More laurels for Angela Davis, thug

She’s a symbol of everything that has gone wrong with America in the last half-century. There’s no reason to go over every detail of Angela Davis’s criminal history here: we already did that in a couple of pieces in 2016. But here’s a brief summary: Communist Party and Black Panthers member; secretly married to a gangster; supplied guns for a courtroom hostage-taking that ended in several deaths; took it on the lam, was finally arrested and tried, and – thanks to the radical sympathies of at least some of the jurors – was found not guilty.

She was plainly a criminal. But the times being what they were, she was seen as a political prisoner, a warrior for civil rights. A covert campaign by the USSR played a key role in shaping this image. Musicians like John Lennon and the Rolling Stones wrote songs about her; writers like Maya Angelou and Toni Morrison sung her praises.

After her release, she was awarded prizes in Communist countries; supported the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and hung around in Cuba with Fidel Castro himself; in the US, she twice ran for vice president on the Communist Party line and became a professor at a California state university. And, thanks to a leftist media and academy, her name shone ever more brightly in the pantheon of supposed cultural heroes. Our 2016 pieces on her were occasioned by the news that she was about to win a major prize from the Brooklyn Museum for being a role model for women; we revisited her story in 2017 when she was scheduled to be awarded a human-rights accolade by an Alabama civil-rights group. Earlier this year, we noted Davis’s participation in a rally to support Ilhan Omar, the blatantly anti-Semitic Congresswoman from Minnesota.

Well, here we go again. In July, Ron Radosh, an expert on the history of American Communism, reported that the National Museum of African-American History and Culture at the Smithsonian Institution – the Smithsonian! – was planning to honor Davis this September by showing an old “documentary” entitled Free Angela Davis and All Political Prisoners. In fact, according to reliable accounts, this documentary is a whitewash of Davis’s career as a Communist thug. After the screening, one Rhea Combs “will interview and question Ms. Davis.”

Radosh quoted from a press release issued by the museum: “we all recognize that Prof. Davis is a figure for the ages, as fascinating to us now as she was at the height of her incarceration and trial.” The release called Davis’s life “a quintessential American story of activism” and claimed that she had been “criminalized and named on the FBI’s 10 most wanted list” not because she had supplied guns for a crime but “because of her activism in support of social justice.”

As Radosh writes, this is an outright lie. And it’s a lie being told by one of America’s premier cultural institutions about one of America’s most despicable public figures.

Ilhan’s friends

Ilhan Omar

On April 30, outside the Capitol in Washington, D.C., a group of protesters consisting largely of black women held a rally based on a false premise: that Ilhan Omar, the hijab-wearing Muslim Democrat who was elected to Congress last November from a district that includes Minneapolis and some of its suburbs, is the victim of racism and sexism on the part of President Trump, most of right-wing America, and even a few members of her own party. In fact, as we discussed on Tuesday, Omar is a virulent anti-Semite who, ever since her election, has been digging herself a deeper and deeper hole by saying in public what she thinks about Jews. Other prominent Muslims who have also been inculcated with hatred of the Jews do a better job of hiding their bigotry; in a perverse way, perhaps Omar deserves a degree of credit for being incapable of dissembling on the subject. In any event, she is no victim; a refugee from Somalia, she found refuge in America, a country that she routinely disses almost as viciously as she disses Jews, and managed to become one of the first two Muslim women in Congress, a status that has made her an instant star on the left. Of course the topsy-turvy notion of the Jew-baiting Omar as a victim is typical of our time, when a violent group like Antifa can be described in the mainstream media as peaceful and anti-fascist and when every act of jihadist terror brings another round of media hand-wringing over the possibility of anti-Muslim backlash by evil “Islamophobes.”

