Archive for March, 2017

On Public Enemy Number One!

Posted in On Donald Trump, Playthell on politics with tags on March 22, 2017 by playthell

A lying, delusional, megalomaniacal buffoon!

 Reality Check: If you Elect a Dick You Gonna get Fucked!

If ever there were prophetic words uttered from the mouth of a politician it is Thomas Jefferson’s observation about the relationship between education and a successful popular democracy.  In the debate around whether the new republic should establish a system of free and compulsory education, most people thought that the ability to “read, write and cipher” would justify such a policy.

However, Thomas Jefferson, a leading figure of the American Enlightenment and arguably the most thoughtful of the Founding Fathers offered this rationale for the promotion of education as a government policy: “A democracy cannot work with an ignorant electorate, because they will elect and return the worst people to power.” He also argued “There never was a people who were ignorant and free.  There never was and their never shall be.”

Jefferson’s love of learning was such that he celebrated the work of the black mathematician and astronomer Benjamin Banneker, although it contradicted his previous speculations about black intelligence, and founded the University of Virginia, one of the world’s great universities.

A reverence for learning was also personified by Benjamin Franklin, who founded the University of Pennsylvania, another world class University from which our mentally handicapped President holds a degree in Real Estate awarded by the business school.  And although he often refers to his degree, he missed out on the best that this great university had to offer.  Since he came to U-Penn as a junior, he did not get the benefit of the university’s excellent humanities courses where he might have gained a more expansive view of human possibility and emerged as something more than an uncultured money grubbing churl.

Alas, by quitting his education at the undergraduate level “The Donald” was also deprived of the splendid education he would have gotten in management and finance had he pursued the MBA, for which the Wharton School of Business and Finance is world famous.   Hence whereas he might have become the kind of enlightened businessman who uses his fortune to promote the general welfare of our society – Andrew Carnegie, Julius Rosenwald, Reginal Lewis, Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, Mark Zuckerberg, et al – we get a vulgar braggart with delusions of grandeur whom almost three thousand shrinks have diagnosed as suffering from “malignant Narcissism” and “paranoia.”

The shrinks, who took the name, “Citizen Therapists Against Trumpism, disregarded a prohibition by the American Psychiatric Association against rendering diagnosis of people they have not personally examined.  Known as the “Goldwater Rule,” this prohibition was instituted in 1964, after 1, 189 psychiatrists rendered their diagnosis of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, a far right Republican, in Fact Magazine.  Goldwater, who spoke recklessly about the use of nuclear weapons, had written a book titled “The Conscience of a Conservative,” and in a mocking play on words Fact Magazine published a special issue titled “The Unconscious of a Conservative: A Special Issue on the Mind of Barry Goldwater.”  The hundreds of psychiatrists that rendered an opinion on Goldwater were agreed that he was “psychologically unfit to be President.”  Goldwater was defeated by Lyndon Johnson in a landslide.

The howls of invective and protests hurled against psychiatrist by Goldwater supporters prompted the America Psychiatric Association to issue a statement that it was “unethical” to offer a “professional opinion” on the mental health of a person the psychiatrist has not personally examined.  However, the Psychiatrists who have issued an opinion on Trump, feel that their patriotic duty to warn the American public about the dangers of a mentally ill president, greatly out weight the ethical questions raised by the Goldwater Rule. 

Their position is clearly stated in a Public Manifesto. “We cannot remain silent as we witness the rise of an American form of fascism.”  The Psychiatrists go on to clearly state the characteristics of a fascistic personality: Scapegoating …, degrading, ridiculing, and demeaning rivals and critics, fostering a cult of the Strong Man who appeals to fear and anger, promises to solve our problems if we just trust in him, reinvents history and has little concern for truth (and) sees no need for rational persuasion.”

I think they are right on the money, but since I have no qualifications that suits me to comment on the psychology of a fascist, I have written two essays on the political manifestations of the fascistic personality by conducting a comparative analysis of the political style and aspirations of Donald Trump and twentieth century Fascist such as Adolph Hitler and Benito Mussolini.  See: “Is Donald Trump a Uniquely American Fascist?” and “Herr Drumpf and Herr Hitler: Birds of a Feather?’  Both essays are published on this site.

Some doctors were so alarmed by their diagnosis they felt compelled to warn the nation in a public statement that having a mentally impaired person in the Oval office presents a clear and present danger to America and the world – especially when we consider the fact that this deeply flawed person has the codes and “football” that empowers him to launch our doomsday nuclear arsenal that would destroy the world!  In view of this reality the doctors have called upon the vice-president and the cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove him from office on the grounds that he is unfit to carry out the duties of his office.

