Re: [sixties-l] (Fwd):Reparatiopns, DH & the Left

From: Jeffrey Blankfort (
Date: Wed Apr 04 2001 - 01:24:49 EDT

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    Marty Jezer wrote:
    > Jeff Blankfort wrote
    > > Not only has free speech been confused with using one's money in a
    > > political way by the Supreme Court, which, of course, favors those who
    > > have it over those that don't, but this principle seems to have been
    > > accepted among sections of the liberal intelligentsia. That Horowitz had
    > > the financial backing to place ads in a number of college papers gives
    > > him an advantage that the first amendment arguably did not intend.
    > What "liberal intelligentsia" are you speaking of? And, as I asked William
    > Mandell,
    > what specifically do you propose to level the financial playing-field
    > between those who have and those who don't have money to buy ads? To say
    > it's wrong is easy. What's the solution?

    Those who place and defend "free speech" on a moral pedestal regardless
    of the circumstances. For example, the film Birth of a Nation which was
    to American blacks what the Nazi propaganda films were to Jews--and yes,
    the comparison is apt-- was instrumental in giving legitimacy to the
    stereotypes from which African-Americans have suffered to this day.
    Shown in the White House by the arch racist Woodrow Wilson and praised
    from pulpits across the land, Birth of a Nation is still worshipped by
    the film cognoscenti, who tremble when anyone suggests that it should
    never have been made or shown, defending it because of its alleged
    cinematic artistry.

    I don't have any practical proposals to level the playing field. I would
    suggest, however, that the debate NOT be referred to as a "free speech" issue.

    > > Horowitz is hardly a victim or even a martyr in this, just a smart con
    > > man who knew exactly what the reaction would be to his advertisements
    > > and has already benefited in terms of media exposure and no doubt, more
    > > funding from the neo-fascist sources that keep him afloat.
    > He is smart, smarter than the folks calling for his censorship who have
    > played into his hands.

    He is not necessarily smarter, but less vulnerable, since he is not a
    victim nor a subject of prejudice for what he is in any sense of that
    word, as opposed to those whom he is attacking.
    > > Had Horowitz submitted his ad as an op-ed piece then an editor could
    > > have solicited an opposing viewpoint.
    > True, and that would have been the ethical thing to do, but he didn't, and
    > that is what the left had to deal with and, in my opinion, calling for
    > censorship only strengthened his hand.

    I would have suggested dealing with it in a different way, expressing
    the issue as one which allows those with money in our society to buy
    more speech than is possible for those without it, but the anger felt
    and the actions by those he victimized I consider to be legitimate.

    > > A group of Jewish holocaust survivors has just filed a suit against the
    > > US government for $40 billion because the US did not bomb the rail lines
    > > to Auchswitz. Will anyone have the guts to say that this suit is
    > > frivolous, or do Jews have a special exemption when it comes to
    > > reparations, that African-Americans, do not?
    > Yeah, it is outrageous and also an insult to the families of GIs who died
    > fighting Hitler and who got a small death benefit for their service. But
    > that's my point. Reparations are problemmatic. The issue is burdened with
    > political self-interest

    I think African-Americans and Native Americans are entitled to act in
    their own political self-interest. In their situation, it is hardly a
    dirty word or concept.

    > I generally agree with what you say on the subject
    > of the holocaust, except this one remark:
    > >With all due respect to the Jewish victims of
    > > the Nazis, that period of history was considerably shorter and with
    > > considerably less victims, even at 6 million, that what was experienced
    > > in black US communities. And there is no question that it was far more
    > > devastating to the black community than the Holocaust was to the Jewish
    > > for that reason.
    > I find the comparison of victimization really tacky and self-defeating. But
    > I do agree that the Jewish community has been more successful at using the
    > holocaust for its own political ends than has the African American
    > community. I too oppose the use of the holocaust to advance the cause of
    > Israel, for many of the same reasons I oppose African-American reparations.
    > You seem to oppose the former but approve the latter. I do not understand
    > your inconsistency.

    Tacky, not a very good choice of words, and whether making the
    comparisons is self-defeating remains to be seen. We are constantly
    reminded, whether in the movies, on NPR, in the papers, about Jewish
    suffering at the hands of the Nazis, over and over and over again. And
    it was all very real. No one, however, out of fear of being branded an
    anti-Semite, will say that perhaps it is a little much. On the other
    hand it is open season on questioning the implications of several
    centuries of black victimization, and very few stories, movies, or news
    articles on that subject see the public light.

