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Democrats, #BlackLivesMatter, Netroots Nation, kayfabe, and ka-ching

As usual, Bruce Dixon lays it on the line:

The first thing to know about the #BlackLivesMatter confrontation with Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders is that it didn't happen on the street or some neutral setting, it didn't happen at some random campaign appearance. It happened at the annual NetRootsNation gathering, this year in Phoenix. ....

If you're a black Democratic party activist like I was for 25 years, even if like me, you never called yourself that, you go to NetRoots to connect with other Democratic party activists, and hopefully, with the people who will be handing out grassroots money, among other things, to get out the Big Black Vote in November, without which Democrats on every level have no hope of winning.

High ranking Democrats who hand out money, whether through partisan campaigns or to ostensibly nonpartisan and/or nonprofit organizations are always on the lookout for new activist blood with catchy new hooks, for activists who'll say the things they will not say in the effort to turn out the black masses for that Big Black Vote. So if you're a black activist at NetRoots you really NEED to stand out, to get noticed by the people who can give you fellowships, grants, jobs, funding of all kinds, and a career.

Since Hillary is the all but inevitable Democratic nominee, confronting two minor white male candidates, demanding they “say her name” and come up with solutions that address white supremacy, structural racism and the runaway police state is pretty much a foolproof strategy to get noticed, and as Hillary did not attend NetRoots, they got to do it without antagonizing the Clinton camp. Hillary wisely covered her own ass by releasing a tweet that unequivocally said “black lives DO matter.”

But all in all, the NetRootsNation confrontation wasn't the stirring of black women activists “taking their rightful place at the front of the progressive movement,” as one breathless tweet called it. It didn't tell us anything we didn't know about O'Malley or Sanders, or about hypocritical Hillary.

It was about flying the #BlackLivesMatter flag to jockey for positions inside the machinery that is the Democratic party and its affiliates.

So, I guess we won't be seeing #BlackLivesMatter activists -- the "top" ones, anyhow -- confronting Democrats with real power anytime soon, then? (I've given one very obvious approach for such a confrontation here).

I follow lots of interesting people in Baltimore, St Louis, and elsewhere who are "flying the #BlackLivesMatter flag": Reporters, legal activists, cop watchers, people doing direct provision of vital services and so forth (and some of them paying a real price in terms of trolling, harassment, etc.) I didn't see a lot of reaction from them on the Netroots Nation thing at all, one way or the other; perhaps they're too busy doing "the work."

But then, if the Democrats were creaming off a few photogenic activists to create a new "Black Misleadership Class," that separation* between the nationally visible "spokespersons" and the nationally invisible local workers is exactly what you'd expect, isn't it?

NOTE I'll give it another two weeks. No disruption of a Clinton event by #BlackLivesMatter activists by that point -- and I know a script when I see one -- and my guess is that we can nail the coffin lid of co-optation down. Sad, but we know the playbook, we know who runs the plays, and we've seen the play before.

NOTE * It is true that with hash tag as an armature for national publicity, that the "top" activists can shine the national media spotlight on any local event, simply by visiting the event. (Tinfoil hat time: A candidate will, at some point, spontaneously appear at one.) But that's not the same as organizing, and it's not the same as issuing demands to which the powers-that-be can react, or not. Occupy never did manage to issue demands, but I can't help but think that the reason that #BlackLivesMatter -- if I can use a hash tag as a proxy for a social formation -- has so far failed to issue demands may not be for the same reasons Occupy failed to.

UPDATE If anything, DHS surveillance supports this model. The invisibles are the dangerous ones, and the visibles need to be vetted.

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jo6pac's picture
Submitted by jo6pac on

I think they were right but I guess we'll have to wait and see how it works out in the end.

Rainbow Girl's picture
Submitted by Rainbow Girl on

Via Truthdig, from The Intercept article.

I wonder if the leaders or workers of #BlackLivesMatter know that Hilary Clinton's top fundraisers include the prison lobby. Specifically, Richard Sullivan of lobbying firm Capitol Counsel who is also a registered lobbyinst for for-profit prison corp Geo Group, and Akin Grump Strauss Hauer & Feld, which represents the ne plus ultra of the lucrative privatized carceral industry, Corrections Corporation of America ("CCA").

Also, it was eerie to be reminded of Hilary Clinton's tough-on-crime back in 1994, when she said that "Three strikes and you're out" for violent offenders has to be part of the plan ..." of criminal justice reform.

Given these facts, the Democratic Nomenklatura's keeping Hilary "wrapped in tissue paper" (hat tip Lambert) and physically not-present at an event like NetRoots begins to make sense.

Echoing Lambert, the litmus test of the bona fides of #BlackLivesMatter as a grassroots effort to upend the Black Misleadership Class will come at the event when Hilary is finally unrapped from her tissue paper and the opportunity will squarely present itself to #BlackLives Matter to begin demanding strong policy contra #BlackLivesImprisoned (for example) and the brutalization of black citizens by out of control over-militarized policemen.

