Yesterday, while a panelist on Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney’s Hip-Hop Braintrust issue forum, at the Congressional Black Caucus convention, I commented on how many were inappropriately describing last week’s Los Angeles Times’ series on Tupac’s murder – which attempts to position the Notroious B.I.G. as the conspiratorial mastermind – as bad journalism and sensationalism. Considering that we have spent tens of thousands of words, over a two-year time, in an 8-part series, describing the real probablility and evidence that the government is involved in destablizing Hip-Hop culture and the industry that it has spawned, and as a result an entire generation and people(s); it is only natural that we would reject the sensational/bad journalism explanation as too superficial, and even, an unintentional trivialization of the murder of Tupac.
While many leading figures in the Hip-Hop community rapidly responded to the story – denouncing, dismissing and refuting it, there is still missing a serious critique as to what the driving force is behind not only the most recent reporting on Tupac’s murder, but the entire “cottage industry” that has developed around both murders. Is it purely the profit motive and/or bad reporting that is at the root of the documentaries, articles, and books that claim that Suge Knight is behind the murder of Biggie and now, that Biggie was behind the murder of Tupac?
We think not.
In 1994, I received a letter from the late Colonel Fletcher Prouty who served, at one point, as the liasion between the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the CIA. Part of what Colonel Prouty wrote in his letter to me, and which he elaborated upon in greater length, in several of our conversations, in his Alexandria, Va. home, last decade, was that the “cover story” of a criminal event is just as important as the crime itself. Colonel Prouty spoke specifically of this concept in terms of the murder of President John F. Kennedy (it was he who wrote the portion of the script for Oliver Stone’s movie that explains who may have been behind the assasination of the President of the United States). In an August 1994 letter, he wrote to me:
“…you will recall that I view the whole assassination process in a much different way than others.
From my experience and point of view the whole thing was an elaborately planned conspiracy to accomplish a Coup d’etat. To do so it was necessary to kill JFK, among other things. This is why there has never been any prosecution or trial for anyone since that crime. A coup d’etat of such dimensions is carefully planned, is the consensus decision of many powerful people, and then the work of pure professionals who are highly skilled.
For such a plan, the most important part is the “Cover Story.” The murder took a bit of deft work and then a terrific load of cover story all the way from Oswald to books and media collaboration and the masterful scenario of the Warren Commission Report. We live with a 30-year old story today.
When I was the Chief of Special Operations in the Pentagon during the years 1955-1964, I worked at three levels, Air Force, Secretary of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In all cases wherever my office was there would be a “Cover and Deception” office nearby. I had the operations to run. They had the big job of covering the operation. That’s work, and effective.”
It is a historical fact that the media has been used, willingly and unwillingly, to write cover stories aiding government efforts to disrupt Black organizations. One example, which we have presented and which none of our detractors have been able to overcome is the manner in which the media was used against the Nation Of Islam in 1959. Here is what we wrote in part III of this series on :
In a book entitled This Is The One, written by Nation of Islam Minister Jabril Muhammad (he was known as Minister Bernard Cushmeer when he wrote This Is The One) the question of the coordination of media outlets in a propaganda war against the Nation of Islam was raised. Keep in mind that Minister Muhammad began writing this book in the late 60s when COINTELPRO was not known to be in existence by the general public. This kind of reminds me of the situation that we find ourselves in today, where, for the most part members of the Black and Hip-Hop Community don’t have public knowledge of any intelligence campaign being waged against them by the FBI, CIA or NSA. Here is the actual quote of what Minister Muhammad wrote in his book which he began in 1968:
“Back In 1959, the white press, as if on signal, launched a furious attack on Messenger Muhammad and The Nation Of Islam, following the dishonest portrayal of us entitled: “The Hate That Hate Produced.” Through such publications as Time, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, The Reporter, Esquire, Confidential, True, Saga, and a host of other magazines and newspapers; white America spewed forth a flood of articles, both superficial, spurious and poisonous in nature. A few among them did a creditable job, as far as they went. But the bulk of what was written was insidious and rotten to the core. But it did not hurt us.
“There is plenty of evidence to show that much of the material was deliberately misleading. There are instances when reporters found interpolations in the text of their stories that were altered, here and there, by their ‘bosses’ so as to misrepresent their findings of the Messenger and his followers.
“The white people – newscasters, commentators, etc., – have lied in concert. The television newsmen were not, and are not, above editing their films in such manner as to actually tell lies to their viewers. They conspired to deceive the public regarding Messenger Muhammad. This can be proven with ease. Members of a large orchestra do not accidentally play the same tune.”
