Black in America: CNN, and the Art of Opportunism
By: Tolu Olorunda
By now, most are familiar with the much publicized CNN Documentary "Black in America." A truckload of anticipation has been rallied up, in preparation for its premier on Wednesday, July 23, 2008. CNN - with as much hubris as a mega network can muster - has openly bragged of their award-winning history, and probably feel entitled to a Nobel peace prize at the launch of this - as described - "Special Report." To some, what CNN is doing is magnanimous and worthy of adulation, while to others, this 'experiment' might be a sheer opportunistic stunt, glamorized as an investigation into the "disturbing statistics" of Black Life in America. Whether one is supportive or oppositive of the motion, one thing can be amicably agreed upon: CNN is at best, ill-equipped to tender a truthful, un-embedded and solution-rendering report that exposes the malicious forms of surveillance, subjugation and devaluation that have contributed greatly to the moral decrepitude of the Black community, family and individual. CNN promises to - with the help of this expose - enlighten "all of America" to know what it fully means to be "Black in America." Unfortunately, I'm not buying it. It is with this understanding that I hope to outline why CNN is engaging in quid pro quo.
The two-part report is purported to cover every breadth and depth of the Black experience in America. The first airing is expected to focus squarely on "The Black Woman & Family." While this might seem conventional, the inquiring mind is left to wonder why CNN would engage in such risky and reprehensible conduct, as to divide a family - as was done in the age of legal enslavement - and insinuate a division between Black Male and Black Female. It is widely recorded and noted, that two-thirds of the children born into Black Homes today, are single parented. Nevertheless, it does appeal to one's sense of apprehension that "the most trusted name in news," saw no wrongdoing in assuming - through its untamable ego - that it could forego the Rebekah Levine Coley study, in which the Boston Univ. Professor points out how - more than any other ethnicity or race - Black Fathers without residency in the home, are more likely to sustain regular contact with their kids. In addition to its coded symbolism of Black disunity, "the best political team on television" was also unabashed in propagating the supremely-refuted lie (Katrina helped out), that the burdens of the Black community are "not just a black problem" but an "American problem." This facade of idiocy has, in the past, been subjected to interrogation and unveiled to be nothing other than a neo-liberal fantasy. As the Texas Cowboy once remarked, "we've heard this foolish delusion before."
While my aforementioned complaints will be perceived, by some, as a mixture of ideological differences fused with paranoia, it is noteworthy to recall that not only is CNN unreliable in matters of truth-telling, but it's reputation as a liberal enterprise has never been invalidated. When in 2000, the Dutch periodical, Trouw, reported of CIA Agents stationed in the CNN Newsroom, it was a surprise only to those who we're oblivious to the long-held belief systems of Media watchdogs. The report confirmed the appalling, stating how CNN had "employed military specialists in 'psychological operations' (psyops)." A general with the U.S. Army Information Service corroborated the account saying, "they worked as regular employees of CNN. Conceivably, they would have worked on stories during the Kosovo war. They helped in the production of news.'' The general elaborated, mentioning that the operatives had worked in close contact with CNN for at least a couple of weeks in favor of getting "to know the company and to broaden their horizons." With such a record, how ensured are we, that the international news network will be unadulterated in telling our story in its entirety -- without distortion or misrepresentation? Indeed, there is no guarantee.
In my judgment, CNN is not only a station rife with mendacity, but a corporation that has dug deeper into the well of hypocrisy than any other News network. CNN has preached sanctity and piety while simultaneously employing and endorsing - in the past and present - known misogynists and bigots. Political contributors for CNN include Alex Castellanos, who once complimented Sen. Hillary Clinton as a "White bitch" - later apologized but noted that "some women, by the way, are named that and it's accurate" and William Bennett who - following the Iowa Caucus on January 3 - pontificated that Barack Obama is acceptable to white voters because "he has taught the black community you don't have to act like Jesse Jackson; you don't have to act like Al Sharpton." Sadly enough, CNN's political contributors are only the tip of the ice berg compared to its well-paid talk show hosts, pundits and anchors.
A well known talking head on "CNN Headline News," is conservative talk/radio show host, Glenn Beck. Beck built a successful career for himself, through the traditional route of bemoaning the very thought of a world with the existence of leftists and liberals. In recent times, he has made headlines for his not only controversial view-points, but his often, vitriolic remarks. In November 2006, while interviewing the Muslim Congressman, Keith Ellison, Beck in a self-amusing tone, questioned Ellison's patriotism, and hinted at Islam being a license for terroristic sensibilities. Beck as usual, felt undaunted when he said "sir, prove to me that you are not working with our enemies. And I know you're not. I'm not accusing you of being an enemy, but that's the way I feel, and I think a lot of Americans will feel that way." Following the 'pat on the hand' remediation from CNN, Beck was of course giving a get-out-of-jail-free-card to resume his mission of lending support to fellow shock-jocks who had openly expressed their disdain for black womanhood. On May 14, 2007, at a CNN's American Morning appearance, Beck defended disgraced radio host, Don Imus and decried the "leftist witch hunt" that attempted to hold Imus's feet to the fire -- following his unremarkable comments about the beautiful Rutgers female basketball team.
