Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Political Racial Theater: What Did You Think of PBS's 'After Ferguson' Town Hall Special?

What are your thoughts about the PBS special, "After Ferguson", which aired last Friday night?

I have never seen a man kick himself in his own behind. However, during the After Ferguson town hall meeting I did see a black shuck and buck banjo playing conservative perform public analingus on a white man from the Right-wing publication the American Spectator.

The latter is a relatively common act in post civil rights era America; by comparison, to see the former would be a truly compelling and interesting event.

PBS's special on Ferguson was well-intentioned.

Unfortunately, After Ferguson suffered from serious problems of framing, semantics, and substance.

To point. There is no "after Ferguson" because Darren Wilson, the cowardly thug cop who killed Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who had surrender to him, has not yet been arrested, tried, and convicted for murder.

There is no After Ferguson because the structural issues of white supremacy and institutional racism that have made the black residents of that community into "custodial", second-class citizens in their own country, have not been addressed.

And ultimately, there is no After Ferguson because white on black and brown police violence within a broader context of societal/institutional white supremacy has yet to be properly corrected in post civil rights era America.

As part of the cultural trope and genre known as the "national conversation" on race, After Ferguson channels a narrative wherein there is some "crisis" about racism, the moment is treated like some type of surprise or outlier, and white supremacy is transformed by the mass media into something mysterious and unconquerable.

White supremacy in America is not a ghost, chimera, or "unknown unknown". Rather, it is one of the most documented sociological facts in American life and culture.

Confronting institutional white supremacy in a meaningful way would involve enforcing standing laws such as the Voting and Civil Rights Acts, expanding the America credo of "personal responsibility" to include white folks being made to confront their own racism and to do something meaningful and substantive about it, and locking up thug cops and other enforcers of racial terrorism such as Darren Wilson.

Institutional racism persists in 21st century America because too many white folks are materially, psychologically, and politically invested in perpetuating it. Unfortunately, basic ethical and moral guidelines such as the "Golden Rule" are trumped by the possessive investment in Whiteness.

The political theater that was PBS's "After Ferguson" contained two predictable elements.

The first was the presence of Ross Kaminsky, an arrogant conservative who recited tired white victimology laced talking points about "reverse racism", and thus how black justice claims for our full human rights are illegitimate, because they hurt white people's feelings.

During After Ferguson, Kaminsky unintentionally demonstrated the deep kindness, patience, and hospitality of black Americans towards white people. His tone deafness and racism should have moved the good black and brown people of Ferguson to put a rocket on his behind and blast him out of town on a rail.

Instead, they showed great comportment and patience towards him; we, those who are marked and categorized as "black" in America are a very kind people...even towards those folks who are undeserving of such treatment.

I would suggest that the more troubling character and dangerous character on PBS's After Ferguson special was Jason Riley, a standard self-hating shuck and jive black conservative political race minstrel.

Riley is a reminder that once and again, the sole purpose of black conservatives in post civil rights era America is to legitimate white supremacy, run interference for white conservatives, and to be human political waste receptacles for the many varieties of racism channeled by the White Right.

In all, the credibility of After Ferguson was undermined by the presence of Ross Kaminsky and Jason Riley.

TV news is a type of popular culture. We live in an era when empirical reality and truth are subverted by an intellectually vacuous need for "balance" in our political opinions. This obsession results in a news media that distorts the facts, betrays its obligation to be a check on power, and consequently creates a state of confusion among the general public via the circulation of disinformation.

For example, during After Ferguson, Riley was on a brief panel with some serious people who possess substantial expertise on matters of race and racial inequality. When asked for his thoughts about how to stop racism in America, Riley defaulted to some tired silliness about black people's behavior and "bad culture". Ahistorical, noxious, and foolish, he showed his toothy whites and grinned for the benefit of his white conservative masters because as we all know, black people are the ones most responsible for anti-black racism.

In America's racial discourse, black conservatives are the equivalent of those "scientists" and others who deny that global warming is real. In much the same fashion, the media will feature the 3 out of 10,000 climate scientists who hold this discredited view and present them as a type of reasonable balance to the standing facts and overwhelming professional consensus on the subject.

Black conservatives such as Jason Riley are a sideshow. In that role they should only be included--if at all--in substantive and intelligent discussions about racial inequality as performance artists in a political human zoo, playing a role where they will be made into objects of scorn, pity, and curiosity.

It is unfortunate that media events such as PBS's After Ferguson (and similar shows) that yearn to elevate America's "national conversation" on race, very often do the public a disservice by presenting verifiable and known facts about the nature of racial inequality in the United States as mere opinions or great mysteries, when the reality is much simpler.

But who would want to do such a thing when the "mystery" and "surprise" by too many in the (white) American public in response to the reality of racism in post civil rights era is so much more compelling and entertaining?


Learning Is Eternal said...

Entertain it is. "I can either be surprised or admit complicity in the atrocity that is your black life. Cheap as it may be, I've built an empire off your back and my denial of all things real, scientific or the like that contradicts (my) white privilege/supremacy. Racism just might be a thing but Jesus will never be black. No, sir. My guns and my god are not to be compromised..."