But back to the rally. One banner described it as “Black Women in Defense of Ilhan Omar.” Another banner read “Black Women in Defense of Progressive Women in Congress.” Those progressive women, of course, include not only Omar but her fellow Muslim, Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. Only on the American left in the second decade of the twenty-first century can devout Muslims, one of whom wears a symbol of female subservience, be hailed as “progressive.” The other high-profile progressive Congresswoman, of course, is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former New York bartender who hates capitalism, hates ICE, is a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, sent the Senate a “green new deal” that was so wacky that absolutely nobody voted for it, and posted a video on social media in which she reported on her baffled encounter, in her new Washington, D.C., home, with a gizmo in her kitchen sink that made a scary sound when you flipped a switch. (She had never seen or heard of a garbage disposal before.) Also, although not a Muslim, she hates Israel almost as much as Omar and Tlaib do.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Anyway, the rally. One speaker described it as a gathering of “professors and labor leaders and artists and organizers.” Plus a whole lot of members of Black Lives Matter. The goal, explained one woman, was to “defend the right of black women to speak about and act upon what happens to black women in this country.” In particular, the idea was to stand up to Trump and the GOP, who had “put a hit out on Ilhan Omar,” who was described as a victim of “white supremacist violence” and of “racist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, sexist, vitriol” on the part of white nationalists. But the protesters were also there to fight “Islamophobia” and to express solidarity with “trans people,” “black and brown people in the sex trades,” prisoners, migrants, and “our sisters and brothers in Palestine.” Attendees were told that the current crisis in Venezuela is the result of American foreign policy. They were also fed the revisionist version of Angela Davis’s criminal history, in which this felon is magically transformed into a victim. These were people for whom reciting chants like “let my people go” and “we aren’t going anywhere” and “hands off Ilhan” and listing the same dozen or so identity groups over and over again seemed to be a substitute for actual thought. America itself, of course, was depicted as an Evil Empire, a dystopia in which every problem ailing black women is the fault of racism and misogyny on the part of white people who are still, if only symbolically, “lynching” and “whipping” them. You would never have guessed that there exists any such thing as jihadist terror or black-on-black violence. All in all, a staggering display of ignorance, rage, willful refusal to face up to uncomfortable facts, and a claustrophobic, counterproductive fixation on group-identity labels.

Anti-white insanity at U.Ga.

Irami Osei-Frimpong

He’s a grad student and teaching assistant at the University of Georgia, and presumably he figured that the contemporary academy’s tolerance – and, in many cases, outright enthusiasm – for savage anti-white rhetoric would keep him out of trouble. But Irami Osei-Frimpong, who is studying for a Ph.D. in philosophy, and whose area of specialization is institutional racism, is now in hot water. On February 4, Inside Higher Ed reported that the university was looking into comments he’d made on social media, as well as into “his alleged failure to disclose that he’d previously attended the University of Chicago and had been arrested for trespassing” during a 2011 Occupy Chicago protest.

An Occupy Chicago protest

The online statement that first raised concern about Osei-Frimong, who is known to YouTube viewers as “The Funky Academic,” was this one: “some white people may have to die for black communities to be whole in this struggle to advance freedom.”

But there’s a lot more where that came from. On April 16, he tweeted: “To anyone talking about Bernie donating to charity. You don’t secure rights through charity, you secure rights through good government and political organizing. A culture of charity strengthens the oligarchy.”

Then there was this, on April 18: “I really do think that every school with an African American studies department needs an White American studies department run by African Americans and Native Americans (and Asians in California and Hawaii).”

University of Georgia campus

May 5: “I study philosophy because I think that White schools, churches, and families in America are internally incoherent and provide the resources for their own de-legitimacy. I study politics and psychology because de-legitimacy isn’t enough. We are going to need state guns.”

Same date: “I’m not targeted because I’m Black; I’m targeted because I think the problem with Black America is how we make White people.”

Bernie Sanders

Ditto: “If we want justice for Black Americans, we have to dismantle and replace the engines of White cultural production: their schools, churches, and families.”

And again: “Meaningful integration doesn’t kill blackness, but it does kill Whiteness. Meaningful integration is a White genocide because you can’t meaningfully integrate and keep White supremacy in tact. And make no mistake, White Supremacy IS ethnic Whiteness.”

The organization Freedom for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) was founded in 1999 to defend the rights of students and faculty at American institutions of higher education. It spends much, if not most, of its time these days standing up for the speech rights of conservatives whom left-wing administrators or student mobs have tried to silence. But to its credit, FIRE has stood up for Osai-Frimpong, arguing that his right to express his opinions, however offensive, is protected by the First Amendment.

