Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

Propaganda agencies operate on the principle that everything can be turned to advantage, even the cultural properties of the oppressed.“ Like jazzman Louis Armstrong’s “good will” tours for the U.S. State Department in the Fifties, rappers today are dispatched on foreign missions to “cleanse an image that simply defies cleanliness.” Hip Hop, the culture that was said to have the potential to unite the global oppressed, instead becomes a weapon of oppressor. “The goal is to turn hip-hop against the very communities who create it and ultimately to turn it against the world.”

 

Hip-Hop Against the World!

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by editor and columnist Jared Ball

People are looking for ‘pro-stability rappers’ who will help make capitulation to the West ‘cool.’”

What do empires do whenever they sense trouble? A bunch of things, for sure. But one of them is to use those they most oppress in one location to ease the process of oppressing others somewhere else. Hip-hop is now the latest in a pattern of Black radical creation to be turned against itself and, if left unchecked, will serve as the cultural equivalent of the Buffalo Soldier: a new face and representative of empire or as some form of imperial novocaine. Two recent examples demonstrate this. In one part of the world rappers are sent to cleanse an image that simply defies cleanliness while here they are sent in order to co-opt what still has to prove it cannot be co-opted. But in each case the goal is to mitigate against the multitudes of emcees whose work is to give voice to radical thought and to turn this voice of the people against itself. The goal is to turn hip-hop against the very communities who create it and ultimately to turn it against the world.

In the Arab world the State Department has been sending rappers since 2005 to, as Hilary Clinton recently made clear, “rebuild the image” of the United States. It is as if to say that we hope the lyrical bombs we drop on you will somehow make up for the very literal ones that, by the way, are still coming. But as many will remember, this is part of a legacy of sending Black emissaries overseas to convince others of "a sense of shared suffering, as well as the conviction that equality could be gained under the American political system" that began in the 1950s with jazz musicians. And today, from the U.S. to Syria people are looking for “pro-stability rappers” who will help make capitulation to the West “cool.” Today’s “hip-hop envoys” are, in the words – again – of Hilary Clinton, engaged in a “complex game of ‘multidimensional chess’” which is, in part, meant to challenge the potential support given by hip-hop to revolutionary movements. So artists we never hear on radio or see on television, and even those who are somewhat progressive, are sent to promote a version of this country that simply does not exist. Shared suffering perhaps, but by no means any “equality under an American political system.”

Artists we never hear on radio or see on television are sent to promote a version of this country that simply does not exist.”

And back here at home, what does an empire do when it clearly has no clothes? It invents them, slaps a cool label on them and tries to sell them as proof of empire being ok. We were impressed a few weeks back when an anonymous super-sister called our former rap mogul, now just regular mogul, Russell Simmons as being part of the problem while he spoke on behalf of the 99% at Occupy Wall Street. As we said then she was right so it was of no surprise to see him hugged up last week to super rapper and businessman Jay-Z sporting his new Occupy All Streets tee-shirt. It was a brief but note-worthy attempt at commercializing an anti-commercial gathering. But within 48 hours Jay-Z’s Rocafella clothing line took down the shirt from its website and apparently got the message that this time the emperor’s clothes would have to stay off, at least for now.

But all of these attempts speak mostly to the extent to which hip-hop and all of us are disorganized. Artists need to eat and live but also need to check and be checked on who is sponsoring them. No one can claim to be representing anything when appointed as a representative by someone else, especially when that someone else is an enemy. Hilary Clinton can only claim that “hip-hop is America” without the more appropriate Malcolm X-like amendment that, “hip-hop is a response to the victimization by America,” because no organized body can stand up and demonstrate her fraudulence. Similarly, it should not take a loose confederacy of Twitter-ites to stop Russell Simmons and Jay-Z from even attempting to embarrass us with such a typical corporatist move. So while we know that hip-hop has long-been used to sell anything from products to myths of Black and Brown "success" we must again acknowledge that there seems to have been a devolution in preparing for worse forms of political abuse.

In the end sponsorship matters. The sponsor is as important as the message itself. And when that sponsor is the State Department or major corporations the message nearly loses all other relevance. And in this case it becomes again a situation where hip-hop is turned against itself and indeed the world.

For Black Agenda Radio I am Jared Ball. On the web visit us at BlackAgendaReport.com.

Dr. Jared A. Ball is an associate professor of communication studies at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. and is author of I Mix What I Like! A Mixtape Manifesto (AK Press). He can be found and reached online at: IMIXWHATILIKE.ORG.

Direct download: 20111116_jb_HipHopAgainstWorld.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:21am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

It was never in the cards for a plutocrat mayor to long tolerate a movement whose essential logic is the dissolution of his class. “If the Occupy Wall Street movement has been about anything, it is the absolute necessity to rid the nation – and the world – of the collective tyranny of the Bloombergs, the dictatorship of the moneyed classes.” The next phase of the movement must more self-consciously “have, at least, the goal of shutting down the infernal machines of capital.”

 

Bloomberg Personifies What the Occupation Opposes

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Bloomberg pays his hypocritical respects to democracy and reason, when in fact his authority is nothing but an extension of the rule of capital.”

New York’s mayor Michael Bloomberg justified clearing the tents and other materials of Occupation from Zuccotti Park, saying the protesters will now “have to occupy the space with the power of their arguments.” This is a strange kind of logic from the 12th richest man in America, who occupies City Hall for one reason only – because he has bought the office three times since 2001. Mr. Bloomberg’s $20 billion fortune maintains him in the Executive Mansion, not the power of his arguments.

