Wednesday, November 18, 2009

From Naomi Klein's Newsletter: On Globalization and the Climate Change Summit in Copenhagen

Revisiting No Logo: A message from Naomi

Posted on The Huffington Post

Ten years ago, on November 30, 1999, tens of thousands of protestors shut down a meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. The activists were not against trade or globalization, despite the many misleading claims in the mainstream media. They were against a system of deregulated capitalism that was spreading around the world.

At the time of the Seattle protests, my first book, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies, was at the printer. The book tracked the ascendency of the "superbrands" as well as the first signs of a new fight back against corporate power. It was good timing for an author-activist: I had the rare privilege of watching my book become useful to a movement I believed could change the world.

On the ten-year anniversary of the Seattle protests, with anger mounting at the open collusion between corporations and governments, I am rereleasing No Logo with an extended new introduction. Among other developments, the new essay looks at the unprecedented bailout of Wall Street, as well as the rise of the Obama Brand (the most powerful brand in the world right now) and examines the troubling gaps between its marketing and reality.

But I don't think this is a time for nostalgia. A new wave of exciting "climate justice" activism is underway in the lead up to the UN climate summit in Copenhagen, one that builds on many of the networks born in Seattle. As I write in Rolling Stone (full article below), for activists, Copenhagen "represents a chance to seize the political terrain back from business-friendly half-measures, such as carbon offsets and emissions trading, and introduce some effective, common-sense proposals—ideas that have less to do with creating complex new markets for pollution and more to do with keeping coal and oil in the ground."

Please take a look at the articles below, as well as a "from the archives" op-ed on Seattle, and follow the links to the many incredible climate action campaigns underway.

Happy Anniversary!

The 10th Anniversary edition of No Logo will be available in the US and Canada on mid-November and in the UK in January. You can pre-order your copy.

Scroll to the end of this newsletter for more updates including: a documentary from the streets of Honduras, filmed only days after Zelaya smuggled himself back into the country. Also Going Rouge, a bracing antidote to Sarah Palin’s new autobiography, produced by Naomi’s editors at The Nation.

Copenhagen: Seattle Grows Up

By Naomi Klein
The Nation
November 12, 2009

The other day I received a pre-publication copy of The Battle of the Story of the Battle of Seattle, by David Solnit and Rebecca Solnit. It’s set to come out ten years after a historic coalition of activists shut down the World Trade Organization summit in Seattle, the spark that ignited a global anticorporate movement.

The book is a fascinating account of what really happened in Seattle, but when I spoke to David Solnit, the direct-action guru who helped engineer the shutdown, I found him less interested in reminiscing about 1999 than in talking about the upcoming United Nations climate change summit in Copenhagen and the "climate justice" actions he is helping to organize across the United States on November 30. "This is definitely a Seattle-type moment,” Solnit told me. “People are ready to throw down."

There is certainly a Seattle quality to the Copenhagen mobilization: the huge range of groups that will be there; the diverse tactics that will be on display; and the developing-country governments ready to bring activist demands into the summit. But Copenhagen is not merely a Seattle do-over. It feels, instead, as though the progressive tectonic plates are shifting, creating a movement that builds on the strengths of an earlier era but also learns from its mistakes.

The big criticism of the movement the media insisted on calling "anti-globalization" was always that it had a laundry list of grievances and few concrete alternatives. The movement converging on Copenhagen, in contrast, is about a single issue—climate change—but it weaves a coherent narrative about its cause, and its cures, that incorporates virtually every issue on the planet. In this narrative, our climate is changing not simply because of particular polluting practices but because of the underlying logic of capitalism, which values short-term profit and perpetual growth above all else. Our governments would have us believe that the same logic can now be harnessed to solve the climate crisis—by creating a tradable commodity called "carbon" and by transforming forests and farmland into "sinks" that will supposedly offset our runaway emissions.

Climate-justice activists in Copenhagen will argue that, far from solving the climate crisis, carbon-trading represents an unprecedented privatization of the atmosphere, and that offsets and sinks threaten to become a resource grab of colonial proportions. Not only will these "market-based solutions" fail to solve the climate crisis, but this failure will dramatically deepen poverty and inequality, because the poorest and most vulnerable people are the primary victims of climate change—as well as the primary guinea pigs for these emissions-trading schemes.

But activists in Copenhagen won’t simply say no to all this. They will aggressively advance solutions that simultaneously reduce emissions and narrow inequality. Unlike at previous summits, where alternatives seemed like an afterthought, in Copenhagen the alternatives will take center stage. For instance, the direct-action coalition Climate Justice Action has called on activists to storm the conference center on December 16. Many will do this as part of the "bike bloc," riding together on an as yet unrevealed “irresistible new machine of resistance” made up of hundreds of old bicycles. The goal of the action is not to shut down the summit, Seattle-style, but to open it up, transforming it into "a space to talk about our agenda, an agenda from below, an agenda of climate justice, of real solutions against their false ones…. This day will be ours."

Some of the solutions on offer from the activist camp are the same ones the global justice movement has been championing for years: local, sustainable agriculture; smaller, decentralized power projects; respect for indigenous land rights; leaving fossil fuels in the ground; loosening protections on green technology; and paying for these transformations by taxing financial transactions and canceling foreign debts. Some solutions are new, like the mounting demand that rich countries pay “climate debt” reparations to the poor. These are tall orders, but we have all just seen the kind of resources our governments can marshal when it comes to saving the elites. As one pre-Copenhagen slogan puts it: "If the climate were a bank, it would have been saved"—not abandoned to the brutality of the market.

In addition to the coherent narrative and the focus on alternatives, there are plenty of other changes too: a more thoughtful approach to direct action, one that recognizes the urgency to do more than just talk but is determined not to play into the tired scripts of cops-versus-protesters. "Our action is one of civil disobedience," say the organizers of the December 16 action. "We will overcome any physical barriers that stand in our way—but we will not respond with violence if the police to escalate the situation." (That said, there is no way the two week summit will not include a few running battles between cops and kids in black; this is Europe, after all.)

A decade ago, in an op-ed in the New York Times published after Seattle was shut down, I wrote that a new movement advocating a radically different form of globalization "just had its coming-out party." What will be the significance of Copenhagen? I put that question to John Jordan, whose prediction of what eventually happened in Seattle I quoted in my book No Logo. He replied: "If Seattle was the movement of movements’ coming-out party, then maybe Copenhagen will be a celebration of our coming of age."

He cautions, however, that growing up doesn’t mean playing it safe, eschewing civil disobedience in favor of staid meetings. "I hope we have grown up to become much more disobedient," Jordan said, "because life on this world of ours may well be terminated because of too many acts of obedience."

Blast from the Past

Read Naomi's original op-ed about the WTO Shutdown in Seattle in 1999, published in the New York Times, December 2, 1999

Rebels in Search of Rules
By Naomi Klein

It is all too easy to dismiss the protesters at the World Trade Organization meeting in Seattle as radicals with 60's envy. A seemingly more trenchant criticism is that they are simply behind the curve, fighting against a tide of globalization that has already swamped them. Mike Moore, the director of the W.T.O., describes his opponents as nothing more than protectionists launching an assault on internationalism.

The truth, however, is that the protesters in Seattle have been bitten by the globalization bug as surely as the trade lawyers inside the Seattle hotels—though by globalization of a different sort—and they know it. The confusion about the protesters' political goals is understandable: this is the first movement born of the anarchic pathways of the Internet. There is no top-down hierarchy, no universally recognized leaders, and nobody knows what is going to happen next.

This protest movement is really anti-corporate rather than anti-globalist, and its roots are in the anti-sweatshop campaigns taking aim at Nike, the human rights campaign focusing on Royal Dutch/Shell in Nigeria and the backlash against Monsanto's genetically engineered foods in Europe.

At any time, one huge multinational company may be involved in several disputes—on labor, human rights and environmental issues, for example. Activists learn of one another as they aim at the same corporate target. Inadvertently, individual corporations have become symbols of the global economy in miniature, ultimately providing activists with name-brand entry points to the arcane world of the W.T.O.

This is the most internationally minded, globally linked movement the world has ever seen. There are no more faceless Mexicans or Chinese workers stealing our jobs, in part because those workers' representatives are now on the same e-mail lists and at the same conferences as the Western activists. When protesters shout about the evils of globalization, most are not calling for a return to narrow nationalism, but for the borders of globalization to be expanded, for trade to be linked to democratic reform, higher wages, labor rights and environmental protections.

This is what sets the young protesters in Seattle apart from their 60's predecessors. In the age of Woodstock, refusing to play by state and school rules was regarded as a political act in itself. Now, opponents of the W.T.O.—even those who call themselves anarchists—are outraged about a lack of rules and authority. They are demanding that national governments be free to exercise their authority without interference from the W.T.O. and asking for stricter international rules governing labor standards, environmental protection and scientific research.

Everyone, of course, claims to be all for rules, from President Clinton to Microsoft's chairman, Bill Gates. In an odd turn of events, the need for "rules-based trade" has become the mantra of the era of deregulation. But deregulation is by definition about the removal of rules. The W.T.O., charged with defining and enforcing deregulation, is only concerned with rules that regulate the removal of rules.

The W.T.O. has consistently sought to sever trade, quite unnaturally, from everything and everyone affected by it: workers, the environment, culture. This is why President Clinton's suggestion yesterday that the rift between the protesters and the delegates can be smoothed over with small compromises and consultation is so misguided.

The face-off is not between globalizers and protectionists, but between two radically different visions of globalization. One has had a monopoly for the last 10 years. The other just had its coming-out party.

Seattle+10 = Copenhagen

The Mobilization for Climate Justice invites communities, organizations and activists across North America to join them in organizing mass action on climate change on November 30, 2009 (N30). N30 is significant because it both immediately precedes the upcoming UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen (COP-15) and is the ten-year anniversary of the successful shut down of the WTO in Seattle, when activists worldwide came together to demonstrate the power of collective action. The Copenhagen climate meetings will be a major focus for international mass actions this November and December. If you want to learn more about the N30 activist campaign, about the anniversary of Seattle and linking it to Copenhagen, please see the links on Climate Justice Action's website.

Climate Rage
By Naomi Klein
Rolling Stone
November 11, 2009

One last chance to save the world—for months, that's how the United Nations summit on climate change in Copenhagen, which starts in early December, was being hyped. Officials from 192 countries were finally going to make a deal to keep global temperatures below catastrophic levels. The summit called for "that old comic-book sensibility of uniting in the face of a common danger threatening the Earth," said Todd Stern, President Obama's chief envoy on climate issues. "It's not a meteor or a space invader, but the damage to our planet, to our community, to our children and their children will be just as great."

That was back in March. Since then, the endless battle over health care reform has robbed much of the president's momentum on climate change. With Copenhagen now likely to begin before Congress has passed even a weak-ass climate bill co-authored by the coal lobby, U.S. politicians have dropped the superhero metaphors and are scrambling to lower expectations for achieving a serious deal at the climate summit. It's just one meeting, says U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu, not "the be-all and end-all."

