By Mike Whitney
Jeremiah Wright is 5′ 10” of tightly-packed explosives. He may be the best public speaker since Martin Luther King. He is bright, passionate, insightful and erudite. When he speaks; the sparks fly and the ground shakes.
Yesterday, when Wright took the podium at the National Press Club, he knew he’d be taken to task no matter what he said. He knew that every word he uttered would be twisted by the media to make him look like a hate-monger, or worse, a racist. But Wright faced his critics with dignity and delivered another barnburner. By the end of the speech, everyone in attendance was on their feet applauding wildly for the man the corporate media has chosen to destroy.
“Our congregation has sent dozens of boys and girls to fight in the Vietnam War, the first Gulf War, and the present two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. My goddaughter’s unit just arrived in Iraq this week, while those who call me unpatriotic have used their positions of privilege to avoid military service, while sending over 4,000 American boys and girls of every race to die over a lie.” (Standing ovation)
Right on. Wright doesn’t mince his words. He knows what’s he wants to say and says it with gusto. Like Nietzsche opined, “If you want to be philosopher, bring a hammer”. Wright brought his hammer yesterday, only it turned out to be a sledgehammer.
“Our congregation took a stand against apartheid when the government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the African government in South Africa.
Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries.
Our congregation sent 35 men and women through accredited seminaries to earn their master of divinity degrees, with an additional 40 currently being enrolled in seminary, while building two senior citizen housing complexes and running two child care programs for the poor, the unemployed, the low-income parents on the south side of Chicago for the past 30 years.
Our congregation feeds over 5,000 homeless and needy families every year, while our government cuts food stamps and spends billions fighting in an unjust war in Iraq.” (second standing ovation)
The prophetic theology of the black church, which Wright preaches, is a theology of liberation and transformation. This isn’t the Jesus who provides fatter paychecks and vacation homes in the Barbados. This is Jesus the radical who came to deliver his people from bondage; to end segregation and Jim Crow, and to bring positive, meaningful and permanent change to “a social order that has gone sour.”
“God does not want one people seeing themselves as superior to other people. God does not want the powerless masses, the poor, the widows, the marginalized, and those underserved by the powerful few to stay locked into sick systems which treat some in the society as being more equal than others in that same society.”
Right again. Wright’s message is uncontroversial. So who put the bull’s-eye on his back and decided to make him out to be a clownish caricature of a raging black radical spewing vitriol? It wasn’t a black man, that’s for sure. Was it someone who had a stake in the upcoming election and knew the best way to destroy Obama was to create a straw-man who would embody the very characteristics that make white people “uncomfortable”?
Who decided that their would be no Obama campaign; just Jeremiah Wright front-n-center 24-7 on every news channel and every front page? Who decided that Wright would have a larger media entourage than candidate Obama? Who decided that Iraq, the economy, and health care would all vanish from the national debate and voters would have to cast their ballots according to whether they liked Jeremiah Wright or not?
Obama’s supporters say that Obama wants to “transcend” race; that he wants to span the racial divide and move forward. Great, but how? Obama doesn’t pick what issues the media focuses on. Neither does Wright. Nor did Wright choose to make himself the center of attention; that decision was made at the highest level of the corporate establishment where the ruling body deploys journalists in a way that best promotes their own narrow interests. In this case, the media was tasked to sort through 15 years of backlogged sermons so they could extract a few choice tidbits that could be used to shock whites. The flap over Jeremiah Wright, who no one even heard before, is completely fabricated with the intention of derailing Obama’s candidacy. Everybody knows that.
The media is omniscient; they remain invisible behind the camera lens. But there’s no doubt about their objectives or that they’ve become a big player in the electoral process. The media sees itself as a “kingmaker”; their job is to shape public opinion using the tools at their disposal. This particular incident brings back the infamous “Dean scream”, which was replayed on commercial TV over 900 times during a 48 hour period, with a background narrative which suggested that Dean was mentally unstable. It worked, too. Dean’s approval ratings plummeted after the onslaught and the threat of an antiwar candidate appearing in the general election disappeared. Another triumph for the blue suits.
Jeremiah Wright is being used the same way. As Max Blumenthal said, Wright is being used “to mobilize resentment against Barack Obama….He is presented as the quintessential angry black man that the right wing loves to incite hatred against.”
This is the classic Swift-boating technique; choose a divisive issue (Race, abortion, immigration) and then find someone who can be used to embody the controversy. Wright is just the unlucky fellow who drew the short straw. If it wasn’t him, it would have been someone else. After all, the real target is Obama; he’s the real trophy. The prospect of a black man —however articulate and capable—occupying the Oval Office still sends shutters down the spines of America’s WASPish oligarchs. That’s “bonesman” territory, and they mean to keep it that way.
The media’s job is to make it look like Obama and Wright are joined at the hip; whatever comes out of Wright’s mouth gets pinned on Obama. It’s guilt by association and it appears to be working. Obama’s approval ratings are slipping and his supporters are are frustrated. The public is wondering, “Why are black people so angry; and why is that Reverend Wright saying such mean things about America? Maybe I was wrong about that Obama fellow after all.”
But Wright is no fool. He’s aware of the media’s cynical agenda and he’s facing it head-on. He doesn’t vacillate or turn to putty like Pelosi and the other moral vagabonds in the Democratic congress. Wright is tempered steel; 100 percent Marine. No surrender. He knows that the gains in race relations have never come at the ballot box, but in the streets and in the churches and in the prisons. That where the where the real change comes; “transformational” change.
“The prophetic theology of the black church, during the days of chattel slavery, was a theology of liberation. It was preached to set free those who were held in bondage spiritually, psychologically, and sometimes physically. And it was practiced to set the slaveholders free from the notion that they could define other human beings or confine a soul set free by the power of the gospel.”
God’s desire is for positive change; real change, not cosmetic change; radical change or a change that makes a permanent difference, transformation. God’s desire is for transformation, changed lives, changed minds, changed laws, changed social orders, and changed hearts in a changed world.”
Amen, Reverend. Give ’em hell.
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