True enough. Osai-Frimpong does have the right to voice his ugly views. What’s disturbing is that his views are only slightly out of the contemporary on-campus mainstream – and that, all over the country, these days, people of color with viciously anti-white prejudices are admitted to, hired by, and given platforms at universities that have, for a generation, systematically excluded conservatives, moderates, and classical liberals.

Samuel L. Jackson, Twitter militant

Samuel L. Jackson

We have to admit that we misinterpreted the headline at the Fox News website the other day. “Samuel L. Jackson,” it read, “doesn’t care if his Trump stance costs him fans.” Given that virtually everybody in Hollywood these days is an open, all-out, full-throated, full-time critic of President Trump, we assumed that Jackson must be an exception. Nope! He’s a member of the chorus, accusing Trump of “ruining the planet” and comparing him to a plantation owner.

It’s not clear why this is suddenly news, because a little research shows that Jackson, in addition to being an big Hollywood movie star known for such films as Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, and Django Unchained, has been pursuing something of a side career as a dyspeptic political commentator for a long time.

Stokely Carmichael

And before he was an actor, he wasn’t just a man of words – he was a man of action. At Morehouse College in the Sixties, he was a real live student radical. In 1969, he and several confrères held some of the college’s trustees hostage – yes, you read that right – in an effort to force the administration to make curricular changes. Later he got involved with Black Power leaders like Stokely Carmichael and H. Rap Brown. “I was in that radical faction,” Jackson told People magazine in 2008. “We were buying guns, getting ready for armed struggle.”

H. Rap Brown

Fortunately for Jackson, his mother slapped some sense in him. He ended up studying drama and “decided that theater would now be my politics.” So instead of ending up in prison, like H. Rap Brown, he now lives in the gated community of Beverly Park, California, in a Tudor-style house that’s been profiled in Architectural Digest, and until last year also owned an apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that was listed for $13 million. Now, instead of armed struggle, his personal revolution takes the form of political rants delivered via Twitter or in media interviews.

Back in 2012, for example, he told Politico that he’d voted for Barack Obama in 2008 “because he was black.” But in the end Obama hadn’t proven to be black enough for him. “Because, what’s a [N-word]? A [N-word] is scary. Obama ain’t scary at all. [N-words] don’t have beers at the White House. [N-words] don’t let some white dude, while you in the middle of a speech, call [him] a liar. A [N-word] would have stopped the meeting right there and said, ‘Who the **** said that?’”

Too black, or not black enough?

In an interview the next year, however, Jackson seemed to feel that Obama had become too black. According to The Independent, he“took issue with the US President dropping the ‘G’s at the end of his words.” Jackson offered the President this advice: “stop trying to ‘relate’. Be a leader. Be ****ing presidential.” He went on: “Look, I grew up in a society where I could say ‘I ain’t’ or ‘what it be’ to my friends. But when I’m out presenting myself to the world as me, who graduated from college, who had family who cared about me, who has a well-read background, I ****ing conjugate.” Jackson also predicted that “If Hillary Clinton decides to run, she’s going to kick their ****ing asses, and those mother****ers” – the Republicans – “would rather see the country go down in flames than let the times change.”

P.T. Barnum?

When Donald Trump stepped onto the political stage, Jackson was quick to compare him to P.T. Barnum. There ensued a Twitter war between the actor and the real-estate mogul, who in more congenial times, it turned out, had been golf buddies. Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, Jackson said that “If that mother****er becomes president, I’m moving my black [posterior] to South Africa.” (After Election Day 2016, however, he said he wasn’t moving anyplace.) Visiting Dubai in December 2016, Jackson expressed concern that Trump would “destroy Hollywood.” Yes, destroy Hollywood. “Hopefully we will be able to keep working and he won’t shut Hollywood down,” he said. “You know he could say, ‘Hollywood didn’t support me,’ so that’s it. Who knows what could happen.” There was no sign that Jackson was kidding.

