Is the Rise of the Tea Party the Reconstruction & ‘Birth of a Nation’ all Over Again?

It’s important that we remember a couple of  old sayings 1-‘Nothing is new under the sun‘ and 2-‘If you don’t learn the lessons of history you are destined to repeat it‘.  Many people have forgotten about or never knew about DW Griffiths landmark film Birth of a Nation‘. It was taken from the book ‘The Clansmen‘ which depicted newly freed Black slaves running the government and causing the country to fall to pieces. The movie showed that this country was falling until an organization was formed that gave rise to the country and restored order. That outfit was the Ku Klux Klan‘.

The part that most people know about Birth of a Nation is the Reconstruction.. Here’s a clip and brief synopsis

Part 2: Reconstruction

Stoneman and his “mulatto” protegé, Silas Lynch, go to South Carolina to observe the expanded franchise. Black soldiers parade through the streets. During the election, whites are shown being turned away while blacks stuff the ballot boxes. The newly elected black legislature passes laws requiring white civilians to salute black officers and allowing mixed-race marriages.

Meanwhile, Ben, inspired by observing white children pretending to be ghosts to scare off black children, devises a plan to reverse the perceived powerlessness of Southern whites by forming the Ku Klux Klan. Elsie is angered by his membership in the group.

Then Gus, a former slave who became educated and gained a title of recognition through the army, proposes to marry Flora. Scared by Gus’ lascivious advances, she flees into the forest, pursued by Gus. Trapped on a precipice, Flora leaps to her death. In response, the Klan hunts Gus, tries him and finds him guilty, kills him, and leaves his corpse on Lieutenant Governor Silas Lynch’s doorstep. In retaliation, Lynch orders a crackdown on the Klan. The Camerons flee from the black militia and hide out in a small hut, home to two former Union soldiers, who agree to assist their former Southern foes in defending their Aryan birthright, according to the caption.

Meanwhile, with Austin Stoneman gone, Lynch tries to force Elsie to marry him. Disguised Klansmen discover her situation and leave to get reinforcements. The Klan, now at full strength, rides to her rescue and takes the opportunity to disperse the rioting negroes. Simultaneously, Lynch’s militia surrounds and attacks the hut where the Camerons are hiding, but the Klan saves them just in time. Victorious, the Klansmen celebrate in the streets. The film cuts to the next election where the Klan successfully disfranchises black voters and disarms the blacks. The film concludes with a double honeymoon of Phil Stoneman with Margaret Cameron and Ben Cameron with Elsie Stoneman. The final frame shows masses oppressed by a mythical god of war suddenly finding peace under the image of Christ. The final title rhetorically asks: “Dare we dream of a golden day when the bestial War shall rule no more? But instead-the gentle Prince in the Hall of Brotherly Love in the City of Peace.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ynCku4c01VE&feature=related

People should take a look at some of these clips and think about whats going on right now with the anger and racial hostility attached to your modern-day Tea Party and sympathizers.  There’s a study that by the University of Washington and the NY Times that shows the motivation behind the Tea Party was ‘conservatism’ (a desire to return to the good ole days) and the election of Barack Obama. We will be doing a radio show this week where the folks behind the study will go into great detail explaining all their findings. It’ll blow you away.

The other thing about the Tea Party is, it’s a media creation. The information, tone, marching orders are all rooted in a large network of right-wing media outlets  and personalities with Fox being the centerpiece.

The word used to describe this phenom is Videocracy... the use of media to move people politically. This happened in Italy with media mogul and its current President Silvio Berlusconi. There’s a documentary called  Videocracy that focuses on Berlusconi and his 30 year media reign over Italy and the impact that’s had. Needless to say he went all out to prevent the showing of this film on his vast networks.

This concept of Videocracy was also shown in Oliver Stone‘s new film South of the Border where he shows how media corporations including our own CNN has been used to push political agendas, help launch coups and  undermine democratic process in various countries.  Berlusconi’s ascension was called a coup of sorts and if the Tea Party creation becomes politically successful it’ll go down in history as a coup as well.

Race Riots resulted in a lynching in Omaha during the Red Summer of 1919

We need to keep all this in mind when looking at the clips from Birth of a Nation and recall all the increased lynchings, attacks and race riots that took place during the first few years after this  film was released. The most notable was the Red Summer of 1919. The movie  (media) created a hostile climate that lasted for years.

