Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Thug Is the New Black

"Too many people have spent generations building up this city for it to be destroyed by thugs who in a very senseless way are trying to tear down what so many have fought for." -- Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.(D)

"The lawless gangs of thugs roaming the streets -- we're not going to tolerate that." and "“I assured him (President Obama) we weren’t going to stand by and allow our city of Baltimore to be taken over by thugs.” -- Maryland Governor Larry Hogan.(R)

"Thug" is, of course, a racist dog-whistle term, used with impunity across the political spectrum as the PC substitute for nigger. That a black Democratic mayor should also use it at a press conference about the ongoing rebellion sparked by the fatal spinal cord severing suffered by Freddie Gray while in police custody really should come as no surprise. Rawlings-Blake is a corporate Democrat in the vein of Barack Obama (whose own personal dog-whistle term of choice is the more discreet "knuckleheads").* Her current function includes reassuring white people that she has got this covered. Black heads will roll. She will watch the same TV thug-footage which she purports to despise (for its anti-Chamber of Commerce character) in order to bring charges against people who cut holes in fire hoses and threw rocks at cops.

The Thug Word got a ton of record-shattering use last year when it was applied to Stanford alumnus/Seattle Seahawks football player Richard Sherman after a post-game tirade conducted in the presence of a single white female sideline reporter. According to a Deadspin analysis, "thug" was uttered by shocked and offended TV pundits a grand total of 625 times in the 24 hours following Sherman's rant.
 The word "thug" has been used so many times by the same sort of people about the same sort of thing that it's no longer even accurate to call it code—it's really more of a shorthand. It means a black guy who makes white folks a little more uncomfortable than they prefer. On Sunday night, Richard Sherman made a lot of people uncomfortable. Then on Monday, people said thug on TV more often than on any other day in the past three years.
The Deadspin analysis revealed that the Thug Word was used mainly by local affiliates, and that the previous most widespread repetition of the word in national media had been when Secretary of State John Kerry used it to berate Bashar al-Assad, aka the Butcher of Damascus.

I am guessing that the Baltimore protests and unrest will probably surpass both football player rants and foreign despotic atrocities to become the new champion Thug Word magnet, attracting use of the pejorative from across the entire media-political complex. I'm still trying to locate CNN transcripts in order to count how many times Wolf Blitzer, Don Lemon, Tom Fuentes and Jeffrey Toobin uttered the Thug Word as they sputtered their amazement that unemployed or underpaid black people would dare loot the CVS pharmacy and steal diapers and soda. Where were the cops? Blitzer inadvertently broadcast the real purpose of urban police forces, which (besides abusing the population) is the defense of free market capitalism and rent-seekers.

He hasn't seen anything like this in exceptional America for a long time. People might even be getting revenge against usurious check-cashing depots which have been ripping them off for years! Just as likely, they're availing themselves of bottled water since the city is now joining Detroit in cutting off tap water to residents behind on their bills.

And here's "legal analyst" Jeffrey Toobin helpfully dog-whistling the sexual predator meme  -- specifically, that the rioters are related to a group that once took over a prison and impregnated (white) female guards:

But back to Mayor Rawlings-Blake, who in her other capacity as secretary of the Democratic National Committee, is also a frequent token guest on the Sunday inside-the-Beltway gabfests. In the elite tradition of Chicago's Mayor Rahm "One Percent" Emanuel, she established her neoliberal bona fides early in her term by slashing recreational funding for city youth and increasing funding for the police department.  Twenty-four public recreation centers were closed, and another half-dozen were privatized. From The Militant Negro:
Rawlings-Blake credits her reforms to the city pension for saving $64 million yearly, saving the city from an even worse fiscal crisis. The mayor has made extensive cuts to city social welfare programs, with cuts to funding for prisoner reentry programs and the elimination of the city’s offices of Community Development and Community Relations.  In 2012, to close the budget deficit, the mayor closed 3 fire stations two of them serving Harlem Park/Sandtown-Winchester and Berea/Clifton are among Baltimore’s poorest communities.
So there's the answer to Wolf Blitzer's angst over "Where's the fire trucks? Where's the fire trucks?"

Despite imposing austerity on Baltimore's impoverished citizens, Rawlings-Blake still found the wherewithal to host the city's annual Grand Prix, in which municipal streets are closed and shade trees cut down for the racing pleasure of sports car owners and their multinational corporate backers. The contract for the event was coincidentally awarded to her largest campaign donor. When one city council member questioned her priorities, she promptly cancelled his Ravens box seat season tickets.

