One year ago this month, I wrote a column titled "The Pimping of MLK Jr." to argue that King's legacy has been perverted by those who profess to love and admire the man. In truth they are doing all they can to destroy everything he stood for -- and died for. Here's some of what I said:
"Bluntly speaking, King has been put on the corner like a hooker. Who would have ever thought that a dead man would ever be forced to turn so many tricks? It's all a very sorry commentary on the shameless marketing-is-everything age in which we now live. A spiritual and social warrior can be transformed into a product designed to meet the needs of even his worst enemies."
And here is what President George W. Bush said about King last week at Georgetown University during a speech he gave both in recognition of the King holiday and in honor of outgoing Secretary of State Colin Powell:
"Every year on this day we reflect the history of civil rights in America. . . . Dr. King loved America enough to confront its injustices, not compromising the truth and not fearing any man — and America loves him in return. …["]
. . .
God bless Bush for proving my point so well. With one cowboy boot crushing the throat of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, an organization founded essentially to pursue the ideals promoted by Dr. King, Bush has the raw nerve to extol King's virtues as if he were a true believer.
In short, King George is pimping King Jr.’s memory like a pro.
"MLK Jr. gets pimped again" by Keith Owens in the Detroit MetroTimes.
Owens is addressing an important topic and one that Keesha and Gina were getting at in their replies to the New York Times [see http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2005/01/keesha-speaks-to-new-york-times-about.html and http://thecommonills.blogspot.com/2005/01/gina-speaks-to-new-york-times.html].
Tori e-mailed "For Democrats Only RAARGH!—and more of it" by Bill Cope in from The Boise Weekly:
I’ve just finished reading a remarkable analysis of the situation. It's so good, I can only wish I'd thought of it. It's in the January issue of a little mag out of, of all places, Salt Lake City, and I beg every Democrat in the country to find a way to read it for themselves. Seek out Catalyst: Resources for Creative Living, the January issue, and turn to the commentary "Deride and Conquer." (I stole my copy from the offices of Boise Weekly, but I don't recommend that course to anyone else. First of all, it was wrong, and secondly, it was the only copy. Instead, try www.catalystmagazine.net It's there; I looked.)
The author, Mel Gilles (a woman), has been a longtime advocate for victims of domestic violence and as such, and she has identified familiar patterns in the behavior of both triumphant Republicans and defeated Democrats -- patterns she is well acquainted with from her experiences with abusers and the abused. I can't put it any better, so here are her words: “Listen to George Bush say that the will of God excuses his behavior. Listen as he refuses to take responsibility, or express remorse, or even once admit a mistake. Watch him strut, and tell us he will only work with those that agree with him … Hear him tell us that if we will only listen and do as he says and agree with his every utterance, all will go well for us …
"And watch the Democratic Party leadership walk on eggshells, try to meet him, please him, wash the windows better, get out that spot, distance themselves from gays and civil rights. See them cry for the attention and affection and approval of the President and his followers. Watch us squirm. Watch us descend into a world of crazy-making, where logic doesn't work and the other side tells us we are nuts when we rely on facts. A world where, worst of all, we begin to believe we are crazy."
Now, Democrats, tell me that doesn't leave a mark.
Tori wondered if the story referred to by Mel Gilles was something that got mentioned here a week or so ago. I'm not sure we mentioned it but I know I read a mention of it. It was one of our permalinks or it was a member quoted here. It could have even been me. I saw Mel Gilles article on BuzzFlash sometime back and it's worth reading.
Trevor e-mails a really strong piece, "Protocol for Lying: The senators let Condi Rice slide" by Judith Lewis from LA Weekly:
Even by the accounts of people inclined to hate her, Senator Barbara Boxer delivered a fierce argument on January 18 against Condoleezza Rice's nomination for secretary of state. But if all the news you caught the next morning was in the headlines on National Public Radio, you wouldn't have known that. In the distilled world of audio broadcast, the only reference to the Rice-Boxer exchange was a 10-second clip, with Rice telling Boxer, "I would ask you to refrain from impugning my integrity," and Boxer responding, "I'm not." It's hard to know who selects these bits, and why. Presumably, a 10-second excerpt is meant to capture the overall tone of the proceedings it's culled from, to give the listener a sense of a longer story in a very short time. But the impression one got from this segment was of a patient doyenne condescending to a nippy little harpy. It was not a representative excerpt: It was as if NPR had chosen to highlight Joe Biden's initial breathlessness, or Dianne Feinstein's tripping repeatedly over the word "Czechoslovakia." It represented Boxer at her worst, Woman at her worst, and whatever else Boxer had accomplished earlier in the day, what millions of listeners took away was this: Scrappy Boxer had launched a scud that landed inert at her opponent's pedicured feet.
