Cynthia McKinney confronts corporate media malice in court

by Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report

The American judicial system is not the place to seek Black liberation or redress, but it can serve to put our grievances on the record. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, a corporate rag if there ever was one, has for many years defamed, libeled and maliciously harmed former Georgia congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, their nemesis in the campaign to prove that Black voters are moving to the Right - a universal objective among corporate media. The newspaper's point person in this assault is another Black woman, editor Cynthia Tucker, a pet of her bosses and one mean pit bull. McKinney's suit targets Tucker's and her corporation's crimes against truth, but also illuminates the general offensive against Black self-determination. It's gonna be a long war.

In a suit filed in Georgia state court, former congresswoman Cynthia McKinney charges the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (AJC) and its parent company, Cox Enterprises, a multi-national corporation, with waging a libelous, defamatory and malicious vendetta resulting in the loss of her congressional seat, last year. The case is a window - albeit a narrow, legal one - on the general corporate campaign to penetrate and reshape Black politics in the United States, to impose a docile class of corporate-friendly Black "leaders." Media is key to accomplishing the coup.

At the core of the suit is Cynthia Tucker, the Black editor of the AJC's editorial page, who has for years been incapable of uttering McKinney's name without sneering. Tucker, the corporate owners' Black pit bull, depicted McKinney's March, 2006, encounter with a Capitol Hill policeman as an unprovoked assault, pure and simple. "She slugged him with her telephone," wrote Tucker, in a column that appeared barely a week before McKinney faced challenger Hank Johnson, the favorite of most whites and the corporate establishment, in a Democratic primary runoff. Tucker "tried to spin this incident into a felony," said McKinney, in her suit. "This false and libelous allegation is not supported by any witness or other evidence." McKinney was never indicted for any crime, and says the incident was the result of racial and political harassment by the Capitol Police.

Tucker made McKinney's defeat a priority project. "Tucker falsely attempted toattribute what she interprets as anti-Semitic statements by Cynthia McKinney's father by stating that ‘her father, [is] a spokesman for the campaign,'" the suit states. "Her father was not a spokesman for the campaign or for her."

McKinney has long been targeted by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), possibly the nation's most powerful lobby and attack dog group, for her failure to tow the Israeli line in Congress. Although McKinney's father, a former Atlanta police officer and state lawmaker, has indeed made indiscreet comments, no one has ever claimed Rep. McKinney has uttered anything that could remotely be deemed anti-Semitic. "The attempted attribution was false, defamatory and libelous," states her legal brief.

McKinney labels as "malicious" Tucker's repetitive assertions that "She suggested that President Bush had known in advance about the Sept. 11 attacks but did nothing to stop them so his friends could profit from the ensuing war." That's not what McKinney said, back in the Spring of 2002, and her questioning of the conduct and motives of the Bush regime have since proved prescient.

Cox Enterprises' Atlanta radio outlet, WSB, piled on in racist frenzy. McKinney looks like a "ghetto slut," shrieked talk show personality Neal Boortz - a "slander," according to McKinney's suit.

Cox did nothing to rein in their radio personality, and Cynthia Tucker won a Pulitzer Prize for her columns, including the one that savaged McKinney. A Cox spokesman called McKinney's suit "preposterous." (For further details on the legal action, see Atlanta Progressive News, July 27.)

Newspaper as Serial Liar

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution worked in tandem with corporate money and AIPAC to first unseat Cynthia McKinney in the 2002 Democratic primary election. The paper, like its corporate siblings across the nation, was anxious to prove that a political sea change had occurred in Black America. Gone were the days of "civil rights-style" rhetoric and confrontation - or so the theory went. Middle class African Americans like those in McKinney's district, centered in Dekalb County, the second most affluent Black majority county in the nation, were becoming more conservative, it was said. According to the new paradigm, hatched in rightwing think tanks and universally adopted by corporate media, the Cynthia McKinneys of Black America are out of date, passé, and no longer appealed to an upwardly mobile class of African American voters. Dekalb County would tell the tale.

While AIPAC and corporate donors stuffed the coffers of Black challenger Denise Majette - a former Republican and protégé of pro-Republican Democratic Senator Zell Miller - the Atlanta Journal Constitution provided Majette with millions of dollars in free publicity and attack-dog services. Cynthia Tucker growled and sneered at the head of the local and national corporate media pack, intent on making a fait accompli of their own analysis, that Blacks were sliding to the Right. Tens of thousands of white Republicans prepared to cross over to vote as Democrats in the "open primary," eager to put the uppity McKinney in her place. The Designated Negro, Majette, outspent the McKinney by 40 percent.

Majette won. Corporate media rejoiced, nationwide. As their local representative, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution claimed to conduct a study that showed Majette had assembled a "biracial coalition of voters" to win victory, ushering in a new age of "centrist" Black politics. The prophecy had been fulfilled.

Bruce Dixon, now Black Agenda Report's managing editor, did his own study of the election data and found that Majette could not have won more than 19 percent of the Black vote. The key to Majette's victory was an abnormally high white turnout, 90 percent of which she won. Majette was not the Great Black Centrist Hope - she was the white candidate, and the Black community had overwhelmingly supported McKinney. There was no history-shaking "split" among Blacks in relatively affluent Dekalb County; it was a fiction.