And then there's the typical neoliberal push for gentrification of urban areas. Rawlings-Blake awarded a couple of waterside developers $22 million in tax breaks in exchange for a paltry $250,000 contribution to her struggling city.

She also has the dubious distinction of being named the worst mayor in America, or at least having tied with Shrillionaire Mike "Stop & Frisk" Bloomberg in the final vote tally. Like Bloomberg, SRB seems convinced that all that poor cities need to achieve prosperity are gimmicks and developments funded by public money for private profit.

From Boston Streets:
After everything that happened in 2011 (huge losses to the city), SRB and her team worked feverishly to help create a new organization, Race On LLC, and start planning the 2012 Grand Prix. The new organization is led by her largest campaign contributor and made up almost entirely of the same clowns who botched it up the first time. The same people who absolved themselves of their responsibilities are now collecting salaries to do it all over again. With the mayor’s full blessing and encouragement!
This is the true brilliance of SRB’s awfulness. Not only does she aggressively pursue exactly the wrong projects and policies, she employs corrupt and misguided tactics to make sure they happen.
They even derisively call her Mayor Vroom-Vroom.

So there's the answer to Wolf Blitzer's anguished question about why all the speeding cop cars.

Baltimore is Le Mans in the ghetto. The real thugs tearing stuff down are the hyper-capitalists extracting profits from poor people at the speed of blight.

* Update: Knuckleheads is so yesterday. As befits his position as chief representative of Plutocrats, Inc. Barack Obama has now gotten with the dog-whistling program. From The Hill:
President Obama on Tuesday blamed "criminals and thugs" for the violence that erupted in Baltimore in response to the death of Freddie Gray, a black man who died in police custody.
“There is no excuse for the kind of violence we saw yesterday. It is counterproductive," Obama said. "They’re not protesting, they’re not making a statement. They are stealing.”
Obama said the violent demonstrations undermined the message of peaceful protesters who made "legitimate" complaints about problems in Baltimore. “One burning building will be looped on television over and over and over again and the ... protesters who did it the right way will be lost in the discussion."
More like the propaganda and Al Sharpton are getting lost in the discussion. But anyhoo, now that Obama has made the world safe for Thug-shaming, look for the word to become a gilded super-magnet for color-blind acceptable racist discourse from across the political spectrum -- which in Exceptional America, ranges all the way from A to B.


Meredith NYC said...

Any opinion on this Karen?

An aggravating factor in the Baltimore burning/looting must be the media’s showing the Grey video of him being dragged by cops, his scream,and the constant use of other videos of police brutality for months. They show evidence, but what about the negative effects from a sensation pushing media?

Now while reporters/pundits talk, we see split screens of replayed video violence constantly, some with audio---that’s new.

We heard repeatedly the scream of the victim, while he was dragged by cops, while they tell us about his broken spine and lack of medical attention. We are having to get used to horror. The callousness is overwhelming. Unless you become hardened to the callousness.

If after the 10th time or so, you look away to just listen to the reporters/commentary, you hear the background audio underneath their talk. If you mute the sound, and look at the subtitles, you see the SC man, Scott, running away while the cop shoots him in the back, or Freddie Gray being dragged, or a bunch of cops ganging up on Erica Garner and choking him. We’re told again he said I can’t breathe. We know, despite the video the jury refused to indict, and those cops are on the job now. And that the police union head defended them. So with each replay, thousands by now. even with quick references to it,we get new exposures to it, and the awful associations. What's the limit?

As for terminology----90% of protesters will remain lawful, but some will burn and destroy. An entire CVS was burned down and also a senior residence being built, etc. The news spotlights those. “Thugs” may be a dog whistle---but also some are using it to distinguish the vast majority of peaceful protesters from burners/looters. Otherwise the great white public out there will put them all in 1 basket, and we get more polarized. What is the best way to do talk about this? Maybe do away with labels entirely.

But TV media must start using more judgment and restraint on the videos of killings/brutality/beatings. Cut back on the frequency, show them at certain times only, with warnings they’re disturbing. Children see this. Label them. Kids should learn about this, but not be exposed to constant violent cop videos. Or let people go to the web sites to see them-- so they make the choice, instead of having it imposed on them at any time. The families of the dead know that the death of their relative is being shown over and over on TV.