As faith in government action dwindles, however, climate activists are treating Copenhagen as an opportunity of a different kind. On track to be the largest environmental gathering in history, the summit represents a chance to seize the political terrain back from business-friendly half-measures, such as carbon offsets and emissions trading, and introduce some effective, common-sense proposals— ideas that have less to do with creating complex new markets for pollution and more to do with keeping coal and oil in the ground.

Among the smartest and most promising—not to mention controversial—proposals is "climate debt," the idea that rich countries should pay reparations to poor countries for the climate crisis. In the world of climate-change activism, this marks a dramatic shift in both tone and content. American environmentalism tends to treat global warming as a force that transcends difference: We all share this fragile blue planet, so we all need to work together to save it. But the coalition of Latin American and African governments making the case for climate debt actually stresses difference, zeroing in on the cruel contrast between those who caused the climate crisis (the developed world) and those who are suffering its worst effects (the developing world). Justin Lin, chief economist at the World Bank, puts the equation bluntly: "About 75 to 80 percent" of the damages caused by global warming "will be suffered by developing countries, although they only contribute about one-third of greenhouse gases."

Climate debt is about who will pick up the bill. The grass-roots movement behind the proposal argues that all the costs associated with adapting to a more hostile ecology—everything from building stronger sea walls to switching to cleaner, more expensive technologies—are the responsibility of the countries that created the crisis. "What we need is not something we should be begging for but something that is owed to us, because we are dealing with a crisis not of our making," says Lidy Nacpil, one of the coordinators of Jubilee South, an international organization that has staged demonstrations to promote climate reparations. "Climate debt is not a matter of charity."

Sharon Looremeta, an advocate for Maasai tribespeople in Kenya who have lost at least 5 million cattle to drought in recent years, puts it in even sharper terms. "The Maasai community does not drive 4x4s or fly off on holidays in airplanes," she says. "We have not caused climate change, yet we are the ones suffering. This is an injustice and should be stopped right now."

The case for climate debt begins like most discussions of climate change: with the science. Before the Industrial Revolution, the density of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere—the key cause of global warming—was about 280 parts per million. Today, it has reached 387 ppm—far above safe limits—and it's still rising. Developed countries, which represent less than 20 percent of the world's population, have emitted almost 75 percent of all greenhouse-gas pollution that is now destabilizing the climate. (The U.S. alone, which comprises barely five percent of the global population, contributes 25 percent of all carbon emissions.) And while developing countries like China and India have also begun to spew large amounts of carbon dioxide, the reasoning goes, they are not equally responsible for the cost of the cleanup, because they have contributed only a small fraction of the 200 years of cumulative pollution that has caused the crisis.

In Latin America, left-wing economists have long argued that Western powers owe a vaguely defined "ecological debt" to the continent for centuries of colonial land-grabs and resource extraction. But the emerging argument for climate debt is far more concrete, thanks to a relatively new body of research putting precise figures on who emitted what and when. "What is exciting," says Antonio Hill, senior climate adviser at Oxfam, "is you can really put numbers on it. We can measure it in tons of CO2 and come up with a cost."

Equally important, the idea is supported by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change—ratified by 192 countries, including the United States. The framework not only asserts that "the largest share of historical and current global emissions of greenhouse gases has originated in developed countries," it clearly states that actions taken to fix the problem should be made "on the basis of equity and in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities."

The reparations movement has brought together a diverse coalition of big international organizations, from Friends of the Earth to the World Council of Churches, that have joined up with climate scientists and political economists, many of them linked to the influential Third World Network, which has been leading the call. Until recently, however, there was no government pushing for climate debt to be included in the Copenhagen agreement. That changed in June, when Angelica Navarro, the chief climate negotiator for Bolivia, took the podium at a U.N. climate negotiation in Bonn, Germany. Only 36 and dressed casually in a black sweater, Navarro looked more like the hippies outside than the bureaucrats and civil servants inside the session. Mixing the latest emissions science with accounts of how melting glaciers were threatening the water supply in two major Bolivian cities, Navarro made the case for why developing countries are owed massive compensation for the climate crisis.

"Millions of people—in small islands, least-developed countries, landlocked countries as well as vulnerable communities in Brazil, India and China, and all around the world—are suffering from the effects of a problem to which they did not contribute," Navarro told the packed room. In addition to facing an increasingly hostile climate, she added, countries like Bolivia cannot fuel economic growth with cheap and dirty energy, as the rich countries did, since that would only add to the climate crisis—yet they cannot afford the heavy upfront costs of switching to renewable energies like wind and solar.

The solution, Navarro argued, is three-fold. Rich countries need to pay the costs associated with adapting to a changing climate, make deep cuts to their own emission levels "to make atmospheric space available" for the developing world, and pay Third World countries to leapfrog over fossil fuels and go straight to cleaner alternatives. "We cannot and will not give up our rightful claim to a fair share of atmospheric space on the promise that, at some future stage, technology will be provided to us," she said.

The speech galvanized activists across the world. In recent months, the governments of Sri Lanka, Venezuela, Paraguay and Malaysia have endorsed the concept of climate debt. More than 240 environmental and development organizations have signed a statement calling for wealthy nations to pay their climate debt, and 49 of the world's least-developed countries will take the demand to Copenhagen as a negotiating bloc.

"If we are to curb emissions in the next decade, we need a massive mobilization larger than any in history," Navarro declared at the end of her talk. "We need a Marshall Plan for the Earth. This plan must mobilize financing and technology transfer on scales never seen before. It must get technology onto the ground in every country to ensure we reduce emissions while raising people's quality of life. We have only a decade."

A very expensive decade. The World Bank puts the cost that developing countries face from climate change—everything from crops destroyed by drought and floods to malaria spread by mosquito-infested waters—as high as $100 billion a year. And shifting to renewable energy, according to a team of United Nations researchers, will raise the cost far more: to as much as $600 billion a year over the next decade.

Unlike the recent bank bailouts, however, which simply transferred public wealth to the world's richest financial institutions, the money spent on climate debt would fuel a global environmental transformation essential to saving the entire planet. The most exciting example of what could be accomplished is the ongoing effort to protect Ecuador's Yasuní National Park. This extraordinary swath of Amazonian rainforest, which is home to several indigenous tribes and a surreal number of rare and exotic animals, contains nearly as many species of trees in 2.5 acres as exist in all of North America. The catch is that underneath that riot of life sits an estimated 850 million barrels of crude oil, worth about $7 billion. Burning that oil—and logging the rainforest to get it— would add another 547 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere.

Two years ago, Ecuador's center-left president, Rafael Correa, said something very rare for the leader of an oil-exporting nation: He wanted to leave the oil in the ground. But, he argued, wealthy countries should pay Ecuador—where half the population lives in poverty—not to release that carbon into the atmosphere, as "compensation for the damages caused by the out-of-proportion amount of historical and current emissions of greenhouse gases." He didn't ask for the entire amount; just half. And he committed to spending much of the money to move Ecuador to alternative energy sources like solar and geothermal.

Largely because of the beauty of the Yasuní, the plan has generated widespread international support. Germany has already offered $70 million a year for 13 years, and several other European governments have expressed interest in participating. If Yasuní is saved, it will demonstrate that climate debt isn't just a disguised ploy for more aid—it's a far more credible solution to the climate crisis than the ones we have now. "This initiative needs to succeed," says Atossa Soltani, executive director of Amazon Watch. "I think we can set a model for other countries."

Activists point to a huge range of other green initiatives that would become possible if wealthy countries paid their climate debts. In India, mini power plants that run on biomass and solar power could bring low-carbon electricity to many of the 400 million Indians currently living without a light bulb. In cities from Cairo to Manila, financial support could be given to the armies of impoverished "trash pickers" who save as much as 80 percent of municipal waste in some areas from winding up in garbage dumps and trash incinerators that release planet-warming pollution. And on a much larger scale, coal-fired power plants across the developing world could be converted into more efficient facilities using existing technology, cutting their emissions by more than a third.

But to ensure that climate reparations are real, advocates insist, they must be independent of the current system of international aid. Climate money cannot simply be diverted from existing aid programs, such as primary education or HIV prevention. What's more, the funds must be provided as grants, not loans, since the last thing developing countries need is more debt. Furthermore, the money should not be administered by the usual suspects like the World Bank and USAID, which too often push pet projects based on Western agendas, but must be controlled by the United Nations climate convention, where developing countries would have a direct say in how the money is spent.

Without such guarantees, reparations will be meaningless—and without reparations, the climate talks in Copenhagen will likely collapse. As it stands, the U.S. and other Western nations are engaged in a lose-lose game of chicken with developing nations like India and China: We refuse to lower our emissions unless they cut theirs and submit to international monitoring, and they refuse to budge unless wealthy nations cut first and cough up serious funding to help them adapt to climate change and switch to clean energy. "No money, no deal," is how one of South Africa's top environmental officials put it. "If need be," says Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, speaking on behalf of the African Union, "we are prepared to walk out."

In the past, President Obama has recognized the principle on which climate debt rests. "Yes, the developed nations that caused much of the damage to our climate over the last century still have a responsibility to lead," he acknowledged in his September speech at the United Nations. "We have a responsibility to provide the financial and technical assistance needed to help these nations adapt to the impacts of climate change and pursue low-carbon development."

Yet as Copenhagen draws near, the U.S. negotiating position appears to be to pretend that 200 years of over-emissions never happened. Todd Stern, the chief U.S. climate negotiator, has scoffed at a Chinese and African proposal that developed countries pay as much as $400 billion a year in climate financing as "wildly unrealistic" and "untethered to reality." Yet he put no alternative number on the table—unlike the European Union, which has offered to kick in up to $22 billion. U.S. negotiators have even suggested that countries could fund climate debt by holding periodic "pledge parties," making it clear that they see covering the costs of climate change as a matter of whimsy, not duty.

But shunning the high price of climate change carries a cost of its own. U.S. military and intelligence agencies now consider global warming a leading threat to national security. As sea levels rise and droughts spread, competition for food and water will only increase in many of the world's poorest nations. These regions will become "breeding grounds for instability, for insurgencies, for warlords," according to a 2007 study for the Center for Naval Analyses led by Gen. Anthony Zinni, the former Centcom commander. To keep out millions of climate refugees fleeing hunger and conflict, a report commissioned by the Pentagon in 2003 predicted that the U.S. and other rich nations would likely decide to "build defensive fortresses around their countries."