In an April 2017 ad for a congressional candidate in Georgia, Jackson said: “Stop Donald Trump, the man who encourages racial and religious discrimination and sexism.” Last June, the actor sent the President a sarcastic happy-birthday tweet in which he implied that Trump and several of his closest associates, including Rudy Giuliani, were gay. In other tweets, Jackson has called Trump a “Hemorrhoid,” a “Busted Condom,” and a “canker sore.”

Lying Fratboy?

People with a connection to Trump have also incurred Jackson’s wrath. During the Brett Kavanaugh hearings, Jackson tweeted about the judge’s “Lying Fratboy [Posterior].” He’s also harsh on black conservatives, comparing his character in Django Unchained, a house slave who believes in slavery and loves his master, to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas.

Jackson poses as a tough-talking, street-smart guy who’s saying the gutsy things that nobody else dares say. In fact, nothing that he says about politics deviates in the slightest from the Hollywood party line. Nothing he says will ruffle the feathers of any of the friends and colleagues whom he encounters on movie sets and at awards ceremonies and at chic Beverly Hills eateries. But of course he’s not just another Tinseltown robot: he’s a guy who came frighteningly close to having a short and sanguinary career of beating people up and killing cops. So Donald Trump, and others whom Jackson despises, should count themselves lucky that his weapon of choice these days is not a 12-gauge shotgun and a Twitter account.

Farrakhan: from “Calypso Gene” to Saddam crony

Louis Farrakhan

We’ve devoted a lot of our attention on this website to famous Western entertainers – from Hilary Swank and Sharon Stone to Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn – who’ve performed for various Asian or African dictators in exchange for hefty paychecks. Pretty sleazy stuff, of course, especially given that the entertainers in question were hardly strapped for cash. No, it’s called selling out. 

There are, of course, other ways for celebrities to sell out.

An album of Farrakhan’s calypso cuts

Born in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in 1933, Louis Eugene Walcott began his career as a calypso singer and violinist, using the stage names “The Charmer” and “Calypso Gene.” But apparently music wasn’t doing it for him. He needed more. In 1955 he attended a Nation of Islam event at a mosque in Chicago. It changed his life. Not long after, he joined the Nation of Islam and became Louis X, the use of “X” in place of a last name being a Nation of Islam practice based on the premise that black Americans’ last names were slave names and that their original African names were unknown. Later, Elijah Muhammed, the Nation of Islam leader, gave Louis the Arabic last name of Farrakhan, which means “The Criterion.”

Malcolm X (left) and Louis Farrakhan (right) at a Harlem rally

It was not long before Farrakhan was named a minister, serving first as the assistant to Malcolm X in Boston, then becoming head minister there. But Farrakhan proved himself to be a more loyal member of the cult than even Malcolm X. When the famous activist, who for most white Americans was the very face of the Nation of Islam, called out the cult’s leader, Elijah Muhammed, for sexually abusing teenage girls, Farrakhan publicly defended Elijah Muhammed to the hilt and declared Malcolm X to be “worthy of death.” A few weeks later, Malcolm X was murdered by three men with links to the Nation of Islam.

Warith Al-Deen Mohammed

After Elijah Muhammed died, Farrakhan served as a Sunni imam under the late leader’s son, Warith Al-Deen Mohammed,who gave him the name Abdul-Haleem. Leaving Mohammed’s movement in 1978, Farrakhan established a new Nation of Islam. At its head, he routinely made headlines by calling caucasians “white devils,” calling Jews “bloodsuckers” and Judaism “a gutter religion,” and calling Hitler “very great.” Speaking of the Jews in a 1985 speech at Madison Square Garden, Farrakhan exclaimed: “Don’t you forget, when it’s God who puts you in the ovens, it’s forever!” Repeatedly, Farrkahan proclaimed that God had decreed the death of America, which he described as the most evil nation in human history. He pinned 9/11 on “the Jews.”

Farrakhan with Qaddafi

He was friendly with Muammar Qaddafi, who donated a billion dollars to Farrakhan’s political work, and who, speaking at a Nation of Islam convention in Chicago, said that he hoped to fund a black revolution in America. Farrakhan, for his part, called Qaddafi his “friend” and “brother.” He also befriended the leaders of Iran, Iraq, and other countries listed by the U.S. as state sponsors of terrorism.

