The article originally appeared in Counterpunch.org.
I Tivo Don Imus as much as I can because his putrid
racist offerings are said to represent the secret thinking of
the Cognoscenti. Maybe that's why journalists like Jeff Greenfield
and others admire him so much. He says what they think in private.
On any day, you might find Bernard McGirk, the man,
who, according to "60 Minutes," Imus hired to do "nigger
jokes," doing a lame imitation of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin,
using a plantation type dialect. The blacks who are satirized
by McGirk and others are usually displayed as committing malaprops,
but, though white writers appear daily on the show, I've rarely
seen a black author.
In the last twenty years, black authors have received
every prize available to authors. His idea of a black author must
be the same as the producers of the movie, The Tenants:
McGirk referred to Rev. Joesph Lowery as a "shameless skunk,"
and a joke was made about the manner in which Betty Shabazz, Malcolm
X's window, was murdered. Black athletes are referred to as "knuckle
draggers," which, the Irish and Scot-Irish members of Imus's
crew – they discussed their ethnic heritage on C-Span – might
be surprised to learn, was the way that the British referred to
their groups. When an exhibition of great apes was presented in
London, the British commentators said that the exhibition showed
the Irish to be the link between ape and man. But their being
Irish and Scot-Irish makes sense because it was members of these
groups who used to entertain the Anglos by blackening up. Maybe
that's why Imus has listeners in Kennebunkport. Bush I is a fan.
Another fan is Congressman Harold Ford (D-TN), whom
Imus endorses so as to deflect attention from the show's lowbrow
racism. I'm sure that Ford understands what Imus is all about,
but he needs the country and western vote in rural Tennessee in
order to gain a senate seat. Imus has a big following among this
constituency. So did James Earl Ray.
But why pick on Imus? His approach to the treatment
of black issues and personalities has become mainstream, the only
difference being that instead of using the Irish and Scot-Irish,
the traditional white-trash mercenaries, who stand between the
Other and the Anglos – when, given their social and economic position,
they should strike common cause with blacks – the network and
newspaper executives use people who resemble blacks to chastise
blacks. This colored auxiliary function as their mind-doubles
and iPod people.
I'll bet the executives got the idea from the cynical
packagers of President Bush's political strategies. The administration's
advocates of torture for example are Vietnamese, Chinese and Mexican
Americans. The former domestic policy advisor who was recently
arrested for scamming a department store is black, and the secretary
of state is black. When they come before congressional committees,
the idea is that congressmen would be reluctant to submit them
to harsh questioning for fear of being called racist. That way,
they can promote the administration's megalomaniac foreign policy
with very little criticism. I'm sure that's Karl Rove's thinking.
Unlike Ms. Rice, who I, in a heated public exchange
with her, dubbed "the Manchurian Candidate" about a
year before she joined the Bush campaign, journalist Barbara Reynolds
is a progressive. She said that she was fired from USA Today
because she didn't appeal to the demographic group from which
the paper gets its sales: Angry White Men. Those black
syndicated columnists who have remained must fit the bill. They
have become the go-fers for backlash journalism, all of them competing
with each other to blame the country's social problems on black
Clarence Page and others are regularly blaming the
victim. Harvard's Orlando Patterson is also brought in by the
Neo Con op-ed editors at the Times to characterize the problems
of African-Americans as self-inflicted, using the kind of argument
that would be ripped to shreds in a freshman class room.
Even Bob Herbert, a liberal and the token black
on the New York Times' Neo Con editorial page, has to take the
brothers and sisters to the woodshed from time to time in order
to maintain credibility with his employers. He too says that Gangsta
Rap is the cause of society's woes. (David Brooks, who promotes
some of the same ideas as David Duke, but has a more opaque writing
style, even blamed the riots in France on Gangsta Rap).
For these writers, black peoples' style is the irritant.
If we could only get Rep. Cynthia McKinney to a new hair stylist.
Michelle Martin, who was assigned to beat up on
Ms. McKinney by the producers of "Nightline," spent
half the interview on Ms. McKinney's hair even though Ms. McKinney
has been outspoken on a number of serious issues. Can you imagine
Ms. Martin conducting an interview with Trent Lott, the last person
on the planet to use Wild Root Cream Oil, or Joe Biden, and spending
half the time on his hair?