Setting aside the morality of building high-tech fortresses to protect ourselves from a crisis we inflicted on the world, those enclaves and resource wars won't come cheap. And unless we pay our climate debt, and quickly, we may well find ourselves living in a world of climate rage. "Privately, we already hear the simmering resentment of diplomats whose countries bear the costs of our emissions," Sen. John Kerry observed recently. "I can tell you from my own experience: It is real, and it is prevalent. It's not hard to see how this could crystallize into a virulent, dangerous, public anti-Americanism. That's a threat too. Remember: The very places least responsible for climate change—and least equipped to deal with its impacts—will be among the very worst affected."

That, in a nutshell, is the argument for climate debt. The developing world has always had plenty of reasons to be pissed off with their northern neighbors, with our tendency to overthrow their governments, invade their countries and pillage their natural resources. But never before has there been an issue so politically inflammatory as the refusal of people living in the rich world to make even small sacrifices to avert a potential climate catastrophe. In Bangladesh, the Maldives, Bolivia, the Arctic, our climate pollution is directly responsible for destroying entire ways of life—yet we keep doing it.

From outside our borders, the climate crisis doesn't look anything like the meteors or space invaders that Todd Stern imagined hurtling toward Earth. It looks, instead, like a long and silent war waged by the rich against the poor. And for that, regardless of what happens in Copenhagen, the poor will continue to demand their rightful reparations. "This is about the rich world taking responsibility for the damage done," says Ilana Solomon, policy analyst for ActionAid USA, one of the groups recently converted to the cause. "This money belongs to poor communities affected by climate change. It is their compensation."

And if you missed Naomi's October column in The Nation, it's here: "Obama's Bad Influence," in which she deconstructs the myth that America has embarked on a new era of enlightened multilateralism.

Watch Avi Lewis's Documentary on the Crisis in Honduras

Avi Lewis traveled to Honduras only days after Zelaya smuggled himself into the country and only 100 days after the country experienced only the second coup in Central America since the end of the Cold War. In this Fault Lines program for Al Jazeera English, he chronicles how social movements are mobilizing in the streets, standing up to repression not just to bring their president back, but to re-found their nation on more equal terms. You can watch the show on YouTube: Part I and Part 2.

The Palin Antidote—Going Rouge: An American Nightmare

Naomi's "Capitalism, Sarah Palin-Style," originally a speech at the 100th Anniversary Conference of The Progressive, is one of the essays included in Going Rouge: An American Nightmare. Going Rouge is an anthology from Betsy Reed and Richard Kim, two editors at The Nation, and includes contributions from some of the best progressive writers, from Gary Younge to Eve Ensler—who examine Sarah Palin: her record, her real policies for America, her rise to prominence and her role in current politics. Going Rouge comes out November 17th, the same day as Palin's "Going Rogue." It's available only at - you can order your copy there today.

GAZA @ Lincoln Center: Fighting Political Censorship in the U.S. 'Art World'

Amiri Baraka defends "Somebody Blew Up America" (2003)

by Amiri Baraka

November 17, 2009

Of course it is simply a microcosm of the Big Hit that literally flattened Gaza earlier this year, by the always "correct" Israeli Imperialists, who were until just a few years ago the closest running buddies of Apartheid South Africa. But it shows you how long the arms of injustice can reach and how fine tuned their aim.

Earlier in the year the indefatigable and admirable Phil Schaap, undoubtedly one of the most well informed on-air voices of the music, asked me to teach a four session course at his Swing University at Lincoln Center. The course was to be themed around my new book DIGGING: The Afro American Soul of American Classical Music (University of California Press, 2009).

A few weeks later someone from Lincoln Center called to set up a book signing, Oct 15, for the book. I thought, for a minute, maybe the controversy agitated by my poem "Somebody Blew Up America", had finally subsided. As a result of that poem New Jersey's former Governor McGreevey asked me to apologize and resign from the post of Poet Laureate of New Jersey,at the urging of the Anti Defamation League, the best known Israeli apologist in the United States. citing two lines in the poem as Anti-Semitic: "Who know why Five Israelis was filming the explosion/ And cracking they sides at the notion" and "Who told 4000 Israeli workers at the Twin Towers/to stay home that day..."

Ultimately since McGreevey and the Legislature could not fire me , they simply abolished the position of Poet Laureate, which is why I still sign some mail "The Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey".

But then in early October a Lincoln Center spokesman call to say that the book signing had been canceled. Today, an Adrian Ellis, chairman of the Jazz at Lincoln Center called to tell me that they had canceled the Swing University class. Phil Schaap was annoyed and surprised and I'm sure he had nothing to do with the cancellations.

Meanwhile the politics of imperialism continue to dominate the world. And questions about one of the most backward regimes in the world can get one censured by sympathizers across the ocean (I lost $60,000 income last year.) so the anti-Baraka blitz continues. Meanwhile Israel thumbs its nose at President Obama's call for Israel to stop building its illegal settlements. A UN mandate, along with the resolution calling for Israel to return to its pre-1967 war borders, both of which Israel has ignored since 1967.

So if I can sign my letters The Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey, the Israeli government can sign its official correspondence The Last Settler Colony in the Middle East.

Amiri Baraka, The Last Poet Laureate of New Jersey

Monday, November 16, 2009

Michelle Obama Speaks Out On Necessity of National Heathcare reform for Women and Senior Citizens

Michelle talks health care for women
By: Nia-Malika Henderson
November 13, 2009

First Lady Michelle Obama targeted another key constituency in the health care debate Friday, highlighting the concerns of senior women at the White House.

At a gathering of administration officials and health care advocates, Obama talked about the special responsibilities and burdens of women and seniors and how reform fits in.

"Women are among those who will benefit most from health insurance reform...We are the health care system in so many ways," Obama said in a 12-minute address. "We are asked to bear much of the responsibility but we often face challenges when it comes to our own health care."

The first lady has had similar events on health care, delivering speeches to gatherings of women, health care workers and advocates.

East Wing aides said she may hold similar events in the coming weeks, depending on how reform efforts develop in Congress.

At the Friday event three seniors took the podium in the East Room and told of health care crises and insurance problems, with Medicare in particular.

Medicare has been a major focus of the health care debate and the plans being considered call for as much as $500 billion in cuts to the government program.

Nancy-Ann DeParle, Director of White House Office of Health Reform, said that Obama's plan would "strengthen Medicare and put some fairness back in the system."

"It's the right plan for women and the right plan for America," she said.

Obama, who said she was battling a cold, did not go into specifics about what the plans being considered offered and said she didn't know what would land on her husband's desk, but said the plan would not endanger Medicare.

Using similar phrases from President Obama's talks on health care, the first lady said that health insurance reform would end "wasteful subsidies and crack down on fraud."

She said the president believes that Medicare is a "sacred part of America's safety net."

"America has a responsibility to give all seniors the golden years they deserve," she said. "That's exactly what health insurance reform is going to help us do in this country....Let's get to work."

© 2009 Capitol News Company, LLC

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Speaking Truth To Nonsense: Armond White Attacks the Racist Pathology & Minstrel Antics of "Precious"

Armond White


I--and thankfully many other people throughout the country--have been loudly singing Armond White's praises for over 20 years now. It's always been my contention--again shared by many--that White is by far the best American film critic since the likes of Pauline Kael and Manny Farber in the 1960s and '70s. Not only that: White--who wrote one of the best and most intellectually provocative books of cultural and social criticism I've ever had the pleasure of reading (The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World, Overlook Press, 1995)--is also an outstanding music and literary critic as well who has painstakingly acquired a much deserved large national following over the past two decades.

That he also happens to be a fellow Detroit homeboy who was once my editor at the late, lamented Brooklyn, NY weekly called The City Sun in the late 1980s makes me feel even more proprietary pride in and love for his always highly insightful, dynamic, and incisive work. This is all a necessary prelude to saying that his latest film critique absolutely NAILS the mindless "pafology" of the insidiously racist and brazenly minstrel-like film "Precious" that perenially corrupt Hollywood is not surprisingly trumpeting as a "masterwork." White calls it "the con job of the year". I heartily concur...


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

You can thank media titans Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry for much of the hype surrounding Lee Daniels’ film Precious. ARMOND WHITE calls it the ‘Con Job of the Year.’

Pride & Precious
By Armond White
New York Press

SHAME ON TYLER PERRY and Oprah Winfrey for signing on as air-quote executive producers of Precious. After this post-hip-hop freak show wowed Sundance last January, it now slouches toward Oscar ratification thanks to its powerful friends. Winfrey and Perry had no hand in the actual production of Precious, yet the movie must have touched some sore spot in their demagogue psyches. They’ve piggybacked their reps as black success stories hoping to camouflage Precious’ con job—even though it’s more scandalous than their own upliftment trade. Perry and Winfrey naively treat Precious’ exhibition of ghetto tragedy and female disempowerment as if it were raw truth. It helps contrast and highlight their achievements as black American paradigms—self-respect be damned.

Let’s scrutinize their endorsement: Precious isn’t simply a strivers’ message movie; Perry and Winfrey recognize its propaganda value. The story of an overweight black teenage girl who is repeatedly raped and impregnated by her father, molested and beaten by her mother comes from a 1990s identity-politics novel by a poet named Sapphire. It piles on self pity and recrimination consistent with the air-quotes’ own oft-recounted backstories. Promoting this movie isn’t just a way for Perry and Winfrey to aggrandize themselves, it helps convert their private agendas into heavily hyped social preoccupation.

But Perry and Winfrey aren’t all that keep Precious from sinking into the ghetto of oblivion like such dull, bourgie, black-themed movies as The Great Debaters or The Pursuit of Happyness. That’s because the film’s writer-director Lee Daniels works the salacious side of the black strivers’ street. Daniels knows how to turn a racist trick. As producer of Monster’s Ball, Daniels symbolized Halle Berry’s ravishment as integration; Kevin Bacon titillated pedophilia in Daniels’ The Woodsman and Daniels’ directorial debut, Shadowboxing, hinted at interracial incest between stepmother and son Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Winfrey, Perry and Daniels make an unholy triumvirate.They come together at some intersection of race exploitation and opportunism. These two media titans—plus one shrewd pathology pimp—use Precious to rework Booker T. Washington’s early 20th-century manifesto Up From Slavery into extreme drama for the new millennium: Up From Incest, Child Abuse,Teenage Pregnancy, Poverty and AIDS. Regardless of its narrative details about class and gender, Precious is an orgy of prurience. All the terrible, depressing (not uplifting) things that happen to 16year-old Precious recall that memorable All About Eve line, “Everything but the bloodhounds nipping at her rear-end.”

It starts with the opening scene of Precious’ Cinderella fantasy. Tarted up in a boa and gown, walking a red carpet light years away from her tenement reality, Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) sighs, “I wish I had a light-skinned boyfriend with nice hair.” Her ideal smacks of selfhatred—the colorism issue that Daniels exacerbates without exploring. He casts light-skinned actors as kind (schoolteacher Paula Patton, social worker Mariah Carey, nurse Lenny Kravitz and an actual Down syndrome child as Precious’ first-born) and dark-skinned actors as terrors. Sidibe herself is presented as an animal-like stereotype—she’s so obese her face seems bloated into a permanent pout.This is not the breakthrough Todd Solondz achieved in Palindromes where plus-size black actress Sharon Wilkins artfully represented the immensity of an outcast’s misunderstood humanity. Instead, Sidibe’s fancy-dressed daydream looks laughable; poorly photographed, its primary effect is pathetic.

