I hope that you are having a restful and nice weekend. The weather is unseasonably warm here in Chicago. I will be taking my afternoon constitutional and feeding the animals who live near the lake some bread and popcorn later in the day.
My main task for this Sunday is to will the New England Patriots to victory against the Indianapolis Colts.
The question remains, if the Patriots overcome the Colts, will Belichick and Brady have enough tricks in the bag to take down
Who knows at this point?
Tomorrow is Dr. King's birthday and national holiday.
On that day, the American public will celebrate the empty and obligatory popularized version of a man whose work has been reduced to punchlines that all can embrace across the colorline, robbed of its radicalism and truth-telling through the intellectual and political pasteurization necessary for a person to become an American icon, and where the obligatory I Have a Dream Speech is flattened to make mainstream white America happy--King boldly held white America accountable for its sins, advocated reparations and affirmative action, and spoke clearly and directly about white supremacy and white privilege.
If film is like "writing history with lightning", mass culture has taken Brother Dr. King's radicalism, diluted it, and then spat it out through the tip of an eye dropper across American popular memory and consciousness.
Never forget: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an enemy of the state.
King's work and sacrifice are part of the long Black Freedom Struggle. As such, its cultural workers, activists, and leaders were the target of systematic harassment and violence by the United States government under the decades-long Counter Intelligence Program.
While it may seem absurd and comical in its excesses, the FBI and other domestic intelligence organizations operating under COINTELPRO monitored African-American art and literature for "subversive" messages, and also as a barometer for black protect activist and public opinion.
William Maxwell's new book F.B. Eyes: How J.Edgar Hoover's Ghostreaders Framed African American Literature offers insights and details on those practices that (in addition to monitoring King's speeches and letters) included close readings of work by such seminal figures as Claude McKay, Sonya Sanchez, Richard Wright, and others.
[The visual of FBI officials reading Claude McKay's poems and then performing them at home is a beautiful one. The image of Hoover, a gay man who was likely black and passing for white, all the while he harassed African-Americans and the gay community is priceless...in the worst and most pathetic way possible.]
Maxwell's findings are not surprising. The United States, British, and French used sophisticated propaganda techniques to manipulate publics during World War One. World War 2 saw a refining of the monitoring and control of mass publics through the mass media. The Cold War evolved those practices forward.
In the digital social media era, Twitter, Facebook, blogs, cell phones, email, and other technologies are observed and manipulated by the surveillance society. The difference? The masters of the universe and the security state have incentivized publics to share all of their most private thoughts and beliefs online. COINTELPRO and like operations once hid in the shadows; now, their heirs operate in plain sight with the help of a complicit, eager, and oftentimes indifferent public.
As is our habit and tradition, do you have any discoveries or thoughts to share about issues of public or private concern? Have any of you ever gotten your FBI file? Any activists with stories of FBI or NSA monitoring to share?
A provocative question: Are Hollywood movies like Selma the ultimate example of how the State and culture industry can transform political radicalism into acts of art as commerce that undermine the radical nature of people's resistance movements such as the Black Freedom Struggle and Civil Rights Movement?