Amos Wilson: 'A Goal of the Media is to Make White Dominance and Control Over Everything Seem Natural'
The following is an excerpt from "Blueprint for Black Power." It is "Chapter II, "ideology and the Legitimization of Dominance." By Dr. Amos Wilson. [MORE]
IN OUR SECOND CHAPTER WE DISCUSSED a number of sources or bases of power, e.g., economic resources, authority, class membership, family, culture, organization, and the like. However, a source of power more fundamental than these, in fact the ultimate base of power for the other power sources, is that of the power of ideas. The power of mind, of thought, imagination and vision; the power of symbols and the word; the power of ideation and the translation of ideation into action, are manifested in a multitude of personal, social, cultural and physical forms. For ideas are actualized and incarnated in patterns of social attitudes, relations and organization; in social and physical products; in abilities and inabilities, superordinations and subordinations. Knowledge is idea, the product of ideation reciprocally interacting with reality. Therefore, if knowledge is power, ideas have power. Ideas can be coercive and compelling. Beliefs, symbols, doctrines, and idea systems can enable or empower men through their capacity to induce them into states of consciousness conducive to the achievement of certain personal and social goals which would not be achievable by other means. "Indeed," as Thomas Dye asserts, "whole societies are shaped by systems of ideas that we frequently refer to as ideologies." He goes on to define an ideology as "an integrated system of ideas that provides society and its members with rationalizations for a way of life, guides for evaluating "rightness" and "wrongness," and emotional impulses to action."
The relationship between socioeconomic power and social ideology is an intimate one. For ideology legitimates power systems, hierarchal structures and social relations through its provision of rationales and justifications for the exercise of power and the necessity of certain social relations. If ideology successfully justifies the distribution and exercise of power within social relations, then it represents itself as a potent source of control over the consciousness and behavior of the participants.
Ideologies control people's behavior in several ways: (1) Ideologies affect perception. Ideas influence what people "see" in the world around them. Ideologies frequently describe the character of human beings in society; they help us become aware of certain aspects of society but often impair our ability to see other aspects. Ideologies may distort and oversimplify in their effort to provide a unified and coherent account of society. (2) Ideologies rationalize and justify a way of life and hence provide legitimacy for the structure of society. An ideology may satisfy the status quo, or it may provide a rationale for change, or even for revolution. (3) Ideologies provide normative standards to determine "rightness" and "wrongness" in the affairs of society. Ideologies generally have a strong moral component. Occasionally, they even function as "religions" — complete with prophets (Marx), scriptures (the Communist Manifesto), saints (Lenin, Stalin, Mao), and visions of utopia (a communist society). (4) Ideologies provide motivation for social and political action. They give their followers a motive to act to improve world conditions. Ideologies can "convert" individuals to a particular social or political movement and arouse them to action.
In the context of this chapter we will speak of ideology in terms of its use by the ruling class or dominant group(s) to justify the existing social order. In this sense we follow Jeffrey Reiman (1990) in asserting that "when ideas, however unintentionally, distort reality in a way that justifies the prevailing distribution of power and wealth, hides society's injustices, and thus secures uncritical allegiance to the existing social order, we have what Marx called ideology." So to the naive but acute observer of the American political and economic system it is amazingly baffling that in the face of gross and rapidly increasing inequities in wealth and power, social status and influence, social health and welfare, the vast majority of the population who bare the burden of those inequities do not utilize their vaunted freedom of speech and assembly to engage in fundamentally question¬ing the political-economic-legal institutions of the system and organize to transform them so that they produce more equitable and salutary outcomes. The fact that this system has not been trans¬formed toward such outcomes implies that despite its gross inequities and inadequacies a critical mass of the populace must accept the ideology used to rationalize and justify its existence. Obviously, those most interested and active in inculcating and sustaining such an ideology would be those who are the chief beneficiaries of the socioeconomic status and those who believe they stand to gain in the future from its continuance and/or who fear losing what they have, though it may be less than they need if the system were to be reconstituted. It should be apparent that in such a system the rich and powerful have an especially strong interest on promulgating and elaborating the prevailing ideology which legitimates their socioeco¬nomic status. The rich and powerful, in this context, of all the groups which compose American society, have thegreatest need for ideology and to see that the other groups are well-indoctrinated with it.
A simple and persuasive argument can be made for the claim that the rich and powerful in America have an interest in convej'ing an ideological message to the rest of the nation. The have-nots and have-littles far outnumber the have-plenties. This means, to put it rather crudely, the have-nots and the have-littles could have more if they decided to take it from the have-plenties. This, in turn, means that the have-plenties need the cooperation of the have-nots and the have-littles. Because the have-plenties are such a small minority that they could never force this cooperation on the have-nots and have-littles, this cooperation must be voluntary. For the cooperation to be voluntary, the have-nots and the have-littles must believe that it would not be right or reasonable to take away what the have-plenties have. In other words, they must believe that for all its problems the present social, political and economic order, with its disparities of wealth and power and privilege, is about the best that human beings can do. More specifically, the have-nots and have-littles must believe that they are not being exploited by the have-plenties. Now this seems to me to add up to an extremely plausible argument that ours is a social system that requires for its continued operation a set of beliefs necessary to secure the allegiance of the less well-off majority. These beliefs must be in some considerable degree false, because the distribution of wealth and power in the United States is so evidently arbitrary and.unjust. Ergo, the need for ideology.
The Ideology Process
In addition to the special interest, policy formation, and candidate-selection processes, the ideological process is crucially used by the powers-that-be to maintain and enhance their power over the masses. Domhoff discusses the ideology process thusly:
The ideology process consists of the numerous methods through which members of the power elite attempt to shape the beliefs, attitudes and opinions of the underlying population. It is within this process that the power elite tries to create, disseminate and reinforce a set of attitudes and values that assure Americans that the United States, is for all its alleged defects, the best of all possible worlds. The ideology process is an adjunct to the other three processes, for they would not be able to function smoothly without at least the resigned acquiescence of a great majority of the population. Free and open discussion are claimed to be the hallmarks of the process, but past experience shows that its leaders will utilize deceit and violence in order to combat individuals or organizations which espouse attitudes and opinions that threaten the power and privileges of the ruling class.