Daniels employs the same questionable pathos as the family banquet scene at the start of Denzel Washington’s also condescending Antwone Fisher. This cheap ploy of tortured daydreaming uses black American deprivation for sentimentality. It sells materialist fantasy as a universal motivation—no wonder Perry and Winfrey like it. Precious embodies an unenlightening canard.That fantasy opening—depicting the girl’s Obama-like ascension—tantalizes thoughts of advancement and triumph. It ought to be satirical to undercut the norms she aspires to just as Palindromes’ misfit teens subverted MTV’s ideas of youth.

Perry and Winfrey may think Precious is serious, but Daniels is hoisting his freak flag. He gets off on degradation. Flashbacks to Precious’ rape contain a curious montage of grease, sweat, bacon and Vaseline. Later, he intercuts a shot of pig’s feet cooking on a stove with Precious being humped while her mother watches from a corner. Another misjudged scene recreates De Sica’s B&W Two Women—a half-camp trashing of motherhood that compounds the problem of cultural alienation. So does the film’s Ebonics credit sequence and the scene of Precious rotating amidst a bombardment of success icons—Martina Arroyo, MLK, Shirley Chisholm—to which she either relates or is ignorant.This incoherence should not pass for sociology.

Not since The Birth of a Nation has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious. Full of brazenly racist clichés (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show. Offering racist hysteria masquerading as social sensitivity, it’s been acclaimed on the international festival circuit that usually disdains movies about black Americans as somehow inartistic and unworthy.

The hype for Precious indicates a culture-wide willingness to accept particular ethnic stereotypes as a way of maintaining status quo film values. Excellent recent films with black themes—Next Day Air, Cadillac Records, Meet Dave, Norbit, Little Man, Akeelah and the Bee, First Sunday, The Ladykillers, Marci X, Palindromes, Mr. 3000, even back to the great Beloved (also produced by Oprah)—have been ignored by the mainstream media and serious film culture while this carnival of black degradation gets celebrated. It’s a strange combination of liberal guilt and condescension.

Birth of a Nation glorified the rise of the Ku Klux Klan as a panicky subculture’s solution to social change. Precious hyperbolizes the class misery of our nation’s left-behinds—not the post- Rapture reprobates of Christianity’s last-days theories, but the Obama-era unreachables—including Precious’ Benetton-esque assortment of remedial school classmates. One explanation is that Precious permits a cultural version of that 1960s political controversy “benign neglect”—its agreed-upon selection of the most pathetic racial images and social catastrophes helps to normalize the circumstances of poverty and abandon that will never change or be resolved.You can think: Precious is just how those people are (although Cops and the Jerry Springer and Maury Povich shows offer enough evidence that white folks live low, too).

Precious’ plot is so outrageous (although the New York Times Magazine touts it as “The Audacity of Precious,” a telling link to Obama’s memoir The Audacity of Hope) that its acclaim suggests an aftershock of all that Hurricane Katrina weeping and lamentation about America’s Others. This movie finally puts the deprivations of Katrina on the big screen—not as smug, political fingerpointing, nor the inconsequential way superliberals Brad Pitt and David Fincher shoehorned Katrina into Benjamin Button, but as sheer melodramatic terror. (Poor Precious endures the most brutal home life since Lillian Gish in the 1918 Broken Blossoms.)

Precious raises ghosts of ethnic fear and exoticism just like Birth of a Nation. Precious and her mother (Mo’Nique) share a Harlem hovel so stereotypical it could be a Klansman’s fantasy. It also suggests an outsider’s romantic view of the political wretchedness and despair associated with the blues. Critics willingly infer there’s black life essence in Precious’ anti-life tale. And the same high-dudgeon tsk-tsking of Hurricane Katrina commentators is also apparent in the movie’s praise. Pundits who bemoan the awful conditions that have not improved for America’s unfortunate are reminded that they are still on top.

This misreading of blues sensibility probably has something to do with the disconnect caused by hip-hop, where thuggishness and criminality romanticize black ghetto life. Director Daniels’ rotgut images of aggressive cruelty and low-life illiteracy aren’t far from gangster rap clichés.The spectacle warps how people perceive black American life— perhaps even replacing their instincts for compassion with fear and loathing.

Media hype helps pass this disdain down to the masses. Precious is meant to be enjoyed as a Lady Bountiful charity event. And look: Oprah,TV’s Lady Bountiful, joins the bandwagon. It continues her abusefetish and self-help nostrums (though the scene where Precious carries her baby past a “Spay and Neuter Your Pets” sign is sick).

Problem is, Perry, Winfrey and Daniels’ pity party bait-and-switches our social priorities.

Personal pathology gets changed into a melodrama of celebrity-endorsed self-pity. The con artists behind Precious seize this Obama moment in which racial anxiety can be used to signify anything anybody can stretch it to mean. And Daniels needs this humorless condescension (Hollywood’s version of benign neglect) to obscure his lurid purposes.

Sadly, Mike Leigh’s emotionally exact and socially perceptive films (Secrets and Lies, All or Nothing, Happy Go Lucky) that answer contemporary miserablism with genuine social and spiritual insight have not penetrated Daniels,Winfrey, Perry’s consciousness—nor of the Oscarheads now championing Precious. They’ve also ignored Jonathan Demme’s moving treatment of the lingering personal and communal tragedy of slavery in Beloved. Both Leigh and Demme understand the spiritual challenges to despair and their richly detailed performances testify to that fact. Sidibe and Mo’Nique give two-note performances: dumb and innocent, crazy and evil. Monique’s do-rag doesn’t convey depths within herself, nor does Mariah Carey’s fright wig. Daniels’ cast lacks that uncanny mix of love and threat that makes Next Day Air so August Wilson- authentic.

Worse than Precious itself was the ordeal of watching it with an audience full of patronizing white folk at the New York Film Festival, then enduring its media hoodwink as a credible depiction of black American life. A scene such as the hippopotamus-like teenager climbing a K-2 incline of tenement stairs to present her newborn, incest-bred baby to her unhinged virago matriarch, might have been met howls of skeptical laughter at Harlem’s Magic Johnson theater. Black audiences would surely have seen the comedy in this ludicrous, overloaded situation, whereas too many white film habitués casually enjoy it for the sense of superiority—and relief—it allows them to feel. Some people like being conned.

For more, read Armond White's reviews of:

Tyler Perry's I Can Do Bad All By Myself
Next Day Air
The Great Debaters
The Pursuit of Happyness
Cadillac Records
Meet Dave
Akeelah and the Bee
First Sunday
Mr. 3000

Armond White (born in Detroit, Michigan) is a New York-based film critic, who writes for the alternative weekly New York Press. Recipient of a Master of Fine Arts degree from Columbia University's School of the Arts, he has authored three books on popular culture. White won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Music Criticism in 1996. He was recently re-elected as Chairman of the New York Film Critics Circle, a post he held in 1994. White has served on juries at the Sundance Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival and several National Endowment for the Arts panels. He is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and New York Film Critics Online. His reviews for New York Press, Film Comment and The City Sun have been discussed in The New York Times, Time magazine, Cineaste and Sight and Sound and the web magazine Senses of Cinema.

White is the author of The Resistance: Ten Years of Pop Culture That Shook the World (Overlook Press), Rebel for the Hell of It: The Life of Tupac Shakur (Quartet Books), and Keep Moving: The Michael Jackson Chronicles (Resistance Works, WDC).

DVD liner notes penned by White include:

Chameleon Street (Image), Jean-Marie Straub's The Chronicle of Anna Magdalena Bach (New Yorker), Moshen Makhmalbaf's The Silence (New Yorker), Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (Criterion), Trouble in Paradise (Criterion), George Washington (Criterion), Rohmer's Love in the Afternoon (Criterion), Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep (Milestone), David Lean's Hobson's Choice (Criterion), Francois Truffaut's The Last Metro (Criterion). White's DVD commentary can be heard on the Warner Bros. releases Uptown Saturday Night, Let's Do It Again, A Piece of the Action and Superfly. White's insights are also featured on the "Chameleon Street" commentary track.



The withering contempt for and sheer malice toward black people (and especially black men) that this film represents and embodies is an integral part of a very disturbing and destructive trend among a number of cultural hustlers, thieves, and conmen and women in film, literature, theatre, and the music industry that is being vigorously promoted and marketed by white corporations and Madison Avenue. It's no coincidence that the increasingly casual and overt racism that is routinely displayed in advertising and the media generally is working hand in glove with the contemptible and venal likes of artistic pimps and prostitutes like Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. This development has been dismissing, marginalizing, and destroying the impact and influence of genuine African American artists in all the arts now since the mid '90s and has in the past decade reached its vicious apex in the heinous "work" of such black retrograde and reactionary assholes as the people producing and directing this film. Remember Percival Everett's brilliant novel from 2001 called "Erasure?" Remember his devastating critique of this nexus of white racism and black minstrel confidence schemes in his rendering of the literary work of a phony black author (who sounds a LOT like Sapphire!) called "My Pafology?" Well as you've been brilliantly predicting in your own work for over three decades now this is what this ugly marriage between the white corporate media and Uncle Tom/Aunt Thomasina minstrelism has come to in the modern world. If something is not done to stem this tide it's only going to get worse and soon.

"My Pafology" indeed...



Precious (2008) NYT Critics' Pick

Lionsgate Films

Precious: Based on the novel "Push" by Sapphire, with Gabourey Sidibe in the title role, opens Friday in selected cities.

Howls of a Life, Buried Deep Within

Published: November 6, 2009
New York Times

Claireece Jones, the Harlem teenager at the center of “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire,” lives in a world of specific and overwhelming horror. She goes by her middle name, Precious, which seems like a cruel taunt, since nearly everyone around her thinks she’s worthless and lets her know it.

The Audacity of ‘Precious’ (October 25, 2009)

Precious’s mother, Mary, played with operatic fervor by the comedian Mo’Nique, dispenses a daily ration of humiliation and abuse. The constant verbal and physical violence she directs at her daughter would be shocking even without the monstrous crime that hangs over their dim, dirty apartment like a cloud. Precious, overweight and illiterate — and played by an extraordinarily poised first-time actress named Gabourey Sidibe — has a young daughter and is pregnant for a second time. The father in both cases, who is nowhere to be seen, is Precious’s father too.

This information is bluntly presented at the beginning of Sapphire’s 1996 novel, a first-person narrative composed in rough, stylized dialect. In Lee Daniels’s risky, remarkable film adaptation, written by Geoffrey Fletcher, the facts of Precious’s life are also laid out with unsparing force (though not in overly graphic detail). But just as “Push” achieves an eloquence that makes it far more than a fictional diary of extreme dysfunction, so too does “Precious” avoid the traps of well-meaning, preachy lower-depths realism. It howls and stammers, but it also sings.

