weekends ago it became apparent that the TV networks have finally
lost their minds. We are not talking about the congenitally insane
FOX, the Rupert Murdoch spawn from Hell, or MSNBC, now the official
Network. Dementia has claimed broadcasting's founding news interview
programs: CBS's Face the Nation and NBC's Meet the Press. They are
brain dead and unwatchable for any other than morbid purposes.
interview programs "create" news from scratch - a function
founders put to the service of progressive Black politics when we
syndicated television's "America's Black Forum," a generation
ago. Sunday news interview shows attempt to "reset" the
agenda of public discourse. Corporate media labors continually to
drag the public conversation into sync with the political views
of their bosses and the rest of the rulers. When the rulers go off
the deep end, corporate media leaps out of reality right along with
them. The conversation disintegrates into nonsensical blather.
long ago abandoned the semi-religious journalists' practice of ruining
sleepy Sunday mornings observing the corporate media as they go
about setting the narrow parameters of the week's "news"
in identical sessions of circular reasoning with interchangeable
spokesmen for ruling circles. The untruth would come out soon enough,
we reasoned, reflected in the homogenous headlines of the corporate
some of our readers keep watch over the TV babblers and report to
us when the gibberish becomes particularly alarmingly.
was the case on Sunday, February 23. We received two urgent emails,
one from a Black couple who had been bludgeoned with the dull weapons
of CBS's Bob Schieffer and Time Magazine's Joe Klein, the other
from Joseph DiSalle, of New York City. Mr. DiSalle sent us a partial
transcript of the offending Meet the Press exchange between host
Tim Russert and presidential candidate Rep. Dick Gephardt.
RUSSERT: Do you think your fellow Democratic candidates for president,
are all of them qualified to be president? Do they have the necessary
GEPHARDT: I think we have a good field. I think I'm going to be
RUSSERT: But do you think Al Sharpton is qualified to be president
of the United States?
GEPHARDT: Tim, the people decide that, not me, but I'm going to
be the nominee. I'm going to win the nomination and I'm going
to defeat George Bush in November of 2004.
RUSSERT: But would you take someone like Al Sharpton for vice
GEPHARDT: I haven't made that decision yet. I got to win this
nomination first, but I'm going to win it.
Disalle provided commentary on the network inanity:
did Tim Russert mean? Who is "like Al Sharpton?" After
all, certainly in this day and age judging a candidate's qualifications
for the job of President or Vice President of the U.S. is not
all cut and dried. But the most disturbing question was, "
... would you take someone like Al Sharpton for vice president?"
is "like" Al Sharpton?
that matter, who is "like" anybody? For instance, is
Dick Gephardt like Al Gore? Is Gephardt like John Kerry? Or is
he like neither because they are Senators while he has always
been a US Representative. Perhaps one might say that Gephardt
is like Tip O'Neill, each being long time leaders of the Democratic
Party in the House of Representatives?
who is Al Sharpton like?
a reverend and a committed political activist, so maybe Rev. Sharpton
is somewhat like the late Father Philip Berrigan. (For civil disobedience
on the island of Vieques, Sharpton was put in jail.) Somehow I
do not think that is the comparison Tim Russert meant. But I would
like to know. (I wonder if in his whole career Russert had ever
mentioned Berrigan in a broadcast?)
Al Sharpton like Hillary Clinton? Maybe that is what he meant?
got it. He meant Al Sharpton is like Dan Quayle. D'ya think?
Tim Russerts, the Dan Rathers, the Peter Jenningses, the Ted Koppels,
the Tom Brokaws do so much to define the political debate and
what is worse, establish historical fact. They are the ones that
say, "this White Water Story just won't go away..."
while at that same time will state, "Iran-Contra has been
gone over and over and over again... " But most of the time
they act as though they were not present when history was made.