The ideology process is necessary because public opinion does not naturally and automatically agree with the opinions of the power elite....Without the ideology process, a vague and amorphous public opinion — which often must be cajoled into accepting power-elite policies — might turn into a hardened class consciousness that opposed the ruling-class viewpoint at every turn.
In order to prevent the development of attitudes and opinions contrary to the interests of the ruling class, leaders within the ideology process attempt to build upon and reinforce the underlying principles of the American system. Academically speaking, these underlying principles are called laissez-faire liberalism, and they have enjoyed a near-monopoly of American political thought since at least the beginnings of the republic. The principles emphasize individualism, free enterprise, competition, equality of opportunity and a minimum of reliance upon government in carrying out the affairs of society.3
The principal ideological goals of the ruling White male elite in America and of the White American nation taken as a whole relative to its domination of the Afrikan American community, are to legitimate and justify their superordinate position and power; generate the evidence which substantiates their claims to power and legitimacy; have their rule and domination appear inevitable and "natural," i.e., not the result of deliberate, perhaps malicious intentions on their part; gain the "freely given" consent of Afrikan Americans to subordination to White Power; and to continuously reproduce the conditions of Afrikan American community dependency and relative powerless-ness. The "manufacturing of consent" of the Afrikan American community to its own subordination — i.e., the ideological indoctrination of the Afrikan American community in such ways as to neutralize its capacity to realize its potential power, to liberate itself from EuroAmerican domination — is achieved not solely through the White ruling elite's ownership and control over all the major ideological vehicles in the society, e.g., the electronic media, print media, educational and socialization institutions and processes.
The receptivity of the Afrikan American community to White American ideological propaganda is chiefly the result of having been socially and mentally conditioned by the systematic control of its concrete living conditions by the White American nation. The sustenance, control and organization of Afrikan American life by EuroAmericans permit them to significantly shape the perceptions, experiences, capacities, expectations and interests of Afrikan Americans so that justification for the rules of White power appear credible. EuroAmerican control of the Afrikan American historical and contemporary social and experiential context is such that it is extremely difficult for many Afrikan Americans to mentally position themselves outside that context so as to compare EuroAmerican propaganda and rules of power with alternative ideologies (specifically Afrikan ideologies) and rules of power and challenge their apparent plausibility and credibility. Thus, as Beetham explains:
[T]he justifications advanced for a given system of power are vindicated by effects generated by the power system itself, but which are not understood as its effects, because they appear autonomous or independent of it. As Marx himself understood well, though not all later Marxists have followed him, or worked out the implications for other dimensions such as gender, it is the appearance of the socially constructed as natural that lies at the heart of all ideology. What is socially constructed is not itself imaginary or illusory, and its evidence gives credibility to the justifications advanced for a given system o: power. Yet the fact that it is constructed indirectly by that same system of power is obscured by the complexity of the processes involved; and by the fact that these processes, such as those of socialisation, are not necessarily managed by the powerful, but often by the subordinate themselves.
The most effective means of disseminating and reproducing ideas in society, and in the Afrikan American community in particular, is to have that community perceive their dissemination and reproduction as the work of disinterested, unbiased, non-manipulative, liberal yet authoritative, White American individuals, groups, or institutions, or as flowing from sources independent of the marked influence of the powerful. Thus, White America strongly pushes and projects the powerful mythology of independent, liberal American media, universities, and other information processing establishments. That is, America loudly congratulates itself for what it calls its "free press" and mass media which permit the free exchange of ideas. Most Black Americans utilize White media and these factors as their primary, if not sole, source of information. Most are not mindful of the fact that the American press and mass media are privately owned, profit-making, White elite-controlled corporations. The press is one among other institutions, "and one of the most important in maintaining the hegemony of the corporate class and the capitalist system itself," advances Parenti.
If the press cannot mold our every opinion, it can frame the perpetual reality around which our opinions take shape. Here may lie the most important effect of the news media: they set the issue agenda for the rest of us, choosing what to emphasize and what to ignore or suppress, in effect, organizing our political world for us. The media may not always be able to tell us what to think, but they are strikingly successful in telling us what to think about ....
It is enough that they create opinion, visibility, giving legitimacy to certain views and illegitimacy to others. The media do the same to substantive issues that they do to candidates, raising some from oblivion and conferring legitimacy upon them, while consigning others to limbo. This power to determine the issue agenda, the information flow, and the parameters of political debate so that it extends from ultra-right to no further than moderate center, is if not total, still totally awesome.5
The central aim of the ruling elite's ideology process is to define the "domain of discourse." That is, the corporate elite seeks to define the limits of "acceptable ideas" and to define what is worth talking about, worth learning, teaching, promoting, and writing about. Of course, the limits of the "acceptable," the "responsible," are set at those points which support and justify the interests of the elite itself. To a great extent the elite ideology process essentially involves the reinforcement of long-held, orthodox "American" values, perspectives, practices and ideals (which the system of power relations has already indirectly shaped to begin with). These factors are the ideological bases of elite power. It is a well-known fact that propaganda works best "when used to reinforce an already existing notion or to establish a logical or emotional connection between a new idea and a social norm" (Hirsch, 1975). It is important to note that many of these preexisting notions are the products of elite propaganda and conditioning processes harking back to earlier historical eras; to socializatior. experiences in the early childhood, adolescent and young adulthood years in the family, educational institutions, peer groups; and tc media exposures during these impressionable years as well. The ideas, attitudes and response tendencies implanted by these earls-experiences are often mistakenly identified by their hosts as self-generated; these previous "selective exposures and experiences" become the infrastructure which helps to maintain a later accrue:: "selective attention," "tunnel vision" orientation. This orientation serves to resist new ideas and practices not compatible with the old or pre-existing set of ideas and practices. This may be the case even when such pre-existing ideas or practices are not producing desired or satisfactory outcomes. Thus, through its monopoly of the media and the means of disseminating and "validating" information and interpreting reality, the ruling elite not only reinforces and channel; those orthodox values which support its supremacy but also utilize; its monopolies to simultaneously prevent "groups with a differer_: ideology from presenting their interpretation of events" As Hirscfa further contends:
In order to preserve ideological hegemony, it is only necessary for the ruling group to reinforce dominant values and at the same time prevent the dissemination of opinion that effectively challenges tht basic assumptions of the society. Public knowledge of inequality and injustice isn't so damaging as long as these perceptions are not draw a together into a coherent, opposing ideology.6
David Sallach' very aptly observes that the ruling elite achieve; its ends when it prevents groups with opposing ideologies from attaining a value consensus through its attempt to create confusion fragmentation and demonstrate inconsistency in their belief system; or, as Domhoff argues, when it ensures that opposing opinions and values are only partially developed, remain isolated, and are made suspect. Thus, as Domhoff summarizes, the elite ideology process and network "is not the be-all and end-all of ruling-class domination. . .. It does not function to eliminate conflict [thereby maintaining the illusion of "the free flow of ideas," "freedom of speech"] but to keep conflict from leading to an alternative ideology that provides the basis for an anticorporate, anticapitalist [anti-White supremacy] social movement."
