Issue Number 14 - October 17, 2002





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BET billionaire Bob Johnson's Social Security privatization message is reaching millions of Black radio listeners through at least two GOP and associated far right advertising campaigns worth $2.5 million. The larger of the buys is funded by a Hard Right group associated with white, Christian evangelicals.

As we explored in our October 3 issue (BET's Black Billionaire Trojan Horse), Johnson served as George Bush's point-Black on the President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security, this year, providing an African American spin for Republican plans to transfer at least part of Social Security's trillions to Wall Street. Johnson provided Black cover for the heist - with the added bonus of his nominal affiliation as a Democrat - by concocting a pitch arguing that Blacks are subsidizing whites through Social Security contributions - a lie.

Johnson pulled a similar stunt the previous year, fronting a petition signed by almost 50 wealthy Blacks supporting elimination of the federal Estate Tax, a levy affecting less than one out of every 200 African American households.

Johnson's signatories included media owners Earl Graves (Black Enterprise), Thomas Burrell (Burrell Communications Group), Keith Clinkscales (Vanguard Media), Barry Cooper (Black, Byron Lewis (UniWorld Group), Ed Lewis (Essence Communications), Alfred Liggins (Radio One) and Alexis Scott (Atlanta Daily World).

Emboldened by Johnson's ability to mobilize some of the most vocal members of his tiny class, the Republican National Committee authorized a $1 million schedule of anti-Social Security and pro-private school voucher radio messages, centered on the American Urban Radio Networks. The official GOP campaign also targets Black markets in the key presidential election states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Kentucky and Missouri.

Working outside of the official GOP apparatus - but well within the circles in which Johnson and his closest, Hard Right white business associates operate - is the Council for a Better Government, whose spokesman is Kansas City Republican activist John Altevogt. The shadowy council is spending $1.5 million in 12 states to spread the Johnson-inspired message: Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, North Carolina and North Dakota (!), according to the Associated Press.

Altevogt is also the zealot behind Metro Voice News, a hard core Christian Right political sheet that calls itself "Kansas City's only local newspaper serving the Christian community."

Kansas City was the site of the political season's first broadcast of Republican Social Security messages aimed at Black radio audiences. That campaign, launched by GOPAC just after Labor Day, was pulled from the airwaves after public outcry and under pressure from the Republican National Committee, embarrassed by the "misleading and offensive" language of the ads. Social Security, said the pulled version, amounts to "reverse reparations" - the essential pitch outlined by Johnson when he served on Bush's bogus, bi-partisan panel. Altevogt's Council for a Better Government campaign for Black attention appears to be a reincarnation of the GOPAC effort.

Bob Johnson moves in mysterious ways, his favors to perform.

Talking "new," but saying nothing

applauds the wise counsel of University of Maryland political scientist Ron Walters, whose analysis, though diplomatically couched, is quite biting. In a recent column, Dr. Walters wrote of "the emergence of the view that Blacks are rejecting the 'old'confrontational Black leaders for 'new' moderate ones. In fact, said Walters, "some Black leaders are now running from being called 'Black leaders.'"

Walters observed a crowd of "new" Black leaders at a showcase organized by Memphis Congressman Harold Ford, Jr., at age 33 the most shameless (and least bright) Black darling of the Right and the corporate media. (Our assessment, not Dr. Walters'.) Also in attendance was slickly intelligent Cory Booker, still searching for a credibly "Black" squat since being thoroughly exposed as a tool of the Bradley Foundation, George Bush's favorite political philanthropy.

Readers are encouraged to take note of the other actors on stage at the "new Black leader" theater. Dr. Walters wrote:

Congressman Harold Ford's panel during CBC weekend featured Artur Davis, who defeated Earl Hilliard in Alabama; Kendrick Meek, a Florida state legislator who will succeed his mother, Carrie Meek, when she retires from Congress; Cory Booker, a Newark, N.J., city councilman who ran against Mayor Sharpe James; Karen Carter, member of the Louisiana State Legislature; and Michael Hooks, head of the Memphis School Board. This young group was supposed to discuss what it meant to "move beyond" the civil rights legacy, but they ended up affirming it. Nevertheless, it was clear that Davis will be loyal to Israel when he comes to Congress and that Cory Booker and Harold Ford Jr. have few objections to school vouchers. Otherwise, the group sounded like their older colleagues.

Some innocents may have wandered into this sideshow. But, based on the marquee, all merit close scrutiny.

