In the political marketplace, Heath Ledger’s Joker meets the black voter

18 July 2008. That is the date most movie audiences got the chance to see, in my opinion, one of the finest performances in cinema. That day, “The Dark Knight” was released. It starred the late Heath Ledger as the iconic villain, “Joker.” The movie, released after Mr Ledger’s death, would garner him the Academy Award the following year. I can’t tell you how many times I have seen the movie over the past ten years. I always found the anarchy narrative intriguing. Joker’s appeal that we were supposed to live in a world without rules sits well with me. There is something else that I have noticed about the character. Joker lives in the past and is quick to let anyone within earshot, or his knife blade, know about his scars.

‘You wanna know how I got these scars?’ The interrogative served as a preamble to Joker taking a victim’s life. It also let the audience know they were going to take a trip down memory lane, into a past filled with pain and suffering. His physical scars, if one listens closely, were emblematic of the emotional scarring he suffered from childhood into his adult life. Authority had not only failed him but had also taken its anger out on him.  As a result, it appeared that Joker decided to go it alone, engaging only in temporary alliances, and discarding them when a job was done.

Joker’s preoccupation with the past reminds me of the preoccupation black American voters have with their historical and political past.  When you listen to a prominent black political leader, you are tempted to pull out your smartphone and check the calendar to verify whether the year is 2018 or 1968.  White Americans probably feel like the character, Michael Jai White’s character, “Gambol”, listening to black politicians and civil rights leaders wax on about past injustices before the knife blade stained with talk of reparations, income and wealth inequality, police brutality, and the never experienced (on both sides) trauma of slavery is slashed across their political necks.

White America in general and the conservative Republican Party in particular do not have political philosophies that require they labor in the pains of the past. In addition, the GOP still hold on to the narrative of less government intervention and more of the Ronald Reagan “up by your bootstraps” approach to solving household financial and economic issues.

Blacks would argue that the GOP would like to take America back to 1958 and the era of Jim Crow segregation, but again, given that the GOP has no past pains to ponder on, they and black American voters will fail to connect because their frequencies are different.

And I don’t see the GOP tuning in to black America past pain anytime soon. They don’t have to in order to get votes. Their lack of effective outreach over numerous past election cycles to black voters is evidence that I won’t be seeing any national or even state GOP candidates in Atlanta’s 30310 zip code.

Besides, if the GOP needs to leverage the pain narrative for votes, all they have to do is focus on the current dilemma facing white men. Although the economy has recovered, white working age men in rural areas are feeling the impact of long term unemployment and lower wages. They have turned to opioids as a coping mechanism. I don’t see the Democratic Party reaching out to this group meaning an opportunity for Republicans to dust off the plate and take a few swings for the bases this fall.

And what would Joker advise? He would probably say try a little aggressive expansion, dump the rules, and go your own way.

Fox News, kneeling, and the #NFL

Took five seconds to watch a Fox News Facebook stream where the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security is discussing security for some event happening in Minneapolis on Sunday around 6:18 pm.

What I found interesting were the live comments in the timeline next to the video. Let’s just say that President Trump via his State of the Union last night has added to the attempts by many to equate “African American” with “anti-American.” A lot of the commenters expressed their displeasure with athletes who want to “kneel before Zod” versus placing their hands over their hearts acknowledging one nation under “God.”

It probably helped him that the Congressional Black Caucus was there to “stare racism in the face” as they did no clapping or standing for any parts of his speech while looking resplendent in all black and kente cloth. That was to be expected. However, in politics, optics always wins and in an economy where most Americans are not enjoying any upside from the surge in Wall Street (with the exception of the last two or three days), Mr Trump has provided certain factions of white America with an insidious excuse to point fingers ….

….fire rises….

Social media: Scourge of and escapism for Black America

Last week after ten years I gave Facebook the heave-ho. A friend from college sent me the invite to join back in 2007. I recall saying to him, “Kevin. Aren’t we too old for this bulletin board shit?” He responded that it appeared to be a great platform for keeping up with his kids. I said to myself that using it to keep in touch with my nieces seemed like a good idea. So I joined.

During that ten year period I connected online with interesting new people, high school and law school classmates. I have been fortunate to reconnect with family members and meet cousins on both sides of the family. In some ways it strengthened the ties within the lineages and helped drive home the importance of the tribe.

On the flip side, Facebook exposed a neurosis festering in Americans, and in particular Black Americans. Americans are divisive and lack critical thinking skills. By fueling the neurosis, Facebook, and I believe unintentionally, has contributed to the hyper-partisanship that the United States is experiencing. Facebook has made it very easy to allow its users to create near impenetrable silos thus discouraging worthwhile, thought expanding conversation and replacing it with ad hominem and vitriolic language, behavior that a civilized democracy is allegedly not supposed to reflect.

In short, Facebook has exposed an inconvenient truth; that civility is not the rule, but increasingly the exception to social interaction. It is not surprising that the Russian government was able to create fake pages and spread static loud enough to discombobulate the average voter. Facebook provides enough digital real estate for every Farmer Brown to build a silo of ignorance.

I used the word static as opposed to information. There is a reason. Facebook has built a business model on the ability of grab the attention of subscribers by encouraging them to exchange mostly valueless noise. The vast majority of static on Facebook cannot answer the question of “so what?” I believe that when you bombard the human brain consistently with meaningless noise, you erode a person’s critical thinking skills. And that is a scenario that Black Americans cannot afford.

Black American’s disproportionate use of social media is disconcerting because it feeds the narrative that Black Americans are not strategic thinkers and make political decisions based on their emotions. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are emotional cesspools, perfect places for those brave enough to opine on politics from an emotional, lack of depth perception. Making assertions based on static obtained from a cable news program is intellectually obscene given the political agendas of the cable programs on-air personalities.

Take for example the debate on net neutrality. The majority of comments on Facebook leading up to the 15 December 2017 vote were made by a vast majority of Facebook subscribers who had not read the net neutrality rules slated for repeal, had not read the section of the Communications Act upon which the rules were based, and were consistently conflating net neutrality principles with net neutrality rules. The two are different.

But when ignorance in social media post can go viral via a hashtag, the tide becomes unstoppable.

One can argue that I am being a bit uptight and prudish. Surely I should not expect every political media consumer to go out and read every bloody statute, regulatory code, etc., before making a decision. My answer is, yes, I do. Today’s political economy environment is where you extract the resources necessary for your physical, emotional, and mental survival. You are required to know it, just like your ancestors were required to understand the currents on the seas that they fished, and the terrain upon which the hunted and grew food.

Given African America’s lack of access to capital and the political abusive relationship it has with political parties, observing. extracting, analyzing, and distributing value-driven information upon which important decisions can be made is more important than digesting static filled content that passes through you as quickly as white rice, stripped of nutrients that keep you strong.