Mr. Daniels, directing his second feature (after the vivid and eccentric “Shadowboxer”), is not afraid to mix styles and genres. In his determination to do justice to Claireece’s inner life, as well as to her circumstances, he allows splashes of fantasy, daubs of humor and floods of unabashed melodrama into the drab landscape of her struggle. Ugliness is all around her, but beauty is there too.

There is something almost reckless about this filmmaker’s eclecticism, which extends from the casting — pop stars and television personalities alongside trained and untrained actors — to the visual textures and the soundtrack music. “Precious” is a hybrid, a mash-up that might have been ungainly, but that manages to be graceful instead. It’s partly a bootstrap drama of resilience and redemption, complete with a hardworking teacher (Paula Patton) wrangling a classroom full of disadvantaged girls. It’s also the nearly Gothic story of a child tormented by the cruelty of adults, as lurid as a Victorian potboiler or a modern-day tell-all memoir.

Above all “Precious” is unabashedly populist in its potent emotional appeal — not for nothing did Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey sign on as executive producers around the time of the film’s debut at the Sundance Film Festival in January — and at the same time determined to challenge its audience’s complacency as only a genuine work of art can.

Mary, brimming with rage, thwarted love and plain meanness, is a character bound to provoke discomfort. Even otherwise misogynistic hip-hop artists will pay tribute to the heroism of African-American mothers, and to see that piety so thoroughly dispensed with is downright shocking.

Other provocations are more subtle but no less pointed. There are virtually no men in this movie. Precious’s father is glimpsed briefly in flashbacks of his assaults on her, and in the fantasy sequences that provide escape from her pain Precious hobnobs with handsome boys, but otherwise the only male character of significance is a hospital worker played by Lenny Kravitz. Otherwise, Precious’s cosmos, for better and for worse, is a universe of women: the social worker (Mariah Carey, scrubbed of any vestige of divahood); the teacher, Ms. Rain; her co-worker in the remedial education program, played by the comedian and talk show host Sherri Shepherd; and Precious’s fellow students.

These characters all can be seen as surrogate mothers, aunts and sisters, who together provide Precious with a more functional family (to say the least) than what she has at home. But their love is also enabled by institutions and government policies. An unstated but self-evident moral of “Precious,” set during Ronald Reagan’s presidency and based on a book published in the year of Bill Clinton’s welfare reform, is that government can provide not only a safety net, but also, in small and consequential ways, a lifeline.

I will leave it for others to parse the truth or the timeliness of this message. But “Precious” is, in any case, less the examination of a social problem than the illumination of an individual’s painful and partial self-realization. Inarticulate and emotionally shut down, her massive body at once a prison and a hiding place, Precious is also perceptive and shrewd, possessed of talents visible only to those who bother to look. At its plainest and most persuasive, her story is that of a writer discovering a voice. “These people talked like TV stations I didn’t even watch,” she remarks of Ms. Rain and her lover (Kimberly Russell), displaying her awakening literary intelligence even as she marvels at the discovery of her ignorance.

And Ms. Sidibe, perhaps the least-known member of this movie’s unusual cast, is also the glue that holds it together. Nimble and self-assured as Mr. Daniels’s direction may be, he could not make you believe in “Precious” unless you were able to believe in Precious herself. You will.

“Precious” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). It has frank depictions of emotional and physical violence, including the sexual abuse of a child.


Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire

Opens on Friday in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Atlanta.

Directed by Lee Daniels; written by Geoffrey Fletcher, based on the novel “Push” by Sapphire; director of photography, Andrew Dunn; edited by Joe Klotz; music by Mario Grigorov; production designer, Roshelle Berliner; produced by Mr. Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness; released by Lionsgate. Running time: 1 hour 49 minutes.

WITH: Mo’Nique (Mary), Paula Patton (Ms. Rain), Maria Carey (Ms. Weiss), Sherri Shepherd (Cornrows), Lenny Kravitz (Nurse John), Kimberly Russell (Katherine) and Gabourey Sidibe (Precious).

Weekend Edition
December 4-6, 2009

Hollywood's Enduring Myth of the Black Male Sexual Predator

The Selling of "Precious"


“A niche market could be defined as a component that gives your business power. A niche market allows you to define whom you are marketing to. When you know who are you are marketing to it's easy to determine where your marketing energy and dollars should be spent.”

--Defining Your Niche Market, A Critical Step in Small Business Marketing by Laura Lake

One can view Sarah Siegel on “YouTube” discussing her approach to marketing. During her dispassionate recital she says that she sees a “niche dilemma,” and finds a way to solve that dilemma. Seeing that no one had supplied women with panties that were meant to be visible while wearing low cut jeans, she captured the niche and made a fortune. With five million dollars, she invested in the film Precious, which was adapted from the book Push, written by Ramona Lofton, who goes by the pen name of Sapphire, after the emasculating shrew in “Amos and Andy,” a show created by white vaudevillians Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll.

(Ms. Lofton also knows a thing or two about marketing. Noticing the need for white New York feminists to use black men as the fall guys for world misogyny, while keeping silent about the misogyny of those who share their own ethnic background, she joined in on the lynching of five black and Hispanic boys, “who grew up in jail.” She made money, and became famous. They were innocent!)

When Lionsgate Studio and Harvey Weinstein were quarrelling over the rights to Push, which has been marketed under the title of Precious, about a pregnant 350 pound illiterate black teenager, who has borne her father’s child and is assaulted sexually by her mother, Sarah Greenberg, speaking for Lionsgate, said that the movie would provide the studio with “a gold mine of opportunity,” which is probably true, since the image of the black male as sexual predator has created a profit center for over one hundred years and even won elections for politicians like Bush, The First.

But politicians, the KKK, Nazis, film, television, etc, had done the black male as a rapist to death. The problem for Sarah and Lionsgate and her film company Smokewood, was to solve “ the niche dilemma,” which they saw as selling a black film to white audiences (the people to whom CNN and MSNBC are referring to when they invoke the phrase “The American People.”) An article in The New York Times ,2/4/09, reported on the confusion among the investors as they fumbled about for a marketing plan.

“The studio prides itself on taking on marketing challenges, but “Push”…is one of the biggest to come along in some time, marketing experts say. African-American audiences of all demographics could wince at the film’s negative imagery. As films like “The Great Debaters” and “Miracle at St. Anna” have shown, a release labeled a black film by the marketplace — and

“Push” already has been — can be an incredibly tough sell to mainstream white audiences.

“Lionsgate already seems a little befuddled. On Monday the company initially agreed to discuss the inherent marketing challenges. A few hours later it backtracked, rejecting any marketing talk but saying executives would be happy to speak broadly about their delight in nabbing the movie. Before long that offer was also rescinded.”

Three standing ovations given Push’s test run at Sundance convinced some of the business people that although white audiences might decline to support films that show cerebral blacks, The Great Debaters, in which Denzel Washington plays the great black poet Melvin Tolson, or Spike lee’s Miracle at St. Anna, which shows heroic blacks, they would probably enjoy a film in which blacks were shown as incestors and pedophiles. White audiences continuing to give the film standing ovations and prizes and critical acclaim indicates that when Lionsgate’s co-presidents for theatrical marketing, Sarah Greenberg and Tim Palen said of Precious, “There is simply a gold mine of opportunity here, “they were on the money. It was Geoffrey Gilmore, director of the Sundance Film Festival, who enhanced the sales potential by providing the marketers led by Ms. Siegel with another selling point. In an interview he said that Push might hit “a cultural chord” because of all of the discussion about race prompted by the election of President Obama. It was after their cynical manipulative tying of a black president to their sleazy product that I wanted Sarah to change the name of her panty company from So Low to How Low.

Michael Savage, Rush Limbaugh, and Glenn Beck who engage in a sort of corny 1930s styled racist rhetoric could learn from Sarah. At times they look as though they’ve lost their minds and are not pleasant to look at, while a manicured, buffed Sarah, who doesn’t go lightly on the eye shadow, looks better. She is salmon colored and though middle-aged wears baby doll clothes and if you Google her name, Sarah Siegel, along with “images” you’ll find her posing in photos some of which have blacks smooching her.

The Nov. 22 blog “Gawker” points to the way Limbaugh, Beck and Savage have tried to associate Obama and his administration with rape imagery. Ain’t they out of touch. Sarah Siegel has joined an innovative marketing plan that couples Obama’s name with the most extreme of sexual crimes.

This woman, who hangs out with Hollywood stars and unlike Bill O’ Reilly, an Irish American who has lost his way, knows that blacks are able to handle table utensils-- she’s dined with them—might have invested in a movie that some are calling the worst depiction of black life yet done.

New York Press critic, Armond White, in a brilliant take down of the movie, compares it with Birth of a Nation. I would argue that this movie makes D.W. Griffith look like a progressive. Moreover, I’ve looked at a number of pictures that show how the Nazis depicted blacks and though Jewish and black men appear as sexual predators in many, I’ve never run across one in which minority men are shown as incest violators.

The black sexual predator is represented obsessively in the novel that inspired the bombing of the Oklahoma Federal building and the recent murder of three Pittsburgh policemen. But not even The Turner Diaries, by William Pierce stigmatizes black men as violators of the incest taboo at a time when the black male unemployment rate is 25% in some cities, 50% in New York. It took Hollywood liberals and their pathetic black front people to do that. Is there a role that black actors won’t perform? One that celebrity blacks won’t lend their names to?( If the white Oscar judges perpetrate a cruel joke by awarding this film Oscars, will the black audience members
stage a walk-out even though it might mean never working in that town
again?) Indeed it was Oprah Winfrey’s endorsement of the film that convinced the investors that they were on to a hot property.

The Times’ reports:

“A deal did not emerge for “Push” until about a week after the festival ended, with potential distributors balking over the price insisted upon by Cinetic Media, a New York marketing and sales company for independent film, according to two people with knowledge of how the deal came together but who were not authorized to speak publicly.

“A spokeswoman for Cinetic declined to comment, but bidders said Ms. Winfrey and Mr. Perry had been crucial to the deal’s coming together.”

Indeed, the business model for both the book, Push, by Sapphire renamed
Precious, for the movie by Lionsgate, which beat Harvey Weinstein for the rights in court, was the black incest product, The Color Purple, which has been recycled so many times that comedian Paul Mooney says that he anticipates a Color Purple on ice. But even that incest film doesn’t go as far as Precious, which shows both mother and father engaged in a sexual assault on their daughter in graphic detail, Sarah Siegel’s way of solving her “niche dilemma.”