Was Minister Muhammad right? According to a White Swedish Scholar, Mattias Gardell, he was absolutely correct. In Mr. Gardell’s book, In The Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan And The Nation Of Islam, published in 1996 (28 years after Minister Muhammad began his book) Gardell verifies the truth of what Minister Muhammad wrote. Gardell writes:
In 1959, the FBI launched a large-scale media campaign. In this first phase, the FBI briefed selected journalists who wittingly channeled the view of the bureau to the American public. The special agent in charge (SAC) in Chicago, wrote: “Originally the program was centered around espousing to the public, both white and black, on a nationwide basis the abhorrent aspects of the organization and its racist, hatetype teachings. This was done in such leading magazines as Time, U.S. News and World Report, Saturday Evening Post etc., as well as through newspapers.” The sudden outburst of media interest is commented on by NOI apologist Jabril Muhammad (then Bernard Cushmeer). His view might have seemed overly paranoid to some readers, but Cushmeer was correct: “Back in 1959, the white press, as if on signal, launched a furious attack on Messenger Muhammad and the Nation of Islam…white America spewed forth a flood of articles, both superficial, spurious and poisonous [sic] in nature…They conspired to deceive the public…Members of a large orchestra do not accidentally play the same tune.”
In the notes in his book, Gardell makes reference to the actual FBI files that he saw, on which he bases his statements.
Some have been offended by our constant admonition, begun in the year 2000 to consider that the very same tactics used against organizations and communities under the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO)run by J. Edgar Hoover, are being used against Hip-Hop. Others, especially Hip-Hop magazine journalists, have argued in public and private that our effort has trivialized COINTELPRO.
By now, since we first presented our thesis, we think that plenty of evidence has surfaced and been reported by the mainstream media, that supports the validity and legitimacy of our arguments. Not the least of these forms of evidence is the fact that the New York City Police Department (NYPD), has publically admitted that it has the city’s Hip-Hop community and industry under surveillance. The arrest of Jay-Z, in 2001, on gun charges, at a New York nightclub was partly the result of this effort, which involves the New York Street Crime Task Force Unit. Anyone who knows the history of COINTELPRO can immediately make the connection betwen local innercity police departments and the FBI.
More evidence was provided in 2000, when we were the only alternative media outlet, that in detail covered the Congressional hearings on the DEA investigation of Rap-A-Lot Records, James Prince and Scarface which involved several informants in Houston’s 5th ward and an admitted attempt to turn Scarface against Rap-A-Lot Records founder, James Prince or James Smith.
A letter was also released during the hearings written by James B. Nims, Group Supervisor in the DEA, to Rep. Dan Burton (R-In), chairman of the Committee on Government Reform which revealed that multi-platinum artist, Scarface, was a significant target of the DEA investigation and that the DEA was working to get Scarface to “turn” against James Smith, whose innocence has been maintained.
In the letter Nims writes to Burton:
“In regards to the US Attorney’s Office, we could not convince them to indict Brad Jordan, AKA “Scarface”, even though I strongly believe we had him tied in solidly on a federal drug conspiracy charge. This was devastating to the case as we felt that Brad Jordan could have provided us with important leads and information regarding Mr. Smith.”
And of course, there is the still unresolved matter of the fact that Biggie and Puffy’s entourage were being trailed by undercover NYPD, and ATF agents at the very time that Biggie was murdered. Members of the entourage were shocked, during questioning by police, when they were shown photograghs of individuals and vehicles said to be taken by law enforcement officers only moments before the murder took place.
Like the assasination of JFK, no one has been arrested or prosecuted in the murders of both Biggie and Tupac. Yet, despite the fact that it is in the public record that both Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records were under FBI, ATF, IRS, NYPD, LAPD, Las Vegas PD investigations at the time of both murders, the books, articles, and documentaries that are in the most plentiful and prominent supply revolve only around the theories that Biggie and Tupac and/or their associates and allies were behind each other’s murders. The furthest anyone seems willing to go (unfortunately, even Biggie’s family) is to say that the LAPD is involved in a cover-up. Why, we consistently wonder, isn’t the suspicion involving both murders taken up to the NYPD, ATF and FBI who had Biggie and Tupac under their watchful eye?
Looks more like a cover story than bad journalism to us.
Congresswoman McKinney, yesterday, in speaking about the matter, made a powerful point about one of the 5 major goals of COINTELPRO, outlined in a March 4, 1968 memo by J. Edgar Hoover. Rep. McKinney said that one of the goals of COINTELPRO was to make sure that Black youth never had a spokesperson. The Congresswoman stated that Hip-Hop was supplying such persons.
The fifth goal of COINTELPRO was :
5. A final goal should be to prevent the long-range GROWTH of militant black organizations, especially among youth. Specific tactics to prevent these groups from converting young people must be developed
We should consider all of this when we are tempted to believe that all of these articles which pit East Coast Rappers against West Coast Rappers; Bloods Vs. Crips; Biggie Vs. Tupac; Suge Knight Vs. Puffy; New York vs. Los Angeles are explained away as mistakes or poor forms of journalism.
In light of the documented history of COINTELPRO which involved the U.S. government’s use of media against organizations that it disliked, we must be wiser, more alert and studious in our view of media reports that aggravate underlying tensions that exist within the Black community – and which pit Brother vs. Brother.
Next Week: What we can do to get to the top and bottom of both Biggie and Tupac’s murders.
Friday, September 13, 2002