22 July, 2009 — Black Agenda Report
‘Obama peddled his relabeled imperial snake oil to Blacks on both sides of the Atlantic.’
Barack Obama may be the most effective propagandist for U.S. imperialism in a very long time. But his narrative to Africans is built on blatant falsehoods, and his spiel to Black America is fundamentally dishonest and evasive. Demonstrators in Manhattan declared: ‘We will no longer tolerate a message from within our community, that the policies of Barack Obama cannot be criticized.’
President Barack Obama tells essentially the same lies as his predecessors, but does it better. His deceptions are aided enormously by the willed receptivity of the desperately hopeful – and none are more eager to believe than Africans and African Americans. In July, Obama peddled his relabeled imperial snake oil to Blacks on both sides of the Atlantic. At the NAACP’s national convention in Manhattan, and before the Ghanaian parliament in Accra, Obama’s message was the same: There will be no redress of your historical and current grievances. Get over it.
Obama’s gall is boundless. When the accumulated facts of centuries stand in the way of his mythmaking, he conjures up counter-facts to fit a counter-logic. In order to shame Africa into holding still to be gang-raped of her resources – by now an almost 600-year agony – Obama invents a totally false history of South Korea’s economic rise. As the story goes, Kenya’s economy was larger than South Korea’s when Obama’s father came to the United States in the early Sixties. But the South Korean government, ‘working with the private sector and civil society, was able to create a set of institutions that provided transparency and accountability and efficiency that allowed for extraordinary economic progress,’ said Obama. There ‘was no reason why African countries could not do the same.’
‘Obama tells huge lies in order to advance U.S. policy goals.’
Of course, little of what Obama said about South Korea or Africa is true, and history provides plenty of reasons why African countries were not in a position to grow at anything like the speed of South Korea. In the real world, South Korea’s economic expansion had no basis in ‘transparency’ or collaboration with ‘civil society.’ As Thom Hartman explained in a July 14 article:
‘This economic development of South Korea started following a military coup in 1961, where General Park Chung-Hee began South Korea’s economic assent by implementing short-term plans for economic development. He instituted the Heavy and Chemical Industrialization program, and South Korea’s first steel mill and modern shipyard went into production. In addition, South Korea began producing its own cars. Electronics, machinery, chemicals plants soon followed, all sponsored or subsidized by the government.’
A military dictatorship set South Korea on the path to industrial development at just about the time Obama was being born. The United States allowed its Korean satellite to protect and grow its fledgling industries as a capitalist showcase and bulwark against North Korea and communism in general. Today, South Korea’s economy is controlled by a tight circle of conglomerates.
Corruption is endemic. A former president committed suicide in May when he faced questioning in a $6 million bribery scandal – and that’s very small change by Korean standards. Obama is talking nonsense.
‘He is arguing that Africans are suffering from some collective character flaw.’
Africa’s neocolonial masters would not tolerate a Black African nation that subsidized industries that might effectively compete with the U.S. and Europe – as South Korea does. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, part of the economic arsenal with which Europe and America discipline uppity Third Worlders, have effectively proscribed Black Africa’s areas of acceptable growth – acceptable, that is, to the rich nations of the world.
We understand that Obama tells huge lies in order to advance U.S. policy goals, foreign and domestic. But his lies to Africans and African Americans are purposely cruel, designed to rub sensitive areas of Black self-esteem. When Obama says there is ‘no reason why African nations could not do the same’ as his false version of Korea, he is arguing that Africans are suffering from some collective character flaw.
In the same way, Obama’s constant refrains about ‘good governance’ are reminders of colonial-era white claims that Africans were incapable of governing themselves. They still sting. But, as Toronto-based activist/author Gerald Caplan wrote in the July 13 issue of The Nation, there is no factual basis for Obama’s assertion that ‘you’re not going to get investment without good governance’:
‘That’s just wrong. For decades most foreign investment in Africa has gone to South Africa first, even under apartheid, and then to such oil-rich nations as Angola and Nigeria. First and foremost, western companies, backed energetically by their embassies, are after Africa’s resources–oil, gas and to a lesser extent minerals. These are the very sectors where we find vast corruption, environmental degradation, the vicious exploitation of African labor, and, often enough, Africa’s wars. In no case does good governance play a role in investment decisions. Often enough venal leaders are precisely what investors look for.’