He exchanged letters of support with Saddam Hussein, whom he praised as a “visionary.” Years later, he met with Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

A pretty appalling record. And yet it hasn’t kept a number of high-profile showbiz  figures from gladly collaborating with him. More on Thursday.

Tessa Thompson, actress — and activist!

Tessa Thompson

Born in L.A. to an Afro-Panamanian father and a Euro-Mexican mother (these adjectives, which we’ve never seen before, are taken from her Wikipedia page), Tessa Thompson, age 34, has become a big star in recent years. After appearing on TV series like Cold Case, Grey’s Anatomy, and Heroes, she was in the big-budget movies Selma (2014), Creed (2015), and the Marvel comic-book feature Thor: Ragnarok (2017). She’s won acting awards at the American Black Film Festival, the Black Reel Awards, and the African-American Film Critics Association.

And like many other young Hollywood actresses, she’s into politics. Just ask Natalie Portman, who recently told Elle that Thompson is “someone you can go dance with or laugh with, or talk about politics.” How wonderful! Who doesn’t want to talk about politics with a Hollywood actress?

A promotional photo for Dear White People

So far, the defining picture of her career would seem to be Dear White People, a 2014 comedy-drama about black students at an Ivy League college. Just to be clear, these kids are going to an Ivy League college, and we’re supposed to see them as oppressed – and to see the film as some kind of inspired statement about racial relations in America. Thompson herself certainly thought so when she perused the script. She told Elle that after reading it, she “had a burning to be involved.”

With Teyonah Parris (right), promoting Dear White People

A brief detour into Dear White People, just so you have an idea of what kind of acting jobs get Thompson excited. In this movie, she played the heroine, Sam, a campus radical who “causes a stir” by “criticizing white people and the racist transgressions at Winchester.” What kind of racist transgressions? Well, let’s just say that the film’s climax centers on a group of white students who decide to throw a party in blackface.

Thompson at Sundance

Yes, blackface. Now, you may ask: at what Ivy League college in this day and age would white students actually hold a blackface party? Don’t pose such questions. What are you, a racist? And don’t dare to suggest that Dear White People, which was (predictably) a sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, is, from start to finish, an example of racial grievance-mongering gone amok. No, you’re supposed to echo the Hollywood line that stuff like this, however stale and poorly made, is actually courageous and pathbreaking.

That’s certainly the line that most of the high-profile reviewers took. Even as it admitted that the film was a total mess, Time Out praised it for, well, making all the right victim-group noises: “The plot meanders, the characters don’t come into focus until fairly late in the game, and the script’s tunnel-visioned unwillingness to wrestle with the class and gender issues inherent in its story can be disappointing. But where it scores big is its wealth of ideas – visual, emotional, cultural – and its deep well of bitter, voice-of-experience rage.”

Rage! That’s the ticket. Forget plot, characters, theme: a “deep well” of racial rage can overcome any flaws.

More on Thursday.

Finally, a prof gets punished for anti-white racism

Tucker Carlson

On June 4, Tucker Carlson of Fox News reported on a Memorial Day party, held in New York by Black Lives Matter, from which non-blacks were explicitly banned. He quoted from a statement by the organizers: “Being intentional about being around Black People is an act of resistance. This is an exclusively Black Space. So if you do not identify as Black and want to come because you love Black People, please respect the space and do not come.”

He then brought on a guest named Lisa Durden, whom he identified as a political commentator and Black Lives Matter supporter. Carlson expressed surprise at the decision of a group supposedly devoted to racial equality to enforce a policy of segregation, and asked Durden how she could reconcile this seeming contradiction. Durden, instead of responding seriously to a serious question, reacted with cartoonish condescension: “What I say to that is, boo-hoo-hoo, you white people are angry because you couldn’t use your white privilege card to get invited to Black Lives Matter’s Memorial Day celebration.” She went on to say that Memorial Day had been founded by former slaves in 1865 after the Civil War to honor Union soldiers who had died for their freedom, and that “in that same vein” BLM had held this party to commemorate the murder of “black folks…by racist terrorists.”

