Catching up with Mlle. Knowles & Mr. Kaepernick

Superstar

Beyoncé! Her life has been an American Dream. In addition to every other glorious accomplishment in her career – her 22 Grammys, her two-time listing as one of the “100 most influential people” by Time Magazine, her serenading of Barack Obama at one of his 2009 inaugural balls, her lip-synching of the national anthem at his second inauguration, her #1 ranking in Forbes’ Celebrity 100 List, and her naming by Forbes this year as the most powerful woman in entertainment – she was the star of halftime at the Super Bowl in February 2016. At that event, America’s biggest TV event of the year, she repaid America’s bounteous gift to her by paying tribute. To whom? The Black Panthers.

Enough Black Power salutes for you?

As we wrote here a few days later, the show, which featured her new song “Formation,” was “an exercise in what one critic called ‘Black Panther chic.’” With its Black Power salutes and its slap at the police, the Guardian suggested it might be “the most radical political statement from the superstar in her 20-year career.” The audience held up “rainbow-colored placards” that read Believe in Love. “Does Beyoncé sincerely believe that the Black Panther movement has, or ever had, anything whatsoever to do with love?” we asked. “If she does, then she can only be described as a thoroughgoing historical ignoramus, and thus a useful stooge of the first order. For the fact is that the Black Panthers were, quite simply, hate set in system. They were racists, terrorists, homophobes, anti-Semites, proud disciples of the cruelest and most remorseless totalitarian despots of the twentieth century. Nothing could be more Orwellian than the notion that they were ever driven, in any sense of the word, by love.”

Setting the Super Bowl on fire

Perhaps Beyoncé was simply ignorant – perhaps she just didn’t know better. Born in 1981, she’s too young to have experience the evil heyday of the Black Panthers firsthand. But someone with so much power owes it to her public to educate herself. That wouldn’t have been too hard or time-consuming. All the information is out there, at her fingertips. One of her innumerable handlers and hangers-on could’ve done the research for her and handed her a file.

That, at least, is what we told ourselves after her Super Bowl fiasco. We were prepared to give Beyoncé the benefit of the doubt. But how can there be much doubt after what she did this past December 5?

Magic Johnson

The setting: the annual Sportsperson of the Year Award Show in New York. One of the awards presented that evening was Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. It is supposed to go to “individuals whose dedication to the ideals of sportsmanship has spanned decades and whose career in athletics has directly or indirectly impacted the world.” The 2014 winner was longtime L.A. Laker Magic Johnson, one of the great basketball players ever – a three-time NBA MVP, a 12-time NBA All-Star, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and of the gold-winning 1992 U.S. Olympics team. He has also proven to be a terrific businessman, with an eponymous conglomerate worth $700 million, and has been a devoted AIDS activist.

Kaepernick (center) doing what he does best – not playing football

In 2015, the winner was golfer Jack Nicklaus, of whom we could supply an equally impressive résumé. In 2016, the honor was shared by a trio of glittering names from athletic history: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jim Brown, and Bill Russell. This year, the prize went to Colin Kaepernick, who spent five years as a middling player for the San Francisco 49ers. Most Americans had not heard of him until August 26 of last year, when he took a knee during the pre-game playing of National Anthem. This became a habit. And it grew infectious. It spread to other football teams, and other professional sports, and even to college and youth games.

In his stupid t-shirt

Kaepernick’s explanation for the action, as we noted a year ago, was that Kaepernick, “whose biological father was black and biological mother white,” and who “was raised in Wisconsin by adoptive white parents,” was protesting the supposedly systematic mistreatment of blacks in America. We pointed out that Kaepernick, this self-styled victim of racial oppression, lives in a mansion, and that at the press conference at which he explained his knee-taking, he wore a t-shirt featuring pictures of Malcolm X with Fidel Castro.

Fidel with Muhammad Ali

Now, maybe in some sense Kaepernick is a perfect winner for an award named for Muhammad Ali, because the legendary heavyweight was also a fan – indeed, a friend – of Fidel Castro and Malcolm X. But his selection was a slap in the face to athletes who are real role models, and Beyoncé’s involvement in the awards ceremony was yet more proof of her ignorance about the world and ingratitude for American freedom. Presenting the prize to Kaepernick, she said: “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion, only hope to change the world for the better. To change the way we treat each other – especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up. It’s been said that racism is so American that when we protest racism, some assume we’re protesting America.”

The award presentation

On the contrary, study after study has shown that America is among the least racist of all countries. Young Americans nowadays are so ill-educated that many of them think America was the only nation ever to have slavery; in fact, its distinction is that it was the one major country that fought a civil war to free slaves. In any event, a question: in exactly which way has Kaepernick changed the world for the better? What has he done except to take the U.S. flag, a symbol of unity amid diversity – e pluribus unum – and turned it into an occasion for destructive dissension and unfounded accusation.

It is good to report that this handing over of a presumably important award by one fool to another did not go uncriticized. “They just turned Muhammad Ali’s Legacy Award into toilet paper,” said Kevin Jackson on Fox News. And another Fox News contributor, Tomi Lahren, tweeted: “Police-hating Beyoncé presents police and America-hating Kappy with a ‘legacy’ award. This is how far we’ve fallen.”

Tall tales about China

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Bill Walton in broadcast mode

Back in the 1970s, seven-footer Bill Walton was a basketball superstar, following a stellar turn for the UCLA Bruins with a pro career playing center for the Portland Trail Blazers, San Diego Clippers, and Boston Celtics. In 1978, he was named the NBA’s most valuable player. After retiring from the game in 1990, he became a sports broadcaster. In November, it turned out that he’s also a big fan of Communist China.

The revelation came during the Pac-12 China Game in China between Texas and Washington. Walton was on the scene, hired to do color commentary for ESPN. As it happened, however, much of his commentary was not about the game itself but about the country in which it was taking place.

He described his visit to China as a “transformational, life-changing experience for me. I cannot express the phenomenal things that are going on in this country.” He called China “remarkable” and noted that its “civilization has spanned more than 8000 years.”

Walton was awed by the scale of things in China. “There are 170 cities in the country of China with a minimum of a million people in them,” he said. “There are 300 million people in the middle class here with 800 more million trying to climb up.” In Shanghai alone, he noted, there are as many people as in all of Texas. The University of Texas has 51,000 students, but “there are that many people in every one of these countless skyscrapers here!”

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The China we don’t see

He favorably contrasted the Chinese people’s attitude toward consumerism with Americans’. Yes, there’s some consumerism there, but mostly “government investment in infrastructure. There is so much room for growth.” In the U.S., “70% of our economy is consumer goods, purchasing stuff,” he said, his contempt for American materialism palpable. The comparable figure for China? “Only 40%.” He added: “You know what the savings rate in the United States is? Zero. Or negative. You know what the savings rate is here in China? 50%.”

U165P5029T2D579136F31DT20130407105749He mentioned one aspect of Chinese society that he particularly liked: “They don’t have credit cards because the government doesn’t want them having [them].”

Does Walton have credit cards? Would he really want to live in a country that wouldn’t allow that? Or is his view, like that of so many Western fans of Communism, that these restrictions are just plain terrific for other people but (of course) not for him?

At no point, in any case – at least as far as we’ve been able to determine – did Walton mention (let alone criticize) the fact that the nation he was showering with praise is a Communist state, a dictatorship, a place where political freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of worship, and property rights are severely limited. The press is censored, as is the Internet. Detention without trial is a common practice; so are forced confessions. It was only a few weeks ago that China announced the end to its one-child policy, a rigidly enforced regulation that led to widespread infanticide and countless forced abortions.

More tomorrow.