"Nightline's" Martin had subjected a white male congressman
to this kind of hostile sarcastic interview, sarcastic not only
in words but in body language, to which she subjected Cynthia
McKinney, Martin would have gotten the same treatment from her
bosses that Connie Chung received when she interviewed Newt Gingrich's
mom, who denounced Hillary Clinton as "a bitch." (Ms.
Martin knows whom to aggress upon. When she appeared on a program
with "white militant" Joe Klein and Klein, who lied
about his authorship of Primary Colors, talked about "the
poverty of values within the inner city," she just sat there
and took it.)
Before Chung's interview with Newt's mom, the network
executives, according to a media publication issued by the Freedom
Forum, wanted someone like Connie Chung for their shows. She still
hasn't recovered and has been assigned to a Saturday morning show
on MSNBC. Oblivion.
Cynthia Tucker of the Atlanta Constitution was also
solicited by "Nightline" to join in on the ambush of
Ms. McKinney. Ms. Tucker, who blames the Hudlin brothers, producers
at Black Entertainment Network, for the problems confronting some
black kids, is the syndicated columnist who relied on the usual
inflammatory and racist reporting to describe those who sought
refuge in the New Orleans Astrodome as "bestial." The
New York Times, the New Orleans Time-Picayune and the LA Times
all discounted these rumors and the LA Times even apologized,
saying that such reporting would never have occurred had there
been white middle class inhabitants of the Astrodome.
Ms.Tucker never retracted her false accusation,
nor did Jeff Koinange, the reporter whom CNN has assigned to cover
all of Africa. He replaced the African-American reporter who was
covering the Astrodome because this reporter presumably wasn't
While one can see African leaders, intellectuals,
and scientists, sessions of parliaments, cultural events on the
B.B.C., CNN's view of Africa is on par with that found in the
Tarzan movies. When CNN bade Koinange farewell on the occasion
of his new assignment, they presented the highlights of his Africa
coverage. One picture showed him staring at a crocodile. Another
showed him grinning at a monkey. No wonder the American public's
knowledge of the world is on par with that of their president's.
You'll also notice that the moderator of the "Nightline"
show where Congressperson McKinney was grilled was of South Asian
origin. According to a memo I have from a Cuban reporter, who
was fired from CNN, the executives there, led by Jonathan Klein
(the new head of CNN who is trying to boost his ratings by running
mug shots of black males all day, while dropping the story about
the middle class white kids who were caught on video beating up
homeless people, killing one of them; they were sent to psychiatric
counseling) prefer South Asians as anchors, especially the women,
and particularly on CNN International.
CNN Atlanta features a South Asian anchorwoman who
giggles while the male correspondents exchange remarks with her
that are loaded with sexual innuendo, certainly an issue that
feminists should take up.
Even C-Span, the only network where you can obtain
a variety of viewpoints from African Americans, though they give
disproportionate time to think-tank blacks like Shelby Steele,
has gone Imus. Last week, Jadish Bhaghati, a South Asian professor
at Columbia who supports Bush's plan to bring Mexican slave labor
into the United States to serve his big agri-business contributors,
shared laughs with host Pedro Echevarria and a caller, a white
employer, who was voicing the kind of jokes about black work habits
that one reads at the Klan's "Nigger Watch" website.
Both Bhaghati and host Echevarria are black, but that didn't prevent
them from enjoying the kind of barbs against African-Americans
one hears on the Imus show.
Of course, one should avoid generalizing about South
Asians, but obviously the British, who, referred to them as "niggers,"
trained some of them very well and they're not the only "people
of color" who serve as stooges for the corporate media. Michelle
Malkin, instead of a hard-hitting anti-establishment writer like
Emil Gulliermo of Asia Week, represents Filipino Americans. For
Muslim Americans they give us Irshad Manji, who refuses to debate
the young playwright Wajahat Ali. For Mexican Americans we are
awarded the syndicated Ruben Navarrette, Jr., who believes that
black people are too dumb to compete with the cheap Mexican labor
that has been brought into New Orleans. People who work off the
books, for less than the minimum wages, and who are subject to
blackmail by their employers. People who threaten to wipe out
all of the gains that American workers have fought for over the
last one hundred years. Apparently, there is no room for the views
of Patricia Gonzales and Roberto Rodriquez, who are to the left
of Navarrette, Jr.