Durden’s comment was bizarre on several levels. First, there is no evidence that Memorial Day was founded by former slaves. Second, if it was founded by former slaves to honor Union soldiers (the overwhelming number of whom were white) who had died for their freedoms, banning white people from such an event seems rather odd. Third, Durdan’s whole tone was that not of a serious commentator but of – well, watch the video yourself and figure out how best to describe it.

Rachel Lindsay, black Bachelorette

“White folks,” Durden went on to say, “crack me up. All of a sudden when we want to have one day to focus on ourselves….You’ve had an all-white Oscars, all these movies with all-white actors…all-white TV shows….The Bachelorette, it took eleven seasons to have a black bachelorette. Are you serious?” When Carlson repeated the point that the BLM event seemed “hostile” and “separatist” and “crazy,” Durden, by way of defending BLM’s racial separatism, said: “People hold weddings where they exclude children,” because they can’t be sure kids wouldn’t disrupt the event. By the same logic, she maintained, BLM had imposed a ban on whites in order to avoid having its party ruined by “white folks who are gonna be off the rails.” Durden summed up BLM’s message to whites as follows: “Stay your asses out!”

As it happens, Lisa Durden isn’t just a political commentator. She’s also an adjunct professor at Essex County College in Newark, teaching speech, mass communication, and popular culture.

Essex County College

Or, at least, was an adjunct professor at Essex County College. Two days after her appearance on Carlson’s show, she showed up for work only to discover that she had been suspended “until further notice.” She quickly went out into the media to declare that she had been “lynched.” The college, for its part, issued a statement indicating that it “promotes a community of unity that is inclusive of all.” Durden’s attorney professed to be mystified by her suspension. What could possibly be the college’s “agenda?” Had Durden been “too outspoken?” White-bashing has become so normalized on American campuses that for a college to actually punish a faculty member for engaging in it left both her and her lawyer scratching their heads in wonderment. Later in June came news of Durden’s permanent dismissal from her job. Essex County College deserves congratulations for bucking the nefarious academic trends of the day and actually punishing black-on-white racism.

Loving the Black Panthers?

She studied PR and “Leadership Studies” at Hampton University, then got a Master’s Degree in “Music Business” at NYU. She’s now at Yale, earning another Master’s – this one in Divinity. She “loves good music, down time with friends, & ice cream!” Sounds like a good life.

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Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes

And she seems like a good person. Last year she and several other Yale Divinity School students went to Flint, Michigan, to “hold a pastors roundtable conversation on the intersection of ecology and theology and distribute water filters and hygienic items.” She explained her motivation as follows: “As a Christian, I find that everything I do is affected by my faith. In this instance, I wanted to see the Christian community rally around these residents to make change. I was seeing assistance here and there from other organizations but I didn’t see any support from the church universal. While the church does overseas mission work well, we sometimes ignore the needs of our own nation. I didn’t want to see that happen any longer.”

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Wilkes on The O’Reilly Factor

So it was a shame to hear what Gabby Cudjoe Wilkes had to say in mid February during an appearance on Fox News’s The O’Reilly Factor. Wilkes, a bright-eyed young black woman who exuded cheer and charm, was there to talk about a couple of Yale-related news stories. The first story concerned an effort by students and faculty to remove the name of John C. Calhoun from one of Yale’s residential colleges. Calhoun was one of the great statesmen of the nineteenth century, serving as Secretary of State, Secretary of War, Senator from South Carolina, and as Vice President under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson. Unfortunately, he was also a slave owner, which is why a movement arose to change the name of that college. When asked by host Bill O’Reilly, Wilkes affirmed that she supported the change. But that’s fine – something that reasonable people can argue about.