Unfortunately I am not holding my breath. Let's also not forget that Hilary (even wrapped in tissue paper she is apparently able to make vague statements or have her well-paid campaign Brooklynites say them for her) has been totally MUM - totally M-U-M - in re another Pillar Issue for this nation - A National Health Care System without the Insurance Industry intermediation. This coheres just too neatly with the fact that Bill was keynote speaker for AHIP (the Health Insurance Industry Lobby Group) in early June. And he had spoken to AHIP a few months after the ACA was signed into law and paid $175K for it.

So if watching who Bill gets paid to speak for and who are the big bundlers for HIlary are provides insight into what Hilary stands for (and will do as President), #BlackLivesMatters should not be celebrating her.

Unless, and sadly if, #BlackLivesMatters is just angling for walking around money and sinecures inside the current well-oiled and deliberately useless (insofar as the well-being of our black citizenry is concerned) Black Misleadership Class.

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

much of anything that comes out of BAR. But, I'm a bit skeptical of the assumption that BLM has sold out to the Establishment Dems/the corporatist wing of the Dem Party (if that's the gist of the piece).

A bit pushed this evening, but in a nutshell, I've read beau coup straight news pieces about the sheer aggravation that this Group poses to both the Establishment Dem Machine, and the Black Mis-Leadership Class.

Many, or not most, of the worse incidents (Ferguson, etc.) have happened under so-called Dem Party rule, or partial rule, (Mayors, Governors, etc.), and the Democrat Party Elites (and some of their black apparatchiks--such as black pastors, community leaders, celebrities like Sharpton, the NAACP, etc., etc.) have usually moved very quickly to dispatch these individuals/organizations to attempt to quell/control protests by BLM. From what I've read, with very little success. Why would that be happening, if they were working hand-in-hand with the Democratic Party?

Here a link to a young WaPo reporter whom I've followed since Ferguson. I've heard him in radio interviews, numerous times--he spent literally months in Ferguson, and has extensively covered the BLM Movement. Guess I could have missed it, but never saw anything from him that indicated that BLM has been co-opted. Maybe Bruce is right--he's definitely one of the best and most knowledegeable writers out there, and BAR is a 'gem'--but I'm still not ready to write them (BLM) off--just yet.

And, BLM could hardly be blamed for Former Secretary Clinton's absence at the Netroots Nation conference (or whatever it is called), when they showed up to protest O'Malley and Sanders.

Regarding staging a protest at a FSC function, if you Guys check out the Twitter Feed of most any major MSM national campaign reporter who is assigned to cover Former Secretary Clinton, it is glaring that the Secret Service presence is extremely heavy. I truly cannot imagine that this organization [BLM], which according to recent news, has been under surveillance since it's inception [by the Office of Homeland Security, FBI, etc.], could manage to get any where near her, since the security is so intense.

But, I could be wrong--it wouldn't be the first time.


Submitted by lambert on

You ask:

Many, or not most, of the worse incidents (Ferguson, etc.) have happened under so-called Dem Party rule, or partial rule, (Mayors, Governors, etc.), and the Democrat Party Elites (and some of their black apparatchiks--such as black pastors, community leaders, celebrities like Sharpton, the NAACP, etc., etc.) have usually moved very quickly to dispatch these individuals/organizations to attempt to quell/control protests by BLM. From what I've read, with very little success. Why would that be happening, if they were working hand-in-hand with the Democratic Party?

It depends on how you define "they." The Black Misleadership Class is not static. It makes sense to cherrypick a few "leaders" and then gas and lock up the rest. But both are part of "they."

Alexa's picture
Submitted by Alexa on

and though I have seen the names of various activists/local leaders reported, I couldn't begin to remember them from many months ago. And certainly, they were not always the same people (since the locations were different).

Of course, I don't have a crystal ball. So, I don't pretend to know, for certain. However, just because some other organizations have been bought off in the past (by grants, etc.)-- without further specific substantiation, I am not ready to accept that this is the case with this group of activists.

Also, BLM, to my knowledge, couldn't help it that Former Secretary Clinton did not participate in the Conference. And I can't prove, one way or the other, whether BLM would, or would not have protested, had she been in attendance. Therefore, I am not totally convinced that they were simply trying to make the 'lesser' candidates look bad, or help FS Clinton.

To quote Rumsfeld: "That's an unknown known." (or whatever he said)


Hopefully, time will tell. If BLM winds up supporting any corporatist Democrat for President, then I will be wrong, and I'll gladly concede that they are sell-outs. (It certainly wouldn't be the first time.)

I'll keep an open mind. And I hope that if something specific is substantiated and/or crops up, someone will kindly point me to it.

Believe me, I'm the last person who wants to have faith in a bunch of frauds.


Submitted by lambert on

... was a perfect moment to practice disruption, since Sanders, O'Malley, and Clinton were all there.

Suffice to say, that I have yet to see BLM disrupt a Democrat with real power. And if you want a good litmus test for who BLM thinks its interests converge with, those they do not disrupt is a good one.