We should also keep in mind that the newly formed NAACP denounced the film while filmmaker DW Griffith emphatically denied the film was racist. If that wasn’t enough then President Woodrow Wilson not only gave the film two thumbs up.  He said  ‘It’s like writing history with lightening’. He added, that  his only regret was what the movie depicted was terribly true.

It’s hard not to draw parallels with the emphatic denials of racism by Tea Party leaders while witnessing the enthusiastic endorsement of racial hostility by political leaders and media pundits here in 2010. From the racial charged remarks of radio talk show host Michael Savage and Rush Limbaugh to the overtly racist remarks by politicians like Sharon Angle, Debbie Riddle and Betty Brown one can see the handwriting on the wall. All this is compounded by the fact that there’s been a rise in right-wing hate groups and hate crime. The vitriol, vandalism and attacks we saw around the proposed ‘Ground Zero Mosque‘ (Park 51)  the other month underscored that point.

The bottom line is that we now have a climate where any shortfalls or discomfort will be scapegoated to people of color who have growing political, economic social power.

The other thing to keep in mind, is that  film premiered in Los Angeles which shortly after housed the largest Klan chapters in the country. The KKK was so powerful that in early 20s the group began protesting Hollywood’s film industry because of two films ‘The Pilgrim‘ and ‘Bella Donna’ which they felt did not depict them in a good light.

The Klan bolstered by the DW Griffith film saw themselves as a reform organization and political entity that demanded legitimacy. What do we see happening today with the Tea Party and its racism which is couched in so called ‘legitimate’ political discourse?

We see them being embraced and held up as a legitimate force that is on a mission to restore America.  For them restoring America means taking away any sort of safety net for those who have have fallen on hard times or are members of groups that have been systematically denied opportunities.

Restoring America means trying to change the constitution to to deny citizenship to Brown folks born here, under the guise of  ‘terror baby‘  and ‘anchor baby‘ threats.

In short restoring America means an aging population of people, scared of change and the Blacking and Browning of America are pulling out all the stops and going full steam ahead to not only hold on to power, but to also suppress those they deem a threat… Watch the clips below and when you get time, the full length feature and you’ll see that many are pushing to have a tragic part of this nation’s history repeat itself.

-something to Ponder-

Davey D

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9t-7SVbLjBw

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dRyIndtcYU4

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Armond White: Precious is the Most damaging Film to the Black Image Since ‘Birth of a Nation’

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Pride & Precious

You can thank media titans Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry for much of the hype surrounding Lee Daniels’ film Precious. ARMOND WHITE calls it the ‘Con Job of the Year.’

By Armond White

http://www.nypress.com/article-20554-pride-precious.html

Armond White

SHAME ON TYLER PERRY and Oprah Winfrey for signing on as air-quote executive producers of Precious. After this post-hip-hop freak show wowed Sundance last January, it now slouches toward Oscar ratification thanks to its powerful friends.Winfrey and Perry had no hand in the actual production of Precious, yet the movie must have touched some sore spot in their demagogue psyches. They’ve piggybacked their reps as black success stories hoping to camouflage Precious’ con job—even though it’s more scandalous than their own upliftment trade. Perry and Winfrey naively treat Precious’ exhibition of ghetto tragedy and female disempowerment as if it were raw truth. It helps contrast and highlight their achievements as black American paradigms—self-respect be damned.

 Let’s scrutinize their endorsement: Precious isn’t simply a strivers’ message movie; Perry and Winfrey recognize its propaganda value. The story of an overweight black teenage girl who is repeatedly raped and impregnated by her father, molested and beaten by her mother comes from a 1990s identity-politics novel by a poet named Sapphire. It piles on self pity and recrimination consistent with the air-quotes’ own oft-recounted backstories. Promoting this movie isn’t just a way for Perry and Winfrey to aggrandize themselves, it helps convert their private agendas into heavily hyped social preoccupation.