On May 2, 1967, Black Panthers amassed at the Capitol in Sacramento brandishing guns to protest a bill before an Assembly committee restricting the carrying of arms in public. Self-defense was a key part of the Panthers' agenda. This was an early action, a year after their founding.
Armed Black Panthers take over the California State Capitol on May 2, 1967, to protest a gun-control bill

It was what she had to say on the second topic that was so disturbing. Wilkes, it emerged, was one of a group of students at Yale who wanted to hold a campus event marking the fiftieth anniversary of the Black Panthers. Some of them, including Wilkes, had recently crossed the country to attend what was apparently a sort of learn-in at the Oakland Museum. Their goal was “to learn the history” of the Panthers; they went, she said, “as student archivists.” “Did you come away with a favorable impression of the Black Panther movement?” asked O’Reilly. “Oh, absolutely!” gushed Wilkes. O’Reilly then played a tape of Black Panther co-founder Stokely Carmichael ranting about “the honkey” (a Black Power-era term for white people). After also mentioning the killings and violence committed by the Black Panthers, O’Reilly asked: “How can you look favorably upon that group?”

Not entirely seeming to grasp the question, Wilkes started to comment about the “long history of racism in this country.” Interrupting her, O’Reilly suggested that the Panthers themselves were racists. She rushed in quickly to insist that they weren’t anti-white but pro-black. “It makes me a little uneasy,” said O’Reilly, “that a very intelligent woman like yourself could even think that these people were worthy of being considered in Black History Month.” Wilkes either was genuinely surprised by this point of view or did a very good job of feigning surprise – or perhaps she was just mocking him: “Oh, that’s INTERESTING!” she replied. “Oh, REALLY?”

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The Black Panthers in their heyday

And that was pretty much the gist of it. O’Reilly was kind and respectful to Wilkes, apparently having pretty much the same reaction to her that we did: that while it’s disturbing to hear anybody praising the Black Panthers, it’s especially disturbing to see a young black woman who seems so decent and well-meaning celebrating their memory. Perhaps instead of devoting so much time to the study of PR, the music business, and so on, she would have done well at some point to read one or two honest, comprehensive histories of the Black Power movement. She wouldn’t have even had to go all the way to Oakland to find copies of them.

Bernstein: after the ball

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Bernstein and wife

What the Bernsteins probably did not realize at first,” wrote Tom Wolfe toward the end of his historic 1970 essay “Radical Chic,” was that after Charlotte Curtis’s story about the party at which Leonard and Felicia Bernstein‘s society friends had mingled with Black Panthers was distributed worldwide by the New York Times News Service, it provoked “an international chorus of horse laughs or nausea, depending on one’s Weltanschauung. The English, particularly, milked the story for all it was worth and seemed to derive one of the great cackles of the year from it.” The Times itself – then a very different organ from the paper that currently goes by that name – ran an editorial that harshly criticized the “[e]mergence of the Black Panthers as the romanticized darlings of the politico-cultural jet set,” calling this development “an affront to the majority of black Americans” and charging that the Bernsteins’ party “mocked the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.”

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Charlotte Curtis

Indeed. Alas, the Bernsteins’ shameless shindig didn’t marked the end of something but its beginning – namely, the birth of a deeply institutionalized practice, on the part of the American cultural, media, and political establishment, of idealizing, credentializing, and rewarding radical race warriors (and, later, pseudo-radical race hucksters, hustlers, and shakedown artists) instead of affording attention and respect to those who have addressed with wisdom and frankness the hard questions about the terrible pathologies afflicting inner-city America. Wolfe’s term “radical chic,” of course, entered the language – and justifiably so, because it perfectly captured the superficiality and faddishness the characterized the support by various cultural elite types for violent movements explicitly dedicated to their death and destruction.

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The curtain call at the premiere of “MASS”

In any event, the Bernsteins and their friends soon showed just how shallow their dedication to the Black Panthers was. After Charlotte Curtis’s news article and Tom Wolfe’s essay exposed their folly for the world to see, they scattered like rats. Yes, most of them transferred their loyalty to other harebrained far-left causes – or found other ways to broadcast their moral virtue to the world.

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Harold Schonberg

Bernstein, for example, composed “MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers,” which was performed at the September 1971 opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., and described by New York Times music critic Harold Schonberg in his review as “a pseudo-serious effort at rethinking the Mass that basically is, I think, cheap and vulgar.” Schonberg might well have been recalling Bernstein’s party for the Black Panthers when he wrote, in his review, that “MASS” was “a very chic affair” that offered “a sentimental response to great problems of our time” by “a musician who desperately wants to be with it.” (At the piece’s climactic moment, a Christian cross is destroyed.)

bppIn later years, Bernstein’s dedication to superficial virtue-signaling persisted: among other things, he lent his strong support to the Kremlin-backed 1980s movement for unilateral nuclear disarmament by the West.