Obama turns truth on its head. His lies are aggressive, insulting, virulent – but effective, because they put the African audience on the defensive. Anxious about their own collective shortcomings, many fail to examine the illogic and pure fallacies of the American president’s nonsensical presentation.
Obama pulled a slick switch on the NAACP’s upscale crowd at the New York Hilton, last Thursday. The president spent an impressive amount of time itemizing the myriad ways that African Americans suffer disproportionately because of ‘structural inequalities [emphasis mine] that our nation’s legacy of discrimination has left behind; inequalities still plaguing too many communities and too often the object of national neglect.’ It was beginning to sound as if Obama was about to recognize the need to confront institutional (sometimes called ‘structural’) racism with targeted programs – something he has refused to do as a matter of core philosophical principle.
‘Obama had shifted from a focus on particular Black grievances to the Reaganesque politics of ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’’
But of course, it was not to be. The president’s empathetic recitation of Black grievances raised expectations of an appropriate legislative and executive response – and a large segment of the crowd clearly believed they had heard Obama propose specific programs to confront these ‘structural inequalities’ that plague Black folks. Then suddenly, Obama switched gears – and terminology. Structural inequalities would be tackled through ‘a comprehensive approach [italics mine] to ending poverty.’ In Obama’s formulation, ‘comprehensive’ means ‘general’ – not targeted at any identifiable groups suffering from what ‘our nation’s legacy of discrimination has left behind.’
Without missing a beat, Obama had shifted from a focus on particular Black grievances to the Reaganesque politics of ‘a rising tide lifts all boats.’ He would ‘lay a new foundation for growth and prosperity that will put opportunity within the reach of not just African Americans, but all Americans. All Americans.’ And the crowd cheered, seeming not to realize that Obama’s peroration was actually a promise not to extend any special, programmatic help to devastated Black America. It was all about the rising tide, lifting everybody. ‘Of every race. Of every creed. From every region of the country. We want everybody to participate in the American Dream. That’s what the NAACP is all about.’ (Applause.)
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People roared its approval of their president’s pledge to do nothing special to advance colored people.
There are lots of ways to lie, and Obama seems to have mastered all of them. His performance before the NAACP’s centennial convention gave delegates the impression that he both recognized and would act to counter the effects of historically rooted, institutional (or ‘structural’) racism. He then used a terminological device (the word ‘comprehensive’) to retreat to ‘race neutral’ territory without most of the audience noticing. It was high deception, the moral equivalent of a lie.
‘You Will Not Stifle Debate
‘Crimes against humanity do not become OK because a Black man is presiding over these crimes.’
‘We must not be discouraged because of our numbers,’ said Nellie Bailey, of the Harlem Antiwar Coalition, standing on the Sixth Avenue sidewalk a block away from the New York Hilton Hotel, where President Obama was inside, wowing the crowd. Bailey and an assortment of perhaps 50 activists shared the corner with tourists and cops.
‘There is an effort to silence us within our own respective movements,’ said the veteran community organizer. ‘But Blacks and progressives are beginning to openly question Obama’s policies. We will no longer tolerate a message from within our community, that the policies of Barack Obama cannot be criticized.’
Despite the fraying of support for Obama on the Left, the July 16 event appeared to be the first public demonstration against the president, albeit a small affair. Turning toward the Hilton, Bailey shouted: ‘You will not stifle debate, discussion and analysis within our community. We are going to expose this imperialist for who he is.’
Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, took his turn at the mic. ‘They may put a Black man in the White House, but they’re not going to stop their cops gunning Black men down in the street,’ said Dix. ‘Crimes against humanity do not become OK because a Black man is presiding over these crimes.’
Diop Olugbala, of the Uhuru Movement, possessed the most impressive anti-Obama credentials. On August 1 of last year, when most Leftists were busy acting like Obama groupies, Olugbala and a few others at an Obama rally in St. Petersburg, Florida, unfurled a banner that demanded ‘What about the black community, Obama?’ Olugbala and the Uhuru crew verbally confronted the candidate, and clearly rattled him.
‘Barack Obama has told us that racial oppression is no longer a significant factor in life,’ said Olugbala, the last speaker at the demo on Sixth Avenue. ‘Obama is the new face, to seduce the world into compliance with U.S. imperialism.’
Glen Ford is BAR executive editor and can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.