Although he has been in office for little over a month it is clear to everyone with a rudimentary education – who is not blinded by ideology, racist delusions or head up the ass syndrome – that the election of Donald J. Trump is an unmitigated disaster!  Yet from all appearances the worst is yet to come.  And it is a sad fact that many of the disastrous policies that Trump will sign into law are actually standard Republican approaches to governing, which they have repeatedly demonstrated cannot work.

However with a knowledgeable president possessed of a humane vision – such as Barack Obama – the most destructive impulses of right wing Republican ideologues can be checkmated.  In Donald J. Trump we have the opposite of Obama, a pugnacious ignoramus who does not appear to have ever contemplated the state of the human condition and how it might be made better.   Indeed, try as I might, I can find no evidence that Trump has ever been committed to any cause that does not involve self-enrichment and boosting his brand.

Upon close examination everything about The Donald that those who voted to elect him is revealed as false, the result of PR hyperbole, which is just a fancy way of saying it’s all bullshit!  In his seminal treatise on the subject “On Bullshit,” Dr. Harry G. Franks, a Professor of philosopher at Princeton, explains the phenomenon:

The realms of advertising and of public relations, and the nowadays closely related realm of politics, are replete with instances of bullshit so unmitigated that they can serve among the most indisputable and classic paradigms of the concept. And in these realms there are exquisitely sophisticated craftsmen who with the help of advanced and demanding techniques of market research, of public opinion polling, of psychological testing, and so forth dedicate themselves tirelessly to getting every word and image they produce exactly right. Yet there is something more to be said about this. However studiously and conscientiously the bullshitter proceeds, it remains true that he is also trying to get away with something.”

It would be difficult indeed to find anybody who has employed the techniques of bullshitting and lying more advantageously than the present occupant of the Oval Office.  While there is an embarrassment of riches to choose from, a virtual treasure trove, a couple of critical examples will suffice.  Donald Trump was largely elected on the basis of his claims as a great businessman and his image as a “blue collar billionaire who cares deeply about the working class and is devoted to advancing their interests.

The great Daily News columnist Jimmy Breslin, who passed on as I write, was a true tribune of the people who declared that his purpose was to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”  And he had the reputation of being so adept at detecting bullshit that he could see it coming before it left the bull’s ass!  Hence he was a master at unmasking charlatans, deflating the pompous and exposing frauds.  One of his favorite targets was Donald J. Trump, whose antics and narcissistic personality was sharply criticized in Breslin’s columns over the years.  Like Jimmy, The Donald was a Queens guy; although they hailed from different neighborhoods.

Breslin was from the same kind working class Irish neighborhood as Pete Hamill – another working class Irish writer from Brooklyn – who was an excellent observer of life in New York City.  In recounting a recent conversation with Breslin from his retirement home, Hamill tells us: Watching Trump in the White House left Breslin “a bit sour with what’s going on in our country. Mainly because (Trump was) the kind of guy that in my neighborhood in Brooklyn and (Breslin’s) in Queens we despisedThe bullshit tough guy. The guy is all mouth and couldn’t fight his way out of an empty lot.”   Well, there you have it straight from the mouths of two legendary New York Bullshit detectors, who observed Trump up close for decades!

If Trump’s “blue collar billionaire,” hype is classic bullshit the claim that he is a great businessman is a carefully concocted lie!  Trump’s reputation as a businessman rests on his past success as a builder and a brilliant deal maker.  The latter claim is based largely on the bestselling book “The Art of the Deal,” which Trump has repeatedly and shamelessly bragged about writing, declaring the only book more widely read is “the Bible.”  However, we now know that Trump didn’t write the book and his contribution to its contents was minimal.

We learned this when the real author of the book came forward and exposed Trump as a fraud, because he was horrified at the possibility that this shallow megalomaniacal charlatan might actually be elected President of the United States, and feared that he might have played a part in it.  Hence, as is recounted in The New Yorker, when Trump faced a crowd in front of Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue and said “We need a leader that wrote The Art of the Deal” Tony Schwartz, the real author, issued this statement: “Many thanks Donald Trump for suggesting I run for President, based on the fact that I wrote The Art of the Deal.”  According to Schwartz it was he, not trump, that coined the catchy title.

Schwartz felt so strongly that the nation was courting disaster by electing Trump to the presidency that he braved The Donald’s legendary litigious personality and risked a massive lawsuit in order to warn us.  He told us that Trump was a spiritually impoverished intellectual light-weight who did not read and could only concentrate on any subject for about 18 minutes before becoming bored and restless.  He described Trump as the kind of deluded personality who was born of third base but thought he hit a triple.  The person he described was the kind of narcissist who is incapable of truly empathizing with the problems of others, and is contemptuous of the truth unless it served his purpose; an unprincipled man devoid of moral gravitas.

