Monthly Archives: November 2008

A Notable Reaction

Over at my Facebook page, Preston Powell had the following to say about my interview with Malaak Shabazz:

Great interview. A little disappointed though that a daughter of a great radical icon like Malcolm X appears to buy into all the post-racial nonsense that dominated the political discourse of the past few years. She also seems to be a little ashamed of Malcolm’s radicalism and her way of whitewashing it is by saying that Obama and Malcolm aren’t that far apart politically. While Malcolm X certainly had conservative leanings that are similar to Obama’s (both which stems from Booker T. Washington’s self-help Black Conservatism) the man was a straight-up revolutionary when it came to black consciousness, and he challenged myths and institutions of America that Obama wouldn’t dare touch, afraid of the consequences he’ll suffer as a politician. 

For those who don’t know him, Preston is a veteran commenter at this blog, and one of the most insightful.

My Interview With Malcolm X’s Daughter On Zawahri, Obama (Updated with Shabazz Statement and More)

Malcolm Xs youngest daughter, Malaak Shabazz, compares Zawahri to Farrakhan and tells me why shes a diehard Obama supporter

Malcolm X's youngest daughter, Malaak Shabazz, compares Zawahri to Farrakhan and tells me why she's a "diehard" Obama supporter

On November 19, Osama Bin Laden’s top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, appeared in a propaganda video denouncing President-elect Barack Obama. While images of Malcolm X kneeling in prayer flashed onscreen, Zawahiri addressed Obama directly: “You represent the direct opposite of honorable black Americans like Malik al-Shabazz, or Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him).” Zawahiri heaped praise on Malcolm X for several minutes, hailing his promotion of the “worldwide revolution against the Western power structure.” Then he delivered the cruelest insult he could muster to Obama: “And in you and in Colin Powell, Rice and your likes, the words of Malcolm X (may Allah have mercy on him) concerning ‘House Negroes’ are confirmed.”

 

The day after the release of Zawahiri’s ape, I interviewed Malaak Shabazz, the youngest daughter of Malcolm X. Malaak never knew her father. When a Malcolm X was gunned him down in the Audobon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, Malaak was still in her mother’s womb. Since the accidental burning death of her mother, Betty Shabazz, in 1997, 43-year-old Malaak has come into her own, emerging as a torchbearer of her parents’ legacy.

“Looking at the Obamas, it’s like my father and my mother 43 years later,” Malcolm X’s daughter said.

Together with her sisters—she has five of them—and Dowoti Desir, the former daughter-in-law of actors Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee, Malaak oversees the Malcolm X and Betty Shabazz Memorial and Educational Center, a museum that was constructed at the site of Malcolm X’s assassination. In keeping with her father’s late-in-life internationalism, Malaak works at the United Nations, focusing on aid to women and children in developing nations. “I’m basically a global community organizer,” she said.

Malaak had not seen the Zawahiri tape by the time I called her. When I explained what Zawahiri said, she reacted angrily, immediately comparing the Al Qaeda figure to Louis Farrakhan, the Nation of Islam chieftain who was an avowed enemy of her father and has admitted he “may have been complicit” in inciting his murder. Malaak has nothing but praise for Barack Obama. She is a self-proclaimed “diehard Obama supporter” who sees the incoming first couple as a vision of “my mother and father 43 years later.”

My complete interview with Malaak Shabazz is below the fold.

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The Dark Side Of “America’s Pastor”

Rick Warren has a different message for his flock on Sunday than he does for the worshipful media

Rick Warren has a different message for his flock on Sunday than he does for the worshipful media

Here is how evangelical superstar Pastor Rick Warren described his philosophy this August: “I have never been considered a part of the religious right, because I don’t believe politics is the most effective way to change the world.”

The mainstream press has been almost universally eager to indulge his self-description. Nicholas Kristof, the New York Times columnist, called Warren “an evangelical liberals can love.” Newsweek named Warren one of fifteen “people who make America great.” And even The Nation published an article puffing Warren as “America’s Pastor,” a figure who “disassociates himself from the religious right, noting that he shares its position on social issues but doesn’t want to focus on them. He focuses on poverty, disease and aid to Africa.”

Even the public relations firms responsible for burnishing Warren’s image seem mystified by the press’s worshipful portrayal of their client.

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At The Party, And The Morning After

I’ve been experiencing some problems with my blog but I think my tech guru, Shama Davis, has worked them out. So now I can belatedly post some video I shot from Michigan Ave after the big Grant Park rally. This is the sight and sound of the Republican death shroud lifting:

An hour after the announcement of Obama’s victory, I received a flood of texts and phone calls from friends across the country — from DC to New York to Anchorage, Alaska — telling me people had filled the streets of their cities to celebrate. It was a dreamlike moment for me. After covering the campaign since early 2007, and the right since the middle of Bush’s first term, I could not have imagined witnessing such a cathartic national celebration of the death of Republicanism. 

