“Because I’m the conservative, whether you know it or not. You don’t know who’s out there on those wild and hungry streets. I am your prudent broker on Judgment Day. Harlem, the Bronx, and Brooklyn, they’re gonna blow my friend, and on that day, how grateful you will be for your prudent broker…your prudent broker…who can control the steam.”
—Reverend Bacon, The Bonfire of the Vanities (Tom Wolfe)
Nature secretly avenges herself for the constraint imposed upon her by the laws of man.
—Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
The Don Imus "scandal" appeared as if on cue to distract the public from the lack of any meaningful mea culpa from the major media regarding their de facto collective attempt to convict without meaningful trial a group of, all together now, privileged white male student athletes, on the basis of an accusation almost immediately recognizable as false, of sexually assaulting, once more as a group, an impoverished single black mother working as an exotic dancer to make ends meet.
The embarrassing and anticlimactic denouement of the sad affair is no doubt one rare moment that the editors of the New York Times felt some gratitude for the short attention span and general apathy of the greater portion of the American public. But it must be said plainly at least once:
The media coverage of the Duke rape hoax was an intentional attempt to prejudice against the accused the public and any jury that might be convened from it.
This was not merely shoddy reporting. Worse even, in measure of moral cowardice if not consequence, than the coverage of the Bush Administration’s case for invading Iraq. When the contraption collapsed the rickety supports of its foundational lies, what was revealed in the wreckage was not an isolated incident but a long established pattern of intentional and institutionalized bias, so revealed only because those who maintain it had grown lax, so confident in their intrigue that they had ceased treating accusations from the favored against the disfavored with even cursory skepticism. Poor quality inspection of the raw material used for narrative manufacture leading to a defective run.
Aftershocks of unintentional comedy followed the conclusion of the humorless farce, revealing that some will surrender the fictive narrative of never-ending collective noble black suffering at the hands of a boundlessly evil white majority only when it is pried from their cold, dead hands.
Witness the post-mortem offered by the now completely dissolute NAACP, showing that organization has less shame even than relevance remaining, as its spokesmen affected concern that in the future young black women sexually assaulted by gangs of young white men inebriated on alcohol and entitlement might not have the courage to come forward (perhaps because they would be at risk of being swept up in a similar nationwide campaign orchestrated by the organization and its activist and media comrades, fielding visits from the likes of Jesse Jackson bearing cash grants and agents seeking story rights, only to suffer modest, anonymous embarrassment free of any meaningful consequences if and when their charges are belatedly revealed as false—God forbid!).
That these hordes of leering white rapists obsessed with black womanhood are so hard to find that they appear to be imaginary still goes mostly unremarked upon by the media, where this occasion for self-examination has been met with the equivalent of incomprehensible mumbling and looking off to the side. And what do you know; blundering into view comes another hapless, diversionary patsy. Look, over there! He can't get away with that, can he? That was a close one.
Indeed, decrepit Don, no great loss to the world of comedy, would have been well served by a more favorable news cycle, in which his crude and offensive but relatively tame remark (which never would have made it to the ears of the young offended if not for all the whipped-up outrage) would have submerged with the rest of the insubstantial swill.
But Imus’ explanation deserves better than the out of hand rejection it has received: that he was merely engaging in "humorous" vernacular made popular by rap. This is obviously true. Something else has happened here. The appalling misogyny, violence, and outright stupidity of rap culture can only be recognized as such when an oblivious white fool attempts to mimic it.
Those offered up for sacrifice to a prevailing tyranny need not be rebellious; they are often among its most observant adherents, blundering into the ruling caste's view as timely targets of opportunity. When the punishment is meant for public consumption to maintain an unofficial limit on speech, precisely who is offered up is irrelevant, provided he is of the proper class. In this case, white male.
But Imus has always been only nominally "controversial." He's always known who fills his bowl. For all of his clumsy and glib bigotry, Imus, like most mainstream figures, would never dream of saying anything truly controversial (that is to say, controversial because it raises an unsettling question that impinges on the collective delirium). No, this is one who will cling so desperately to his remote seat at the table of privilege that there is no genuflection too humiliating, including kowtowing to Al Sharpton. Imus is the court jester, not Robin Hood.
As we endure, yet again, the gruesome spectacle of the Reverends Jackson and Sharpton jockeying for the rights to this production, the perennially recurring questions arise: What possible good can come from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? How is it that a nation inflicts itself with such as these?
I ask not merely rhetorically but in earnest, accepting that we would all be better off without them, but recognizing that they are fixtures in the body politic and will be for the foreseeable future. They are as aspects of the natural order, so, like fungus or decay, they play some role in the ecosystem. Their stated concerns and oft-bellowed outrage are transparently disingenuous; indeed, that which they purport to despise is their stock-in-trade. So what then, is the real "purpose", for lack of a better term, behind the twin corrosives that are Al and Jesse?