Domhoff concludes his review of the processes of ruling class domination in America, which parallels and conditions the processes of White supremacy in America and the world, with the very important reminder that "the struggle for power is a continuous one." The contradictions and tensions inherent in ruling class domination and in White global supremacy make such domination vulnerable to a successful challenge from insurgent mass class and ethnic-based movements. An appropriately innovative, united, well-organized, political-economic counterattack by such movements can take successful advantage of the economic or political conflicts and vulnerabilities now present in the White supremacist establishment, or of its inevitable future contradictions and conflicts.
Media and the Ideology Process
Social institutions are the primary means by which a society defines itself, its views of and relationship to its world. This is the case whether we refer to a society's religious, family, education, scientific, economic, health care, political, or other social institutions. Social institutions structure and give meaning to a societ3r's social thoughts, practices and interactions. They regulate and socialize its members and provide the instrumental means by which the society instructs and polices itself, propagates and reinforces its dominant values, maintains and advances its dominant interests, generates social power, and structures its internal and external power relations.
Institutions in an oppressive society function to maintain its structural status quo. As Michael Parenti contends, "Most American institutions, be they hospitals, museums, universities, businesses, banks, scientific laboratories, or mass media, are . . . owned ... by a relatively small number of corporate rich. When trying to understand the context and purposes of the media, this pattern of ownership takes on special significance." In the context of ethnically pluralistic America, the latter part of the next to the last sentence of Parenti's statement can be usefully transliterated to " . . . owned ... by the White American community." However, it remains true that within that community the major institutions, and in the context of our present focus, the mass media, are owned by a relatively small number of the corporate rich. Parenti proceeds to ask and answer the following question:
Who specifically owns the mass media in the Unites States? Ten business and financial corporations control the three major television and radio networks (NBC, CBS, ABC), 34 subsidiary television stations, 201 cable TV systems, 62 radio stations, 20 record companies, 59 magazines including Time and Newsweek, 58 newspapers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and the Los Angeles Times, 41 book publishers, and various motion pictures companies like Columbia Pictures and Twentieth-Century Fox. Three-quarters of the major stockholders of ABC, CBS, and NBC are banks, such as Chase Manhattan, Morgan Guaranty Trust, Citibank, and Bank of America.
The overall pattern is one of increasing concentration of ownership and earnings. According to a 19S2 Los Angeles Times survey, independent daily newspapers are being gobbled up by the chains at the rate of fifty or sixty a year. Ten newspaper chains earn over half of all newspaper revenues in this country. Five media conglomerates share 95 percent of the records and tapes market, with Warners and CBS alone controlling 65 percent of the market. Eight Hollywood studios account for 89 percent of U.S. feature film rentals. Three television networks earn over two-thirds of total U.S. television revenues. Seven paperback publishers dominate the mass market for books.
Of the existing "independent" television and radio stations, 80 percent are network affiliates. Practically the only shows these "independents" produce are the local evening newscasts, the rest of their time being devoted to network programs. Most of the remaining stations are affiliated with the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), which receives almost all its money from the federal government and from corporate donors and their foundations, with a smaller share from listener subscription.
We must keep in mind that when Parenti presented these data in 1986, the ownership and control of the mass media was still diffuse compared to its narrow monopolistic ownership today. Not only has traditional electronic and print media been far more consolidated under far fewer owners since then, but the communications revolution currently underway in the forms of "information superhighways" and giant national and international "interactive" media networks are the sources of furiously combative conflicts over their ownership and control by less than a handful of media and information processing conglomerates. The mass media and information/communications systems are the major tools for generating, maintaining and converting individual and public opinions into social power — power used to oppress and exploit.
The White corporate elite media/information establishment uses its control of the mass media to create and reinforce "the ideology that transforms [its] interests into a "general interest," justifying existing class relations as the only natural and workable ones, the preferred and optimal, although not perfect, societal arrangement."9 The corporate elite-owned and -controlled media function to create a climate of opinion, to shape social perception by framing the reality and information which basically shapes the formation and expression of opinions. They do this mainly through setting the issues agenda, that is, by controlling the "domain of discourse," e.g., determining what is worthy of public exposure and discussion. They choose what issues and information are to be emphasized, to be ignored or suppressed. Consequently, they create visibility and legitimacy for certain persons, groups and opinions and thereby impose limits on public knowledge, interest, discourse, understanding, behavioral orientation and capability.
These contentions can be solidly substantiated by an analysis not only of the ownership and control of the mass media but even more relevant, of their general programmatic content.
Conservatives, and religious New Rightists make over 17.000 weekly television and radio broadcasts across the country, with much of the air time donated by sympathetic station owners. Hundreds of radio and TV stations are owned outright by conservative organizations. Over 1,000 radio and TV outlets beam a fundamentalist evangelical message around the nation [also Afrika, Central and South America, the Caribbean, and the Pacific].