The accuracy of this profile of the American president was verified by those who have dealt with him in business as well as his adversaries in the Republican presidential primary races.  The fact that he has been sued 4,000 times by business associates, and has filed four bankruptcies involving hundreds of millions of dollars, is a powerful statement on the way he does business.  Michel Bloomberg, founder of the Bloomberg LP, one of the most authoritative sources on American business, and is estimated to be worth 40 billion dollars, offered this assessment: “The founder of Bloomberg LP, who is worth an estimated $40 billion, criticized Trump’s business skills, saying, “Trump says he wants to run the nation like he’s running his business? God help us… Truth be told, the richest thing about Donald Trump is his hypocrisy.”

Mitt Romney, who runs an equity company whose business is evaluating the competence of corporate management, says of Trump: “A business genius he is not!”  This was echoed by Warren Buffett, the world’s most successful investor. In 1995 when Trump listed his Trump hotels and casino resorts on the New York Stock Exchange,” says Buffett, “he said the company lost money every year for the next decade. A monkey would have outperformed Trump’s company…if a monkey had thrown a dart at the stock page, the monkey on average would have made 150 percent.”

Paul Singer, the billionaire founder of the hedge fund Elliott Management Corp., said of Trump’s economic nationalist rhetoric during the 2016 Aspen Ideas Festival in Colorado: “I think if he actually stuck to those policies and gets elected president, it’s close to a guarantee of a global depression,” Alas, it appears that most people who think Donald Trump is a great businessman are the people least able to evaluate his abilities: Such as the poor working class white dupes that naively voted for him en masse.

And after competing with him on the campaign trail, where his debasement of political discourse sank to levels never witnessed before in 20th century presidential politics, the common theme in the descriptions of his adversaries was that Trump is a man with “no moral center,” or “core beliefs.”  A con-man who will say or do anything to win.  He was viewed as such an odious character by some long-standing members of the Republican establishment that they developed a “Never Trump” movement and some even openly endorsed Hillary, actively recruiting other Republicans to vote for her against their party’s candidate.

Now that Trump is in the Oval office we see that everything they said about him during the campaign is true.  He is a petulant, pugnacious, ignoramus who tells outrageous lies without conscience and apparently without forethought either, given how easily they are disproven.  It is symptomatic of his Narcissism and delusion that he thinks he can get away with it.  In any case, despite the lies and smokescreens, each day it becomes more obvious that Trump is not qualified for the job of governing a complex and diverse nation.

He has appointed a Director of the Environmental Protection Agency – a critically important job for the preservation of our planet since the US is a top polluter – who does not accept the basic scientific consensus on global warming and announced that Carbon emissions into the atmosphere has NOTHING to do with it!  Yet global warming is the second most dangerous threat to human existence next to nuclear war.  And his Secretary of Energy didn’t even know that the Department of Energy has the responsibility of managing our nuclear weapons arsenal!

He has appointed a Secretary of Health and Human Services who is a shill for the health care industry and engaged in corrupt insider trading as a member of Congress.  In fact, it is now being alleged that Trump’s decision to fire the Federal Attorney for the Southern District of New York, after having previously asked him to stay on, was prompted by that Attorney’s decision to investigate Secretary Price’s investment history.  If the probe had been further on Trump’s action could have been construed as “Obstruction of Justice,” a serious crime that brought Dick Nixon down.

His choice for Secretary of Education has no experience with public education except to try and destroy it. He has chosen a Secretary of State who has no experience in government or foreign affairs except as the CEO of a multi-national oil corporation with a 500 billion-dollar deal pending in Russia, that is presently blocked by the sanctions imposed by President Obama as a penalty for Russian intervention in our Presidential election.  His choice for Secretary of Housing and Urban Development – a critical agency that is responsible for managing housing for millions of city dwellers, is a surgeon with no experience in government, housing policy or managing a giant bureaucracy.  In other words, most of his appointments are unqualified amateurs just like him!

Aside from these horrendous appointments, Donald Trump has openly called for the US to commit war crimes such as seizing the natural resources of other nations by force of arms; torturing people suspected of engaging in terrorist acts or belonging to organizations that engage in terrorism, and murdering the families of terrorists.  He has clearly chosen belligerence over diplomacy as the main instrument of American foreign relations, returning the power to kill people with drones to CIA field officers.

President Obama had restricted the power to make “kills” by the CIA due to the number of civilian casualties.  Alas, saving the lives of innocent Arabs is of no concern to a racist President determined to use every bit of American military power, civilians be damned!   Trump’s priorities are reflected in his allocation of monies: proposing an additional 54 billion dollars to an already obscenely bloated and wasteful military budget, while cutting 37% of the State Department’s budget.  This means there will be an expansion of military power and a decrease in diplomacy and other “soft power” initiatives.   Already Trump has introduced American troops into Syria, a transparent fool’s errand that we shall surely come to regret, and now he is facing an unfolding crisis on the Korean peninsula that could result in catastrophe.