But Perry and Winfrey aren’t all that keep Precious from sinking into the ghetto of oblivion like such dull, bourgie, black-themed movies as The Great Debaters or The Pursuit of Happyness. That’s because the film’s writer-director Lee Daniels works the salacious side of the black strivers’ street. Daniels knows how to turn a racist trick. As producer of Monster’s Ball, Daniels symbolized Halle Berry’s ravishment as integration; Kevin Bacon titillated pedophilia in Daniels’ The Woodsman and Daniels’ directorial debut, Shadowboxing, hinted at interracial incest between stepmother and son Helen Mirren and Cuba Gooding Jr.

Winfrey, Perry and Daniels make an unholy triumvirate.They come together at some intersection of race exploitation and opportunism. These two media titans—plus one shrewd pathology pimp—use Precious to rework Booker T. Washington’s early 20th-century manifesto Up From Slavery into extreme drama for the new millennium: Up From Incest, Child Abuse,Teenage Pregnancy, Poverty and AIDS. Regardless of its narrative details about class and gender, Precious is an orgy of prurience. All the terrible, depressing (not uplifting) things that happen to 16year-old Precious recall that memorable All About Eve line, “Everything but the bloodhounds nipping at her rear-end.”

It starts with the opening scene of Precious’ Cinderella fantasy. Tarted up in a boa and gown, walking a red carpet light years away from her tenement reality, Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) sighs, “I wish I had a light-skinned boyfriend with nice hair.” Her ideal smacks of selfhatred—the colorism issue that Daniels exacerbates without exploring. He casts light-skinned actors as kind (schoolteacher Paula Patton, social worker Mariah Carey, nurse Lenny Kravitz and an actual Down syndrome child as Precious’ first-born) and dark-skinned actors as terrors. Sidibe herself is presented as an animal-like stereotype—she’s so obese her face seems bloated into a permanent pout.This is not the breakthrough Todd Solondz achieved in Palindromes where plus-size black actress Sharon Wilkins artfully represented the immensity of an outcast’s misunderstood humanity. Instead, Sidibe’s fancy-dressed daydream looks laughable; poorly photographed, its primary effect is pathetic.

Daniels employs the same questionable pathos as the family banquet scene at the start of Denzel Washington’s also condescending Antwone Fisher. This cheap ploy of tortured daydreaming uses black American deprivation for sentimentality. It sells materialist fantasy as a universal motivation—no wonder Perry and Winfrey like it. Precious embodies an unenlightening canard.That fantasy opening—depicting the girl’s Obama-like ascension—tantalizes thoughts of advancement and triumph. It ought to be satirical to undercut the norms she aspires to just as Palindromes’ misfit teens subverted MTV’s ideas of youth.

Perry and Winfrey may think Precious is serious, but Daniels is hoisting his freak flag. He gets off on degradation. Flashbacks to Precious’ rape contain a curious montage of grease, sweat, bacon and Vaseline. Later, he intercuts a shot of pig’s feet cooking on a stove with Precious being humped while her mother watches from a corner. Another misjudged scene recreates De Sica’s B&W Two Women—a half-camp trashing of motherhood that compounds the problem of cultural alienation. So does the film’s Ebonics credit sequence and the scene of Precious rotating amidst a bombardment of success icons—Martina Arroyo, MLK, Shirley Chisholm—to which she either relates or is ignorant.This incoherence should not pass for sociology.

Not since The Birth of a Nation has a mainstream movie demeaned the idea of black American life as much as Precious. Full of brazenly racist clichés (Precious steals and eats an entire bucket of fried chicken), it is a sociological horror show. Offering racist hysteria masquerading as social sensitivity, it’s been acclaimed on the international festival circuit that usually disdains movies about black Americans as somehow inartistic and unworthy.

The hype for Precious indicates a culture-wide willingness to accept particular ethnic stereotypes as a way of maintaining status quo film values. Excellent recent films with black themes—Next Day Air, Cadillac Records, Meet Dave, Norbit, Little Man, Akeelah and the Bee, First Sunday, The Ladykillers, Marci X, Palindromes, Mr. 3000, even back to the great Beloved (also produced by Oprah)—have been ignored by the mainstream media and serious film culture while this carnival of black degradation gets celebrated. It’s a strange combination of liberal guilt and condescension.