They only tell us later, much later that such and such President
was able to make people feel good while such and such President
was brought down by Iranian students holding Americans hostage
for some 400 days....
the Jennings, the Rathers, will always ask (or tell) for example
how Al Gore lost his election, but they never ask how Al Gore
was able to win by 600,000+ votes.
clever minds than mine could do more with this and could find
more comparisons "like" the late Philip Berrigan to
place beside Al Sharpton. That is why I send it to you. Perhaps
you could circulate this to the appropriate people.
are no more appropriate people than the people, themselves, an influential
number of whom visit .
Mr. DiSalle is correct - Russert's linkage of the word "like"
with "Sharpton" was meant to conjure up negative images
of a different complexion than Father Berrigan's. Russert's "like"
is better than a code word; it allows both audience and interviewees
to fill in the adjectives and react as they wish, while leaving
no definitive evidence of the host's prejudice. "Like,"
indeed. Gephardt was just too slow or scared (his two normal states)
to take the bait.
Alexander G. Hillery, II and Mrs. Nicole M. Austin-Hillery encountered
sheer idiocy on the tube, laced with racism. Face the Nation host
Bob Schieffer and Time Magazine columnist Joe Klein bantered like
guys in ties at the tale end of Happy Hour, accomplishing absolutely
nothing except to insult people not of their own race.
morning we were astonished to hear Joe Klein refer to Reverend
Al Sharpton and Carol Moseley-Braun, the only two African-American
candidates in a crowded Democratic party field, as "buffoons"
with "no chance" of becoming President or, presumably,
of winning the Democratic nomination for President. We were disturbed,
to put it mildly, that Bob Schieffer did not see fit to challenge
Mr. Klein's use of such an epithet to describe Mr. Sharpton (who,
no matter your opinion of his politics, commands a sizable constituency
within the Democratic party) and Ms. Moseley-Braun (who was the
first African-American woman elected to the United States Senate
in this country's history).
African-Americans, Americans, and Democrats, we found Mr. Klein's
description of the only two African-American Democratic candidates
in the Presidential race as "buffoons" to be every bit
as offensive and worthy of public condemnation as Senator Trent
Lott's infamous comments in praise of the segregationist Dixiecrat
candidacy of Strom Thurmond. CBS News and Mr. Klein owe Mr. Sharpton,
Ms. Moseley-Braun, African-Americans, and all Americans an apology.
Hillerys later sent us a transcript, which had Rep. Dennis Kucinich
sandwiched in as a "buffoon" between Sharpton and Moseley-Braun.
The couple believes they heard the words correctly, but "even
if he did include Kucinich, we still find his characterization of
Sharpton and Moseley-Braun to be offensive."
right, and more. Aside from conjuring up raw racial imagery, Schieffer
and Klein succeeded in using a total of 869 words - the length of
a hefty newspaper column - to say: nothing. The insult stands as
the only notable, albeit deformed, thought in the entire,
extremely expensive exchange. As the reader will discover, the two
opinion molders have not a brain between them.
profound truth lies in the utter emptiness of the Schieffer-Klein
discussion. Readers in a hurry to get to the rest of the mail my
scroll through the transcript. For those who are hardy enough to
experience the black and white vapidity of corporate journalism,
please treat the exercise as a challenge: at the end of segment,
we dare anyone to cite evidence of human intelligence at Face the
it comes to American politics, nobody is more informed, I think,
than Joe Klein, the columnist for Time magazine. He's with us
here this morning.
Joe, I think we'd better first talk about a little of what we've
just heard. You write in your column this week that so much of
the campaign, so much of the next election, is going to depend
on this war and what happens. You just heard Susan Sarandon. You
just heard Mike Farrell. You just heard Rich Lowry. It really
underlines what you're saying. There are great differences of
opinion about all this.