But the Black Panthers? In 1970, after the news of their silly party had traveled around the world, Bernstein and company dropped the Panthers like a hot potato. Not because they had learned anything, not because they had grown wiser, but only because they were more worried about being mocked than about being murdered.

Slumming with Lenny

A young Cuban man rides a bicycle in front of the huge apartment blocks in Alamar, a public housing periphery of Havana, Cuba, 9 February 2011. The Cuban economic transformation (after the revolution in 1959) has changed the housing status in Cuba from a consumer commodity into a social right. In 1970s, to overcome the serious housing shortage, the Cuban state took over the Soviet Union concept of social housing. Using prefabricated panel factories, donated to Cuba by Soviets, huge public housing complexes have risen in the outskirts of Cuban towns. Although these mass housing settlements provided habitation to many families, they often lack infrastructure, culture, shops, services and well-maintained public spaces. Many local residents have no feeling of belonging and inspite of living on a tropical island, they claim to be “living in Siberia”.
The imperiled beauty of Havana

Today we might call it slumming. For many of those who’ve lived charmed, safe lives in free countries, there’s something remarkably attractive about the combination of poverty, tyranny, and violence – all those things they’ve never actually experienced themselves. On this site, we’ve written several times about the plaints of various Westerners who fret that capitalism, if and when it’s truly and fully implemented in Cuba, will destroy the “magic” and “charm” of that ruined, broken-down country. They wouldn’t want to live there themselves, of course, but they find it thrilling to know that all that glamorous destitution and oppression is only a few hours’ plane ride away.

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Leonard Bernstein

Naturally, what makes it thrilling for them rather than terrifying is the knowledge that, after paying a visit to the place, they can fly back to New York or L.A. or London and resume their lives in a free, prosperous society. In the same way, Leonard Bernstein could stand in his own luxurious Park Avenue apartment, surrounded by his rich friends, and listen with equanimity while leaders of the Black Panthers explained their plans for destroying American democracy and replacing it with a dictatorship by them.

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Tom Wolfe

For Bernstein and many of his chums, a kind of doublethink (to borrow Orwell’s useful term) seems to have been operating in this particular instance. Even as they pledged money to help bring on the Panthers’ revolution, they couldn’t really imagine any such revolution happening. Or else their wealth and privilege had bred in them such utter confidence in their own unshakable security that they believed that they, personally, would somehow be magically exempt from the Reign of Terror that would surely follow any successful revolt by these bloodthirsty Maoist rebels.

blackpanthers1Tom Wolfe, in his classic 1970 essay “Radical Chic” (which we’re talking about this week), quoted a guest at one of the Black Panther soirées as saying about one of the thugs: “He’s a magnificent man, but suppose some simple-minded schmucks take all that business about burning down buildings seriously?” To these moneyed Manhattanites, the “schmucks” were those who actually took the Panthers at their word; they themselves, in their own view, were infinitely more sophisticated, choosing to interpret the Panthers’ rhetoric as – what? – a kind of poetry? A fanciful vision of murderous revolution that would, in reality, be manifested as an eminently sensible program of rational reform?

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Otto Preminger

To be sure, not all of Bernstein’s gilded guests were entirely complacent or deluded. Movie director Otto Preminger challenged one Panther’s claim that America’s government was the most repressive in the world. Barbara Walters expressed concern about her fate in a post-Panther Revolution America: “I’m talking as a white woman who has a white husband, who is a capitalist, or an agent of capitalists, and I am, too, and I want to know if you are to have your freedom, does that mean we have to go!” But both of them stopped short of standing up and leaving in disgust. Preminger, indeed, after berating one of the Panther leaders, made a point of shaking the would-be mass murderer’s hand to show there were no hard feelings.

We’ll finish up with this tomorrow.