    As for reparations of Jewish victims, as well as all victims of the Nazi
    Holocaust, I certainly am for them, but I would ask the question, why
    only them. The families of Jews who lost their homes and in certain
    instances, mansions, in East Europe, want them back or at least
    compensation, where a similar demand by the Palestinians who were
    uprooted by Jews, is dismissed out of hand by the very same folks who
    make the demands for the Jews, the large grubby Jewish organizations
    that have been pimping the Holocaust and its survivors for the past half
    > > The suggestion that the legitimacy of reparations has anything to do
    > > with whether or not black celebrities are huge philanthropists is
    > > intellectually mind boggling.
    > It may be mind-boggling in the abstract but to gain reparations means
    > getting public support; and here perception counts, and this will become an
    > issue that muddles the argument and undercuts the suppport . But I'm not
    > convicined that the activists for reparations really care about getting
    > reparations. It seems to me, by their choice of rhetoric and tactics, that
    > they only want to make a point about the black experience in America. Yes,
    > the black experience needs to be remembered (and does, in fact, get a good
    > hearing). But where do you go from there? (See discusssion of pragmatism
    > below)

    Are you convinced that the Jewish activists are serious while the black
    activists aren't. Please, do you really think Randall Robinson is merely
    a self-promoter? And where does the black experience get a good hearing?
    > > It is not a question of giving knee-jerk support, but stepping back and
    > > taking a good long look at American history and seeing where we are
    > > today, seeing what is happening to undefended largely black inner city
    > > schools, to see who is being incarcerated in our prisons. You are
    > > arguing that justice should give way to pragmatism. And I say it
    > > already has and that is why I despair for the left.
    > >
    > There's nothing wrong with a little pragmatism in the cause of justice. The
    > civil rights movement of the sixties faltered when ML King's pragmatic
    > (though powerfully moral impulse) gave way to rhetorical correctness (The
    > black power movement). In foreign affairs, the pragamtic (though moral
    > movement) of the ANC in South Africa achieved at least most of its goals by
    > understanding how much they could get from white South Africans and then
    > pushed for that. In the expression of the 1960s, they kept their "eye on the
    > prize." Compare the ANC success (admitting all the severe problems resulting
    > from apartheid that has overwhelmed their governance) to that of the
    > Palestinians who, given the opportunity of a settlement that would have
    > given them most of what they wanted and what was possible, opted for
    > rhetoric and ideology, and, in lock-step with the Israeli rejectionists,
    > created the tragedy of today.

    The civil rights movement didn't falter because of the black power
    movement. That's simply convenient revisionist history. Both movements
    existed simultaneously, one in the South and the other largely in the
    North. One of the essential differences was that what King ad other
    civil rights leaders were striving for in the South had already been
    "legally" achieved in the North and it hadn't made one damn bit of
    difference. One of the reasons that many Jewish supporters pulled away
    from the movement was because many of the black activists identified
    with and supported the Arab side in 1967 and began to see Israel as an
    extension of Western imperialism. Many Jews, while not conscious
    Zionists, were nevertheless close enough to that position and generally
    ignorant of Israel and its doings (and still are) to take the black
    support for the Palestinians, personally.

    As for South Africa, it hasn't achieved most of its goals. While formal
    apartheid has been eliminated, in many places it is still de facto, and
    the property relations have not changed one iota. For a good analysis of
    the situation there today, read John Saul in the April Monthly review.
    It is hardly an example to follow.
    > Perhaps it confuses stuff to mix South Africa and Israel and international
    > affairs with reparations, but in one way they are the same. If one wants
    > justice for the African-American community, at least in terms of public
    > policy, one has to frame the demand in terms of the
    > achievable; the rest, to my mind, is ideological and rhetorical feel-good
    > posturing that leads no where. As witness what happened during the 1960s.

    One of the objections of many young African-Americans back in the
    Sixties was that too many decisions on their future were being made by
    whites, albeit well-meaning. So let's let the black community make it's
    own decisions whether to or how to formulate the struggle for
    reparations rather than giving advice from a relatively secure and
    comfortable position.

    Jeff Blankfort
    > Marty Jezer

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