by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
The NAACP and the Urban League want to leave Internet neutrality to the tender mercies of the Republican-controlled Congress. But that’s nothing new. The Black Misleadership Class has been selling out the people’s interests to giant telecom companies since 2006, in exchange for organizational and campaign funding. Eminently buyable, they constantly seek to position themselves close to Power -- and then cash out.
Black Misleadership Class: High-Speed Sell-Outs
by BAR executive editor Glen Ford
“Relatively small investments in bribery go a long way in influencing the Black Misleadership Class.”
When it comes to fundamental questions of who governs in the United States, the Black Misleadership Class can be counted on as an ally of corporate rule. For more than a decade, the Congressional Black Caucus and the two premier national “civil rights” organizations have been dependable accomplices in the corporate bid for control over every aspect of the Internet and telecommunications superhighway.
Most recently, the NAACP and the National Urban League endorsed a rollback of the Obama administration’s rules on net neutrality. Under a Democratic chairman, the Federal Communications Commission had reclassified high-speed Internet as a telecommunications service that should be regulated, like telephone companies. President Trump’s FCC chairman, Ajit Pai, a former lawyer for Verizon, proposes to roll back the classification, giving his former employers the right to favor some Internet content over others. The NAACP and the Urban League, joined by two Asian American organizations, this month sent a letter calling for the issue to be decided by the Republican-controlled Congress, thus sounding a death knell for Internet neutrality.
“Verizon, Comcast and other telecom giants that threaten to go on ‘capitalist strike’ -- withholding investment -- every time regulations are proposed.”
In typical liar’s double-speak, the letter calls for “a statue locking in net neutrality no matter how the winds blow.” But the winds in Congress are all blowing from the Right, just as they were 2010, when the NAACP and a long list of other Black and minority organizations opposed net neutrality on the dubious grounds that: “Because of the inherent ‘shaming culture’ of the Internet, we do not need draconian enforcement mechanisms or rigid net neutrality rules to protect consumers.” In 2014, the NAACP and an even longer list of minority organizations rationalized that classifying the Internet as a “common carrier,” like a public utility, would limit “the investment and innovation that have benefitted our constituents” – which is precisely the position taken by Verizon, Comcast and other telecom giants that threaten to go on “capitalist strike” -- withholding investment -- every time regulations are proposed.
The telecoms have found that relatively small investments in bribery go a long way in influencing the Black Misleadership Class. As noted in an article in The Intercept, the NAACP counts AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast as corporate fundraising partners, and “senior officials from all three behemoths have held positions on the National Urban League’s board.” Verizon gave the Urban League $1.2 million in 2014.
“The NAACP counts AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast as corporate fundraising partners.”
The telecoms distribute cash to a range of “civil rights” groups through their lobbying organization, the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council, whose president, Jim Keenan, has nothing but praise for Ajit Pai, the former Verizon lawyer and Donald Trump’s choice as FCC chairman. Among Pai’s first acts was to roll back regulation of exorbitant prison phone rates and block companies from providing discounted high-speed Internet services to the poor.
Clearly, Pai’s agenda is in total synch with the Republican majority on Capitol Hill, but it is also not out of tune with the corporate Democrats of the Congressional Black Caucus. In 2014, ten Caucus members signed a letter opposing net neutrality, maintaining that, “Reclassification of Internet broadband as a common carrier could have adverse consequences on an industry that creates hundreds of thousands of jobs, and is an economic driver for our nation” -- again, slavishly parroting the corporate threat to hold back on investment if the telecoms don’t get their way.
Among the signers was Rep. Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther from Chicago who, as Bruce Dixon reported, sold out to AT&T for a million dollars in 2006. Rush had plenty of company. Twenty-seven out of 40 Black congresspersons voted in favor of the telecom-backed COPE Act, an early attempt to turn the Internet into a corporate toll road. Only 54 percent of the House Democratic Caucus as a whole voted with the telecoms, compared to two-thirds of the Black Caucus, putting Black America’s representatives in Washington further to the right than their white counterparts on this issue. Needless to say, cash flowed freely.
“Twenty-seven out of 40 Black congresspersons voted in favor of the telecom-backed COPE Act, an early attempt to turn the Internet into a corporate roll road.”
It is incorrect, however, to assume that bribery is behind every act of treachery by the Black Misleadership Class. Although these elected officials and civic organizations most certainly do not serve the interests of their poor and working class constituents, they do act to further the fortunes of their own, narrow, grasping class -- people that constantly seek to position themselves in proximity to Power, and believe that Black progress and their own upwardly mobility are synonymous. That’s why they are “Mis” leaders -- leading the Black masses in directions that benefit only themselves. They are capable of infinite treachery, precisely because they have always seen themselves as group exemplars -- “credits to the race.” In truth, they are parasites that must be expelled and rejected from the larger Black polity -- servants and agents of the actual ruling class.
BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].