Spoiling for a fight abroad and launching an assault on the public interest at home, Trump is threating to sign a bill that takes away the health care of up to 24 million people according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office.   And they are attempting to justify this atrocity by obscuring the truth about funding cuts behind a veil of lies.  They have proposed a bill, the America Healthcare Act, which contains one of the biggest tax giveaways to the rich in American history – hundreds of billions of dollars – while literally putting the poor and the elderly at risk of literally dying in the streets.

And they are attempting to justifying this crime against humanity by reciting bogus talking points about Obamacare being in eminent danger of collapse and thus they are actually engaging in “an act of mercy,” in the words of Lyin Paul Ryan, Republican speaker of the House.  Yet the American Actuarial Society, who are the foremost experts on this issue, says it ain’t so!  It is hard to imagine a worse image for the Republicans than billionaires taking away the health care of the poor while the get hundreds of billions in tax giveaways!   But, arrogant and full of themselves, they are marching happily down that road.  Let’s see if all the po whites who put Trump in office will make the GOP – Grand Obstructionist Party – pay at the polls come election day.

The Republican assault on the public interests knows no bounds.  They are enacting policies that could result in polluting our water supplies; just like in Flint Michigan, where a Republican businessman with no experience in government was elected governor and enacted policies that led to the poisoning the water with lead.  It was such a callous act that the people directly responsible for implementing the policy are being charged with felonies.

The GOP’s approach to supporting important cultural institutions face the same level of destruction if they carry through with plans to defund the National Endowment for the Arts, and slash the budget for the Public Broadcasting System.  These are national treasures that enrich the cultural and spiritual life of the nation, something a shallow philistine like Trump does not began to understand. We hear Trump’s Director of OBM –Office of Management and Budget – offer up absurd arguments to justify these backward policies like, “We can’t continue to ask single mothers and coal miners in West Virginia to continue to pay for Public Broadcasting.”

The tragic irony of this is that these are the people who need PBS the most, because this is the only shot that their children have to come in contact with high culture. These parents can’t take their children out to the Ballet, or Opera, or a concert by the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, or see great plays or art movies, etc.  And the tax burden on them is less than $2.00 a year!  It is the best deal they will ever get in this life.  The fact that Trump does not understand or care about this issue is a reflection of the fact that he is a vulgar materialist, an uncultured philistine who is indifferent to art and culture.  There is not a single cultural institution that he has endowed in his home town, the cultural capital of the world.

He is betraying all of the urban working class and poor rural whites that voted for him at every turn.  It is not enough that he is taking away their medical care and a valuable cultural resource, he is adopting polices that will diminish resources to the public schools upon which they depend for the education of their children, but he is even taking away “Meals on Wheels,” a program that feeds the elderly poor upon which 500,000 military veterans depend!

Asid from his cold-blooded betrayal of his working class base, Trump’s assault on the basic institutions of American democracy reveals the mind-set of a dictator.  He has blatantly attacked the independence of the Judiciary, and he has launched a sustained assault against the free press, constantly denouncing working reporters with scurrilous attacks at public gatherings and on Twitter.   He is obnoxious martinet who cannot distinguish between the dictatorial of a corporate CEO and the limited powers of the presidency.  This an obvious consequence of the fact that he has no experience in public service.

Thomas Jefferson said if he had a choice between a government and no free press, or a free press and no government, “I’ll take the free newspapers and no government!”  Trump says the fee press “is the enemy of the American people!”  Yet in all these atrocities and more, Donald J. Trump is daily demonstrating that he is the most dangerous threat to the public interest.  And that makes him Public Enemy Number One!!!

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 Click to see a Compilation of Trump’s Lies and Contradictions!

https://youtu.be/5wrEQhuzRDE

 

Here’s Johnny! An American Master

Posted in Cultural Matters, Film Criticism, On Sports! with tags , , , on March 12, 2017 by playthell
playthell-and-johnny-chocranPlaythell and Johnny hangin out at Katie Couric’s Party, in Manhattan

Notes on O.J. Made in America

Suddenly O. J. Simpson is in the news again, and from all appearances the “Trial of the Twentieth Century” is creeping into the 21st century. The “Juice” is being introduced to another generation in this new century by virtue of two films, one a documentary the other a feature film:  O.J. Simpson: Made in America, and The People Vs. O. J. Simpson.   I have not seen The People vs O.J. Simpson, but I am watching O.J. Made in America as I write.  When the documentary, directed by award winning film maker Ezra Benjamin Edelman, won the coveted Academy Award, I was shocked!

I had already seen Raoul Peck’s marvelous documentary on James Baldwin: “I’m Not Your Negro,” and I knew any movie that beat Peck’s documentary had to be great.  For Peck had provided us a poignant portrait of the turbulent history of race relations in 20th century America, told in the words of James Baldwin – one of the most powerful essayist of the last century, whose pen greatly enriched the English language – graphically illustrated with photographs and video. It was a powerful presentation: riveting, enlightening, uplifting, a sublime experience.  But the Academy chose the O. J. Documentary instead.  I couldn’t wait to see it.

As it turns out O.J. Made in America is a production of ESPN, the sports channel, it’s a part of their excellent 30 for 30 series, and the multi-part series is still being broadcast.  I stumbled upon the film when I awoke about five o-clock in the morning, after having fallen asleep with the television on, and found the documentary just beginning.  After watching about four hours of this seven-hour epic on race, class, sports and the power of American celebrity culture – which made a demi-god of O.J. and put Donald Trump in the White House – I agree with the Academy.   This is a great documentary!   I was unable to leave it except to run to the bathroom.

When I first heard about the film my reaction was: “What else is there to know about O.J. Simpson?  After all, the cat really ain’t that deep.”  I was wrong.  A great part of the insightfulness of this documentary is due to the unique perspective Edelman brings to this project. As the son of Marian Wright Edelman, the long-time Director of the Children Defense Fund, the inequities faced by many children at birth has long been a topic of conversation in his household.

His sense of justice is enhanced by the fact that his father Peter B. Edelman is a law professor at Georgetown University.  And by virtue of the fact that his mother is Afro-American and his father is a Jew, Ezra has seen the world from both sides. His maternal grandfather is a Baptist minister and his paternal grandfather was a Polish Rabbi who was killed in the holocaust.  He attended a Quaker high school and earned a degree from Yale.  He was born in Boston and raised in Washington DC. What a unique perspective from which to view American society.

Ezra Benjamin Edelman

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Academy Award winning Director

I welcome the arrival of this film with such an even-handed report because I have always advocated looking at the O.J. Simpson affair objectively; give him his day in court and try to live with the verdict.  During his dramatic trial for killing his blond wife and her young Jewish lover, I was not one of those black people who was running around chanting “Cut the Juice Loose!”  At the time of the trial I was an Editorial Page columnist with the New York Daily News, and I wrote three columns on the incident.  I remember well how I came to write them.

At first, like everybody else, I was shocked at the accusation that old smiley O.J. brutally slaughtered two innocent people; not this hail fellow well met.   And while I believed he should be assumed innocent, I didn’t insist upon it as an act of blind faith.  As the details of their relationship began to emerge, I found his brutality toward his wife Nicole both shocking and appalling.  Yet I was troubled by the swelling cries for O.J. Simpson’s head.  They reminded me too much of the southern lynch mobs that terrified me in my youth.

Although I had never personally witnessed a lynching, I read about them and saw grim pictures of the victims, and I was living in a southern town where you knew that such an atrocity could happen given the right circumstances – that there was an element of white men in the town, including the sheriff, who were quite capable of forming a lynch mob. So, I was turned off by the howl of the white mob.  In fact, my second Daily News Column on the O.J. affair addressed just this issue.  Not being a lawyer, I had no original legal insights to offer, so I concentrated on the issues that surrounded the trial.

Hence the first Column was an attempt to place the story of O. J. and Nicole in a historical and cultural context.  I talked about how a story about a hyper-masculine black man who marries and murders a beautiful innocent white woman would resonate deep in the collective psyche of Americans.  For anyone who studied English literature, as we all had, and is familiar with the classics of the western literary canon, Othello immediately comes to mind.  Although, to fully grasp O.J.’s personality, it would require referencing two of Shakespeare’s plays – Othello and Titus Andronicus.

While O.J. can be seen as Othello, because he is accused of murdering his white wife in a fit of jealous rage fueled by his suspicion that she had taken another lover, Othello is constantly referred to even by his enemies as “noble Othello,” or “The noble Moor.” But, alas, O.J.’s character has more in common with the treacherous Aron the Moor in Titus Andronicus.  A few years before O.J. was accused of killing his wife I had published a lengthy treatise titled “Did Shakespeare Intend Othello to be Black: Reflections on Blacks and the Bard,” that was anthologized in the text “Othello: New Essays by Black Writers,” edited by the distinguished Shakespearean scholar Dr. Maithili Kaul and published by Howard University Press.

On that occasion, I had argued that in the dramatis Personae of Shakespeare’s two Moors he invested the polarities of virtue and vice, hero and villain.  O.J. embodies aspects of both characters, and like them he is a warrior; not in the literal sense but symbolically.  Othello and Aron were both fighting men, soldiers; O.J. is a football player, a blood sport that is a metaphor for war.  And all of these images of violent black manhood, these cultural references, are embedded, along with recollections of Emitt Til and Willie Horton, in the racial memory of black and white Americans.

Alas, the most persistent theme in American history is racial conflict between African and European Americans.  This is why such intense interest in the Nicole Brown / O.J. Simpson murder case persists; it is powerful testimony to the truth of Nobel Laurate in Literature William Faulkner’s observation “The past isn’t even past.”

Hence when Johnny Cochran took on the defense of O.J. Simpson, he inherited all of the thorny issues surounding the history of race relations in American; including the instinct for mob Justice to exact retribution for what whites view as black offenses against their kith and kin.  This issue becomes as explosive as nitro-glycerin if the victim is a white woman, and it becomes even more explosive to the degree that she is blond, beautiful, and apparently innocent.  In the minds of many white men it is a blasphemy akin to befouling he precincts of heaven; hence many of them felt O.J. did not even deserve a trial at all.  They wanted to string him up from the nearest tree mucho pronto….if they had their druthers.

One of the most valuable achievements of this remarkable documentary film is the skillful ways in which the director weaves vignettes about the broader experience of Afro-Americans with racism  in the USA and how it affects the perceptions of Blacks and whites in the way they view the Simpson trial.  From the outset blacks viewed O.J.’s guilt with skepticism, and whites dismissed the assumption of innocence. Of course, it goes without saying that I am not talking about all whites or blacks; rather I am speaking in the aggregate based on opinion polls.  Hence Johnny Cochran was viewed with growing suspicion by whites, while blacks rooted for his success in defending O.J.

After the racist statements of Detective Mark Furman, who had found the bloody glove which the prosecution said was worn by O.J. while committing the crime, was exposed on an audio tape in the courtroom, the prosecution lost faith with most black Americans – including the Jury.  After listening to Detective Furman routinely calling Afro-Americans “niggers;” casually discussing how white cops brutalized and framed innocent black men; and declaring that he would like to see “all niggers killed,” the Black community became convinced that the fix was in and O.J. had been framed by the LAPD based on the lies of a racist white detective.

 A Dramatic Moment Tailor Made for A Professional Actor
o-j-simpson-iii
If it Don’t Fit…You Must Acquit!

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The Coup de Grace!

When this compelling evidence Furman’s racism was added to a major blunder by the prosecution, who ordered O.J. to try on the bloody glove and it didn’t fit, it gave Johnny Cochran the opening to charge the jury with the compelling rhyme: “If it doesn’t fit you must acquit!” The film examines this moment in a way that allows us to observe O.J., the experienced screen actor, at work. He recognized the high drama of the moment and made the most of it; turning to the camera and triumphantly thrusting his hands into the air to emphasize the fact that the glove didn’t fit!

His transparent effort to brazenly play to the cheap seats and milk the scene for all it would yield, conjured up the warning of that consummate thespian Sir Lawrence Olivier, who warned aspiring actors: “Acting is a noble profession but the actor must never be caught doing it!”   In the film, other members of the prosecution team all say they were against the disastrous courtroom demonstration because it went against a cardinal rule of good lawyering: “Don’t ask questions before a jury when you are not sure of the correct answer.”

But, alas, they say Darden saw this demonstration as an opportunity to kill two quails with one stone: to put O.J. away for murder, and salvage his reputation from the accusation that he was an “Uncle Tom,” who was being used by the white power structure to frame an innocent black star. Hence upon the insistence of Chris Darden, the only black attorney on the prosecution team, the other prosecutors went against their better judgement and allowed O.J. to try on the glove…and it sank their case!

However the thing that enraged white Americans most, was when Johnny Cochran dramatically compared Detective Mark Furman’s beliefs about black people to Adolph Hitler’s beliefs about Jews.  This was one of the most telling moments in the film, because it demonstrates the willful ignorance and denial of the obvious similarities of Hitler’s Master Race theories and the racist white supremacist ideology of white America.  Alas, the film maker missed a perfect opportunity to clarify this widespread misunderstanding.

The fact of the matter is that Hitler actually imported his racist ideology from the USA.  Never has the Afro-American historian Dr. Benjamin Quarles’ axiom rang truer: “He who would understand the complex realities of the present needs the added dimension of historical perspective.”  For it is well documented that Hitler adopted his Master race theories from a book by a leader in the American Eugenicist Movement: The Passing of the Great Race, by Madison Grant, published in 1917.  We know this because historians have found a letter from Hitler in Grant’s personal papers where the Nazi leader thanks Grant for writing the tome and enthusiatically declares: “Your book is my Bible!” Hence despite the opprobrium heaped upon him Johnny Cochran was right on target.  Nazi racial ideology and American white supremacy are the same class of phenomenon and it, like O.J. was made in the good old USA!

Despite this oversight however, the documentary does a good job of connecting the dots when it comes to white racism, Afro-Americans and the O.J. Simpson case.  And their inclusion of the brilliant litigator F. Lee Bailey’s cross examination of Mark Thurman on the stand, exposing him as a flaming racist sicko, is one of the outstanding episodes in the film.

They also spared no effort in exploring Johnny Cochran’s brilliance as a trial lawyer; his elegance and eloquence were fully on display. (see video clips of both lawyers in the courtroom at the bottom of this essay) As was the feelings of the jurors, the jubilation of the black community nationwide over O.J.’s acquittal, and the rage of white America that O.J. got away with “a double murder.”   The importance and power of this trial can still be seen in the intense emotions it evokes after all these years.

The Master at Work

johnny-cochran

Mesmerizing the Jurors with Erudition and the Magic Power of Speech

The shock, rage and outrage of white America upon the acquital of O.J.Simpson by a black Jury in Los Angeles is poignantly portrayed in this film.  It was as if the heat of white anger was fed by two blazing fires: O.J. got away with murdering some white folks, and the “niggers were laughing!”  It seemed that everywhere you looked black people were laughing; to white eyes it must have looked like every black person in the world was laughing!

Based on their comments, it sure sounded like that’s what they thought and it just seemed to piss them off more. I remember network television news reports showing students at the Howard University School of Law, and they were cheering like Howard had just won the annual “Whiskey Bowl” against their hated rival Lincoln University. What happened at Howard was of special interests to white commentators because of it’s venerable reputation as “The Capstone of Negro Higher Education.”

Under the leadership of it’s founding Dean, the brilliant and elegant Harvard trained lawyer Charles Hamilton Houston, Howard law laid the legal ground work for a team of Houston’s students led by gifted constitutional lawyer Thurgood Marshall – who would go on to become the first Black Justice on the Supreme Court – changed American society into a better place with their unanimous victory in the historic Brown V. The Board of Ed Decision.  

The white folks got so upset after repeated viewings of the jubilatiion at Howard that I felt compelled to write my third Daily News column on the history of white anxiety over black laughter in America.  My intention was to tutor my readers – and those who would hear me read and discuss the column on my radio show “Talk Back,” broadcast over WBAI FM – on the fact that white people have always gotten uptight when the see  black people laughing.

This has been discussed by white commentators going back to the 18th century, who pointed out that the source of white unease lay in the fact that they couldn’t see what was funny, and suspected that we might be laughing at them.  There are numerous references to this in the writings of white Americans from literary figures and journalists to private diaries.  Afro-American cultural critic Mel Watkins discusses this question in some depth in his seminal text on Afro-american comedy “On the Real Side: The Underground Tradition of Black Humor.”

At one point white anxiety over black laughter became so intense that “Laughing Barrels” were installed on the down town streets so if blacks felt like laughing in the presence of whites they had to rush to the barrels, stick their heads into them, and then laugh! None of this was mentioned in the film, but then this was my unique contribution to news commentary…I had been a history professor before I became a journalist.  Everything becomes clearer when viewed from the hindsight of history.

Among the special virtues of this film, which suffers an embarrassment of riches regarding virtue, is that it goes on to give us a good summation of O.J.’s life after the trial.  He tries desperately to regain the love of a white public that once adored the ground he walked on, but millions of his former fans were through with him for good.  And all the money he was making as the top pitchman in America evaporated.  For whether he killed his wife or not, the 911 tapes from Nicole left no doubt that he certainly battered and abused her; he would have been jailed for treating a dog that way.

One of the most shameful and embarrassing episodes in this richly sourced documentary is the hero’s embrace that O.J. received from the black community.  He did not deserve it!  O.J. Simpson had been running from any involvement with the black community as hard as he ran from defenders on the fotball field ever since he was in college, which is made clear in the film.  However, I became aware of this right after O.J. won the much coveted Heisman Trophy, which is annually awarde to “the best player in college football.”

I attended his party celebrating the event at USC, as the guest of my good friend Bobby Barnes, a baseball great and the father of Barry Bonds – who should be in the Hall of Fame – and I  noticed that O.J’s friends were virtually all white.  They shamelessly genuflected before him like a bronze God!  The white girls flocked around him like bees to honey, and he possessed the sort of arrogance that made him think any woman in the room was his for the asking.

I noticed this when he attempted to flirt with the lady I was with, a stunning beauty with a Ph.d in mathemetics.  However it was comical because she got off on brains not brawn, and had become mesmerized by a lecture I gave at UCLA on the dynamics of mass transformative movements as a class of phemomena by conducting a comparative analysis of the Black Liberation movement in the US, the American Feminist movement and the Chinese Revolution…which had inspired a standing ovation from the audience.  And since the country was aflame with mass protests this was a very hot topic  of broad interests….plus I was quite a physical specimen myself – a former highschool football player  six feet tall, a solid 215 pounds – and a silver tongued ladies man.  O.J. was a barely articulate square with no game off the football field, who got by on his looks and celebrity status.  I was amused at his futile attempts to impressed Dr. Fine.