Also in this issue
To read David Corn's article about Seantors Boxer and Feinstein during Rice's confirmation hearings, click here.
To read Erin Aubrey Kaplan's article about Rice, click here. That the text and context of Boxer's speech in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that day was much, much different was something you'd only find out had you stayed glued to CNN or C-SPAN during the hearing, or flipped channels after Morning Edition and heard the highlights of the day's dissent on Amy Goodman's Democracy Now! In the longer version, Boxer had asked Rice for "a candid discussion," to account for discrepancies between her words and the president's, her words and her other words, her words and the facts as documented in reports by Charles Duelfer and the 9/11 commission. Such an accounting would have required Rice to admit that many of the administration's reasons for invading Iraq were bunk. Rice would never do this, of course - she reaffirms repeatedly that Bush and she speak with one voice - and Boxer knew it. And so Boxer's request that Rice account for these discrepancies served only one purpose: To establish for the committee, and for the world, that Rice is a liar. In other words, to impugn her integrity. As well it deserved to be impugned: In the words of Hans Blix, "It took much twisted evidence, including a forged uranium contract, to conjure up a revived Iraqi nuclear threat, even one that was somewhat distant," and yet there was Rice in the run-up to the war, talking about mushroom clouds. Or as returned-to the-chambers Senator John Kerry observed in the January 18 hearing, despite Rice's justification for the war as a pre-emptive attack on a country readying WMD, U.S. troops had not even bothered to guard a large cache of ammunition that was later used against them. In statements throughout the proceedings she dodged, obfuscated and boldly rewrote history, responding cagily to questions from Senator Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island about her hypocritical disdain for Venezuela ("We hope that the government of Venezuela will continue to recognize what has been a mutually beneficial relationship on energy," she said); dismissing questions from Senator Joe Biden about whether the U.S. initially committed sufficient forces to secure Iraq ("I do believe that the plan and the forces we went in with were appropriate to the task," Rice told him); and stringing together a series of end runs around Senator Christopher Dodd's questions about what Rice believes constitutes torture - "Water-boarding?" Nudity? ("I don't want to comment on any specific interrogation techniques," she demurred. "I don't think that would be appropriate." Dodd called this "disappointing." You got the feeling Rice could have endorsed the decapitation of her critics, and the senators would have called it "disappointing.") Rice's answers were a triumph of insinuation as a substitute for facts. To impugn her integrity should have been uncontroversial.
Lewis is making strong points and points that deal with the need to focus on the media. New ways of saying things don't mean a thing if they aren't being heard -- goes to the media.
Now to the crowning of the Bully Boy, we'll focus first on two things covering the protest, an article on the mainstream media's supremely poor reporting and then comments on the crowning itself that offer analysis and a persepctive.
From the Independent Weekly, Cedric e-mails "Going on the record against lies and greed: Neither hail nor sleet nor riot gear can keep this duo from their appointed rounds" by Peter Eichenberger:
We're making our way out of the pit. Elliot nudges me, pointing at a handsome black woman. Then I see that it is U.S. Rep. Cynthia McKinney, unseated in the previous election by Republican machination, now newly returned to her seat by her Georgia constituency. I run up to her.
"I am so glad to meet you, sister." The shutter clicks and we are captured like kin at a reunion. "I love what you do," I tell her.
Once again, history was made. Despite the millions of taxpayer dollars, all those fences, 13,000 cops and soldiers, the kids tore down barricades, pelted the motorcade with garbage (oranges this time), disrupted the parade, PETA gals ran around butt-ass nekked in 30 degrees--two separate attacks finally repulsed amid desperate clubbing on both sides and, finally, deployment of a sort of giant mace-spewing flit-gun. Kids 6, Cops 12.
Only 12 arrests. Whether from sympathy, managing the news (low arrests look good if you are trying to make dissent disappear) or the fact that D.C. has had to pay major money for the now-illegal practice of "preemptive arrest," we'll never know. What I did know was that a sense of democracy was aloft in the frigid wind that day, in all its messy, heartfelt honesty, a big quarreling family. And in that, there is magnificence.
Lynda e-mails "the news brief" section from Eugune Weekly to spotlight the first item on the list (all are worthy of reading) which deals with the protests last week and recognizes three Euguene activists who went to D.C. for the crowning of the Bully Boy:
Dogged Eugene activists Peter and Willow Chabarek and Carol Melia traveled to Washington, D.C. to protest President George W. Bush’s inauguration on Jan. 20. They nabbed seats about 50 yards from the podium, and just as Supreme Court Justice Renquist was about to deliver the oath of office, they stepped into the aisle and started screaming, "Stop the war! Bring home the troops!"