JOE KLEIN (Time Magazine): Yeah, there are and they're not going
to be resolved. In fact, you know, my sense is that people are
kind of getting a little bit grumpy about this because nobody's
said anything new really about this war since last fall. And they're
waiting for - for what's going to happen next. And I think that
that's - you know, I was out in Iowa this week with the Democrats,
and I think that's very much the state of - of play with them
Well, you know...
KLEIN: They're just waiting.
You know, talking about we hadn't heard anything about this since
last fall and that was of - of course in the midterm elections,
but think back to the previous presidential campaign. In a way
it sort of underlines what's happened to our politics. I mean,
I can't recall anybody saying much of anything during that campaign
that has any relevance to what's happening today. Everybody is
talking about, 'Well, everything's changed since 9/11,' but the
fact is foreign policy was not on the back burner. It was back
in the cupboard. It hadn't even put on the stove during that campaign.
KLEIN: That - that's - that is precisely right. And - and that
had - had been the case since the end of the Cold War which is
one of the reasons why Bill Clinton was s - so successful. He
ran almost entirely on domestic policy, but now I think you're
going to see that foreign policy is going to be at the center
of the coming presidential campaign and experience is going to
be a very important factor in who the Democrats decide.
I've got to say, Bob, that, you know, usually at this - at this
stage of a campaign, with a whole big field of a lot of candidates,
you know, it's easy to look on them as a bunch of dwarfs or buffoons,
but the Democrats have some really serious and substantive and
- and effective candidates out there. Of course, there's another
whole brigade of buffoons that are led by Al Sharpton and Dennis
Kucinich and Carol Moseley-Braun, none of whom really have a chance
to become president, and - and are kind of cluttering up the stage
at this point, but there - there are some good, serious candidates
out there, too.
Well, talk about one. You write in your column this week about
Dick Gephardt. He's obviously been around the track before. And
you compare him to macaroni and cheese. What do you mean by that,
KLEIN: Oh, yeah. He is - he is - well, you know, you - you listen
to him speak. I - I was out in St. Louis for his announcement
on Wednesday and he handed out the text to the speech in advance.
And it looked like a really good speech. And then about 10 minutes
into it, I realized that I was bored.
to him speak sounds like someone trying to walk up the down escalator,
but he is a very solid, serious guy. And - and he's playing that.
He's saying - you know, he compared himself to a pair of old sneakers
this week, and he's gambling that when it all comes down in the
next year, people are going to be looking for someone with experience.
I have to say, Bob, that in all the campaigns I've covered, this
one is least in the hands of the candidates and m - and most in
the hands of events and fate and things that they can't control.
And I think that on both sides - on President Bush's side when
the general election comes but also during this primary process
- it's going to be all about how the candidates react to the -
to the immense and often-shocking events that we're going to see
over the next year.
Well, of course, we're a long way from knowing who's it's going
to be on the Democratic side. Are you - are you willing to handicap
it at this point?
KLEIN: I am never willing to handicap it. We are never so stupid...
Which is a good thing about you, Joe.
KLEIN: .... as when we make predictions, but I - I got to say
I was at the - the DNC, the Democratic National Committee, meetings
in Washington on Friday and Saturday - well, on Friday, and Howard
Dean, the governor of Vermont came in and he just blew those people
away. It was one of the most effective speeches I've ever seen
a candidate give. Now he doesn't have foreign policy experience,
but I think that at the very least, he is going to sharpen up
the other candidates and he's going to make this a very, very
That's very interesting, and I think we'll end on that because
I'm going to have a little something to say about that when we
come back with a final word in just a minute.
you, Joe Klein.
