By Amir Mohammad Esmaeili

Corporate and government-controlled media in U.S. have lost credibility: African American author

July 29, 2020 - 21:48

TEHRAN - Abayomi Azikiwe, an African American author, and journalist in Detroit, tells the Tehran Times that the owners of mainstream media in the U.S. have a vested interest in crushing the anti-racist movement and as a result, they “have lost credibility”.

Azikiwe says the fact that most people are suspicious of cable networks and news publications “can potentially place the ruling class in serious danger of a national uprising since its appeal to the masses could easily be rejected by key elements in the population.”

Azikiwe, who is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire, also expresses his dismay over the illegal presence of U.S. forces in Syria, saying, “The American government resents the independent character of the Syria state and therefore all peace and freedom-loving people throughout the world should defend the inherent right of the Syrian people to determine their leadership and the social system that best suits them in this historical period.” 

The African-American writer also says U.S. forces have been deployed in the West Asia region to just “serve an imperialist agenda”.

The text of the interview with Azikiwe is as follows:

Q: Firstly, please let me ask your opinion on the recent U.S. illegal move in Syria. On Thursday night, U.S. warplanes operating illegally in Syria conducted some dangerous maneuvering close to the Mahan Air flight. The Civil Aviation Organization of Iran called it “a clear violation of international law and aviation standards and regulations.”  What is your comment?

A: This incident which gained major coverage in the U.S. corporate media was not an accident. The Trump administration has never concealed its hostility towards Iran. Fortunately, the pilots were able to avoid a crash landing. Although reports indicate that many people suffered injuries. Such occurrences should not go without an official response from international human rights agencies particularly within the United Nations framework.

Q: Without permission from Damascus, the U.S. has been operating in Syria since 2014 under the pretext of fighting the ISIS terrorist group. The U.S., however, continues its occupation even as Syria defeated the Takfiri terrorists in late 2017. Is the U.S. presence in Syria legitimate?

A: U.S. troops are in Syria in order to make attempts at destabilizing the government in Damascus. Washington and its allies have said repeatedly that President Assad should leave the office and go into exile. This is an outrageous and illegal position aimed at turning Syria into a neo-colony of the U.S. The American government resents the independent character of the Syria state and therefore all peace and freedom-loving people throughout the world should defend the inherent right of the Syrian people to determine their leadership and the social system that best suits them in this historical period. The armed opposition groups such as ISIS were created by U.S. intelligence agencies and the Pentagon. They have no legitimacy within the region and are there only to serve an imperialist agenda. 

“The notion of the United States being founded as a democratic country is a national myth.”

Q: Please let’s back to our main topic. Protests over the death of George Floyd continue to rage across the U.S. What do you think about the protests? Do you see any hope for a change of behavior towards African Americans?  

A: These demonstrations since May 25, when George Floyd was brutally executed by a racist white police officer on the streets of Minneapolis during broad daylight, millions were rightly enraged and took the streets. Thousands were arrested and dozens were killed by the police and National Guard. President Donald Trump in early June evoked the slave-era Insurrection Act of 1807 threatening to deploy federal troops if the municipalities could not stop the protests, some of which turned violent in a rebellious manner. We see today that more federal agents and troops are being deployed to cities such as Portland, Chicago, and Detroit. In Atlanta, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp dispatched the National Guard to Atlanta supposedly to help fight crime. Yet Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms did not ask for the Guardsmen and has objected to their presence. In Portland, a number of elected officials filed suit in U.S. District Court demanding that the Federal forces be withdrawn. 
A federal court judge ruled that the elected officials did not have to stand in the case to file suit against the Trump administration on behalf of the demonstrators. What is needed is the building of a genuinely independent and revolutionary party that can organize the workers, oppressed and youth to build a new and socially transformed political dispensation. The first response is protest and rebellion. The next phase must lead to building the apparatus to effectively challenge the system fundamentally. The lives of the people depend upon this inevitability due to the horrendous social conditions now prevailing in the U.S. has the largest COVID-19 outbreak and is rapidly descending economically. 

Q: It seems that the United States is a contradiction. Its founding principles embrace the ideals of freedom and equality, but it is a nation built on the systematic exclusion and suppression of communities of color. From the start, so many of this country’s laws and public policies, which should serve as scaffolding that guides progress, were instead designed explicitly to prevent people of color from fully participating. What are the reasons behind this?

A: The notion of the United States is founded as a democratic country is a national myth utilized to control the narrative around the actual character of the state. The U.S. has its origins in the forced removal and genocide of the indigenous Native peoples of North America along with the kidnapping and enslavement of millions of Africans forced to work for 250 years without any monetary compensation. Even after the victory in the separatist war by the British colonies in North America leading to the USA being established in the late 18th century, the Native people were being encroached upon by the settler-colonial regime while the demand for African enslaved labor grew exponentially. Eventually, there were 4.5 million Africans residing in the U.S. by the beginning of the Civil War (1861-1865). Only one-half million were considered "free" while nearly 4 million were enslaved. With the conclusion of the Civil War, the African people were designated as having equal rights through a series of Amendments to the Constitution as well as the Civil Rights Acts. Nonetheless, 150 years hence and African Americans are still struggling to gain recognition and self-determination.
“The owners of the media have a vested interest in crushing the anti-racist struggle.”

Q: What is important to learn from the history of slavery in the U.S. is the social construction of race, with the main objective of controlling the dominated groups and enforcing distance from them through multiple institutionalized laws and social norms. What is your take on it?

A: In order to justify the continuation of slavery under British rule and later during the first 90 years of independent existence for the white ruling class in the U.S., the leadership provided a rationale claiming that African people were inferior and were best suited as servants of white landowners in the Northeast and the South. After slavery was phased out in many northern and pre-industrial states after the separatist war of 1776-1783, those Africans living in these areas were forced to fight slavery particularly in the years leading up to the Civil War where the Fugitive Slave Act was implemented. This meant that even if a man or woman had purchased or was awarded freedom from bondage, they were still subject to the slave catchers in non-slave-owning states who would capture people and return them to bondage in the southern region of the U.S. After the collapse of the attempt to Reconstruct U.S. democracy during the post-Civil War period, the white former slaveowners crafted laws known as the Black Codes, designed to segregate and exploit the formally enslaved population. Therefore, the criminal justice system, including the police and detention facilities were essential structures aimed at the social containment and further economic exploitation of the African people.

Q:  The U.S. Constitution proclaims people are free and equal, but everyone is aware this designation was not intended for enslaved Africans. It was rather for the European settlers and their descendants. Many Blacks support the idea that individuals are not equal if there is a discrepancy in employment, food securitization, good schooling, housing, and healthcare. What do you think?

A: After the end of slavery there were mass interventions by Africans into electoral politics, community organizing, and the quest for educational achievement. The passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865 ostensibly ended slavery. Later in 1868, the 14th Amendment was passed by the then Radical dominated Congress which purportedly enshrined Africans as citizens with rights to due process and equal protection under the law, the right to serve on juries and testify against whites in a court of law. Nonetheless, through the outright terror of organization such as the Ku Klux Klan, formed in the aftermath of the Civil War by former plantation owners, slave traders and failed Confederate war generals, along with the retreat by the federal government from the Reconstruction project after the contentious elections of 1876, Africans were gradually disenfranchised again and segregated for the purpose of exploitation.

Q: What is the Black Lives Matter protesting for? 

A: Black Lives Matter (BLM) began as a hashtag after the racist vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida in 2012. Since then every large and small demonstration taking place in the U.S. is characterized by the corporate media as BLM. The actual BLM has the same first letters as the Black Liberation Movement, a term routinely used from the 1960s onward. There are many organizations fighting racism and capitalism in the U.S. The task at this stage in 2020 is to develop a program to unite all of these organizations, committees, movements, and campaigns. The base of the movement for fundamental transformation must be based in the African American, Latin American, and Indigenous communities in the U.S. These are the most oppressed and they are in a social position to carry out the most damage to the unjust system. 

Q: How do you assess the role of mainstream media in the protests? What about Facebook, Twitter, and other social media?

A: The corporate media is forced to cover the demonstrations and rebellions as a result of its mass character. However, the television and radio stations, along with the newspapers and websites, convey the news with their own biases. Very rarely does the reporter interview the leadership of the movements operating in this important period. This illustrates the disconnectedness of these multi-billion dollar operations from the working-class people, the impoverished, radical intellectuals, and cultural workers. The owners of this media have a vested interest in crushing the anti-racist struggle. With the rapid spread of the internet spawning social media, these platforms have become far less democratic and open in recent years. 
Political ideas and debates are being censored. People involved in the struggle are developing new platforms to avoid this phenomenon. At the same time, the corporate and government-controlled public media have lost credibility on the Left and Right. Most people are suspicious of cable networks and news publications. This can potentially place the ruling class in serious danger of a national uprising since its appeal to the masses could easily be rejected by key elements in the population. These issues will only be resolved as the situation develops in the coming months.

Q: Do you think this movement is different? What are the unique characteristics of this movement?

A: There is a lot of political diversity in the anti-racist movement at the present stage. However, there are currents emerging which are categorically anti-capitalist and realize that the system cannot be reformed. The only solution is to build a new system that is in the interests of the most oppressed. Since the 1960s, there have been profound changes in the labor market and the world economy overall. Communications technology has been important in building and sustaining the current demonstrations. Many of the youth and workers playing key roles in the 2020 demonstrations are sophisticated in mobilization and political education techniques. In this sense, the Trump administration and its backers on Wall Street, feel threatened by the convergence of the public health crisis, the declining economy and the resurgence in the anti-racist movement.

Q: As you pointed it, the movement appears to have attracted protesters who are younger. What is the role of the youth in the movement?

A: Youth have always been in the vanguard of the world revolutionary movements even within the U.S. When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. started his movement journey in Montgomery, Alabama with the Bus Boycott in 1955-56, he was only 26 years old. The Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) was formed in 1960 by the youth who became the shock troops of the Civil Rights Movement. The Black Panther Party, League of Revolutionary Black Workers, Nation of Islam were largely staffed by younger people. These youth who are taking to the streets in 2020 are following this same tradition.

Q:  In general, what is the relationship between the movement and family structure?

A: Since the time of enslavement, the African family has been under attack. Many were sold away from their families, even infants, and children. The struggle has been to maintain families under a racist-capitalist system. In the 21st century, many African Americans are imprisoned and therefore damaging the capacity of the people to enjoy any semblance of a normal life. The national liberation movement is designed to guard African American families and communities against attempts to destroy them by the state.

Q: Some experts argue that Black Lives Matter is the largest movement in U.S. history. What do you think? 

A: Well if we study African American history there have been periodic upsurges in mass discontent manifesting itself in many forms. During the Civil War, hundreds of thousands of Africans fled the plantations to join the Union Army in order to assist in the movement to end slavery. The Antebellum period was marked by slave revolts, flight from bondage and attacks against plantation owners such as the New Orleans Rebellion of 1811, the Nat Turner Revolt in 1831 in Virginia, John Brown had Africans in his military units that attacked Harper's Ferry in 1859. There were thousands of African Americans that joined the Communist Party in the 1930s during the Great Depression. In the 1960s, there were over 200 rebellions between 1963-1970.

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