The right is not seeking changes of a kind that burden or threaten the interest of the dominant corporate class. If anything, it advocates a view of the world that wealthy media owners look upon with genuine sympathy, unlike the view offered by left protesters. The centrist media is, in a word, more receptive to the right than to the left because its owners and corporate heads share the right's basic feeling about free enterprise, capitalism, communism, labor unions, popular protest, and U.S. global supremacy, even if not always seeing eye-to-eye with it on specific policies and certain cultural issues. In addition, the right has the money to buy media exposure and the left usually does not.10
Again, an updated version of what Parenti noted in 19S6 will convincingly demonstrate the preponderance and pervasiveness of a general center-to-right political media establishment arrayed against Black America and progressive non-Black Americans. A review of the most popular TV and radio talk programs saliently reveals that they owe their popularity to barefaced and barely disguised anti-Black, anti-liberal sociopolitical orientations and content. In a major urban market like New York City, "hate radio", unadorned, crude expressions of hatred of Blacks are a 24-hour, seven-days-a-week fare. The radio stations and hosts who broadcast such attitudes receive markedly higher ratings and are listened to by enormously larger audiences, numbering in the millions, compared to their milder or even more liberal counterparts. Rush Limbaugh, nationally syndicated TV and radio personality who transparently disguises his Reaganite conservative views, anti-Black, anti-liberal attitudes as "entertainment" and political satire, speaks daily to an audience approaching 20 million, 70% of whom are middle to lower class Whites. His first book sold over 3 million and his second, published in the Fall of 1993, had a first printing of 3 million, the largest in U.S. history.11 Limbaugh's blustery, vacuous rantings laced with cliched conservative "ideolo-guese", earn him not only his large national audience as well as audiences with conservative U.S. presidents and high administrative officials, but an estimated $4 million from radio annually. Sales from his first book grossed over $8 million and his 12-page monthly newsletter supported by some 370,000 subscribers, grosses $11 million.
These earnings pushed Limbaugh's income in the area of $20 million for 1993. Anti-Black propaganda, conservative, ideological publications not only help to maintain the White supremacist status quo but, to put the icing on the cake, are the sources of fabulous wealth, fame and prestige.
Ideological Processes of Afrikan-centered Opposition
The foregoing discussion only hints at the social-political construction and power of the White-owned and -controlled media/establishment system, a system founded on political and economic oppression and exploitation of the masses in general and of Afrikan peoples in particular. In the aftermath of that discussion we need not belabor the need for an aggressive Black-owned and -controlled countercultural media information network. However, to counter the propagandistic White media/establishment the Black media information network must be supported and financed by Black-owned businesses which in turn must be primarily supported by Black consumers. The Black press today is not a free or powerful press because it lacks these necessary supporting pillars. The more "successful" and wealthy the Black media become, meaning the more they are financed by White-owned corporate advertising, the less free and weaker they become. Fear of incurring the disapproval of their White advertisers effectively prevents them from providing their audiences with truthful, critically astute and informative analyses of the nature of White domination. Forget their providing a detailed political-scientific, political-economic, social-scientific, historical/cultural education to their audiences: an education which would revolutionize their consciousness and prescribe the practical means for overthrowing their oppressors and exploiters. This media fears becoming the focal establishment for politically, socially and economically organizing a truly nationalistic Black American community.
If an Afrikan-centered liberation movement is to be successful it must rescue the collective Afrikan mind and soul from the clutches of Eurocentric and non-Afrocentric ideology. Such a movement must organize itself for a struggle to the death against the continuing internalization of self-defeating, self-destructive ideas by Afrikan peoples. It must unite these peoples around the ideology of Afrocentr-ism and inculcate within their breasts a life-saving, life-giving, liberating, Afrikan-centered consciousness and identity. It must incite the peoples to new self-knowledge, to the discovery and development of creative, operative strategies, social relations and arrangements; new values and visions with which they will break asunder — forever — the shackles of White supremacy. These ends can only be attained if the Afrocentric movement goes on the ideological offensive with an overpowering vengeance.
The "powers that be," i.e., the ruling White male elite, has already sensed the tremendous power potential of ideological Afrocentrism and is loudly sounding the alarms. For no one knows better than this establishment the power ideology can generate when it imbues a critical mass of people with a rationale for action and revolution. A review of the most important White mass market publications such as Time, Newsweek, magazines; newspapers, e.g., The New York Times; books, e.g., The Disuniting of America; radio and television programs; academic struggles over curricula of inclusion, Afrocentric curricula and the like, would quickly convince us that the ruling establishment and its cohorts are mounting a comprehensive campaign against the Afrocentric movement. That this coordinated offensive makes use of every possible weapon in the Eurocentric propaganda armamentarium indicates just how dependent the White power elite is on the indoctrination of the Afrikan masses by Eurocentric ideology, and more important, its indoctrination by self-alienating, self-defeating, self-destructive, self-subordinating ideologies, attitudes, social relations and behavioral orientations. Any Afrocentric ideology which successfully induces Afrikan peoples to shed Eurocentric ideologies, attitudes, relations and orientations will at one and the same time induce them to shed themselves of their subordination to White supremacy. In addition, this revolutionary ideology would empower Afrikan peoples to overthrow their European masters and non-European exploiters and to enjoy the bounty of their own labor, lands, resources and humanity. To these ends the White male ruling elite and the White nations are opposed. For them. Afrikan liberation, independence and prosperity is a zero-sum solution, i.e., and real Afrikan gains add up to European losses.
It is in this light that the ruling White elite and the Eurocentric ideological establishment it controls have seen fit to subject the Afrocentric movement and its ideological arm to an "intellectual cointelpro."Themilitantpolice-erectedcointelproofthe 1960s and 70s decimated Afrikan-centered armed resistance groups and radical ideological encampments in the Afrikan American community through outright police murders and executions; malicious espionage, propaganda campaigns, and prosecution; personal character assassination and intimidation. Ideological warfare was also mounted by the ruling elite against the nascent ideology of Black Power and the Black Power Movement. In some interesting ways the Afrocentric movement represents the resurrection of Black Power and is its transcendent.