More than half a year after Dixon proved that the Atlanta Journal Constitution's "study" was bogus, the paper's own favorite political scientist and quote-man, University of Georgia Prof. Charles Bullock, declared Majette's "bi-racial coalition" a myth. His research showed Majette garnered no more than 17 percent of the Black vote. (See Bruce Dixon, June 12, 2003.) "What Majette needs to be doing is getting out, courting in the Black community, trying to broaden her coalition because she did so poorly in her community," wrote Prof. Bullock.

What Majette did was get out of the district, embarking on a Quixotic, hopeless quest for Zell Miller's vacating Senate seat. With no time for AIPAC, the Atlanta Journal Constitution and corporate capital to vet a Designated Negro of their own, Cynthia McKinney won her seat back in 2004.

Malice Aforethought

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution found defamatory manna from heaven in the last year of McKinney's term, when a Capitol Hill policeman confronted her as she attempted to do the people's work. Editor Cynthia Tucker revved up her defamation machine, recycling old lies and libels with the new. We commend Cynthia McKinney for challenging Tucker and the Cox corporate giant that is Tucker's only backbone, in court, while fully understanding that the chances of judicial success are slim, to say the least. If deliberate distortion of reality by corporate media could be effectively prosecuted in the United States, the entire industry would be behind bars or bankrupted. McKinney is putting their crimes against truth on the record, and we salute her.

"Editor Cynthia Tucker revved up her defamation machine, recycling old lies and libels with the new."

The assaults against McKinney's character and seven-term career are but one skirmish in a nationwide corporate offensive that was sketched out by rightwing strategists in the mid-Nineties and fully implemented in the early years of the Bush regime. For the first time, corporate American would make a concerted and coordinated effort to cleanse the African American polity of what remained of the Black Freedom Movement. The year 2002 was their D-Day for invasion of Black politics. They came strapped with millions in cash, and the supporting artillery of corporate media. AIPAC acted as cavalry, ranging across the country and terrorizing Black politicians into submission.

The first target was Newark, New Jersey, where Hard Right Bradley Foundation Black acolyte Cory Booker, a 31-year-old second term city councilman and private school voucher advocate, raised millions in his mayoral campaign and won endorsements from every New York region corporate media outlet, thanks to the skills of the Bradley-funded Manhattan Institute. I am proud to say that my research and writings, exposing him as a Trojan Horse for the Right, forestalled Booker's ascension to City Hall for four years. Booker was beaten, but remained on the A-list of corporate-designated "new Black leaders" until he finally won the mayor's office in 2006.

The corporate juggernaut rolled on, in 2002, vastly overspending (by 60 percent) and ousting Black Alabama Congressman Earl Hilliard, who had resisted the pro-Israel lobby and corporate demands. He was replaced by the pliant but deviously skilled Artur Davis. Then it was Cynthia McKinney's turn, later that summer.

At the end of the 2002 offensive, the corporate blitzkrieg had installed Artur Davis, Denise Majette, and the obscure but thoroughly bought-out new congressman from the Atlanta-area, David Scott, in the Congressional Black Caucus. They joined Columbus, Georgia's Sanford Bishop and the rapidly Right-rushing Harold Ford, Jr. (TN) to form a corporate faction within the Caucus, along with Maryland's Albert Wynn and shaky members who trembled whenever the winds blew rightward. The Congressional Black Caucus was finished as a coherent political force on Capitol Hill, unable to resist corporate capital as represented in its own ranks.

The Black masses have not undergone any political sea change; they have simply been abandoned by their representatives, who have been suborned or terrorized by money and concentrated media and lobby power. Corporations have embraced "diversity" as a weapon. About a decade ago, they realized that their vast wealth empowered them to create an alternative Black political structure, and that there were plenty of Black opportunists eager to be recruited. At this point, corporate victory is all but complete, having neutered Black electoral and traditional institutions in lightning speed.

"Corporations have embraced "diversity" as a weapon."

The disaster puts in graphic relief the failures of legal strategies, which are so narrow that nine people on the Supreme Court can thwart the will of 40 million African Americans, and the impotence of conventional electoral strategies, which are negated in Dekalb County, Georgia, and everywhere else in the nation through sheer force of money.

There is no substitute for a mass movement in opposition to the cages that capital erects around us. Cynthia McKinney represents the overwhelming majority of Black people in her district. They are inspired by her courage and defiance of Power - and are no different than African Americans, everywhere. The corporate project uses its media to invent a fantasy Black polity, and then deploys its media muscle and money to make it so. Some of us believe the constantly repeated lie. If it goes unchallenged long enough, it becomes a received truth - and progressive politics, with its base in Black America, will be over.

African Americans must press for self-determination, not mitigated by money or the power of white voter "democracy" - a democracy from Hell, as we have known throughout our entire sojourn on this continent. Only WE affirm ourselves, not corporate media, not the millions that Barack Obama gathers from his rich friends. But that means we must organize. It is a lifelong project, as it was for our ancestors.

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The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey