Monthly Archives: August 2008

Updating, Editing…

I’m working on editing a few new videos from the DNC. Everything should be up by Sunday, but hopefully before. And now that the convention is over I’ll have more time to write about it, so check back in by the end of the day.

My Interview With John Legend

Grammy-winning soul singer John Legend was an omnipresent figure during last week’s Democratic National Convention. After performing his new anthem, “Are You Out There,”on the convention’s first night, Legend fielded interviews from CNN, MSNBC and a gaggle of reporters from around the country. He was on stage again at Thursday’s rally at Invesco Field, singing the internet hit “Yes We Can” with Will.I.Am before an audience of 70,000. For Legend, who had emerged from humble roots in Springfield, Ohio to become the Obama campaign’s most visible musical surrogate, the moment represented both a political and personal apotheosis.

I caught up with Legend at Harold Ford’s Democratic Leadership Conference party on August 26. It was a private affair for big Democratic donors, party activists and anyone connected enough to get their name on the VIP list. Though the club management had forbidden filming, I slipped into Legend’s dressing room after his performance for an impromptu on-camera chat about his involvement on the Obama campaign, his anti-poverty crusading, and his development into an activist entertainer.

(I’ve been having some Youtube trouble; if the embed doesn’t work, watch here.)

 

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Roland Martin On Spiritual Purity and Journalistic Ethics

Roland Martin wrote me an angry email response hours before I posted the video below. Roland’s email is below the fold, but watch my exchange with him and judge for yourselves. I will write more later on my impressions of our discussion, and post Roland’s own writings that prompted my questions. And I will post more in the coming weeks of my interview with the always illuminating Martin. But for now, (and if you can’t view the embed) watch the video here:

 

 

 

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Day Two In Denver

This afternoon I am planning on uploading some video highlights from the past two days, so check back here early tomorrow. Among the video interviews I plan to post are CNN’s Roland Martin weirdly explaining how his wife helped gay men come to Jesus by convincing them to abstain from sex, Bob Schieffer’s remarks about sexism in the media and Katie Couric’s non-responses to me, Joe Trippi on the John Edwards affair, and John Legend talking politics in his dressing room after performing at Harold Ford’s party last night. The Legend interview should be up on Friday on the Huffington Post as well. 

I only have a minute to write on the convention before I get in the editing lab, but here are some thoughts:

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Day One In Denver

I arrived in Denver on a plane with Cindy Lauper. Someone told me she was on the plane and asked where she was. I said I haven’t seen her since 1984, so how would I know what she looks like now? Turned out she hasn’t changed much since her glory days. I rushed from the airport into the crush of people crowding into a gated area where a phalanx of police officers and secret service personnel checked bags and credentials. By the time I passed through security and hit the convention floor, Michelle Obama was on stage.

MO’s speech looked much better when I watched it later on TV. In person, she appeared through two huge screens installed high above the crowd. Her intense gaze through these Jumbotrons was slightly Orwellian. MO’s speech contained very few applause lines, so in person the crowd seemed under-enthused because it was. On TV, however, MO looked and sounded commanding yet graceful, and the ripples of applause that occasionally punctuated her speech seemed profound. Everything that occurs on stage at the Pepsi Center this week has been calibrated exclusively for TV audiences. The convention crowd is just a prop.

The thrust of MO’s speech was predictable. For months she has been dogged by GOP attacks centering on her infamous “for the first time I’m proud of my country” remarks. For weeks during the primaries, rumors circulated that she may have used the word “whitey” during an angry tirade she delivered years ago, and that conservative operatives have some videotape of it. Thus MO’s speech was calculated to highlight her patriotism and the values she supposedly shares with “average” (read: white) Americans. The Obama campaign also REPLACEed a fairly clever applause line praising Hillary Clinton in hopes of softening memories of ugly moments like this.

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I’m On To Denver

Then, after joining the non-airport bathroom related mile high club, I’m heading to Minneapolis. It seems likely that I’ll be credentialed for both conventions. I don’t really have any plans other than getting in the mix and reporting back here frequently. Hopefully, I will get to post a few videos, too.

The DNC has been pretty stingy with credentials, but not as bad as it was forty years ago…

Jerome Corsi’s Long, Strange Trip

How did a racist, conspiratorial crank become the GOPs anti-Obama point man?

How did a racist, conspiratorial crank become the GOP's anti-Obama point man?

These are good times for Jerome Corsi. Already notorious for his factually challenged book-length takedown of 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, Unfit For Command, the 61-year-old Corsi has another hit on his hands. His new book, Obama Nation: Leftist Politics and the Cult of Personality has made Corsi a hot commodity again on the right-wing radio circuit, the bane of the Obama campaign and catapulted to the top slot on the New York Times bestseller list. With his newfound notoriety, Corsi has brought his pathographic anti-Obama narrative to hundreds of thousands of readers–and millions on radio and TV–just as he did with Kerry. Corsi has become the court bard of the conservative movement. “The goal is to defeat Obama,” Corsi told the New York Times. “I don’t want Obama to be in office.”

Corsi’s success represents the apotheosis of a long, strange trip from the furthest shores of the right into the national spotlight. During George W. Bush’s first term, Corsi was a little-known financial services marketing specialist. In 1995, according to the Boston Globe, he coaxed twenty people into a shadowy investment venture in Poland that ultimately lost them a total of $1.2 million. “It ruined my career in the brokerage business, and it was a sad story for a lot of people,” said Bradley Amundson, one of those enlisted into Corsi’s bungled scheme. The FBI opened an investigation but never filed any charges.