In its current struggle to defeat the Afrocentric movement the ruling establishment has resorted to its old strategic tactics and invented new ones. The process of discrediting Afrocentric ideology, discrediting its rationales, undergirding thought and scholarship, assassinating the characters of its proponents; intimidating, isolating and dis-employing them, is in full-throttle. A relatively new wrinkle in the ruling elite's strategy involves the invention and employment in vastly increased numbers of a species of Afrikans referred to a? "neo-conservatives." These "academic Uncle Toms and Thomasinas who occupy chairs in prestigious White elite institutions are the war dogs of the establishment whose purpose is to accomplish two of the central ends of elite propaganda discussed above — to prevent among Afrikan American peoples the dissemination of an Afrocentric ideology that effectively challenges the basic assumptions which justify and undergird White supremacy, and to thwart the coalescence of an Afrikan-centered consciousness and identity among Afrikan peoples through the generation of ideological confusion, fragmentation and contradiction. The appointment by the White ruling elite of neoconservative Blacks to chairs in their most prestigious universities, underwriting their publications, permitting them editorial space in their most influential publications and the providing them with valuable electronic media interviews, only hints at the fact that the ruling White establishment means to use all and every means at its disposal to maintain ideological supremacy over the Afrikan world — the key to its supremacy.
Black "neo-cons" write White propaganda in Black face. Their primary goal is to try and defeat the "conscientization" of Afrikan peoples. More dangerous than their writings, which are generally repudiated by the Afrikan community when and if they are read or discussed, is the possibility that these academicians as heads of Afrikan studies and related departments will use their positions to indoctrinate future Afrikan American teachers, professors and intellectuals in addition to students pursuing other vocations with ideologies compatible with White supremacy. If the graduate students of these academicians go on to become heads of Afrikan Studies departments across the country as well as influential journalists, columnists, community leaders and the like, the Afrocentric movement will be markedly hampered, if not completely thwarted in its great leap forward. To a measurable degree the pressure to remove outstanding Afrocentric chairs in Afrikan studies is already moving apace. A number of these chairs have been replaced by academic "Toms" and many Afrikan Studies departments have been restricted in their scope and squeezed dry of life as a result.
The Lack of an Afrocentric Ideology Network
More important than the ideological warfare between Afrocentric and neo-con academics in the battle to win the minds of the Afrikan masses is the absence of an effective Afrocentric ideology network which influences the popular as well as the academic mind. Such a network would include not only academic publications but more crucially, the mass media, i.e., popular books, magazines, newspapers, radio and television programs, community education and training seminars, and rallies. While there has been a manifold increase in the paper and electronic media in the Afrikan American community, and a corresponding emphasis in these media on Afrikan culture and Black identity, Black programming and Black-centered writing and perspectives, this must not be construed to mean that Black-controlled media are fully supportive of Afrocentrism. One can safely describe the popular Black-controlled and -oriented media, dependent as it is on White ruling-elite licensing and largesse, as essentially integrationist, assimilationist, and accommodationist in orientation. As a media they are tied to and promote Americanism as much as the White media, even when they permit a harmless amount of Black radical political dialogue.
The Black Media: White Media in Black Face
The most popular Black media productions, e.g., Ebony, Emerge, Black Enterprise, Essence, Upscale, and other similar magazines; the Black radio stations and television programs which feature Black-oriented formats, have in large measure been victimized by their very success. For such success, dependent on White elite financing and underwritten by White elite advertising revenues, has made "successful Black media" extremely sensitive to Afrocentric ideology and even circumspect about "radical chic" Black-oriented ideology, i.e., ideology emphasizing Black identity and culture that is a bit critical of Eurocentrism, a bit left-of-center in its social and economic value orientations, but still within acceptable White liberal conversational domains. On the whole, the Black media are essentially a parochial establishment lacking vision and courage, craving White media acceptance and recognition. Specializing in racial ego massage, commiseration, complaints and victimization, they are of relatively low-educational value and provide little worthwhile leadership for the Afrikan American community. They are dark imitations of their white counterparts which set their reactionary agendas, news stories, editorials and features. Even though Afrocentrism is phenomenally increasing in the Afrikan American community and popular culture viz., rap music, the popularity of Afrocentic T-shirt art, Afrocentric personal dress and adornments, the demand for Afrocentric and Afrocentric-oriented multicultural education in the Afrikan American community, etc., one would be very hard-pressed to find any popular Afrikan American magazines, such as Ebony, or radio or television series which have produced in-depth, thoroughly descriptive explanations of the ideology and goals of Afrocentrism. Nor would one readily find a clear indication of an Afrocentric scholar, spokesperson, columnist or editor consistently or unrestrictedly published in their pages or hosting their programs. For, essentially, the current Black media establishment is still one with what it was when it received its most severe criticism by sociologist E. Franklin Frazier in his much-acclaimed book Black Bourgeoisie published in 1962.
The Negro press is not only one of the most successful business enterprises owned and controlled by Negroes; it is the chief medium of communication which creates and perpetuates the world of make-believe for the black bourgeoisie. Although the Negro press declares itself to be the spokesman for the Negro group as a whole, it represents essentially the interests and outlook of the black bourgeoisie. Its demand for equality for the Negro in American life is concerned primarily with opportunities which will benefit the black bourgeoisie economically and enhance the social status of the Negro. The Negro press reveals the inferiority complex of the black bourgeoisie and provides a documentation of the attempts of this class to seek compensations for its hurt self-esteem and exclusion from American life. Its exaggerations concerning the economic well-being and cultural achievements of Negroes, its emphasis upon Negro "society" all tend to create a world of make-believe into which the black bourgeoisie can escape from its inferiority and inconsequence in American society. [Emphasis added]
He then argued that "In reporting any recognition which the Negro may receive, the Negro press is not concerned with principles or values except where status, in a narrow sense, is concerned . . . the Negro press is not concerned with broader social and economic values." The contemporary Afrikan American press, except for its marked increase in size and composition, which now includes a much larger electronic, i.e., radio and television sector, maintains the essential character and purpose attributed to it by E. Franklin Frazier. The Afrikan American media establishment still "represents essentially the interests and outlook of the black bourgeoisie." In a number of ways it is even more bourgeois in outlook and interest than in the past. Until the decade of the '60s and '70s the major Black media, particularly some newspapers and magazines like Ebony, still expressed the character of the original Black press, that of organs of "Negro protest." Many publications following the traditions of the first Black papers in America, Freedom's Journal, North Star (later renamed Frederick Douglass'Paper), New York Age, and the Chicago Defender, were staunch defenders of the rights of Black Americans, exposed and fulminated against racial oppression and discrimination. The editorials of Ebony magazine regarding the civil rights struggles of the late '50s and '60s were outstanding. Their emphasis on the historical and contemporary achievements of Afrikan Americans served to enhance Black self-esteem and encourage continuing struggle against American apartheid.