Birth of a Nation glorified the rise of the Ku Klux Klan as a panicky subculture’s solution to social change. Precious hyperbolizes the class misery of our nation’s left-behinds—not the post- Rapture reprobates of Christianity’s last-days theories, but the Obama-era unreachables—including Precious’ Benetton-esque assortment of remedial school classmates. One explanation is that Precious permits a cultural version of that 1960s political controversy “benign neglect”—its agreed-upon selection of the most pathetic racial images and social catastrophes helps to normalize the circumstances of poverty and abandon that will never change or be resolved.You can think: Precious is just how those people are (although Cops and the Jerry Springer and Maury Povich shows offer enough evidence that white folks live low, too).

Precious’ plot is so outrageous (although the New York Times Magazine touts it as “The Audacity of Precious,” a telling link to Obama’s memoir The Audacity of Hope) that its acclaim suggests an aftershock of all that Hurricane Katrina weeping and lamentation about America’s Others. This movie finally puts the deprivations of Katrina on the big screen—not as smug, political fingerpointing, nor the inconsequential way superliberals Brad Pitt and David Fincher shoehorned Katrina into Benjamin Button, but as sheer melodramatic terror. (Poor Precious endures the most brutal home life since Lillian Gish in the 1918 Broken Blossoms.)

Precious raises ghosts of ethnic fear and exoticism just like Birth of a Nation. Precious and her mother (Mo’Nique) share a Harlem hovel so stereotypical it could be a Klansman’s fantasy. It also suggests an outsider’s romantic view of the political wretchedness and despair associated with the blues. Critics willingly infer there’s black life essence in Precious’ anti-life tale. And the same high-dudgeon tsk-tsking of Hurricane Katrina commentators is also apparent in the movie’s praise. Pundits who bemoan the awful conditions that have not improved for America’s unfortunate are reminded that they are still on top.

This misreading of blues sensibility probably has something to do with the disconnect caused by hip-hop, where thuggishness and criminality romanticize black ghetto life. Director Daniels’ rotgut images of aggressive cruelty and low-life illiteracy aren’t far from gangster rap clichés.The spectacle warps how people perceive black American life— perhaps even replacing their instincts for compassion with fear and loathing.

Media hype helps pass this disdain down to the masses. Precious is meant to be enjoyed as a Lady Bountiful charity event. And look: Oprah,TV’s Lady Bountiful, joins the bandwagon. It continues her abusefetish and self-help nostrums (though the scene where Precious carries her baby past a “Spay and Neuter Your Pets” sign is sick).

Problem is, Perry,Winfrey and Daniels’ pityparty bait-and-switches our social priorities.

Personal pathology gets changed into a melodrama of celebrity-endorsed self-pity. The con artists behind Precious seize this Obama moment in which racial anxiety can be used to signify anything anybody can stretch it to mean. And Daniels needs this humorless condescension (Hollywood’s version of benign neglect) to obscure his lurid purposes.

Sadly, Mike Leigh’s emotionally exact and socially perceptive films (Secrets and Lies, All or Nothing, Happy Go Lucky) that answer contemporary miserablism with genuine social and spiritual insight have not penetrated Daniels,Winfrey, Perry’s consciousness—nor of the Oscarheads now championing Precious. They’ve also ignored Jonathan Demme’s moving treatment of the lingering personal and communal tragedy of slavery in Beloved. Both Leigh and Demme understand the spiritual challenges to despair and their richly detailed performances testify to that fact. Sidibe and Mo’Nique give two-note performances: dumb and innocent, crazy and evil. Monique’s do-rag doesn’t convey depths within herself, nor does Mariah Carey’s fright wig. Daniels’ cast lacks that uncanny mix of love and threat that makes Next Day Air so August Wilson- authentic.

Worse than Precious itself was the ordeal of watching it with an audience full of patronizing white folk at the New York Film Festival, then enduring its media hoodwink as a credible depiction of black American life. A scene such as the hippopotamus-like teenager climbing a K-2 incline of tenement stairs to present her newborn, incest-bred baby to her unhinged virago matriarch, might have been met howls of skeptical laughter at Harlem’s Magic Johnson theater. Black audiences would surely have seen the comedy in this ludicrous, overloaded situation, whereas too many white film habitués casually enjoy it for the sense of superiority—and relief—it allows them to feel. Some people like being conned.

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