart’s offer of a $10,000 reward for any audio or video evidence of a racial slur, none has been found. And at least two members of the Black Caucus contingent appear to have been recording their coming and going to the Capitol.
Keep this story alive. As Nikolai Lenin once coldly noted, “A lie told often enough becomes the truth.”