The central ideological thrust of the Black print media was primarily assimilationist and integrationist in character. They struggled mightily against what was then called the "second-class" status of Black Americans and for full equality for Blacks in American society. The ideological thrust and the struggle for social equality manifested by the Black press were in accord with Black bourgeois interests and outlook as well as those of the Black masses, and were generally supported by the White liberal press and White liberal establishment. At the end of the Civil Rights era when most of the important Black bourgeois goals were nominally achieved — school and housing desegregation, affirmative action (which accelerated the movement of Black bourgeois professionals into previously exclusively White employment areas), expanded equal opportunity programs in many social and employment areas for Blacks, tokenism, national Black suffrage, and so forth — the Black bourgeois press and expanding electronic media establishment while still serving as the watchdogs for Black bourgeois interests and speaking for Black community interests, increasingly follows the party line of the liberal White American media establishment. The Afrikan American media establishment in essential ways more closely fits Frazier's characterization of it today than in the late '50s and early '60s when his media critiques were first published.
The Black print media as exemplified by Ebony, Essence, Emerge, EM and other similar national publications fit Frazier's characterizations "to a T." These publications along with their electronic media brethren are boringly innocuous, inoffensive and bland. Apparently frightened of provoking the disapproval of their national and multinational advertisers and of raising the ire of the White ruling establishment on whose favor they depend for survival, these media assiduously concern themselves with reporting the activities of Black celebrities, of the Black bourgeoisie, and with selling the products of White-owned manufacturers to Black customers. The Black media literally "deliver" the Black market to White merchants, their raison d'etre. The Black print media, especially the popular magazines which increasingly project the fashionable lives of Blacks "who have made it" in White society, are little more than fashion and consumer magazines. Their stock-in-trade is now fundamentally the same as White mass publications — celebrity features, male-female relations, career choices and opportunities, exercise and fitness features, self-help and pop psychology features. Controversial issues are superficially treated when dealt with at rare instances and are carefully and inoffensively "balanced." They are careful not to take any editorial position which can be interpreted as Black nationalist or Afrocentric in orientation. The deeper issues and controversies involving Afrocentrism and Black nationalism, involving deep ethnic confrontations between the Black and non-Black communities are virtually ignored or dealt with so gingerly and benignly as to be devoid of any real substance while not revealing where the Black media themselves stand relative to such issues. Afrocentric and Black nationalist interpretations of events and ethnic reality are essentially excluded from the national Black print media and local and regional electronic media. The views of Black nationalist scholars and intellectuals as well as activists are rarely featured in the Black media except when they are the objects of White media attack or have aroused broad White social disapproval, or are engaged in some controversial struggle with the White powers-that-be. Some nationalists and activists are not interviewed or presented even under these circumstances if their mere mention or presence may be interpreted by powerful Whites as representing Black media approval or support for their ideological orientation or social-political activism.
The Black media establishment is highly reactionary. Its agenda is generally set by the White media and ruling/corporate elite establishment. Once a Black person has evoked the full notice and approval or disapproval of the White media and ruling establishment, the Black media establishment compellingly presents him or her to their Black public. The Black media interaction with these noted or notorious persons or groups as defined by the White press or establishment, usually lasts as long as White media focus is maintained on them. Consequently, the White press markedly still determines the visibility or invisibility, the esteem or lack thereof, of Black persons, groups and ideas in the Black media establishment. Rarely does the Black media raise a Black person, group or ideology to prominence based on the intrinsic nature of their relevance to the Black community and to Afrikan liberation without having received some signal from the White media.
Thus, the Black media in its reactionary fashion seconds the motions of the White media in excluding unpopular, anti-White supremacy, anti-Eurocentric, anti-capitalist, and other radical ideological approaches that may provide possibly promising, pragmatic solutions to problems faced by the Black community. They thereby help to deny the Black community innovative and creative alternatives to the failed, yet socially accepted, approaches advocated by the general media (including the Black and White media). In this sense the Black media enters into complicity with the White media against Afrikan liberation from White supremacy.
When expert opinion is sought by the Black media regarding problems facing the Black community, e.g., Black-on-Black violence, drug abuse, economic deprivation, etc., this establishment with its penchant for recognizing as expert only those Blacks so designated by the White media and educational establishments (or celebrities such as movie directors, actors, comedians and other erstwhile Black entertainment or media personalities) will publish the sayings or writings of these "experts" regardless of the fact that they generally express opinions of no real substance or relevance, or more often than not, express regressive and outdated approaches to problems. Typically, the Black media will treat the expositions of Black academics attached to prestigious White elite universities as holy writ without apparently considering the fact that such experts have eschewed any ideological perspectives and pragmatic solutions to problems in the Black community which would meet with the disapproval of their White colleagues and the White institutions for which they work. Their espousal of unorthodox ideologies and approaches would no doubt have precluded their employment by the White establishment institutions in the first place. Obviously, their solutions to problems confronting the Black community will fit within the range of acceptable White elite opinions. Their Black faces and positions in White institutions serve essentially to sanction White elite ideas and values which are antithetical to Black liberation and independence, to give these ideas authority and present them in ways which deceive the Black public into assuming that they operate in its interest when the opposite is true. Moreover, the ready access these White institution-supported Black experts have to the Black and White media, allows them to not only reinforce the ruling ideas of the dominant White elite but to literally block a fair hearing of unorthodox, though often more realistic ideas of independent Black experts, activists and everyday citizens. Frazier succinctly summarizes the scope of the Black press thusly:
The lack of interest of the black bourgeoisie and its mouthpiece, the Negro press, in the broader issues facing the modern world is due to the fact that the Negro has developed no economic or social philosophy except the opportunistic philosophy that the black intelligentsia has evolved to justify its anomalous and insecure position. Of course, plain ignorance of the nature of the modern world and the revolution which is in progress accounts also for the outlook of the Negro press . .. They are generally careful, however, never to offend the black bourgeoisie nor to challenge white opinion on fundamental economic and political issues. In fact, except in regard to race relations, the columnists generally echo the conservative opinions and platitudes of the white world on crucial issues . . . By echoing the opinions of the white community the intellectual leaders of the black bourgeoisie hope to secure the approval and recognition of the white propertied classes with whom they seek identification.
