by Danny Haiphong
Don't expect truth or wisdom from entertainers. They work for monopoly media corporations, not for their adoring publics. With a few exceptions, Black entertainers conform to the dictates of Power and view their own “fans” as lower forms of life. “Jay-Z rejected an invitation to speak to [Harry] Belafonte, calling him a ‘boy’ who needed to understand that the rapper's very presence was 'charity' to the Black community.”
The Role of US Corporate Entertainment in the Social Control Element of Imperialism
by Danny Haiphong
“While Jay-Z collects millions in profits from shared ownership of the Brooklyn Nets and ‘Rocawear,’ actor Danny Glover has yet to find 'charity' for Toussaint, a film that has been in the works since at least 2008.”
Corporate entertainment, as an appendage of the mass media, has for decades been a staple of the US imperial project. Corporate mass media is completely in the hands of five mega corporations, each with friendly relations with the Zionist entity (Israel) and Washington. Under these conditions, the careers of US entertainers are dictated both by the corporate profit motive and the interests of the states that regulate it. In this period in particular, where capitalism is in perpetual crisis, entertainers are highly valued for their social control function. Capitalists could very well accumulate far more profits from entertainers than they already do. Instead, the capitalist class pays for the lavish lifestyles of corporate entertainers to ensure they willingly present bourgeois ideology as a pleasurable product to the masses.
When the contradictions of US empire reach crisis levels, corporate entertainers are ultimately left with the choice of siding with the oppressed or remaining loyal to the oppressor's social system. History shows that the loyalty of American entertainers to imperialism is not guaranteed. In the mid 20th century, numerous Hollywood entertainers were subjected to FBI surveillance, harassment, and even exile for identifying with global socialist movements abroad and organizing with the Black freedom and communist movements at home. Targets included popular names such as Paul Robeson, Richard Wright, and Charlie Chaplin.
“Entertainers are highly valued for their social control function.”
But that was a different time. The monopolies of the entertainment industry have greatly expanded their basis of economic and social control for the capitalist ruling class. In this period, corporate entertainers maintain loyalty to US imperialism not only because of the exorbitant salaries they receive from their bosses, but also because of the political influence they are endowed from capital. It is no secret that media monopolies carefully recruit willing soul-sellers in exchange for access to a publicly celebrated bourgeois lifestyle. Still, imperialism's assessment of this period of crisis is that a stronger form of insurance is needed to maintain popular consent to its atrocities. The imperialist exploiters and warlords have found this insurance in the select-few entertainers it promotes to political class membership.
Jay-Z has been in the rap industry for over two decades but only recently ascended into Black political class membership. His inter-bourgeois mobility has come complete with connections to the Obama Administration and profitable business ventures. Last year, the gap between Jay-Z's rise to power and the conditions of the Black community evoked a strong response by Black freedom fighter and entertainer, Harry Belafonte. Belafonte urged Jay-Z to be more socially responsible to Black America, which alongside indigenous Native America, remains the most oppressed people in continental USA. Jay-Z rejected an invitation to speak to Belafonte, calling him a "boy" who needed to understand that the rapper's very presence was "charity" to the Black community.
The "charity" Jay-Z refers to is merely the visibility of a Black political class whose careers are built on the spoils of the white capitalist power structure. While Jay-Z collects millions in profits from shared ownership of the Brooklyn Nets and "Rocawear," actor Danny Glover has yet to find "charity" for Toussaint, a film that has been in the works since at least 2008.
Glover's film planned to tell the story of the Haitian Revolution. In 1804, the victory of this Black revolution freed Haiti from colonial enslavement and forced France to sell what is now half of the United States. But because the film's script possesses no white protagonist, the film has caught little interest from Hollywood execs. Hugo Chavez and the Chavista government agreed to donate 18 million to the film in 2008. The Black political class and its Hollywood reps have yet to donate a dime.
“The corporate entertainment industry produces and reproduces white supremacy, sexism, and bourgeois ideology.”
So when Rihanna and Dwight Howard both deleted tweets expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people, it should be understood that such cowardice indicates the dual purpose of US imperialism's entertainment industry. Hollywood, corporate sports, and monopolized record labels are businesses of media profiteers. These institutions are inherently political. The corporate entertainment industry produces and reproduces white supremacy, sexism, and bourgeois ideology. It also produces a political class whose continued prosperity and political connection is dependent upon the plunder of world's people and resources.
It is important for the capitalist ruling class to sustain a political class of corporate entertainers whose intended audience is first and foremost Black America. The fact that most of the corporate celebs apologizing for their position on Israel's genocide are Black representatives in the industry is no coincidence. This development is tied to Jay-Z's insult of Harry Belafonte and Hollywood's hostility to Danny Glover's project on the Haitian revolution. Each scenario is part and parcel of imperialism's assault on Black radical politics and the social control function of corporate entertainment toward this end.
Malcolm X's grandson was on his way to the "International Conference on Hollywoodism" in Iran before being interrupted and arrested by the FBI. Shortly after, he was tragically killed in Mexico. The conference he was supposed to attend is a gathering of scholars, activists, and concerned citizens who come together to discuss Hollywood's role in promoting the interests of US and Western imperialism. As the conference suggests, an anti-imperialist liberation movement in the US must combat the viscous lies of corporate media and do so in this period without the aid of the vast majority of corporate celebs. The revolution will not be televised, nor made into a celebrity affair.