Also escalating anger is TV audio of bleeped profanity by the police, insulting citizens from the get go. We hear the bleeps while pundits opine. Repetitions of this are poisonous.

TV broadcasters may fear losing viewers for sponsors if they cut back on these, while the channels that keep them gain viewers. Repetition may get people used to them. But some viewers may turn with relief to channels for news without repeated videos. They don’t need constant visual reminders of brutality, they can picture it for themselves. Of course children are totally manipulated by media

Obama today cited federal funds for cop cameras. Will media have access to these for constant viewing in our homes? What will be the effect on the public? Will they lead to less abuse? The Garner jury had the video.

Karen Garcia said...


It is so obvious that CNN is in the instigation business. They are practically praying for riots in the streets again. If it bleeds, it leads.

We rarely see the endless loop of the South Carolina shooting any more, because the guy who filmed it on his cellphone wants money from the networks. You can't blame him at all, because the networks are raking in the ad revenue off the suffering of others, disasters du jour and war, war and more war.

Ta Nehisi Coates wrote a succinct blog post touching on what I did, although much better than I did. He says that demands by the media and politicians that everybody just calm down right in the middle of a war that the police state essentially started is a tad premature and disingenuous, to say the least.

The right wingers are off the rails as usual. Very gleeful that their race-baiting techniques and thug-wording are being co-opted by the mainstream.

This is exactly how Nixon came to power after the last spurt of race riots in the 60s and 70s, post-MLK assassination. The racist rallying cry was "Law & Order." They were able to gin up the Silent Majority to fear black people and rev up patriotic support for the Vietnam War at the same time. Archie Bunker became a hero instead of the satiric object of scorn his creators intended him to be.

They're pulling the same crap now, only now it is much, much worse due to nonstop media saturation.

annenigma said...

Obama's 'Thug' is the new 'Bum' and Obama is the new Nixon.

Will said...

Speaking of instigation, here's a video of Wolf trying in vain today to get a rise out of activist Deray McKesson. It wasn't happening. Fuck Wolf and fuck CNN.


Pearl said...

Bruce A. Dixon's blog in Black Agenda.

Loretta Lynch is Condoleeza Rice With A Law Degree.

My hunch was correct as this is a scorching report of Ms. Lynch's history in Black Agenda. There is no way of forwarding it but we have reason to fear this new appointment. Obama has done it again.

Meredith NYC said...

Karen.....Your point is well taken-- “This is exactly how Nixon came to power after the last spurt of race riots in the 60s and 70s, post-MLK assassination. The racist rallying cry was "Law & Order."

And it’s made worse by our election of judges and prosecutors. What else are they going to run on but tough on crime? Would their ads say Judge so and so disproved phony police testimony and released many wrongly accused suspects? And then the pols run on welfare fraud, and then on ‘dependency’. See Adam Liptak article from 2008 on how other countries don’t elect judges, they appoint them and the effects.

But I will say I thought CNN did a pretty good job Tuesday night from Baltimore, and at Ferguson I recall. Seems they do ok when they go to locations and get into the crowd, instead of opining from the studio. Better than Msnbc last night. They had Van Jones commenting and some others. Don Lemon and others detailed how Baltimore citizens got out there and engaged with the crowd, influencing people to go home for the curfew. Interviewed a wide range of locals....some children, some mothers, local activists and constructive law enforcement experts. Got those views across. It was different from their usual blather.

Wolf Blitzer the other day had to remind us of the damage by protesters in Ferguson, but at least added --- ‘most of the protests were peaceful’, as an aside. Could have said the townspeople tried to protect storefronts, too.

Would it have been better for Bal to keep the schools in session? There the kids are safe and in an organized environment.

Didn’t know about demands for payment for the SC video from bystander, Santana. NYT article quotes a lawyer:
“The search for justice is served by turning the video over to law enforcement.....The news media, he said, appeared to be in the “search for revenue.” ........the time for “fair use” has passed.”

“At some point it’s not newsworthy anymore and you are using it for commercial benefit,”

Re the ‘cease and desist letter to media about showing it: “I think that the people who might be put off by this are the media outlets that had it for free. Now they will have to pay.”

A lawyer for Mr. Scott’s family said the relatives remain grateful to Mr. Santana and have no problem with him receiving a financial benefit.
“Without the video, we would not be where we are right now,” said Justin Bamberg, one of the family’s lawyers.