KLEIN: My pleasure, Bob.
generations, African Americans have lamented the fact that we have
been left out of the American conversation. It is now clear that
much of this conversation is not worthy of our presence, deserving
only contempt. As somebody once said, "There is no there
Sharpton's surgical intent
evidenced by the Face the Nation travesty, the corporate media find
words like "buffoon" quite acceptable when applied to
Black candidates (or white progressives suspected of cozying
up to African Americans.) It is unthinkable that corporate media
would use animalistic labels to characterize even the most eccentric,
insipid or obnoxious among the powerful.
also doubt that it has ever crossed the minds of "frontrunner"
Democrats Gephardt, Senator John Kerry, and the despicable Senator
Joe Lieberman to publicly upbraid CBS's Schieffer for yucking it
up with Klein at Black people's expense. At root, these men share
with the network babblers the view that both political parties belong
to white people, that Blacks are a nuisance. It is this fundamental
disloyalty on the part of white Democrats who claim to share
a political affinity with Blacks that demands rebuke. It is white
racism that threatens the survival of the Democratic Party as a
national force, not Rev. Al Sharpton. "If the political house
is unwholesome, polluted with the unmistakable odors of white supremacy
and Black sycophancy," we wrote in last
week's issue of ,
"African Americans recoil as one body."
Sharpton is the personification of "frustration with the national
Democratic Party so high among Blacks that one more betrayal will
likely spark a massive exit, even if the destination is... nowhere,
the negative alternative that has already been chosen by a huge
chuck of younger African Americans."
Chaubey tends to agree.
for the article on Al Sharpton. I believe his candidacy is good
for Black America and hopefully he will get people involved who
are not now in the process. The Democrats are scared of his candidacy
and they even created a candidate, Moseley-Braun, designed to
take away votes from Sharpton. Let us support Sharpton. He has
flaws but on the whole he is going to create inclusion and that
is what we need today.
E. Bell, of Washington, DC, has a more separatist agenda in mind.
with "desire for Power." White supremacists have controlled
and operated the political parties in the United States of America,
Inc. since its inception. So, who will put forth the real solutions,
as was done by Marcus Garvey and then, Elijah Muhammad?
the perpetual Who? Some people Who and When their lives away, oblivious
to opportunity, never finding Now.
Smith can be fairly characterized as... tentative on the
matter of Sharpton's challenge.
who speaks truth to power will be on the white man's list of bad
people. Brother Al is one. When the Black Nation wakes up we will
understand there's only one party: the White Man's Party of the
U.S., two branches.
would be great if Brother Al and other brothers and sisters had
the full support of the Black Nation. (Black folks just don't
get it.) This is the time when we could make a statement to ourselves
and other people of the country and the world if we would take
the lead in a New Political Force. Power is what you make it,
if you know what it is.
Schoenberg needs no description because he describes himself.
for your article in CounterPunch
today. I am a white/Green voter, and I am shocked by the gutless
reaction of the Democrats to the frauds perpetrated on black voters.
If 90,000 soccer moms and yuppie creeps were taken off the voter
rolls in Florida for bogus reasons, there would be blood in the
streets. But since they were mostly black voters, the Democrats
just figured that Bush cheated better than they could. I really
believe that (angry) black voters will be the savior of American
democracy, if it can be saved at all. I know that we cannot count
on the spineless Repub-Lites like Daschle and Gephardt.
is interesting here is the (growing?) understanding among significant
elements of white progressive opinion of the necessity for independent
Black political action. Unified action can only come when whites
accept the centrality of African Americans in the struggle for social
justice. Blacks have always supported white-led political movements
and parties in overwhelming numbers. White reciprocity has been
episodic, at best.
this context, consider Paula Alkaitis' letter.
think it's time that black Americans start their own party. They
always stood for everything that is decent in this country, they
have always been the real democrats.
I am a white woman, but I can guarantee you that
I will vote for such a party in no time flat. So will my husband
and so will lots of other white people. We as democrats all know
that there is no such thing as a democratic party anymore. We
are all angry and mad as hell.
It's the second palace coup that I have witnessed
in this country. The first one was when all the black leaders
and Kennedy were murdered, then now with this administration.
This country feels more and more like a third world country living
under a dictatorship, and you know its not going to get any better
soon. Until something extremely drastic happens we are pretty
much into a downfall.