Bloomberg was a lifelong Democrat until he found it more convenient to run as a Republican, and then as an independent – thus proving that money, not party, is what counts in New York, as in all American politics. Everything else is a diversion, and a lie. Bloomberg has used the mayor’s office to make the city more hospitable to his fellow economic one-percenters from all around the planet. But, in that sense, he is no different than the mayors of other American cities – including most of the Black ones – who collaborate in every rich man’s scheme to expel the poor in favor of wealthier populations. They’ve all got a lot of Bloomberg in them; they are operatives for whoever has the money.

When Bloomberg moved to end the 24-7 physical occupation of Zuccotti Park, it was not on the strength of his argument – which was full of lies and wholly unconvincing – but with the raw power of his police force and its monopoly on violence.

So Mayor Bloomberg, like all the rich man’s mayors in all the U.S. cities that are determined to end their local Occupations, pays his hypocritical respects to democracy and reason, when in fact his authority is nothing but an extension of the rule of capital.

People's power cannot long coexist with the power of massed capital.”

Bloomberg, the personification of Wall Street, made his vast fortune selling a machine called the Market Master. Having mastered the market, the logic of money was all that was required for Bloomberg to become master of politics in the nation’s most important city. Bloomberg’s career is the story of today's America, a place where people who market machines and schemes so that money can produce more money for themselves and their fellow Lords of Capital, can then purchase governments and write their own laws in order to maintain their power in perpetuity.

If the Occupy Wall Street movement has been about anything, it is the absolute necessity to rid the nation – and the world – of the collective tyranny of the Bloombergs, the dictatorship of the moneyed classes. If there is to be any lesson in this two-month-long Occupation that is actually useful to people, it is that people's power cannot long coexist with the power of massed capital. Capital will ultimately shut the people down. The people must, therefore, have at least the goal of shutting down the infernal machines of capital.

I'm confident the movement will weather these assaults, and find ways to create space to exist and interact with the public. The first phase of the movement was to get the people's attention – and it has been a great success. In the next phase of struggle, every action must be designed to objectively weaken the power of the Bloombergs, and strengthen the power of the people. Ultimately, it must end in a word that begins with an “R” - but that will become obvious, in time. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. Find us on the web, at BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20111116_gf_BloombergOccupy.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:16am EDT

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

Until the entrance of the First Black President, the phenomenon was unknown. But a new poll shows Blacks remain far more upbeat than other groups about the economy. “Since late 2009, Black Americans have been reporting wildly more optimistic beliefs than any other ethnicity about the state of the economy, Black people’s relative position in that economy, and the respondent’s own economic prospects.” And for two years, Black perceptions of reality have been largely the opposite of the truth.

 

Obama-Related Illusions Continue to Distort Black Perceptions

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford

It has been like tracking a mass delirium that has been raging for two years.”

A recent poll of African American public opinion adds to the evidence that the very presence of a Black man in the White House has created lasting distortions in Black people’s collective ability to gauge their own relative position in society. To put it bluntly, something has gone very wrong with Black perceptions of reality, since the ascent of President Obama.

The latest manifestation of the madness arrived with this month’s NBC News/Wall Street Journal/the Grio poll, headlined “Black Americans More Optimistic, Enthused About 2012.” The poll showed that almost half of Black respondents thought the country was on the right track, while overwhelming majorities of other Americans believe the opposite. Sixty-two percent of Blacks think the recession is behind us – an intuition not nearly so widely held by other Americans. Most tellingly, 86 percent of Blacks approve of the way President Obama has been handling the economy – an economy in which Blacks are doing worse than every other major group.

The Grio article didn’t tell us that research has shown, since late 2009 – President Obama’s first year in office – that Black Americans have been reporting wildly more optimistic beliefs than any other ethnicity about the state of the economy, Black people’s relative position in that economy, and the respondent’s own economic prospects. It has been like tracking a mass delirium that has been raging for two years. The first poll by the Pew Research Center, titled “Blacks Upbeat about Black Progress, Prospects appeared in January of 2010. It showed that the proportion of Blacks that thought they were “better off” than five years ago had nearly doubled. What had actually doubled in the previous five years was the rate of Black unemployment. Blacks also thought, in late 2009, that the racial gap had grown smaller in the last ten years. In the real world, it had gotten significantly larger.

Eighty-six percent of Blacks approve of the way President Obama has been handling the economy – an economy in which Blacks are doing worse than every other major group.”

Clearly, this was a mass psychological manifestation of the Obama phenomenon. We wrote in the January 20, 2010 edition of Black Agenda Report, that “large majorities of African Americans have been trapped” in a Delusion Zone ”since Barack Obama took up residence in the White House.”

Six months later, the Pew Research outfit released an even scarier survey. Titled, “How the Great Recession Changed Life in America,” the study showed across the board that Blacks are more upbeat about damn near everything than everybody else. Here’s what we wrote on June 6 of 2010:

The Pew poll shows that 35 percent of Blacks report their homes are worth less than their mortgages, compared to just 18 percent for white people. Fifty-four percent of Blacks took a pay cut, worked reduced hours or were forced to take unpaid leave during the Great Recession. Only 37 percent of whites suffered such employment trauma, yet Blacks are consistently – and insanely – more optimistic about the future.”

There is the possibility that Black folks are simply not answering honestly to pollsters, so as not to make Obama look bad. But, if they actually believe what they say, then Black folks would rather imagine an alternative universe in which the First Black President actually did bring good times for Black people, than face the facts as they have actually occurred.

For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to BlackAgendaReport.com.

BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

Direct download: 20111116_gf_BlacksInPolls.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:06am EDT