There is no longer any use in pointing out the obvious, that these men and their ilk profit from the perpetuation and illusion of a great lie. To state it clearly one more time, the lie is simply this:
Disproportionate levels of poverty, crime, and anti-intellectualism affecting chronically under-performing minorities, and blacks in particular, are primarily the result of white racism at the institutional, collective, and personal level.
An officially sanctioned lie so at odds with reality and producing so much resentment and thwarted expectation in so many, in a democratic nation of such great wealth and with so many lawyers about--well, the profit potential is limitless. When you're talking about this much money to be confiscated, transferred, awarded, and doled out, a professional class has to emerge to manage the vulgar transaction from government mandate to money in pocket. The question becomes, why aren't there more Sharptons and Jacksons? I hesitate to even say it aloud, lest I jinx our uncommon good luck.
But we all know this. In the absence of honesty and rationality race relations in the United States constitute a tightly controlled market of sorts where the humiliation of racial inequality is negotiated using proxies such as these manufactured controversies and their attendant "dialogues." Because the official mandate is an unachievable equality of results, naturally occurring inequality constitutes a continuing, compounding debt that is serviced by such as these conspicuous sacrifices; they are interest payments of a sort.
But it isn't only the delicate pride of black America that is served; white America purchases something, albeit at an increasing premium. There exists on the part of the majority an ever present fear, sustained by the knowledge that the expectation of equality can never be met but is increasingly expected. The majority lives in a state of continual unease, as violence in the form of riots (called "uprisings" or "rebellions") and street crime is characterized by the culture (through the romance of rap and cinema) as a legitimate means of achieving equity when all else fails (and all else is certain to fail in the end). The process of automatically granting concessions in response to black rioting has created a system of quid pro quo that essentially rewards orchestrated mayhem. This fear, and the continually reinforced sense of guilt achieved by the same cultural/political mechanism, must also be calmed; maintained at a desirable level by the managerial class but kept from growing too great and provoking a reaction. It resembles the maintenance of inflation through monetary policy. So while this market is "artificial", it has its own logic and unspoken purpose, and reaches its own shaky equilibrium.
Thus, as the influential classes implicitly understand and acknowledge, it isn't a question of truth, or, ironically, justice, but a question of assuaging the resentment of one group and the fear of another, thus the ceremonial and conspicuous displays of pilfered wealth, the ritual debasement of "privileged" Great White Defendants, and the reward of status for those who manage this market.
Therefore those behind these manufactured scandals will not be reasoned with; they are calculating people too clever to believe their own rhetoric and too dishonest to abstain from enriching themselves by it; they understand with greater clarity than you the nature of the game. It is not a contest of reason and truth but of fear and resentment.
Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, the Southern Poverty Law Center, et al; these are the traders and brokerages specializing in profiting from the disparity in this market. Some firms flourish as others fade. The behind the scenes jockeying is an entertainment we are unfortunately not allowed to spectate, as the media, normally obsessed with political handicapping, pretends that these are not financial/political hybrids but priesthoods of a sort. Alas.
Jackson was well positioned to be the first firm to take on the duties and profit from the new market in racial angst, having spent the seventies and early eighties in the unglamorous and far less profitable business of preaching the values of hard work and independence. Like many a broker in the eighties, he was lured out of his staid world by the easy credit and loosening regulations of another; fitting for the late eighties, he went to work in the political equivalent of the junk bond industry.
Work and family were already becoming the U.S. savings bonds of investment, a sucker's play, as the maturation of the welfare state and the sexual revolution, combined with waves of new innovations in the illicit drug industry, PCP, free-basing, and, finally, Freeway Rick's gift to black America, crack cocaine, corroded the industry from without.
Meanwhile Sharpton, a criminal figure from the start and early innovator of animus conversion products, having managed to escape any consequences for the attempted framing of four men in the Tawana Brawley hoax and various fatal incitements to riot, was perfectly positioned when deregulation came around. Michael Corleone never realized his dream of taking the family legitimate (at least I think that's true; I never made it to the end of Part III, and I've never met anyone who has), but for Al, legitimacy would come around to him, delivered by the Democratic Party in its infinite capacity to visit absurdity upon itself.
A bargain was struck; Al would no longer threaten riots, but more importantly he would no longer expose the violent threat that exists at the core of the Democratic Party's race policies. In return he would be able to take his product national, and would now be competing with, and eventually overtaking, his rival, the Reverend Jackson.
Al now plays the affable if slightly difficult buffoon at public Democratic functions, and the nervous white folks all pretend he's funny, laughing a little too enthusiastically at his leaden one-liners. Race in America in microcosm, that.
One other reason we will not soon be rid of Al Sharpton, even as the Reverend Jackson ebbs into decrepitude and what promises to be a gruesome but entertaining public dementia, is that he serves the needs of the Democratic Party so well. Tokens nowadays are perpetually dissing their hosts and more expensive than ever, but they are tokens nonetheless.
But a market based on an increasingly obvious falsity cannot last. The fiction is becoming an industry joke. The divide between reality and the market grows, and is harder and harder to conceal. The posted prices bear no relation to real-world valuations. The market strains. How will its collapse unfold? What will take its place?