African-Americans have a number of individuals who
are willing to serve as mind-doubles. Some are supported by right
wing think tanks like the Manhattan Institute's John McWhorter,
black front man for the Eugenics movement. The Manhattan Institute
boasts that they can provide enormous publicity for their fellows
– the kind of clout that enables them to impose their viewpoints
upon discussions about black issues – by using proxies who are
unknown to black Americans. When McWhorter attacks me in Commentary,
a magazine that praised Charles Murray's "The Bell Curve,"
or in his books, where do I go to get equal time? He once challenged
me to a debate, threatening "to wipe up the floor with me,"
but when I accepted, he backed out.
Another proxy person-of-color intellectual for right
wing interests is Shelby Steele of the Hoover Institute. He just
got three hours on C-Span to explain his one-note theory that
blacks complain too much about their "victimization."
He accused blacks of expressing "victimization" when
they complained about being robbed of their votes in Florida during
the Presidential election of 2000, even though there is abundant
evidence that they were victimized.
But even Shelby Steele isn't as popular with the
right as Ward Connerly who is so firmly associated with proposition
209, the measure that ended Affirmative Action in California,
that lazy journalists claim he started the drive that led to its
being passed. He didn't. He was brought on when the real sponsors
suffered a lapse in their notion of a color-blind society long
enough to realize that a black face on their proposition would
aide in its adoption. Before Connerly came on, the proposition
was failing. (One of the two white founders of the proposition
said that he did so because a woman got the job that he was qualified
for. Lydia Chavez, the author of The Color Bind: The Campaign
to End Affirmative Action [Paperback, April 1998], an excellent
book about the sinister maneuvering that led to proposition 209,
says the woman has never been found.)
Connerly, viewed by the media as martyr who braved
the scorn of his black accusers to follow his conscience, only
agreed to support the proposition if its supporters raised $500,000.
Newt Gingrich helped to raise the money. He was also supported
financially by President Clinton's nemesis Richard Mellon Scaife.
Rupert Murdoch contributed 200,00 dollars and the Pioneer fund
contributed thirty five thousand dollars to the campaign to end
Affirmative Action in California, so that now Duke University
and "Old Miss" have a higher black enrollment than the
University of California and California State University.
In his book, The Nazi Connection, Stefan
Kuhl says that "Today, the Pioneer Fund is the most important
financial supporter of research concerning the connection between
race and heredity in the United States." Its largest contributor,
until the 1960s, was textile magnate Wickliffe Draper, who worked
with the United States House Un-American Activities Committee
to demonstrate that blacks were genetically inferior and ought
to be "repatriated" to Africa.
The Pioneer Fund also supported Charles Murray's
The Bell Curve, the book beloved by publications that hate
Minster Louis Farrakhan so much. In this book, Charles Murray
floats some of the same stereotypes about blacks that were once
aimed at his Scots-Irish ancestors.
Another supporter was Andrew Sullivan, who came
to the attention of the mainstream electronic media after he did
such a good job bashing blacks at the New York Times Magazine
section, which describes blacks as cannibals and crack addicts.
Obviously Ward Connerly, who has made millions from
being associated with proposition 209, is supported by such ultra
right individuals and groups that he has been reluctant to list
Such is the power of their right wing backers that
Steele, Connerly, and McWhorter get more media attention than
black elected officials. When Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr. and
Connerly appeared on C-Span, on the same day, it was Connerly
who was featured.
I remember the press conference held by David Duke
when he announced that he was abandoning his quest for the presidency.
Only a few news people attended. Duke complained
that he had to quit because the mainstream candidates had co-opted
his program all about a growing black underclass threatening civilization.
(His Nazi colleague, Tom Metzger disagreed with him. He said on
Larry King's show that the average woman on welfare is a white
woman whose husband has abandoned her.)
The same might happen to Don Imus, whose "nigger
Jokes" are sponsored by American Express and other famous
brand names. Who needs a white man when there are plenty of people
of color willing to take up the slack.
Ishmael Reed is a poet, novelist and essayist
who lives in Oakland. His widely-acclaimed novels include,
Jumbo, the Freelance
Pallbearers and The
Last Days of Louisiana Red. He has recently published
a fantastic book on Oakland: Blues
City: a Walk in Oakland and Carroll and Graf has just published
a thick volume of his poems: New
and Collected Poems: 1964-2006. He is also the editor of
the online zine Konch.
Reed can be reached at: [email protected].