Corsi had dabbled off-and-on the fringes of conservative backlash politics for nearly three decades. In his spare time, which he appeared to have lots of, Corsi busied himself at his computer, firing off opinions on the far-right website Free Republic, marked by their sexual and racial obsessions.

In a comment typical of the dozens he posted under the handle “jrlc,” Corsi wrote, “Anybody ask why HELLary couldn’t keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?” In another, he ranted, “Isn’t the Democratic Party the official SODOMIZER PROTECTION ASSOCIATION of AMERICA–oh, I forgot, it was just an accident that Clintoon’s [sic] first act in office was to promote ‘gays in the military.’ RAGHEADS are Boy-Bumpers as clearly as they are Women-Haters–it all goes together.”

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Feelin’ The Hate With Toby Keith Nation

Toby Keith likes to brag, “This big dog will fight when you rattle his cage.” But when my reporting on the pro-lynching lyrics in his song, “Beer For My Horses,” began to complicate the promo tour for his forthcoming “Southern comedy” movie of the same title, tough-talking Toby whined to the media. “The song was a hit and the words ‘lynch’ and ‘racism’ has [sic] never come up until this moron wrote this blog,” he fumed to Contact Music.

When Fox News picked up Keith’s comments, Big Dog Daddy’s loyal fans bombarded my in-box with a deluge of indignant rants. While insisting to me that “Beer For My Horses” contained not even a hint of coded racial animus, Keith’s fans simultaneously revealed their simmering resentment of Jews, blacks, and “faggy liberals.”

Their hate-laden letters comprised the script for my latest video:

Toby Keith Nation Fights Back, a creative take on my hate mail

Keith claimed that “Beer For My Horses” was simply an anodyne ditty intended to evoke nostalgia for the Old West, where “bad guys” met justice at the end of a rope. “It’s about the old West and horses and sheriffs … and going and getting the bad guys. It’s not a racist thing or about lynching,” he said.

Why then did Keith sing so despairingly of car thieves, “corruption in the street,” and terrorists who blow up buildings? Why did he invoke the swarthy boogeymen of the modern right-wing imagination right before launching into a verse about the good old days when his “grandpappy” would “take all the rope in Texas…find a tall oak tree,” and “hang them high in the street, for all the people to see?” Maybe “Beer For My Horses” isn’t about the Old West after all.

But since Keith has invoked that golden era of “horses and sheriffs…and going and getting the bad guys,” it is fair to ask if he knows anything about the real history of lynching in Texas. Does he know that according to the Handbook of Texas, the Lone Star stood third among the states — just behind Mississippi and Georgia — in its total of lynching victims? Does Keith know that of the 468 people lynched in Texas, a whopping 339 were African-American (a partial list of black Texan lynching victims is here)?

Lynching was not, as Keith disingenuously claimed, a practice exclusive to gallant Hollywood cowboys played by Gene Autry (who couldn’t even ride a horse) and Ronald Reagan. It was a mode of organized terror employed by groups like the Ku Klux Klan during Reconstruction to restore white supremacy in Texas and throughout the region.

Keith should immediately apologize for his musical monstrosity. Then I suggest he perform a cover of “Strange Fruit,” the Billie Holiday anthem inspired by the anti-lynching poetry of Jewish school teacher Abel Meeropol. Holiday often cried (watch her here) as she performed her haunting dirge. On at least one occasion, she was so overcome with emotion she could not finish. With Toby Keith exploiting the South’s most barbaric tradition for big bucks, Holiday’s tears burn like salt on an unhealed wound.

Keith, Corsi, and an Update

You may have noticed that my blog is being redesigned. The process had gone slowly but I anticipate finishing up by early next week. Then I should resume regular blogging. I also plan to release two projects very shortly that I have been working on for the past week. The first is a humorous video response to Toby Keith and his fans, who, despite their denials of racial animus, seem to harbor extreme resentment of the usual evildoers: blacks, Jews, liberals, and gays (In case you haven’t been following along), Keith called a “moron” last week. I also plan to publish a piece in the Nation about Jerome Corsi’s activities on the farthest shores of the right-wing fringe. Already, I have documented for Media Matters Corsi’s planned appearance on a white supremacist radio show and his August 4 spot on the radio show of the 9-11 “Truth” movement’s godfather, Alex Jones. But these documents only scratch the surface of Corsi’s crankery.

Lynching Advocate Toby Keith: Obama Acts White To Win

Toby Keith

Toby Keith

Last week, I reported for the Huffington Post that country singer Toby Keith had performed a pro-lynching anthem on the Colbert Report, and would be playing the same song soon on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno and a slew of nationally televised talk shows.

The lyrics of Keith’s song, “Beer For My Horses,” which I transcribed, could hardly be less explicit — “Hang ‘em high, for all the people to see.” In my piece, I also noted the racially tinged nature of the song’s video and the forthcoming movie that Keith’s song inspired.

Toby Keith’s latest: Obama “talks, acts, and carries himself as a Caucausian.”

The response from right-wing blogs was swift and strident. Townhall.com whined that “The Liberal Lynching of Toby Keith” had taken place; Lonewacko claimed that Keith was actually “promoting lawful executions.” And Keith found an avid defender in Robert Stacy McCain, the disgraced former Washington Times reporter and avowed neo-Confederate who once allegedly ranted in the middle of the Times newsroom that slavery was “good for the blacks and good for property owners.”

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