TheRoot is The Washington Post’s black zine, among whose bosses is Jacob Weisberg-- he says that he helped to launch it and has considerable influence, like deciding who gets hired and fired. The zine’s black face is Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Since the beginning of the movie’s run TheRoot has provided cover for Precious probably because Gates is tight with Oprah Winfrey and wrote a kiss up book about her. (Now that Joel Dreyfuss has taken over, TheRoot will quit being a shameless promoter of stupid NeoCon “tough love” ideology. He is journalist with integrity). TheRoot’s support for the film is at odds with the furor that has erupted among blacks across the country about this film.

Famous journalists like Jack White and Dori Maynard of the Maynard Institute say that they, like thousands of blacks, won’t even go see it. The whites who are behind this film didn’t have a black audience in mind when they drew up the business strategy for the film. Their “niche audience” got their money’s worth. The naked black skinned man Carl of medium built who rapes a 350 pound daughter, who elsewhere in the film goes about flattening people with one punch, is little more than an animal. A vile prop. A person with no story and no humanity. Writer, Cecil Brown, said that Carl is the real victim of the movie during an interview with Aimee Allison, a KPFA interviewer who has brought POVs that up to now have been missing from the Pacifica Network.

Sarah’s “niche audience” is well served. The white characters are altruistic types, there to help downtrodden black people and are among those who are to be admired. They’re there to correct blacks when they make mistakes, like a white girl who shows up in a special education class out of nowhere to explain to the character Precious the difference between the word, “insect,” and “incest.” This also follows the Nazi model. Aryans were idealized; hated minorities were degenerate.

According to this film, if you’re a lucky black woman, a white man will rescue you from the clutches of evil black men, which is why white male critics are slobbering all over this film, giving it standing ovations and awards every day. Even white critics at hip places like The Rolling Stone, a place where Elvis gets credit for “changing American music.” This reminded me of Alice Walker’s appeal to white men to rescue black women, printed in a London newspaper and Steven Spielberg’s comment that when he read The Color Purple all he could do think of was rescuing Celie, the abused heroine (while he has yet to make a movie about the Celies among his ethnic group).

(The Huffington Post’s embrace of the film probably explains Arianna Huffington’s continued scolding of the president. During the week of Nov. 23, she called the president, one of the hardest working presidents in history, “lackadaisical,” which, to black people, who know the dog whistles, means lazy. Shiftless.)

The movie says that if a white knight is not around to sweep you up, maybe a fantasy light skinned boyfriend will do the job. The light skinned literacy teacher, whom the camera favors, and a firm welfare worker of the same skin tone, played by Mariah Carey, who has welfare recipients at her mercy, are among the movies positive characters, while black and brown skinned women are shown as petty, sullen, quick tempered and violent. They romp through the movie scowling and glaring at people and telling people things like “you ain’t shit.” This film includes the worst portrayal of black women I’ve ever seen, which makes TheRoot contributors-- young black women professors- -endorsement of the film puzzling.

These are the types who are using the university curriculum to get even with their fathers and teach courses in black women’s literature, but can’t identify more than three. (The great novelist, the late Kristin Hunter Lattany, who was driven out of her college teaching job by a racist campaign [see her novel, Breaking Away] did not receive a single retrospective from these women.)

They don’t seem to read criticism by black women either. During an endorsement of Precious, one of them, writing in TheRoot, repeated the canard that only black men opposed The Color Purple, when the book and the movie offended some of most prominent literary stars. Barbara Smith, Toni Morrison, Michele Wallace, and bell hooks, who described the film as “aversion therapy” for white women, are authors of scathing comments about the book and Steven Spielberg’s interpretation. Trudier Harris, next to Joyce Joyce, the most prominent of black women critics, said that she discontinued criticizing the book after retaliations from the powerful white feminist academic lobby.

Haven’t these TheRoot contributors read Walker’s “Stepping Into The Same River Twice” where Walker herself objects to Spielberg’s treatment of that book’s incestor, Mr.? Indeed Walker, Tina Turner and bell hooks have observed that in the hands of white male producers directors and scriptwriters, the black male characters in the texts of black women writers become even more sinister. TheRoot accompanied its brown nosing of the movie with a picture of Celie, played by Whoopie Goldberg ( who said that what Polanski did to that child was not “rape, rape”) holding a knife against Mr.’s neck. That scene doesn’t appear in the book. Spielberg put that knife in Celie’s hand. Henry Louis Gates, Jr. who has been appointed Commissar of African American culture said that those who criticized “The Color Purple” were “misguided.” Was he referring to Morrison? Wallace? Hooks?

I suspect that the whites who are behind Precious monkeyed around with the text as well. A film in which gays are superior to black male heterosexuals

(“They don’t rape. They don’t sell crack.”). Next to the whites, the male who treats Precious and her dysfunctional friends with the most understanding is John John, the Gay male nurse.( Lee Daniels, the Gay “director” of the film once ran a nursing business.) In this movie Caribbean Americans are smarter than black Americans.

Oprah Winfrey is listed as the “Executive Director,” along with Tyler Perry, whose movie efforts have been described by writer Thembi Ford as “coonery.” This is the third black man as sexual predator and the second black incest film that Ms. Winfrey has either endorsed or performed in, yet, only a few titles by black male authors have been adopted by her book club. On Sunday, Nov. 23, during a phone interview with Keifer Bonvillin, author of Ruthless, an inside look at the Oprah operation, I asked him about her embrace of the black male as a sexual predator trope. He wrote:

“Last year, I published ‘Ruthless’, (a true story based on conversations I had with Oprah Winfrey’s office manager). The book detailed the unfair treatment African American men received from Oprah Winfrey and the negative stereotypical images of African American men that Oprah sent out in her films. The office manager also gave me a rare glance of Oprah Winfrey’s private life.

“This was the first time one of Oprah Winfrey’s employees spoke openly about her as they are prevented from doing so by strict confidentiality agreements. Oprah tried hard to block publication of the book. She and her attorney went so far as to have me arrested. The charges were dropped and the book was published.

“Since the publication of ‘Ruthless,’ I noticed several profound changes in the way Oprah Winfrey is doing business.

1) Oprah produced ‘The Great Debaters,’ which was the first film produced by Harpo Films (in my opinion) to not have negative stereotypical images of black men.

2) This season, JayZ, became the first African American rap artist to perform on the Oprah Winfrey Show.

3) This season Oprah’s book club selection, ‘Say You’re One
of Them,’ was written by a black man, Liwem Akpan. This was the first time in years a black man who is not one of Oprah’s friends was featured in the book club.

“I was very encouraged by what I was seeing. Then came ‘Precious!’ Like her addiction to food, Oprah does well for a little while but she just can’t help herself.”

Another reason that Ms. Winfrey supports the film is because she endorses the policy points the movie makes about welfare recipients. Precious is encouraged to take a job as home care worker for $2.00 per hour. Throughout the movie, poor women are guided to WorkFare. The movie almost becomes a commercial for the program. The policy message is that welfare recipients are black women who wish to avoid work, who use their time having sex with their daughters, watching television and dining on pig leavings. They don’t intervene when their boyfriends rape their children (even the grandmother refuses to intervene). Oprah’s attitude toward welfare recipients was described by Pat Gowens, editor of “Mother Warriors Voice.” She said that “Oprah Winfrey” is “someone who reinforces the U.S. war on the poor and unequivocally supports white male supremacy.” She writes about what happened to welfare mothers who were invited to appear on her show after threatening to picket the TV megastar.

“For 30 minutes before the show, Oprah’s cheerleader worked the audience into a frenzy of hatred against moms on welfare. When the show started, Welfare Warriors member Linda, an Italian American mom with 3 children, was sandwiched between two women who attacked and pitied her. The African American mom on her right claimed to have overcome her ‘sick dependence on welfare’ and bragged about cheating on welfare and allegedly living like a queen. The white woman on her left was not a mom but had once received food stamps. Both women aggressively condemned Linda for receiving welfare. Throughout the show Oprah alternated between attacking Linda and allowing panel and audience members to attack her. Poor Linda had been prepared to discuss the economic realities of mother work, the failures of both the U.S. workforce and the child support system, and the Welfare Warriors’ mission to create a Government Guaranteed Child Support program (Family Allowance) like those in Europe. But instead Linda was forced to defend her entire life, while Oprah repeatedly demanded, ‘How long have you been on welfare?’

“Later we complained to Oprah and her producer about the false promises they had used to lure us onto the show. (We had engaged in extensive negotiations prior to agreeing to appear. We said yes only after they agreed to discuss welfare reform, not our personal lives.) The producer shoved an Oprah cup (our pay) into our hands and pushed us out the door, angrily denying their treachery.

“By the time we arrived home, we had received calls from moms on both coasts warning us about the promos Oprah was using to advertise her show: ‘They call themselves welfare warriors and they refuse to work. See Oprah at 4:00.’”

Well, as my great grandmother often said, “If you dig a ditch for someone, dig two.” Kitty Kelley, winner of a PEN Oakland Award for censorship has an Oprah biography due from Crown. This might be Oprah’s ditch. The publication of this book is the real reason why Oprah is quitting her show. Kelley has never been sued for libel and her book about the Bush family was so hot ( and useful) that the Bush Klan succeeded in shutting it down with the help of Bush 1st’s golf caddy, NBC’s Matt Lauer. Editors of The New York Times Magazine section hold the same position about welfare recipients as Oprah.

I stopped reading The New York Times Magazine years ago weary of its parade of flesh eating black cannibals, lazy and shiftless welfare mothers. (The Times’ coverage of Africa could be written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.) It is a section of the newspaper where Daniel Moynihan is treated as some kind of Celtic god. This is the guy who accused unmarried black mothers of “speciation.”

A book promoted by the magazine in which all of the crack addicts were black and in which one photo showed a black crack addict, a mother, fellating a John while a baby was strapped to her back even offended Brent Staples, a black member of the editorial board. That crack is a black drug, exclusively, is just another media hoax meant to entertain whites of the kind that dates to the very beginning of the American mass media.

So I wasn’t surprised that the magazine section featured a spread about “Precious” featuring Gabourey Sidibe, the 350 pound actor in the title role, on the cover certainly an act of black exploitation. However the interviewer, gossip writer Lynn Hirschberg, did perform a service by catching Lee Daniels, the “director” of Precious in a couple of exaggerations. In an effort to follow the marketing plan, the title of the article was “The Audacity of Precious,” after Obama’s “The Audacity of Hope” subtitled “Is America Ready For A Movie About An Obese Harlem Girl Raped And Impregnated By Her Abusive Father?” Lionsgate spent big bucks to advertise the movie in the Times.

During Lynn Hirschberg’s interview with Daniels, he claims that he directed Monster’s Ball, about a black woman so dimwitted that she begins a relationship with her husband’s white executioner (though as a porn movie it was superior to Co-Ed Confidential). The husband was played by Sean Puffy Combs.