The passage of Prop 8 dampened my sense of elation. It is clear that the Christian right is not going away any time soon, and that the movement has staked out the battle over gay rights as the final phase of the culture war. Considering that black Democrats were arguably the swing vote in Prop 8′s passage, Barack Obama must do more to cultivate his most loyal base of support against insidious Christian right ploys. 

Obama’s selection of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff did not surprise me. For all his post-partisan posturing, Obama is at his core a political animal who knows he won’t survive his first two years without playing hardball. The congressional Republicans are more extreme than ever, and consequently more marginalized. By using social issues and tax policy to hammer Obama, and by ginning up pseudo-scandals as they did under Clinton, the congressional GOP hopes to peel off a dozen or more seats in 2010. As a veteran of Clinton’s battles with Gingrich, Rahm understands this is no time for bipartisanship. I have my issues with him on policy — his support for the Shuler anti-immigrant bill, ramming NAFTA through Congress, his extreme Likudnik tendencies (see these shocking comments by his father, a former Irgun member) — but his political instincts seem good. On the other hand, he could alienate everybody and foster a dysfunctional environment in the White House. Time will tell.

Obama’s likely Treasury Secretary, Larry Summers, is another issue. Read what I think about him below the fold.

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The Mystery Man Behind Prop 8

Who is funding California’s Prop 8, the country’s most controversial ballot measure? The Mormons’ donations are well known, and are a source of outrage among the church’s more moderate elements. But little attention has been focused on two of the proposition’s biggest individual donors: Elsa Broekhuizen, the mother of Blackwater founder Erik Prince, and Howard F. Ahmanson Jr., the reclusive theocratic millionaire who inherited $300 million from his famous father at age 18.

When I profiled Ahmanson in a 2004 article for Salon.com, I became the first journalist in 20 years to interview him. Yesterday I resurrected my reporting for The Daily Beast, updating it to cover Ahmanson’s recent machinations, particularly his role in Prop 8. As I wrote, Ahmanson few Americans have heard of Ahmanson — and that’s the way he likes it. His extreme politics and eccentric personality reveal the draconian underside of a ballot measure billed by its proponents as “pro-family.”

During a 1985 interview with the Orange County Register, Ahmanson summarized his political agenda: “My goal is the total integration of biblical law into our lives.”

Though Ahmanson’s rhetoric has softened over the years, his politics are derived from the radical Christian Reconstructionist theology of R.J. Rushdoony, a far-right theologian who advocated replacing the US Constitution with biblical law. “God’s government prevails,” Rushdoony wrote, “and His alternatives are clear-cut: either men and nations obey His laws, or God invokes the death penalty against them.” Those eligible on Rushdoony’s long list for execution included disobedient children, unchaste women, apostates, blasphemers, practitioners of witchcraft, astrologers, adulterers, and, of course, anyone who engaged in “sodomy or homosexuality.”

Rushdoony was the father Ahmanson never had, bringing him to radical right-wing Christianity not long after the anxiety-ridden, Tourette’s-afflicted scion of wealth checked out of the Menninger Clinic. Ahmanson bankrolled Rushdoony’s religious empire; in return, Rushdoony made Ahmanson a board member of his think tank, Chalcedon, which to this day advocates theocratic revolution in the United States. Ahmanson and his wife were at Rushdoony’s bedside when he died in 2001.

Packaged together with my piece is a new video by Michael Wilson, creator of the brilliant documentary, Silhouette City. Wilson also co-produced my video documentary about Sarah Palin’s belief in spiritual warfare, “In The Land Of Queen Esther.”

On November 2, Wilson went to San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium to cover “The Call,” an 80,000-strong Pentecostal rally for Prop 8. The Call organizer, Lou Engle, gathered his troops together for several days of fasting and prayer to stop what he called the “sexual insanity” of Prop 8 opponents. The rally culminated with Engle imploring his fervent crowd to become martyrs, to be willing to lay down their lives for the cause.

The defeat of Prop 8 would be a nightmare for the Christian right. As Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council said of the ballot measure, “It’s more important than the presidential election… We will not survive [as a nation] if we lose the institution of marriage.”

But behind the Christian right’s panicked pleas for preserving “traditional marriage” lies a more deep-seated fear. California’s rejection of Prop 8 would represent a decisive repudiation of the theocratic fantasy outlined by Rushdoony and mainstreamed by Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, Lou Engle and countless evangelical minions. Ahmanson has spent what he could to keep his mentor’s dream alive, but the movement’s nightmare may arrive nonetheless.

The full story on Ahmanson and Wilson’s video are below the fold.

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