A picture, it has been said, is worth a thousand words, but often it only tells a part of the story, leaving the rest at the mercy of media spin. This was clearly the case concerning the photograph of an empty room of a “diversity outreach” program at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) which went viral.
The media used the picture to make the case that the activists at CPAC are racist since few bothered to attend the event. The fact was, however, that few even knew of its existence until after the fact.
There were two kinds of events at CPAC – those that were advertised on inserts in the Washington Times or posted on computer screens throughout the conference hall and those which were “by invitation only” or promoted by activists distributing fliers.
In the case of the diversity outreach panel, the media would have known about its existence – long enough to capture a damning picture they could circulate to the nation to reinforce their prejudice that conservatives are secretly harboring racist thoughts – since the media received most, if not all, fliers for available events.
While attending the conference, I heard many people, including the minorities, say that they had wanted to participate in this program but couldn’t as they had learned about it after the fact. I even met a number of black candidates who proudly spoke of their support of Tea Party ideals along with the warm reception they had received by fellow activists. Others activists spoke of inroads they were making to educate minorities in the conservative principles, appreciating their resonance with the message of personal responsibility and limited government.
Had the offending journalists done their homework and looked at the schedule, they would have noticed that the diversity event was not advertised. In their quest for a gratuitous racist explanation, reporters who used the photo as evidence of the “radical” elements at CPAC, apparently hadn’t make inquiries with guests. Had they, they would have discovered that the attendees simply didn’t know about it as the organizers had not let word out. A number of other CPAC events were poorly attended for similar reasons.
The media could arguably have made the case for sexism, however. A panel discussion led by broadcaster Tammy Bruce addressed the issues of conservative men’s insensitivity to women’s issues, with one guest beseeching the males in the audience to “stop being stupid” and to offering women a stronger presence at CPAC. Then there was this gem overheard from a host at Glenn Beck’s radio station: “We like our women drunk and pantless.”
CPAC activists seems to have addressed the diversity issue quite well, but their progress on sexism still needs a little work.