Turns out that Daniels didn’t direct the film. It was directed by Marc Forster a white director. So, did Daniels direct “Precious” or is really he playing the flak catcher for this heinous project like Oprah Winfrey and Perry? When he went on the set to exercise his role as “director” did the white people who own the movie and provide the crew for this film call security? Hard to say. He also said that he grew up in the ghetto. His aunt disputes this.

The Times has printed no less than four articles all of which have either praised Precious, or gave those who defend the movie the most lines. Two were written by A.O. Scott, who said that this movie about fictional characters was part of a “national conversation about race.” This is the problem with films like “Precious.” White critics like A.O. Scott, who hog all the criticism space as black, Hispanic, and Asian American journalists are being fired in droves, get a chance to pick and choose which cultural products that will ignite a discussion about race usually ones that show blacks as depraved individuals, individuals that are used to blame black men and in this case black women, collectively. He suggests that based upon a movie adapted from a fiction, all black males are incest violators, the kind of group libel aimed at the brothers when Gloria Steinem said that The Color Purple told the truth about black men.

Why didn’t Dexter, Paris Trout or Dorothy Allison’s Bastard Out Of Carolina, begin “a national conversation,” about race? Ted Turner tried to suppress Bastard Out Of Carolina, this white incest film and only through the intervention of Anjelica Huston was the film aired. Turner pronounced it too graphic to be shown on his network CNN, which poses blacks as degenerates 24/7. In several states, Bastard has been banned from classrooms and school libraries.

Also, why doesn’t the Times open its Jim Crow Op Ed page so that a member of Precious’s target, black men, as a class, could respond to this smear, this hate crime as entertainment, this Neo Nazi porn and filth. There are hundreds of black male intellectuals (yes, black men are more than athletes, criminals and entertainers) who would take up the challenge. But the Op Ed page is only open to one black writer, consistently--Orlando Patterson--, who, like the ‘20s writer Claude McKay, is the kind of Jamaican who has nothing but contempt for African Americans.

Sapphire (Ramona Lofton), who wrote the novel Push, also has a biography like Daniel’s that shifts about. First she told Dinitia Smith of the Times (July 2, 1996) that Precious was an actual person. “She lives there,” she said, “pointing at a dowdy building over check cashing store.” Don’t you think that if such a person existed that Lionsgate wouldn’t include her in its marketing plan so ubiquitous that an ad for this film appears on my email screen when I sign in at AOL. It figures? AOL’s expert on black culture and politics is DNesh D’Souza .Their coverage of black culture is limited to black NFL and NBA athletes who get into trouble outside of strip clubs.

Part of the packaging of both the novel and the film has been to cash in the culture of recovery. Sapphire says that she was a former prostitute and a victim of incest (Lee Daniels does his pity party routine during the Times’ interview). She also said that she is a recovering lesbian. In 1986, she began to “remember things.” “An incident of violent sexual abuse “ when she was “3 or 4.” Her father, an Army Sergeant, denied her claim. He died in 1990. (Lee Daniels also “remembered” abuse by his father. I wonder what his aunt would say.)

Her “remembering things,” and being inspired by two other profitable black incest products led Alfred Knopf to give her a $500,000 advance for two books one of which, entitled “American Dreams” included a poem called “Wild Thing,” which blamed the rape of a Central Park Jogger on black boys.

As Steven Spielberg put the knife in Celie’s hand, Sapphire put a rock
and pipe into the hands of boys who spent their youth in jail for a crime that they didn’t commit. She has her narrator say: “ I bring the rock down/ on her head/sounds dull & flat/like the time I busted/the kitten’s head/the blood is real and red/my dick rises.” She has one of the defendants,Yusef Salaam, participating in the rape.“Yosef slams her/ across the face with a pipe.” Yusef Salaam served 5 and ½ years. Do you think that Sapphire might make up to Mr. Salaam for destroying his reputation in a book for which she received $500,000. And what about Naomi Wolfe and other millionaire
feminists whose agitation helped to convict these innocent kids. Maybe
they can join Sapphire in setting up a trust fund for these victims “who
grew up in Jail.And what about Linda Fairstein? She got rich, too.

Called a “Zealot, Crusader, and Megalomaniac,” Linda Fairstein, the Manhattan District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Unit, often shown as an “ultra-blond” in an “air-brushed” photo, saw prosecuting these children as a step toward fame and fortune. In the words of Rivka Gerwirtz Little, author of “Ash-Blond Ambition, Prosecutor Linda Fairstein May Have Tried Too Hard” (Village Voice,11/19/02) they were convicted as a result of the zealousness of the ambitious prosecutor, the Jim Crow media, which found them guilty and contributed to the hysteria surrounding the case ,and by New York feminists, black and white. (Donald Trump wanted the children to get the death penalty.) Little writes,

“The men in all of these cases, who were convicted despite the existence of exculpatory evidence, still see Fairstein and her minions as either zealots or headline seekers, pursuing verdicts that would appease the outraged public. Oliver Jovanovic thinks Fairstein was also making literary hay from her cases.

“Jovanovic, the Columbia University microbiology Ph.D. candidate had dubbed the ‘cybersex’ attacker, who was convicted and sentenced to 15 years to life in prison for kidnapping and sexually torturing a Barnard undergraduate ‘had his own run in with Fairstein.’ After he served nearly two years of his prison term, an appeals court overturned his conviction in 1999, again saying that crucial evidence was withheld during the trial that could have shown Jovanovic and his accuser had a consensual sadomasochistic relationship, or that she simply fabricated the story. Morgenthau dismissed the case before a pending retrial in 2001.”

“Each time one of these cases occurred, her books probably went flying off the shelves,” says Jovanovic.

“She used what happened in that unit to make money, and that is wrong she earned, according to The New York Times, $2.5 million in sales by 1999.”

Little also questioned the rush to judgment of feminists in the case in her, “How Feminists Faltered on the Central Park Jogger Case” (Village Voice, 10/15/02)

“Feminists who rallied on the courthouse stairs outside the 1990 trial of five African American and Latino youth accused in the Infamous rape and beating of the 28-year-old Central Park jogger made It painfully clear-there was a choice to make: gender or race. With flimsy evidence and an almost immediate indictment by the public, advocates for the teens believed they were easy lynch victims and demanded further Investigation and fair trials. But to some feminists, bringing up ‘the race issue’ muddled the case and detracted from the bottom-line issue-violence against women and justice for the victim.

“Thirteen years after the teens were convicted, DNA evidence and a confession to the crime by Matias Reyes, a convicted rapist behind bars, indicate a strong possibility that the five accused-who walked into prison as boys and emerged years later as men-would have been a worthy cause for any left activist group to champion. In the jogger case, no one even considered their five mothers a cause for feminists, though with little money or proper representation, they saw their sons railroaded, and the media portrayed them as out-- of-control ghetto mamas.” The young men, who went to prison as children, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise, and Yusef Salaam, received from 5 ½ to 13 years.

Because of his defense of the poem “Wild Thing” by Sapphire (Ramona Lofton), printed in a literary journal, the Portable Lower East Side, which “was a graphic depiction of the thoughts of a participant in the rape and beating of a Central Park jogger,” according to The Washington Post, John Frohnmayer, was fired as head of the National Endowment of the Arts. During an appearance before the National Press Club, he warned that “the political battle over the NEA [was] part of a broader cultural war and invoked the specter of the Nazis' takeover of Europe to underscore his point.” Another technique the Nazis used, whether Frohnmayer knows it, was to blame their enemies for crimes they didn’t commit like the burning of the Reichstag, which is what happened in the Central Park Case. The “wilders,” it turned out were innocent. When Little called to ask feminists who judged the children guilty, when no forensic evidence tied them to the rape, and after Matias Reyes confessed to the crime (his semen matched that collected from the jogger) only one would respond. Susan Brownmiller, who libeled all black men as rapists in her book, Against Our Will, was a holdout.

She said that regardless of the scientific evidence pointing away from the guilt of the five, she still believed that they were guilty. I wonder was Sapphire called. I wonder how she feels about her poem. I wonder whether we would have found out if Katie Couric had given her the kind of grilling that she gave Sarah Palin. One of the reasons that Bryant Gumbel left NBC was that Couric was chosen to interview O.J. Simpson instead of him.

Sapphire, who helped to set up these children ,the way that she and her cynical backers like Sarah Siegel, whose depiction of black men is worst than those found in American Renaissance magazine, have set up black men. In Precious the out of control ghetto mama whom they market is played by Monique. Carl, her husband, who commits the unspeakable, is Sapphire and Sarah Siegel’s “Wild Thing.”

I asked D. Scott Miller, a writer for the San Francisco Bay Guardian his take on the different biographies of Ramona Lofton. He said,

“I would say that her bio has been shortened and extended when it's convenient.

“Here’s the opening of her Amazon Bio:

‘Sapphire was born in 1950 and spent her first twelve years on army bases in California and Texas. As a teenager she lived in South Philadelphia and Los Angeles. She graduated from City College in New York and received an MFA from Brooklyn College. From 1983 to 1993 she lived in Harlem, where she taught reading and writing to teenagers and adults. She lives in New York City.’

“Here's the opening of her bio post-push, but pre-Precious:

‘Ramona Lofton, better known to her readers as Sapphire, was born in 1950 in Fort Ord California. On the surface, her family was characterized as normal and middle class. Her father was an army sergeant and her mother was a member of the Women's Army Corps. As a child, Sapphire's family relocated several time to various cities, states, and countries. When she was only 13 years old, Sapphire's mother became the victim of “alcoholism and eventually departed from her life. Her mother died in 1983. In that same year, her brother, who was then homeless was killed in a public park.’

“I would not say that she is lying, or even stretching the truth. But I see a difference. Don't know which one she's using right now.”

I wasn’t surprised that NPR’s Terry Gross would become part of the film’s promotion. I stopped listening to her years ago because she seemed to have a thing about casting all black men as sexual predators.

She once maneuvered a famous black writer into directing her wrath against her father toward all black men and when a woman from South Africa was brought on to discuss the rapes occurring in that country, Gross asked whether rape in that country was interracial. The woman answered that white men rape too, which seemed to come as a surprise to Ms. Gross. When whatever is bothering Ms. Gross about black men gains entry in The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, maybe the editors will name it after her. Gross’s Syndrome. Or maybe she and Ms. Brownmiller can flip a coin.

I only tuned into Ms. Gross’s interview with Daniels because poet Al Young called and asked me to do so. It was instructive. The NPR airwaves were full of giggles as they carried on their dialogue. At one point, she asked whether violence among blacks is cultural. He said that it was hereditary, thereby signing on to about two centuries of quack race “science” and a Neo-Nazi line promoted by the Times’ Sam Robert’s who once wrote that blacks were “prone” to violence and by the Op Ed pages’ token black contributor, Orlando Patterson, who wrote recently as though violence is black.

This in a country where the National Rifle Association owns or intimidates every politician but Michael Bloomberg; where one hundred million guns are available and where accidental deaths by gunshots in white homes dwarfs those occurring in the inner city, which is not to excuse such deaths, which lead to high homicide rates.