The Black broadcast media is a major culprit in mesmerizing the Afrikan American community, particularly its youth, with stupefying, mind-numbing, retrograde music and DJ claptrap — music created and recorded by the lowest elements of its street culture and sold and distributed by White-owned, Japanese-owned record companies who have shown nothing but the nastiest contempt for the peoples whose music is the principal source of their fabulous wealth and power. In general, Black electronic media feed the mind-destroying, self-defeating addiction Blacks have for music, whether rap, jazz, hip-hop, or gospel. Black celebrity-driven electronic and print media saturate their audiences with Black bourgeois political nostrums and palliatives, hokey cliches and hopelessly wrongheaded prescriptions for Black social and economic advancement and liberation. Black reactionary media push the same corporate conglomerates as do the white media; and like the white media, virtually ignore, suppress, or invalidate more radical, alternative points of view, social, political, economic prescriptions and programs for Afrikan empowerment and liberation. Unlike the white media, however, the Black media does not see as one of their most important roles that of "creating visibility and thereby legitimacy" by raising from relative obscurity those persons, groups and organizations, those publications which speak directly and practically to the liberation of Afrikan peoples from the mental and physical bondage to white supremacy.
Relative to publication of books which target the Black American community, one need only look at the Black literary review sections of magazines like Black Enterprise, Ebony, Emerge, Essence, and literary quarterlies or supplements like the Quarterly Review of Black Books and the City Sun Literary Supplement to note that 99% of the books reviewed are by Black authors published by White-owned presses. Thus, not only is the white-owned book industry pedaled by the Black press, but the rather innocuous books — books edited according to the needs and standards of white supremacy, books specializing in victimology, self-pity, self-aggrandizing autobiographies and inflated biographies of people who were or are famous because they achieved the condescending approval or reactionary disapproval of whites, books advocating solutions to Black problems which have long ago been demonstrated to be complete failures, harmful even — are routinely recommended to a gullible Black public. Books by both Black and white authors that have gained critical acclaim or propagandistic visibility in the white press, that have made the New York Times Best-sellers List are routinely reviewed, their authors lionized and interviewed regardless of their content or genuine social importance or relevance to the Afrikan American community and its critical struggle to survive. Authors and books which address this struggle and prescribe for its success, particularly if they run counter to the social and political status quo, are contrary to "acceptable" [read: white liberal] opinion and Black bourgeois interests, are ignored and actively suppressed by an obsequious Black media or a Black media which is gutless and lacking in vision. The publishing companies more likely to publish such books are the Black-owned publishing houses.
The Black Bourgeoisie - Black Political Establishment Alliance against Afrikan Liberation
Since Afrocentrism and the Afrocentric movement encompass Black nationalism, advocate an economic and social philosophy contrary to that of the ruling White establishment, are avowedly committed to the overthrow of White supremacy and to the development of Pan-Afrikanist solidarity and independence, all such orientations which are viewed with alarm by the White powers-that-be, it is obvious that the Black media as currently constituted will be of little direct value for achieving true Afrikan liberation. In fact, they may retard its progress in this regard. Consequently, the Afrocentric movement and the movement to develop authentic Afrikan Power at home and abroad must continue to develop alternative means of its own to reach the Afrikan masses. The ideological struggle for Afrikan Power will therefore involve ideological struggle against not only the White media establishment but also the Black media establishment. The latter establishment must be subverted by various means into serving the power interests of the Afrikan community or its political and ideological voice and clout must be muted by a more vigorous, relevant and practical Afrikan-centered media-ideological process. Whatever pressure the Black liberation movement can bring to bear against the Black media establishment in order to reach the masses of Afrikan Americans must be applied.
The sociopolitical role played by the Black media establishment must become the object of scholarly and utilitarian analysis and critique. A thoroughgoing critique of the Black press has been too long delayed since Frazier's critique. The relationship of the Black media establishment with the Black political establishment should be the focus of intense critical analysis from the nationalist and Afrocentric perspective. For as Frazier so pointedly noted, the orientation of the Black political establishment is at one with that of the Black bourgeois media establishment and with the Black bourgeoisie as a whole. He observed that:
SINCE THE BLACK bourgeoisie is composed chiefly of white-collar workers and since its small business enterprises are insignificant in the American economy, the black bourgeoisie wields no political power as a class in American societj7. Nor does the black bourgeoisie exercise any significant power within the Negro community as an employer of labor ... In the political life of the American society the Negro political leaders, who have always had a middle-class outlook, follow an opportunistic policy. They attempt to accommodate the demands of Negroes for better economic and social conditions to their personal interests which are tied up with the political machines, which in turn are geared to the interests of the white propertied classes.
The Black media-political establishment alliance can best be seen in its almost uncritical and very adulatory support for Black politicians. The Black media lionizes Black incumbents without critical examinations of their records and supports Black candidates for political office essentially on the basis of their Blackness (generally as long as they are not Republicans). The Black press makes little or no demands on Black politicians while it constantly parades them before the Black community as role models, regardless of their success or lack of it in advancing the interests of the community. The achievements of Black politicians, no matter how dubious, are often presented by the Black press as vicarious achievements of the Black community as a whole. Black incumbents are given ready access to Black media outlets to massage the Black community, to maintain their public persona, and to rationalize their very frequent failures to provide the Black community with responsive and effective political leadership. Thus, they keep their opposition out of the media limelight and the community is cajoled into re-electing a political establishment whose accomplishments are meager when not plainly regressive.