So with that, you might as well start your own
party: "The All American Party", I even have a name
for it. If all black Americans stay home from the voting booth
during the next election, it will be such a scare because then
its Republicans all the way, you will have more people that will
join your party than you can handle!
Think about it, I know you can do it.
will be presumptuous and venture that what Ms. Alkaitis is talking
about is not a Black political party, but one in which Blacks
assert leadership commensurate with their participation and commitment
to a just society - which clearly does not describe the present
state of the Democratic Party.
institutional obstacle to an inclusive, progressive Democratic Party
is the Rightist Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), the party's
Republican wing currently led by Joe Lieberman. Anita Johnson wonders
why he keeps hanging around.
Lieberman should have walked across the aisle a long time ago.
I was appalled that he was on the ticket with Gore.
DLC's paralyzing grip on the Democrats led to the midterm election
debacle, last November. This primary season, the price of cohabitation
with the "crypto-racist" Lieberman will be far higher.
As we wrote:
Sharpton will not tolerate the influence, much less nomination,
of Lieberman, the standard bearer for all that is wrong with the
Democratic Party. Sharpton will treat Lieberman as the Republican
that he is, methodically "outing" the devious crypto-racist
in terms that no amount of corporate media ridicule and distortion
can obscure. It is at that point, in the heat of foreign conflict
and domestic anxiety, that the Black public will approach a sea
change in their perception of the Democratic Party.
former Democrat Adam Engel, a political writer from New York City,
is a man in flux.
gave up on the Democrats in 2000 and became a "stoplight
Green" (if I can't vote red I'll vote green but never yellow).
Nevertheless, at a rally for Nader in Madison Square Garden, October,
2000, I couldn't help but notice that most of the people there
were either white college students or 30-something white "professionals"
like my wife and myself. Where were the people of color?
not wedded to the Green Party or any other party. If black leadership
can find a way out of this Republicrat gridlock in the form of
a third party alliance with the Greens, or even a "fourth"
party, I'll follow. Anything but business as usual as exemplified
by Lieberman and the DLC.
answer to Mr. Engel's question, "Where were the people of color?"
is quite simple: in the Democratic Party, along with nearly 10,000
of their elected officials. In many jurisdictions and in terms of
voter participation, the Democratic Party is essentially
a Black party, although most often not consciously or effectively
so. To the extent that Sharpton's candidacy serves to energize these
voters and responsive Black officeholders, the party's local structures
hold value. They are the fruits of a great investment by African
Americans. It is the national party that is in acute crisis, and
may prove itself unworthy of Black support. Only reconciliation
with "Sharptonized" Democrats can save it.
used that term in our March 6 commentary to describe a Black body
politic that is in rebellion against racism and war, and whose leadership
rightly presumes to act as prime movers in a national transformation.
Copeland Brown, of Canton, Massachusetts, remembers such an act
I listen to growing incidents of our move away from democracy,
I think back to the day when the Black Caucus walked out on the
horrible site of a President being illegally seated. What made
me nauseated was the smirk on al Gore's face as they did. He was
watching some of his most ardent supporters take an act of conscience
against this Bush mob who had stolen the Florida election and
he smiled!!!! Black people know how hypocritical our government
can be, and it is to them that I look to be brave and give us
leadership. Kerry is too busy equivocating to lead. Unfortunately,
Sharpton has a lot of baggage to overcome.
Black Caucus can take back the horrible mistake of giving this
monster-in-chief carte blanche to have my son, a major in Kuwait,
killed. You know that African-Americans represent a higher percentage
of cannon fodder in the military than any other racial group,
and that means they will take more deaths both in the carnage
in Iraq, and the occupation to follow. No conquered people will
take mildly the occupation of their land by our troops. Can you
blame them? We need to act now, in Martin Luther King's example
of Civil Disobedience to take to the streets and let the rest
of the country know, this war is IMMORAL.
rights, disappearing people
II is the perfect tool to 'disappear' any number of human beings
for any reason to any place for any length of time." Our March
6 commentary, "In
the Time of Disappeared People: Patriot II Means Permanent National
Emergency" noted that the draft legislation - which the
Bush men sought to keep secret until after "shock and awe"
had exploded over Iraq and the world - "destroys the very meaning
of citizenship, allowing its arbitrary revocation based on secret
evidence, thereby rendering the Constitution a nullity. It is a
careful design to abolish the rule of law."
