May 23, 2013
The Idol Smasher
Posted on Dec 30, 2012
By Chris Hedges
“Spielberg’s treatment of the character Mr. in ‘The Color Purple’ even drew protest from author Alice Walker,” Reed said. “But where is the Jewish ‘Color Purple’? I read a Jewish feminist magazine called Lilith where Jewish feminists complain that the abuse of Jewish women by Jewish men has been greeted with silence. When I visited Jerusalem for the first time, I found that the misogyny among Jewish men was rampant. While there, Israeli women picketed the Knesset over the issue. In the Jewish magazine Tablet, Jewish women criticized Jewish producers for assigning roles to Gentile women that were meant for them. So if Steven Spielberg took off from producing profitable Black Bogeyman pictures to produce a Jewish ‘Color Purple,’ one of those blond Rhine maidens who appear in Woody Allen’s films will probably get the leading role.”
“Critics object to my drawing a parallel between the treatment of black men in the United States and [Jews] in Nazi Germany,” he went on. “The parallel never occurred to me until I attended a lecture sponsored by the San Francisco Holocaust Museum. In a pamphlet they said that the treatment of Jewish men in Nazi Germany was similar to that accorded blacks in the United States. I went out and found examples, [including those I cite from] the outtakes of a film called ‘Boogie Man, The Lee Atwater Story,’ 2008, which can be ordered from Netflix.”
Reed despairs of the decline of the black press, especially black newspapers, which once gave blacks a sense of their own identity. “During the black power movement the Panthers and the Nation of Islam and figures like Muhammad Ali would only talk to black journalists, so these white publications hired them,” he noted. “But once these black journalists eventually went to work for white publications they had no power and no voice. According to Richard Prince’s ‘Journal-isms,’ these reporters, correspondents and commentators are being fired en masse, even at NPR. Those remaining have to apologize when they get out of line.”
He sees the assault on ethnic studies, especially African-American studies, as another way to ensure that blacks do not know their own history or the abuses and atrocities carried out by whites during slavery, Reconstruction and the Jim Crow era, as well as in contemporary society. Without an understanding of how white power works, he says, blacks who are trapped and ultimately disenfranchised, especially in our massive prison complex, cannot connect the dots.
“This is a white movement,” Reed said of Occupy. “They are exclusive. They don’t concentrate on central issues that affect African-Americans. San Francisco poet laureate Alejandro Murguia says that they have the same attitude toward Hispanics. In Oakland they [Occupy members] were mostly middle-class kids from out of town; at least 75 percent were not from here. They didn’t have any control over the Black Bloc anarchists, or these so-called anarchists. These Black Bloc kids, all dressed in black, which was the only thing black about them, went around smashing windows, trashing City Hall and destroying private property. They trashed Obama’s campaign headquarters. We are a poor city. And now because of them we have to find millions of dollars to pay for their damage. Our police, which is an occupation force, take every opportunity to do overtime. They get paid well. And now we have to pay it. Why didn’t these Black Bloc kids go smash the neighborhoods where the 1 percent live? Why didn’t they march on La Jolla, one of the wealthiest zones in the United States? Every other car in La Jolla is a BMW or a Mercedes. Mitt Romney has a home there. Why didn’t they go to Hillsborough or Palm Springs where rich people live? And what about the spectacle of a mostly white group booing Oakland’s mayor, an Asian-American, off the stage? I wonder how that played around the world? They get American television in Beijing.”
Meanwhile, Reed is hard at work shattering yet another idol.
“I’ve spent the last 10 years working on a big book on Muhammad Ali,” he says.
“This is probably the most balanced portrait of the champion yet written,” he said.
A different version of this column appeared on Truthdig earlier.
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