Dr. Fine Braiding my Hair

The Juice bombed with this Brainiac

Shortly after the party, a friend of mine with the United Negro College Fund approached him about doing a public service spot soliciting money for Black colleges.  O.J. refused the request and frankly told her that he did not wish to be identified with anything racial.   My impression of him from that day forward was that he is what the old folks in Florida, when I was a boy, called: “A White Folks Nigger!”   Hence while this superb and candid film offered many new insights, it did nothing to change my initial impression….in fact the revelations of this in-depth documentary confirmed it.

 

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The Moment O.J. Tries on the Glove
https://youtu.be/16KaoVmVTPE
 F. Lee Bailey’s Exposes Furman’s Racism on the Stand
https://youtu.be/UyuqBOBM12s
 The Great Johnny Cochran in his Closing Argument
https://youtu.be/sBobchfpiVM

Playthel Benjamin Interviewed by NBC on O.J

In the Studio of WBAI FM, New York  circa 1994
Playthell G. Benjamin
Harlem, New York
March 5, 2017

 

A Sports Reporter’s Homage to Obama

Posted in Cultural Matters, On Sports! with tags , , , on March 3, 2017 by playthell
samori-interviews-raptorsSamori Benjamin interviewing Toronto Raptors shooting guard deMar DeRozan

Black NBA Stars Bid Obama Goodbye

Wise men may justifiably question if we have the right to feel pride in our ancestors; for what, after all, did we have to do with their achievements that would justify our gloating.  Hence one could argue that we are trying to “hitch a ride on their cool.”  But there is no question that we can justly take pride in our progeny; especially if one has been a present and active parent.  Whenever one is skillful enough to command the trust of your children, and well equipped to pass on wisdom, then none can deny that such a parent can claim some pride in their worth-while achievements.

My son Samori is a sports reporter, and like his cousin Jimmy Strawder, a distinguished architect, Samori has known what he wanted to do since he was a boy.  At first, like all boys who enthusiastically participate in organized sports, he aspired to become a professional athlete, a major-league baseball player. While he enjoys all sports I think his choice of baseball was determined by several specific things that I can see.

First, he grew up in Manhattan, which means that unlike the small Florida town that I grew up in there were not a lot of vacant fields where kids could play games like football – which was my sport of choice.  And in retrospect I can see that my choice of football was virtually inevitable growing up in Florida, where football is a civic religion, and a rite of passage into manhood – a demonstration of manly valor as well as a courtship ritual. But for Samori it was going to be baseball or basketball.

And since he could view the magnificent spectacle of Yankee Stadium, all lit up on summer nights, out of his living room windows, close enough to hear the cheers, he became curious as to what sort of wondrous magic was taking place in the giant arena that looked a lot like a space ship about to take off. Samori’s fate was sealed when he met the future Hall of Famer Dave Winfield on a trip to Yankee Stadium when he was five years old in an event sponsored by the Dave Winfield Foundation. 

Dave came out to greet the kids and gave them all baseball gloves, and thus began Samori’s love affair with baseball – which he played through Little League and High School- where he began to split his time with the art of Saber fencing.  After spending several years away at college he returned to the City and began to cover the Yankees as the Sports Reporter and Editor at WBAI FM radio in New York City.  He also wrote sports stories for The Black World Today.com and other outlets.  Now his writings and broadcast archives regularly appear on the website wbaisports.com.  Samori is also finishing a book on the disappearing Afro-American Major League baseball player based on extensive interviews of players and managers.

Hence as a sports reporter Samori’s work is sensitive to how developments in sport reflects what is happening in the wider society.  This feature, NBA Players Say Goodbye to President Obama, is a poignant example of the social consciousness that characterizes Samori’s work.  In this report he has systematically collected the heartfelt feelings of black professional basketball stars, and edited them into a seamless epic commentary that captures an important episode in American history, preserving the heartfelt testimony of rich, famous, young black men who are legends in their own time.

This is a moving tribute to President Obama and a historical document that, like the finest of wines….will continue to grow better and more valuable with time!

The Players Loved the fact that ‘Chilly B” is a Baller!

baracks-got-hops

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Kyle Lowry, Point Guard, Toronto Raptors

samori-and-nba-player

Toronto Raptors General Manager Masai Ujiri.
samori-and-raptors-general-manager He Spoke as a Friend of Obama and Painted a Moving Portrait 
 Click on link to hear their Tribute

 

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Introduction By: Playthell G. Benjamin
Writer, Producer and Host of the NBA Tribute
Playthell “Samori” Benjamin
March 2, 2017