Another staple at CNN is Lou Dobbs -- most famous for his invective-laden rants about Mexican immigrants and the Mexican community at large. He has built a hall of fame career, from his unique brand of cursing the ground that Mexicans walk on. His endless list of acidic commentary on Mexican immigration has garnered him the 'golden boy' status over at CNN. As the second most watched show on CNN, nothing he says can ever be deemed 'crossing the line.' Dobbs has claimed numerous "facts" that correspond with his anti-immigration stance, but many of those very facts have been dispelled and often times unraveled as fabrications. He once claimed that an "invasion of illegal aliens" was bringing "highly contagious diseases" to America, "decades after those diseases had been eradicated" here; stating that more than 7,000 new cases of leprosy had been reported in the previous three years. His made-up myth was debunked when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that new cases of leprosy, which totaled only 398 from 2002 to 2004, had been declining in the United States since 1988. On December 4, 2007, at an appearance on Democracy Now! - the brilliant and incisive daily show - Lou Dobbs was confronted by the hosts, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, and questioned as to the regular feature of white supremacist hate groups - and its members - on "Lou Dobbs Tonight." An issue of concern was a U.S. map highlighting the seven Southwestern states that Mexico supposedly covets and calls Aztlan. The map, on May 23, 2006, was used as a prop-up on his nightly CNN show. The map's source was listed as "Council of Conservative Citizens;" a group which has in the past, described blacks as "a retrograde species of humanity." Not to be outdone by a White Supremacist group, Lou Dobbs in a discussion with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, in March 2008, responded to Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice's assessment, that America has a "birth defect" on race. His perspective was that America is the most diverse nation in the world, and so therefore, racial prejudice is a thing of the past. He remarked, "We’ve got to be able to talk about it (race) and I can guarantee you this, not a single one of these cotton pic-." Upon a moment's notice of his near-utterance of the word "cotton picking," he refrained himself, and instead suggested that "ridiculous politicians" should not be the moderators "on the issue of race" but "we have to have a far better discussion than that." CNN, subsequently, in a cowardly fashion, eliminated the cotton picking element from the published transcript. CNN neither released an apology nor a statement on the issue.
It is also imperative to remind CNN that it once provided a platform, between 1982 and 1999 to a man - described by Journalist, Tavis Smiley as a "Racial Arsonist" - named Pat Buchanan. Pat Buchanan's long history of anti-Black and anti-civil rights rhetoric is long and winded. In a radio interview in 2000, Buchanan claimed baselessly that Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was "one of the most divisive men." Buchanan, who once called Sen. Obama "exotic," in 2007, opined that the Illinois Senator is "not what you would expect from a black guy from the South Side of Chicago." Buchanan was also one of the staunchest defenders of fired shock jock, Don Imus. In a debate with Georgetown Professor, Michael Eric Dyson, Buchanan inferred that Imus was "more a victim of hatred than a perpetrator of hatred." In Buchanan's mind, the Rutgers Basketball teammates weren't victims because they got to appear on Oprah and have simultaneously become the "most famous basketball team in history." Buchanan is also widely known for antagonizing Sen. Obama's March 18, 2008 "race speech." In a column entitled, "A Brief for Whitey," Buchanan, with the authority of a fool, suggested that "no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans." To hear Buchanan tell it, the funnels of "Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs" have done more than enough to "bring the African-American community into the mainstream;" Buchanan ended, "we hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?" Pat Buchanan is also credited for making the assertion that only white males died in the battles of Gettysburg and Normandy; with nearly 2000 African Americans accounted to have fought at the June 6, 1944, invasion of Normandy, it is inconceivable that none was made a casualty. Pat Buchanan in his latest gaffe, appeared on a political radio show to promote his latest book. With the show's slogans being, a need to "represent a philosophy that is pro-White" and "revive the White birthrate above replacement level fertility and beyond to grow the percentage of Whites in the world relative to other races,” one is prompted to wonder what CNN was thinking in the hiring of this fellow. Alas! The magic word appears: RATINGS! In light of this, the question must be raised: Is CNN attempting to cash in on the present unrest of the Black Community, or do they have a sincere interest in being harbingers of solutions to the many problems that inflict terror upon Black folks?
In the course of this article, I have attempted to cast my burden upon the waters of suspicion. In the fight for administering the vaccination that deracinates those ailments which have incessantly plagued the Black Community, I'm not convinced that CNN is a contender. If at all any News Network is replete with such competence, PBS would most assuredly lead the pack. Taking that into consideration, I humbly suggest that the politics of sheer-opportunism must be radically denounced and furthermore repudiated. CNN cannot - and is not prepared to - save Black America.