Denis Neville said...

Thug …

"That boy ain't a gangsta, fo'sho'. Look at how he walks, he's a thug. Life. That's the saddest face I've seen in all my life as a teen."

“As Tupac defined it, a thug is someone who is going through struggles, has gone through struggles, and continues to live day by day with nothing for them. That person is a thug. And the life they are living is the thug life. A thug is NOT a gangster. Look up gangster and gangsta. Not even CLOSE, my friend.” – Urban Dictionary

“It's easier to fool people than to convince them that they have been fooled.” - Mark Twain

America’s quiet surrender to “perception management” via the corruption of language…

"We live in a time of barbarism and the barbarian elites employ an army of linguistic and cultural manipulators to justify their conquests. The great crimes against most of humanity are justified by a corrosive debasement of language and thought - a deliberate fabrication of euphemisms, falsehoods and conceptual deceptions… Euphemisms are a form of collective anesthesia – to tranquilize the population not directly affected by state violence.” - James Petras

“‘Thugs’ = Niggers #KnowTheCode”- Questlove, drummer and leader of The Roots, the house band for the Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon

“What these elite, embedded voices share is their participation in an essentially class war, the long war of the rich against the poor. That they play their part in a broadcasting studio or in the clubbable pages of the review sections and that they think of themselves as liberals or conservatives is neither here nor there. They belong to the same crusade, waging the same battle for their enduring privilege.” – John Pilger

"Calling them thugs? Just Call Them Niggers," exasperated Baltimore city councilman Carl Stokes tells CNN’s Erin Burnett

Kat said...

Around here, when I read the word "thugs" being thrown around, I know that some looting is going to happen. Crackdowns on crime tend to happen where developers want to grab the real estate-- this is called "neighborhood stabilization". Stabilization involves displacement of poor people and tax incentives to property developers to support our national religion-- rising property values.

Jay–Ottawa said...

If and when governors ever get around to practice the wisdom of nonviolence as a matter of course, then we might take seriously their pleas for calm in the middle of a blowback prompted by frustration with the government's default exercise of uninterrupted injustice. Of course, if governors practiced nonviolence day in day out, there would be no such thing as uninterrupted injustice. And statistics would reveal dwindling, not rising, numbers of the oppressed.

Here’s the link to the Ta-Nehisi Coates essay that I believe Karen was referring to. And here’s the last paragraph of his essay that brought me to the day's meditation:

“When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con. And none of this can mean that rioting or violence is "correct" or "wise," any more than a forest fire can be "correct" or "wise." Wisdom isn't the point tonight. Disrespect is. In this case, disrespect for the hollow law and failed order that so regularly disrespects the community.”


annenigma said...

Why doesn't President Obama say that criminals and thugs caused the deaths of Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, and so many others? Why doesn't he say there is no excuse for that violence? Why doesn't he say 'They aren't policing. They're murdering folks'? Since when did property crimes become so important to him and human life so diminished that he considers VANDALISM the big crime?

President Obama has remained silent for the past 6 years in response to racist slurs and verbal attacks, and by doing so he has failed to protect everyone affected by racism, not just himself. I'm sure he thought he was being noble, turning the other cheek and remaining silent with his chin held high, regarding his winning the Presidency twice as response enough. Too bad he sees everything through his own shortsighted and precious eyes.

Yes, racial tensions have been simmering for a long time and for good reason, but he's done nothing but sit back and watch it come to a boil and now the kitchen's catching fire. Oh well, he can always mobilize his national security police state apparatus to protect the corporate state when/if they feel threatened but they're not in those neighborhoods. In the meantime, maybe the PTB can cook up some good old Shock Doctrine-type Disaster Capitalism to clean out and cash in on all those blighted neighborhoods.

Isn't it funny that keeping the country and world safe for Capitalism is pretty much Obama's only heartfelt concern? Witness his real passion and gutsy FIGHT, even against his own party, for TPP.

It is now a fact that when/if Big Business feels threatened by protesters, that can and will be considered a National Security threat. Thugs and mere protesters will become labeled Terrorists! just as PETA protesters are. The Gov't can put up with a Nevada rancher brandishing arms and defying them, but you'd better not pose a threat to current or even future corporate profits or there will be hell to pay.

Protestors be advised and act accordingly.