There are several points to be made regarding Dr. Walters' observations. First, the Bookers and Fords have nothing to say, only something to sell - their youngish Black faces - and to sow: media-driven division in the Black body politic. They dare not violate in clear words the actual Black Consensus on basic issues of health care, criminal justice, housing, employment, income disparity, support for public education, and a strong federal role in overcoming past and present racial discrimination, including affirmative action.

Fully aware that Black voters will never knowingly elect those who would violate The Consensus, these Trojan Horses move in stealth; they avoid taking opposing positions on issues that are dear to the African American electorate, but are anathema to their rightwing and media supporters. As best they can, these mercenaries hide their financial sources. To the Black audience, they present an upbeat posture and attitude - the promise, but never the substance, of "new" ideas.

To their media and Hard Right backers, they flash the wink that is perfectly understood: "Wait until I'm a Black leader. I will create calm."

Or, as Dr. Walters puts it, "There has been a consistent attempt by the establishment to create a Black leadership that would be absent on major public policy issues, that would be non-threatening on the racist treatment of Blacks and that would not march and raise hell in the 'old' civil rights style to challenge the system."

Dr. Walters urges Black America to "maintain the dignity of 'Black leadership' and its mission."

The Black and Blue dog

The meaning of dignity escapes Harold Ford entirely. Not only is he one of three CBC members on the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) - the guiding arm of the party's right wing - he is one of only two Black members of the Blue Dog Coalition, a capacity in which he helps these 33, southern-based "moderate-to-conservative" legislators in much the way mascots assist "their" teams. He makes a spectacle of himself.

(The other Black and Blue Dog is Rep. Sanford Bishop (GA). Both Bishop and Ford are among the Four Black Eunuchs who voted with Bush on unilateral war against Iraq.)

Like the DLC, the Blue Dogs fancy themselves a bridge "between ideological extremes" - meaning, the positions taken by most of the Congressional Black Caucus, on the Left, and the most rabid Republicans, on the Right. By his presence among the Blue Dogs, Ford signals that he is not bound by the Black Consensus, despite the fact that his safely Democratic seat is 59% Black. He could vote as "Black" as he wants. He chooses not to.

Ford got 40% of the white vote in the last election - a level he did not need but fervently sought. As he angles for a shot at the Senate, Ford cultivates an image of open-mindedness - in contrast to Black politicians who vote their community's interests - but he is actually open to anything that will further his own career. This is politely called opportunism.

In short, Ford is no credit to the race, and does not want to be. Since he hangs with Blue Dogs, we feel comfortable applying animal metaphors to Rep. Ford: he walks like, talks like, smells like... a Trojan Horse.

The Trojan Horse TV show

In our next issue, we will discuss the Hard Right's flagrant propaganda deployment of "America's Black Forum," the syndicated television program founded by publishers Glen Ford and Peter Gamble, 25 years ago. Over the years, ABF has become the most blatantly rightwing Black-oriented program on television; indeed, it is in a treacherous class by itself. ABF's producers are unmistakably in collusion with the most reactionary institutions on the American political spectrum.

Therefore, we thought it best to publish the following remarks by NAACP Chairman Julian Bond in this issue, rather than the next. Bond is a regular commentator on ABF, but has no role in management and direction of the program. The same goes for political columnist Juliann Malveux, also an occasional presence. Both represent progressive window dressing on an aggressively rightwing set.

Bond's remarks are contained in his speech to the NAACP's convention, in Houston, this summer. We thought them appropriate for this column, dedicated to rooting out Black Trojan Horses. First, Bond spoke of the Bush Administration's assault on civil rights. He continued:

There is an even wider conspiracy than this - an interlocking network of funders, groups, and activists, who coordinate their methods and their message.

They are the money, the motivation, and the movement behind vouchers, the legal assault on affirmative action and other remedies for discrimination, attempts to reapportion us out of office, and attacks on equity everywhere.

They've had a collection of black hustlers and hucksters on their payrolls for more than twenty years, promoting them as the new generation of black leaders.

They can't deal with the leaders we choose for ourselves - so they manufacture, promote, and hire new ones. Like ventriloquist's dummies, they speak in their puppet master's voice, but we can see his lips move and we can hear his money talk.

They've financed a conservative constellation of make-believe black organizations, all of them hollow shells with more names on the letterhead than there are people on the membership rolls.

They're purchasing seats at the table of influence, and they're buying Blacks at a few bucks a head.

"They" also conduct politics in grotesque blackface on "America's Black Forum," as we will detail in our October 31 issue.

Contact: [email protected]


GOP Courts Traditional Democrats

The New Negativism of "Black Leadership" by Ron Walters

Blue Dog Coalition, plus Harold's Ford's Black Caucus of One

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