Judy, Barbara And Juan: Random Thoughts About A Journalism-Filled Holiday Weekend

Watching and, frankly, enjoying the unapologetically hagiographic network television tributes to the semi-retired Judy Woodruff and newly-deceased Barbara Walters over the weekend, and then waking up to this Juan Gonzalez speech on Democracy Now!, shows how stark differences in mainstream American journalism can be–or at least, used to be, pre-Web and pre-1,000 channels. I accept my membership in Juan’s camp. But it’s clear to do today and tomorrow what he did means using Substack, etc. Effective mainstream journalism has this weird history of coming out of the American muckraking and capitalist traditions, and the millions made by mass advertising created a lot of space for approaches that don’t exist today. So you have to make them yourself, the way I.F. Stone and those folks did.

What’s also interesting to me is how in America, “alternative” spaces, if created by middle-class whites, can eventually become mainstream–or, as some critics of the mainstream would say, co-opted. We remember that at its creation almost 50 years ago, The MacNeil/Lehrer Report and All Things Considered, the newsmagazine of National Public Radio, were silent critiques of, and alternatives to, commercial mainstream news. (Note that among NPR’s alumni is former Philadelphia radio journalist and now Leftist legend Mumia Abu-Jamal.) Almost 30 years ago, Democracy Now! was a radical, almost anarchist critique of the million-dollar media institution it now is. 😉 I guess it now sees itself through that Gonzalez lens of outsider-within-the-inside. Which makes me think: is the middle-class, millionaire blond public television anchor Judy Woodruff just a “purer” version of her commercial counterpart, the long-ago-gone-Hollywood Barbara Walters? It’s a good, fair question.

In 2023 and beyond, more and more truthtellers must struggle with Amiri Baraka’s words, applied to race but easily, in this monochromatic circumstance, given to class:

***

I know it’s hard to be Black, and we’re all controlled by white folks.

[W.E.B.] Du Bois said we always have the double consciousness.

We’re trying to be Black, and meanwhile you got a white ghost hovering over your head that says, “If you don’t do this, you’ll get killed. If you don’t do this, you won’t get no money. If you don’t do this, nobody’ll think you’re beautiful. If you don’t do this, nobody’ll think you’re smart.”

That’s the ghost.

You’re trying to be Black and the ghost is telling you to be a ghost.

***

I appreciate Walters intervening Egyptian president Anwar Sadat. But I appreciate more that she said a few years ago that in today’s commercial news media climate, no one would care about it. I will appreciate what Woodruff soon will teach me about parts of America of which I know nothing. But I still see ghosts in my TV tube. And with money and stardom on the line, very few Juan Gonzalez-es who will challenge powerful people like Woodruff’s and Walters’ employers.

Juan Gonzalez’s Final NYC Lectures (Before Moving To Chicago)

https://www.democracynow.org/2022/12/23/latinos_race_and_empire_a_talk

https://www.democracynow.org/2022/12/6/juan_gonzalez_reflections_on_40_years

*****

*****

More on Juan Gonzalez can be found here.

2022 Freedom Scholar Dr. Jared Ball!

(BWMN)—Dr. Jared Ball, an increasingly important activist in Black radical and Pan-Africanist circles, has been named a 2022 Freedom Scholar, one of ten selected this year.

The prize—a one-time, no-strings payment of $250,000, awarded individually to all ten scholars—has been presented to renowned intellects such as Robin D.G. Kelly and many others since the Marguerite Casey Foundation created the Freedom Scholars award in 2020. Scholars are anonymously chosen by former recipients. 

“It is a surreal contradiction,” Dr. Ball commented exclusively to The Black World Media Network via email after the announcement. “But to be reminded or made aware of the value my work has to particular peers for whom I have tremendous respect is humbling, something I cherish, and am honored by. Most of us in academia are not disconnected, ivory tower scholars. We are just marginalized, unappreciated, and under-resourced. So this award is very much appreciated on several levels.” 

Ball, the host of iMiXWHATiLiKE! with Jared Ball podcast, the flagship program of the Black Power Media collective, is a professor of Communication and Africana Studies at Morgan State University, Maryland’s leading HBCU. He is the author of The Myth and Propaganda of Black Buying Power, of which a second expanded edition is forthcoming in the spring. A board member of The Black Scholar journal and a frequent contributor to Black Agenda Report magazine, Ball is a co-founder of Black Power Media, which has reached a total of 21,000 subscribers since it launched on YouTube in February 2021.

The Morgan State University scholar’s professional multimedia website, imixwhatilike.org, lists his research interests as “the interaction between colonialism, mass media theory and history, as well as the development of underground journalism and cultural expression as mechanisms of social movements and political organization.” As an activist and advocacy journalist, he has been a longtime public champion of radical, independent media and political prisoners such as writer Mumia Abu-Jamal and Dr. Mutulu Shakur, the alternative-medicine specialist and godfather of slain hiphop superstar Tupac Shakur.

The other 2022 scholars are: Dr. Davarian L. Baldwin of Trinity College; Noura Erakat, J.D., of Rutgers University; Dr. Ruth Wilson Gilmore of the City University of New York; Dr. Sarah Haley and Derecka Purnell, J.D., of Columbia University; Mariame Kaba of Pratt Institute; Dr. Beth E. Richie of the University of Illinois-Chicago, Dean Spade, J.D., of Seattle University and Dr. Olúfémi O. Táíwò of Georgetown University.

Freedom Scholars “conduct research in cutting-edge areas of scholarship as varied as feminist prison abolition, global urbanism, alternatives to movement capture, Indigenous erasure and militarized policing—critical fields of research that are often underfunded,” according to the Casey Foundation’s website.

Dr. Ball’s award is “proof that principled radicalism and constant work—his 20 years of scholarship, activism and free, intelligent community broadcasting—always wins,” posted BWMN staffer Todd Steven Burroughs on social media after the announcement. He is co-editor with Dr. Ball of the anthology A Lie of Reinvention: Correcting Manning Marable’s Malcolm X.

Read the Casey Foundation press release here.

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My Comments on “Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra” Finale (Episode 8)

Power to the Person?

MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow is a master storyteller, and Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra attempts to be an epic story for this moment. It succeeds in being hella entertaining.

My last Ultra post was about its historical emphasis, allowing this subsequent comment to be ideological in nature. And so, clad in my dashiki, a note to Maddow and MSNBC:

The best way to fight organized fascism is an organized radical united front, not just individual efforts because the latter depends on liberal democracy working on your behalf. Didn’t McCarthyism, instead of an American movement against fascism, flow from this history?

This kind of color-within-the-lines conclusion is why what Dave Chappelle said at the end of his Saturday Night Live monologue was so important: as Black people, we are no strangers to the system not working. Sadly but not surprisingly, Maddow doesn’t have a James Baldwin/I.F. Stone-type voice who would hit that target, expressing the idea that American democracy itself is a flawed concept at its core. Nope, me no trust paleface.

And, Rachel and MSNBC, um, you might want to, um, not take off the air anyone else who speaks plainly about the current rightwingers (*cough* Tiffany Cross *cough* 🙂 ).

Brief Thoughts As We Wait For Next Week’s Finale of “Rachel Maddow Presents: Ultra”

A true drama about a deliberately-forgotten time

Tellingitlikeitis/keepingitreal/keepingithunnert, etc. I have never gotten the Rachel Maddow hype. Every night I tuned in to her MSNBC show she acted like she and her research/producing staff had broken Watergate or had the Pentagon Papers! LOL! I still don’t understand that RussiaGate stuff!

So, now, to her podcast narrative series Ultra. I’m now completely caught up and I’m excited about the forthcoming last episode.

Like the greatest middlebrow magazine writers of the last century, Maddow’s clearly a very talented reporter, narrator and dramatist. But she continues her television approach here. Clearly, the ultra-patriotic American nation was not shivering in collective fear before and during World War II because of the existence of small (but well-organized and armed) groups of American Nazis and their fellow travelers; their salutes dropped quickly after Pearl Harbor. And as someone who has also studied a little of the history of 20th-century radio, perhaps it’s debatable that the radio racist Father Charles Coughlin was as politically powerful as she is saying, the same way not everyone in the nation believed Martians were invading Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. 🙂 But she’s making the same point that Pulitizer Prize-winning historian David Blight made at the end of his recent Yale conference on teaching race and slavery: these politically-retrograde people have always been here, will always master any updates to the art and science of influence and are never leaving the collective, progressive us/US at peace.

YouTuber #JohnCampea Pays It Forward

Surprise! This OG online critic sees you!

As folks who follow me on social media can see by now, I spend a *ridiculous* amount of time each week watching #JohnCampea, #GraceRandolph, #ScreenCrush, #NewRockStars and others to get my TV/movie superhero news fix. Because of this act of kindness, I will no longer feel guilty about the two hours I spend with Campea almost every damn weekday! #TJCS #TheJohnCampeaShow

Black Press Legends Ethel Payne and Alice Dunnigan Get New Posthumous Honor

Asante Sana, Askia Muhammad

I was so happy to try to give him his journalistic flowers while he was here.

FEBRUARY 27th UPDATE: The Final Call’s tribute can be found here and here.

MARCH 5th UPDATE:

APRIL 2nd UPDATE: Coverage of the above event can be found here and here.