It is hard to imagine that Newsweek could sink any lower than it already has, but perhaps I just lack imagination. Somehow, they have managed to sink below even my modest expectations through this attempt at rehabilitating the image of one of the most noxious, race hustling demagogues in American history. In the process of kissing up to the “Reverend” Al it also engages in more distortion about the Shirley Sherrod story, while completely whitewashing the extend of Sharpton’s treachery.
First, in order to pump up Sharpton, they first tear down the right.
But the interesting question is whether his role is still needed in an era when the man atop the national power structure himself is black, and Sharpton now regularly meets with him—issuing not just demands but advice. If you asked Sharpton himself, he’d undoubtedly reply, are you serious? Blacks still have twice the unemployment rate of Americans overall, and young black men are still being shot by cops under circumstances that range from tragic to suspicious. The election of Barack Obama has provoked an almost hysterical reaction from the far-right media, which last week claimed as its latest victim an obscure African-American official in the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
It’s highly amusing that a left-wing rag like Newsweek must employ the term “far-right.” How come the MSM never speaks of the “far left?” Oh, I guess it might have something to do with such institutions occupying that particular space on the political spectrum.
This is not the last mention of the Sherrod story.
And if Sharpton’s “mission” and “message” haven’t changed, his approach surely has. From last week’s fast-moving events in Washington—which found Sharpton in Hawaii, delivering a speech to a convention of dentists—the lesson he drew was about the danger of leaping to conclusions, as both the NAACP and the administration did in disowning Shirley Sherrod, Georgia’s director of rural development for the USDA, after a right-wing Web site and Fox News denounced her as a racist based on an excerpt from a months-old speech. So outrageous was this charge—in context, her point was clearly about her successful struggle to overcome prejudice—that even Beck came to her defense. But Sharpton knows all too well the temptation to seize the news cycle at its peak and check the facts later; thinking back 25 years, and with the circumstances reversed, it’s easy to picture him grabbing a bullhorn and leading a march on the USDA. He regards that sort of thing now as not just irresponsible but counterproductive. “Shirley Sherrod is an example of what happens when we play the right wing’s game: they win. We have to choose our battles wisely.”
Oh, that poor victim Shirley Sherrod. How incredibly tone deaf and/or ignorant does one have to be to continue to insist on this portrayal of Sherrod as a victim? In the very speech that garnered her notoriety she accused everyone who disagreed with the administration of being racist. She later claimed that Andrew Breitbart wanted to bring back slavery. Then of course there is the story I linked to the other day that details the radical racial politics of the Sherrods. And finally there is this calumny against Fox News. Unfortunately for Newsweek it has been demonstrated that Fox didn’t even run a story about Sherrod until after she was fired. Of course, it’s possible that Newsweek is just showing its jealousy of a more popular and effective media institution. The administration – the people who are actually to blame for Sherrod’s firing, by the way – acted out of fear of what Fox News might do. Newsweek’s major accomplishment, meanwhile, is being useful fuel for suburban dads trying to light their barbecues.
Furthermore, the final sentence is rich in irony. Al Sharpton has built his entire career on making (usually) false allegations of racism. The only reason he’s on the cover of Newsweek is because he is a sadly effective demagogue. So for him to whine about playing at a game that the right usually wins has to be the most unintentionally – or maybe not – obtuse sentences ever uttered.
And while Newsweek is busy defaming the right, it’s content with whitewashing Sharpton’s record.
Sharpton has been right much more often than wrong in his choice of causes, dating back at least to the 1989 murder of Yusuf Hawkins, a black teenager who paid with his life for the mistake of walking down the wrong block in Brooklyn. Many African-Americans will be forever grateful to Sharpton for taking on the thankless task of defending the victims of Bernhard Goetz, who opened fire on four unarmed black teenagers in the subway. But he has also made some grave missteps. In 1991, during a tense confrontation between blacks and Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn, he notably failed to calm tensions with a remark about “the diamond merchants in Crown Heights.” In 1995 his reference to “white interlopers,” at a protest against the eviction of a popular Harlem music store, was followed by a fatal arson attack on the white-owned business that held the lease.
Missteps? He egged on the rioters at Crown Heights, and his words at Freddy Fashion’s Mart directly led to murder. Those are just missteps? Even more sickening, Newsweek swallows Sharpton’s tripe about the Tawana Brawley hoax.
It is his refusal to apologize over Brawley—or to pay the defamation judgment, which was eventually settled by donations from wealthy friends—that still haunts his reputation among white Americans of a certain age. Tempting as it must be to put the matter behind him, Sharpton still answers questions the same way, without apology, but artfully framing the issue in the way most favorable to him. “I listened to the child, and I believed her,” he says. “When I hear that people are still mad at me about this case, I want to ask them, ‘Have you ever been asked to help a child that’s been hurt?’ I don’t apologize for anything I did to help her. Judge me the way you will.”
So we’re to believe that this man has somehow changed, yet he won’t apologize for destroying the life of an innocent man, Steven Pagones? But this hardly the only point in this article where the magazine stands in as Sharpton;’s pr agent.
His enemies sometimes charge, bizarrely, that he has chosen a career as a peripatetic community activist for the money. “It’s amazing when people call me an opportunist,” he says. “Do you know how much money I could have made with a megachurch like T. D. Jakes or Eddie Long? Don’t you think I could have done that?” By the same token, he is too honest to pretend indifference to the ego rewards of fame: “What I do is my passion, but it’s also constant work, and if my reward is getting on television, it seems fair to me.” There are places where he draws the line on publicity, though, and one is Dancing With the Stars, whose invitation he declined in 2008. “There are enough black people dancing on TV without me,” he jokes.
Does anybody believe that Al Sharpton, if he had to actually get by in the real world with the “skills” that he possesses, would be nearly as famous or as well-off as he is right now? The man is on the freaking cover of Newsweek. Every time he says “boo” there are a million stories in the press. Every time a white man says something that borders on racism, he’s one of the people that they have to go crawling to in order to beg for forgiveness. I don’t think megachurch Al would have been quite as fortunate. Is there even the remotest hint of self-awareness on the part of anyone involved with this article?
If you haven’t thrown up yet, the closing paragraph should seal the deal:
It is, of course, the fate of people like Sharpton to be misunderstood, and his own tendency to get carried away while addressing a crowd has contributed to it at times. He says, accurately, that the innumerable marches he has held over the years have been almost entirely free of violence, except for the time an enraged onlooker stabbed him in the chest. He is also, he believes, partly a victim of history: Jackson and, before him, Martin Luther King Jr. had much more radical black figures to their left, Louis Farrakhan and Malcolm X, who made them seem moderate by comparison. There has been no one in Sharpton’s time to play that role for him. He is out there all alone, still standing on the same principle he first enunciated in his housing project in Brooklyn: poor people have the same rights as rich ones, to justice in the streets and in the courts. If he didn’t exist, we might, in fact, need to invent him.
Awww. Poor, misunderstood Reverend Al. If only white folk like me had more place in their hearts for bigoted demagogues like him, this world would surely be a better place.
That our mainstream media institutions can seriously manufacture a piece like this speaks volumes about state of the media as a whole. That said, Newsweek’s rantings about Fox News are understandable in light of stories such as this one. Instead of having a monopoly on the dissemination of information, Newsweek has become a shrieking noise machine that is no more relevant to our political discourse than the Onion.
Anyway, I look forward to next week’s cover story on the new and improved David Duke.