I wonder if panelists for such Ep.'s are chosen like potential jurors for murder trials of "the herrenvolk" when the Vic is an unarmed black boy/girl? That question is in reference to the black conservationist of white supremacy that some how pops up each time to balance (silence) opinions of the more militant, revolutionary or the non-robotic product of media in general who happens to simply think for themselves.

There is never a voice like mine or statement that reads like this entry in any discussion visibly in media or print sans this site.

An articulate expression of the energy felt by those at ground zero of this lynching would suffice.

Salute. On point as always.

DanF said...

Well stated as always Mr. DeVaga.

I'm glad PBS is trying to advance the conversation. It's bound to fall short given our dysfunctional understanding of journalism and our national inability to come to terms with uncomfortable truths. I don't watch TV anymore, but I hope they at least recognized that there is an issue and that they tried to advance the ball using the tools they have.

chauncey devega said...

I didn't even think to look at his bio...didn't want to feel dirty. PBS is supposed to be more "balanced" and in the "public interest". But look at their advertisers. Quite sad to see how far they have fallen. Or was PBS ever really that good anyway?

chauncey devega said...

When and why did you stop watching TV? I am always curious about how folks make that decision and how it has impacted their access to entertainment, information, etc?

chauncey devega said...

I also wonder about the editorial meetings. What is the process that leads them to the conclusion that this mix of people is representative of the expert opinion on a subject? Or is it more, like "x people will be entertaining and that is all that matters?"

Wild Cat said...

If you can access the current issue of Harper's (paywall), you can see how politicized and nullified PBS was from the start.

Buit as far as I can tell, the fascists have always cried wolf, as they do with everything, which is why they've won. PBS is a friend of Wall Street and much else that is undesirable and irrelevant for the 99.9%.

Learning Is Eternal... said...

The distraction of entertainment is a major impediment in a sound solution.

DanF said...

It started when the first kid was born almost 12 years ago. We let them watch some PBS kids when they were young, but only an hour very infrequently. I get my news from the Interwebs - local news from the local paper - we do a family movie night which is either from a DVD we own or rent from the library. We tried Netflix for a bit, but there was too much crap in the family/kid section that we had to say, "NO" to way to often. Working in our favor is that our kids attend a Montessori school where many of their friend's parents are of like mind in this regard, so there is no peer pressure to be up on the latest show. We have game nights occasionally and we read a lot. There is piano practice and soccer. We play with Legos, we draw, the kids play together. We have dogs and a hamster. We cook our meals each night.

Honestly, even though it sounds like there are many worthwhile programs on the cable right now, even without kids, I can't imagine watching as much TV as I did before they were born. It literally doesn't even occur to me to check the channels. And I'm not a TV hater. I used to enjoy watching TV with my family as a kid.

ToneTone said...

It's funny how talking about justice and equality make some white folks feel persecuted. It has been pretty clearly documented that we live in a society that is unjust at its foundation. How could justice for me and equal protection under the law for me mean that I support the persecution of white people? The ignorance is breathtaking.

OldPolarBear said...

"Liking" this comment many, many times! I was going to rip on PBS in general, but you have done a very good job of it. I would only add that everything also goes for NPR.

Louie said...

Is your blog comprised of your goofy opinion and the same three commenters who agree with?

balitwilight said...

PBS is merely the video version of NPR: a propagandistic arm of the American oligarchy. Their specific purpose is to soothe, and manufacture consent among, self-flattering "liberals". Whether the issue is torture, war, regulatory capture, the climate emergency or racism - you can count on NPR and PBS to find the balanced viewpoint somewhere between Rabid-Facist Imperial Neo-Liberalism and Anxious "White" Imperial Neo-Liberalism.

Watching another "national conversation on race" on American mass-media today would be like watching a Leni Riefenstahl-filmed panel discussion on "The Jewish Problem" in 1934 Berlin. These conversations are nothing more than the "family-talk" a violent alcoholic husband convenes monthly with his bruised family.
I'll start watching when there is a 12-part "National Examination of White Supremacy" series, or a 2-hour "National Report on American Racism (statistics included)". Don't hold your breath. What is needed now is resistance.

Pam_L said...

I watched less than five minutes of that tripe before I couldn't take any more and switched channels!

DanF said...

I have NPR on during the drive to work, then change the channel to Democracy Now! for contrast. Democracy Now! is a little unpolished (not a problem) and has a bias (usually borne out by the facts, but occasionally hyperbolic), but at least they respect their audiences intelligence, put actual experts on and cover a story in depth. Morning Edition spends maybe two minutes on a few important stories interspersed with longer pieces about stupid pet tricks and album releases by obscure artists that you should know. Ridiculous. It makes me want to kick Steve Inskeep in the Jimmy.

The Sanity Inspector said...

Calling a show "After" Ferguson does sound overly optimistic. One might quote Shakespeare on that one: "Thy wish was father, Harry, to that thought."