The Fox Cycle: The New Black Panther Endgame

Yesterday, the Justice Department's Office of Professional Responsibility released the findings of its investigation into allegations that the Obama DOJ allowed racial and political considerations to affect its handling of the voter intimidation case against the New Black Panther Party. According to OPR, there was “no evidence” that race or politics impacted the case and the DOJ “did not commit professional misconduct or exercise poor judgment, but rather acted appropriately.”

This represents the final step of the Fox Cycle: the mechanism by which bogus right-wing attacks become mainstream news. The central allegation of the New Black Panther controversy -- that the Obama DOJ dismissed charges against the fringe extremist group in accordance with a policy of racial preference that privileged African Americans -- has been debunked by the OPR investigation. That debunking, however, comes months after the frenzy of media coverage that wrongly tarnished the reputations of credibility of the attorney general and his subordinates.

The taxpayer dollars are irretrievably wasted, and the damage is already done. And that was the point all along, from the moment this ridiculous claptrap was dreamed up.

As for the media, the Washington Post mentioned the New Black Panthers in no fewer than 20 articles and opinion pieces in 2010, including a 2,600-word front-page piece detailing the case and the allegations of J. Christian Adams, the bogus story's chief agitator. Post ombudsman Andrew Alexander chastised the paper for being “virtually silent” on the story, writing that it was “a controversy that screams for clarity that The Post should provide.”

Today, news of the OPR's findings dismantling the entire “controversy” received 350 words. On page A4.

Thankfully, the Post's online properties are seizing on the story more aggressively. Writing on The Plum Line, Adam Serwer says the OPR findings make clear that the only reason the New Black Panther controversy exists is because it represented an “opportunity to inflame white resentment by leveling charges that President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are racist against white people.”

Of course, none of this is meant to suggest that the “controversy” will now simply disappear. The New Black Panther story's usefulness to the right was never predicated on its accuracy.