Although military ushers guarded the aisles, Peter describes a slow response from security personnel. "They seemed stunned," he says. "They didn’t know what to do. They decided not to do anything."
More daunting were the Bush supporters in the crowd. One tossed water in Willow’s face and threw her to the ground, and then he did the same to Peter. Carol got into a wrestling match with a woman who tried to steal the camera from her. "But we all popped up and just kept screaming," Peter says. Police finally told the protesters, "We’d like you to leave for your own safety."
Although many media filtered out the protest from their Inauguration Day reports, Amy Goodman spoke with Carol Melia, and the interview aired on Democracy Now! on Jan. 21. Reuters also picked up the story, and local radio news producer Amy Pincus Merwin aired the report on KWVA and KBOO. On Jan. 21, the activists plan to protest in front of the offices of powerful America neo-conservative think tanks such as the American Enterprise Institute and Project for New American Century.
Matt Taibbi's take on the crowning (from the New York Press) is also worth noting:
I've always thought that one of America's best selling points was that it never had a king. If there is one thing that defines us as a people, as opposed to all other peoples, it is this fact. Every other nation in the world has a dozen or so of those embarrassing chapters from the past to live down. Not us. The moment of our conception was a rejection of the very idea of kings. All of that goes out the window whenever we have a presidential inauguration. The urge to turn the White House into Buckingham Palace (or, more to the point, Camelot) is one of the oldest and most shameful traditions of the media age, but this disgusting phenomenon always heats to whiteness during inauguration week, regardless of what party is ascending to power. What a splendiferous reception hall! Look at all the rich and tasty things on the banquet table! Why, it must be a hundred feet long!
"Paula, set the stage from your perspective," gushed serial ass-kisser Wolf Blitzer, as he threw to Paula Zahn, standing at the inauguration site, on CNN. "This is a majestic moment for the entire country!"
We heard about all the majesty; from the scalloped crab, roasted Missouri quail, chestnuts and brined root vegetables at the post-inauguration congressional luncheon ("Mmm, scalloped crab sounds good," said CNN anchor Carol Costello) to the mariachi band, Cohiba cigars and "buffet tables loaded with Tex-Mex fare" at the "Black Tie & Boots" ball the night before ("I feel very simpatico with the people of Texas," offered shameless-hanger-on-in-a-cowboy-hat Rudy Giuliani) to the elegant inauguration lunch at Statuary Hall in the Capitol ("It's majestic," repeated the fixated Blitzer. "What a beautiful hall, for those of our viewers who have never been inside the U.S. Capitol..."). And so on and so on.
. . .
That Laura would be wearing a rose silk taffeta Carolina Herrera ensemble with a Western touch was known in advance. The press had been briefed. And with this news, the press ran and ran. The Queen's inauguration outfits were a story, a non-sarcastic story, in almost every paper in the country last week, to the point where Oscar de la Renta, the designer of her now-famous "ice blue" inauguration ceremony ensemble, was received by the press as though he were a visiting head of state.
Third Party e-mails Ralph Nader's "Bush's Pillars" from Frontlines:
President George W. Bush's Inaugural Address was perched high on the abstraction ladder. Words like "freedom," "liberty" and "democracy" poured forth not just for Americans but for everyone in the world. Let's bring his rhetoric down to the concrete level of his record-that is, down the ladder of abstraction where regular people live.
He spoke in the District of Columbia--a place of gross contrasts between wealth and poverty beneath one unity. D.C. residents--all 600,000 of them--have no voting representatives in the U.S. Congress. They, unlike all other federal districts in all other democracies, are disenfranchised. Some freedom, some liberty, some democracy.
Mr. Bush likes it this way. He has refused to support either D.C. statehood, which would provide two Senators and one Representative, or simply voting rights without statehood.
In his first term, one of his signal prides of authorship was the Patriot Act--considered in its intrusiveness and abandonment of safeguards to be the broadest encroachment on civil liberties and the judiciary in our history-whether in war or peace--by leading civil liberties scholars and practitioners. Under Bush and John Ashcroft, Bush's Attorney General, there were many arrests without charges, imprisonment without attorneys and indefinite, anonymous detention of alleged witnesses. There now can be perfunctory court approval for searching your most personal financial, medical and e-mail records without probable cause or due process of law and for searching your homes and business without pre-notifying you.
How does this square the assertion in his speech: "We are determined to show the meaning and promise of liberty?"