Except in the case of a crisis such as that created by the Depression when the Negro masses changed their political affiliation, the Negro politician may even mobilize the masses to vote against their economic interests. In his role as leader, the Negro politician attempts to accommodate the demands of the Negro masses to his personal interests which are tied up with the political machines. He may secure the appointment of a few middle-class Negroes to positions in the municipal government. But when it comes to the fundamental interests of the Negro masses as regards employment, housing, and health, his position is determined by the political machine which represents the propertied classes of the white community.
The Black media establishment's gung-ho, indiscriminate support of Black politicians and the White male elite-dominated American political system is most clearly exposed during elections when it beats the drums to get Black voters to the polls to elect Black officials. This establishment strives strenuously to convince the Black electorate that every conceivable problem which confronts it can be resolved through voting heavily for Black and friendly White politicians. The Black media is ever quick to remind the Black electorate of the historical struggles necessary to achieve their right to vote. It indicts the community for its electoral apathy and seeks to evoke guilt feelings in those who do not participate in the electoral process — making such ritualistic participation emblematic of democracy and first-class citizenship. This is of special interest when it is realized that very few, if any, of the major political, economic and social goals achieved by Black America, including the Voting Rights Act, were accomplished through Black voting prowess. The ballot box has been a relatively impotent weapon in the achievement of major victories by the Black community. Suddenly vigorous protest and direct-action legal suits and extralegal processes such as boycotts, sit-ins, and the like, which were used so effectively by the community to achieve its sociopolitical ends and to fight injustice and oppression, have fallen far behind the election of Black politicians to achieve the same ends. The mystery of the Black media establishment's complicity with this type of political fraud — the electing of politicians to a bankrupt political system dominated by the ruling corporate elite whose values and aims are inimical to the cause of Black liberation; the election of Black politicians who are but pawns of the White Democratic Party machine and who seek to have the Black community identify its communal interest with the politicians' personal interests; the election of politicians who in no way are interested in developing a program for the economic emancipation and empowerment of the Black community, and who are not committed to the final overthrow of White supremacy, becomes clear when we recognize their bourgeois interests.
The realization that the Black owners of the major Black media outlets have been financed by White funding sources, are supported by White advertisers, have gained access to their media properties through special dispensations, provisos, set-asides and affirmative action programs promulgated by the two political parties, especially the Democratic Party; the realization that the holding of political office or high appointive positions in government and the private sector on the part of a large and influential segment of the Black bourgeoisie, that their social standing in the Black community was achieved and is maintained by their ties to the Democratic Party and the American electoral system — make it obvious as to why this Black social class seeks to convince the larger Black community that voting is the end-all and be-all of Black liberation. Consequently, the Black community is spared a true, realistic and thorough education as to how the American political system really works by the Black media establishment. It is not informed as to how the system is subverted by the White corporate elite; as to how the process of governance is almost unrelated to the electoral process and electing of politicians; as to how an economically powerless people are almost invariably a politically powerless people as well. The Black community is misled by electoral mumbo-jumbo and antiquated, ethereal political theory into placing all its hopes for survival, security and liberation in the hands of politicians who are as powerless as the community they represent. Because of their personal and career ties to the White American political system, electoral processes and political parties, Black politicians, along with their Black media supporters are almost instinctively opposed to an independent, nationalistic political and economic movement. This is particularly the case when those movements rival their own leadership and influence in the Black community, and when they cannot control or squash them at the behest of their White political and party bosses.
Thus, if the Afrikan American community is to achieve truly substantial power in America it must rid itself of the leadership and influence of the Black political-media alliance as it exists today. The stranglehold on Black opinion by bourgeois publications such as Ebony, Essence, Jet, Emerge, Black Enterprise, EM, Upscale, Class magazines and the like by electronic media outlets like BET, Ebony-Jet Showcase, Tony Brown's Journal, must be successfully challenged by the nationalist and Afrocentric movements.
To a good extent the popularity of Afrocentrism and Black nationalism at this time in the Black community attests to the effectiveness of the Black nationalist Afrocentric ideological thrust. The effectiveness of the ideological tactics of the Afrocentric movement is also attested to by the over-reaction and vigorous ideological counterattacks and preemptive strikes of the White media, White academic and political establishments. However, the ideological struggle by the Afrocentric movement is far from won. It is currently at near-deadlock with its White establishment opponents and their fifth column Black "neo-con" lackeys. This means that the Afrocentric campaign must increase in its intensity and scope. Such an increase involves:
- Exposure of Afrocentric ideas through a broad range of publications regarding all important subject matter areas, e.g., political science, history, culture, anthropology, the social sciences, mathematics and science, literature, economics and economic development, military strategy and tactics, propaganda and ideological warfare, espionage, etc.
- Taking advantage of every opportunity offered by the media to spread Afrocentric ideology.
- Developing and widely distributing Afrocentric books, booklets, pamphlets, articles, records, tapes, CDs, newsletters, journals, clothing items and symbolic adornments.
- Sponsorship of Afrocentric community seminars, festivals, cultural events, training sessions; develop mental projects.
- Establishment of Afrocentric rehab centers, recreational programs, educational programs and schools. Seeing to it that the chairs of Black studies programs are filled by Afrocentric scholars. Push for the establishment of all-male training programs and schools and Afrocentric curricula throughout the early childhood, primary, secondary and higher education institutions.
- Challenges to neo-con and bourgeois ideological publications and public utterances.
- Development of a prosperous Afrocentric economic business and financial network. Spearheading capture of the internal markets of the Black community as well as penetrating those of aliens and Whites. Development of a full-fledged import-export business network across the Afrikan Diaspora as well as with other trading partners.
- Establishment of independent political party.
- Establishment of a nation-within-a-nation.
All of this implies that the Black nationalist press must challenge the Black bourgeois media relative to their duplicity, cowardliness and lack of imagination. It must accelerate its organization and clout and seek to overthrow what little influence the bourgeois Black media has in the Black community as well as counter that of the more dominant White media.