Ellis, of Berkeley, California, points to another possible item
on the Bush agenda.
you for the fine commentary on the probable intent and outcome
of Patriot Act II.
your editorial consideration, I would like to propose to you that
PA II is there to forestall the necessity of a presidential election
anti-racist writer and activist Tim Wise's March 6 piece, "Fear,
Loathing and Laura Bush: Reflections on the Functions of Mass Panic,"
noted the irony of the First Lady's public abhorrence of the national
fears that her own husband works mightily to generate. Said Wise:
always serves the interests of elites. Throughout history they
have sought to identify dangers from which they insist their subjects
must be protected: witches, Jewish financiers, Papists, freemasons,
Indians, immigrants, atheists, communists, drug dealers, rebellious
slaves, the Mafia, the Black Panthers, jazz, rock and roll and
now rap music, the "homosexual lifestyle," satanic ritual
abuse, day care operators who molest children, and now Muslim
Bush's husband's constant cultivation and manipulation of fear is
"what pays her house note." Ella Baccouche got a kick
out of that.
Wise surely has the right last name. An extremely well-written
article revealing the pretentiousness and hypocrisy of another
White House resident. The historical examples of how fear was
and is used to maintain the "elite class" were right
on point. The well-timed infusion of humor made me burst into
laughter, calling on anyone nearby to come and listen.
We need analyses like this to keep the "bogeyman"
(another form of chaos) in perspective. And, it is so true! We
will never be able to see our common interests and form meaningful
relationships with one another as long as these illusory fear
clouds are looming overhead by magicians (government and the media
that supports it) greedy to create and implement policies which
in any other world (without the element of fear) would seem fascist.
Keep up the good work!
favorite Tim Wise line is, "Simply put, were it not for Laura
Bush's husband and his henchmen raising the red flag every time
bin Laden farts there would be no news to exaggerate."
Furlough (as in "leave of absence") dropped a note to
us from Alpine elevations, where a brother can find himself missing
things he once didn't know he had.
am pleased to find your page on the web. I currently reside in
Switzerland and at times feel isolated from my fellow African-Americans.
Your commentary is encouraging. Keep up the great work!
Kotter, on the other hand, feels the atmosphere in the U.S.A. is
getting a little too close.
only wish I had discovered you sooner. Your articles are a breath
of fresh air in this very stuffy country.
McClean invokes the Deity, Herself - which gives us comfort.
do a great service to our community. Thank the Goddess for your
Pierrette Mimi Poinsett, MD FAAP, writes from Modesto, California.
been reading the Black Commentator for the last several weeks.
You all are so on point, so consistently excellent. You are an
invaluable source of information. I especially enjoyed Dr. Sonja
Ebron's commentary ["Why
African Americans Should Oppose The War," February 27]
as well as the links.
own secret desire is that someday there could be an edition for
the younger reader (as in elementary school). I am looking for
progressive reading sources for my 6 year old (Scholastics News
and Nickelodeon are not exactly helping my child's world view).
are times, in fact, that we at
feel quite juvenile. However, we fear that we make poor role models
for the innocent young.
with appropriate titles to recommend to Dr. Poinsett and child can
send them to us. We'll pass them along.
the Press, February 23
(Includes interview with Rep. Dick Gephardt, Rep. Dennis Kucinich,
comments are welcome. Visit the Contact
Us page for E-mail or Feedback.
here to return to the home page