One of the reasons is that the police, white and suburban, have a poor record of solving urban crimes and as a result of NAFTA, thousands have joined the underground economy (in Oakland ,where I live, only 37% of homicides are solved; in nearby Danville, an affluent city, when a white youth’s murder resulted from a drug transaction gone wrong, 11 detectives were assigned to the case, and the killer was caught the next day).

Daniels and Gross’s discussion about the black violence gene occurred at a time when The National Association of Black Journalists was criticizing NPR for its firing of black personnel. And so when the Times and the producers of Precious are profiting from stereotypes that reach back to the Enlightenment, they receive an endorsement from NPR whose “Ghetto 101,” produced by the late Ellen Willis, was one of the most offensive of black pathology ratings boosters and money makers. Violence?

The white majority has given mandates to policies that have resulted in the murders of millions of people since World War II.

While white male critics are campaigning feverishly to land one of two Oscars for Precious, the dissent from some black critics has been blistering. Most notably Armond White who, as a result of his review printed in The New York Press has become a folk hero among young black cyberspace intellectuals of the kind who are making a comeback after about twenty years of the left and right establishments laying black intellectuals on us who sing from the song book as they. One of those who praised White’s review printed in The New York Press, was Kofi Natambu the brilliant young editor of The Panopticon Review. I asked him what he thought was behind Precious:

“The withering contempt and sheer malice for black people (and especially black men) that this film represents and embodies is an integral part of a very disturbing and destructive trend among a number of cultural hustlers, thieves, and conmen and women in film, literature, theatre, and the music industry that is being vigorously promoted and marketed by white corporations and Madison Avenue. It's no coincidence that the increasingly casual and overt racism that is routinely displayed in advertising and the media generally is working hand in glove with the contemptible and venal likes of artistic pimps and prostitutes like Lee Daniels, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey. This development has been dismissing, marginalizing, and destroying the impact and influence of genuine African American artists in all the arts now since the mid '90s and has in the past decade reached its vicious apex in the heinous "work" of such black retrograde and reactionary assholes as the people producing and directing this film. Remember Percival Everett’s brilliant novel from 2001 called “Erasure?” Remember his devastating critique of this nexus of white racism and black minstrel confidence schemes in his rendering of the literary work of a phony black author (who sounds a LOT like Sapphire!) called "My Pafology?" Well as you've been brilliantly predicting in your own work for over three decades now this is what this ugly marriage between the white corporate media and Uncle Tom/Aunt Thomasina minstrelism has come to in the modern world.

Remember his devastating critique of this nexus of white racism and black minstrel confidence schemes in his rendering of the phony black author (who sounds a LOT like Sapphire!) called ‘My Pafology?’ as now this is what this ugly marriage between the white corporate media and Uncle Tom/Aunt Thomasina minstrelism has come to in the modern world. If something is not done to stem this tide it's only going to get worse and soon.

"My Pafology indeed.”

Armond White wrote:

“Winfrey, Perry and Daniels make an unholy triumvirate. They come together at some intersection of race exploitation and opportunism. These two media titans—plus one shrewd pathology pimp—use Precious to rework Booker T. Washington’s early 20th-century manifesto Up From Slavery into extreme drama for the new millennium: Up FromIncest, Child Abuse, Teenage Pregnancy, Poverty and AIDS. Regardless of its narrative details about class and gender, Precious is an orgy of prurience. All the terrible, depressing (not uplifting) things that happen to 16year-old Precious recall that memorable All About Eve line, “Everything but the bloodhounds nipping at her rear-end.’”

As a result of his dissent A.O. Scott dismissed Armond White as “a contrarian” which means that his conclusions about the film differed from those of white critics. The late Tillie Olson, a genuine progressive, had it right when she pointed out, sagaciously, in The New York Time’s Magazine, that many whites engage in a perverse voyeurism when viewing black culture.

They want to peek behind the curtains of black life to seek confirmation that all of the myths they’ve heard about black life are true. Richard Wright said that “The Negro is America’s metaphor.” More like America’s anti-depressant. People who are miserable in their own lives getting off by consuming black depravity, a big business. The audience at the 2:00 matinee that I attended was 90% white, the marketer’s “niche” audience. Not only did I have to swallow this seedy material for the purpose of entering this review in my forthcoming book, Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media, subtitled The Return of the Nigger Breakers, but was assaulted by two offensive previews: Clint Eastwood’s movie about Nelson Mandela and Disney’s The Princess and the Frog, a black Princess this time, which, judging from the trailers, will be a remake of Song of the South. In the film, Iku (“eniti ile re mbe lagbedemeji aiye on orun”), the top- hatted mythological figure from the Yoruba religion is depicted as evil (in the film he is Doctor Facilier, “A schemer, a conjurer and a sorcerer of sorts”) ,and a follower of Oshun, a water spirit, with thousands of followers in this hemisphere, is caricatured, in the movie. In the movie her name is Mama Odie. It’s bad enough that Oprah endorses the stupid and mindless Precious but then she has to go perform for Disney. A project that demeans African Religion. And has already criticized by some blacks for the black Princess lacking a black male love interest. The Daily Mail reported on 18th March 2009

“With America’s first African-American president in the White House, Disney is counting on an African-American princess to be a big hit in Hollywood.

“But even though The Princess and the Frog isn’t released until later this year, it is already stirring up controversy.

“For while Princess Tiana and many in the cartoon cast are black – the prince is not.

“Which has led some critics to complain that Disney has ducked the opportunity for a fairytale ending for a black prince and princess.”

Both directors and all of the screen writers for this movie are white men.
I recommend that they an Oprah read William Bascom”s “ Sixteen
Cowries, Yoruba Divination From Africa To The New World.”

This kind of ridiculing of black culture is nothing new for Disney. In a 1932 cartoon Mickey and Minnie were pitted against “fierce niggers.”

The opinions of black movie goers about Precious probably concur with those of White and Courtland Milloy. Courtland Milloy of The Washington Post wrote:

“I watched the movie at a theater in Alexandria where showtimes are nearly around the clock, from 10:15 a.m. to 12:15 a.m. The audience was mostly black women and teenagers. When the lights came up, all of the moviegoers appeared sullen and depressed that I attended.”

Milloy continued:

“After escaping the abuse of her home life, Precious ends up in a halfway house. She is still functionally illiterate and has two babies to care for, one with Down syndrome.

“Strangest of all, many reviewers felt the movie ended on a high note. Time, for instance, wrote that Precious "makes an utterly believable and electrifying rise from an urban abyss of ignorance and neglect.

“Excuse me, the movie ends with the girl walking the streets, babies in her arms, having just learned that her father has died of AIDS -- but not before infecting her.”

As a weak justification, and following the prompting of Geoffrey Gilmore, Lee Daniels told the Times interviewer that he was mindful that the movie contained stereotypes but that was ok because we have a black president, which must thrill the birthers, the tea baggers, those who create posters in which Obama appears as witchdoctor, a Muslim and the joker. On Nov.23 some wingnut put up a picture of Michelle Obama as a monkey at Goggle. The haters of the Obama must really feel in vogue thanks to Daniels.

Another part of the pitch is that the men in the film could be men of any ethnic group a sales pitch used by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage for her theatrical products, praised by some the same types who are crazy about Precious. Atlanta Constitution columnist Cynthia Tucker received a Pulitzer for referring to black men as “idle” and “bestial” and they awarded Janet Cooke one for making up a story about black parents who were so rotten that they made heroin available to an eight year old, over the objection of a black panelist who smelled a fraud.Three great playwrights, Adrienne Kennedy, Ed Bullins and Amiri Baraka have never received a Pulitzer. These black men on the screen or on the stage doing terrible things to women could be Bosnians so the line goes.

In her interview with Daniels, Lynn Hirschberg said something similar: “Precious is a stand-in for anyone — black, white, male, female — who has ever been devalued or underestimated.”

To which Milloy answered:

“Let’s see: I lose my job, so I take in a movie about a serially abused black girl and I go, ‘Oh, swell, she’s standing in for me.’

“Maybe there is something to the notion that when human pathology is given a black face, white people don't have to feel so bad about their own. At least somebody's happy.

“Sexual abuse is certainly an equal-opportunity crime, with black and white women similarly affected. But only exaggerated black depravity seems to resonate so forcefully in the imagination.”

Will the “niche” audience for which this movie is intended ever become weary of the brothers being symbol of universal male misogyny? The face on the bull’s-eye at which disgruntled feminists from all ethnic groups aim their arrows, women who are scared to challenge the misogyny practiced by males who share their background? Judging from the box office receipts,
maybe not. As of Nov. 22, three weeks after the debut of the film, box office receipts totaled a gross of $21,277,521.

What is the solution offered by the people behind this film for the millions of blacks who are suffering from a depression during white America’s recession? After a hurried flurry of images belonging to Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Shirley Chisholm, Precious becomes redeemed by semi-literacy and black pride. The film’s true ending occurs when Precious and her mother engage in furious battle; the black pride part seems forced. After the mother/ daughter battle, the movie lingers like a wounded animal that nobody has the nerve to put out of its misery. Even more dreadful was somebody’s idea to tack on one of these trite sistuh solidarity songs.

What else do the film makers recommend that the underclass do, people who in the movie go into stores and rob and down a whole bucket of fried chicken, an image borrowed from The Birth of a Nation? Go to church and get sterilized which is the subtle Eugenics message that appears on a sign, “Spay and Neuter Your Pets,” as Precious and her two children travel to their new apartment.

According to Stefan Kuhl in his book, The Nazi Connection, Eugenics, American Racism and German National Socialism sterilization is an idea that the Germans borrowed from the United States as a way of ending the reproduction of unwanted groups. People who possess a violence gene?

In the mid-seventies, the late Chester Himes predicted that the Establishment was trying to start a war between black men and women. They succeed by treating both groups as opposing sports teams. And so while Armond White has been denounced by defenders of the movie, many of them women, and whites who consider him “contrarian,” the woman who put up the money, Sarah Siegel, has chosen to remain in the background. None of the exchanges I’ve read even mention her name. While the print and blog war over Precious rages on, she relaxes in her mansion, counting the profits from her Gold Mine of Opportunity: Precious; which is to blacks what Mel Gibson’s The Passion of Christ was to Jews.

Finally, who will market the next black movie that white audiences will pay to see? MSNBC has been drawing a lot of laughs from the same demographic by running a story about a black man who has been arrested twice for having intercourse with a horse and infecting the horse. Even the token progressives on MSNBC favor this story. I’ll bet somebody is working on the screenplay and the niche marketing for the film. Sarah, you listening?

Ishmael Reed’s “Barack Obama and the Jim Crow Media: the Return of the Nigger Breakers” will be published in the Spring by Baraka publishers of Quebec. He is the editor of Konch. He can be reached at: