The Republican Sneak thief
The other black billionare, former head of BET, Bob Johnson
Black Commentator came up with this, Bob Johnson's secret meeting to help rich people. Now, Johnson may be rich, but his eyes see no further than his wallet.
In a transparent bid to boost Republican fortunes among Blacks, billionaire Bob Johnson attempted earlier this year to convene a secret meeting of prominent African Americans at BET headquarters in Washington, DC. obtained a copy of the invitation to the “retreat,” scheduled for January 13 and 14 and ostensibly designed “for the purpose of brainstorming ideas as to how we as African Americans can best confront the political and demographic realities of the 21st century.” None of the invitees were told the identity of the others and the press was scrupulously kept in the dark, but we have learned enough to report that the mix was high-powered and politically diverse. (Click here to view the Johnson invitation letter to the retreat. The page may load slowly for dial up users due to the large size of the image.)
The stealth gathering was postponed for lack of a quorum, but Johnson’s intentions were made clear in his eight suggested talking-points, not one of which dealt with issues such as jobs, health care, housing, social security, civil rights or war and peace. Instead, the BET founder, who was an early backer of Social Security privatization and organized fellow wealthy Blacks in support of George Bush’s bid to repeal the Estate Tax, crafted an agenda designed to peel African Americans away from the Democratic Party – his clear assignment in Bush’s second term. “It seems to me he was suggesting more cooperation with Republicans, or at least, less friendship toward Democrats,” said one invitee, who asked for anonymity.
With great cynicism but little guile, Johnson taps into the near-universal desire among Blacks for actions that will lead to greater operational unity and effectiveness – and attempts to channel these aspirations in Republican directions. Of the eight Johnson “questions” listed below, all but three implicitly urge collaboration with the GOP or a boycott of Democrats. The remainder – on forming a Black political party, running “favorite son” candidates, and fundraising over the Internet – are window dressing to create the impression of a broader agenda.
1. Should African Americans continue to vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party?
2. Should African Americans, in concert, make overtures to the Republican Party?
3. Should African Americans seek to form an independent party and vote accordingly?
4. Should African American-elected officials be encouraged to run as favorite sons in national elections?
5. Should African Americans holding elected offices be asked to vote according to a multi-party system by using their voting power to leverage the Democrats against the Republicans and the Republicans against the Democrats in the best interest of African Americans?
6. Should African American voters be encouraged to vote for Republican or Democratic officials based upon the negotiated agreement with the respective candidates rather than based on party affiliation?
7. Should African Americans demonstrate our political cohesiveness, and therefore political power, by withholding votes from a particular candidate in a selected election?
8. Should African Americans invest in an Internet-based fundraising effort to form a totally independent source of political financing?
Bob Johnson doubtless kept the invitees in the dark as to each other’s identities, the better to control the direction of the slanted discourse by curtailing opportunities for pre-meeting discussions among invitees, such as, What is this guy up to? and, How was this list put together? or, Why aren’t there any talking points on the issues?
BC obtained, from a third party, a copy of NAACP Chairman Julian Bond’s response to Johnson’s invitation. Bond declined to attend “for scheduling reasons,” congratulated Johnson for his efforts, then offered a valuable, point-by-point critique. On the question of whether Blacks should “continue to vote overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party,” Bond responded:
”This strikes me as the wrong question – the correct one is ‘what party should we vote for, and what standards should we apply to choose the beneficiary of our votes?’ In every election in my lifetime from Franklin Roosevelt to George W. Bush (with one exception in 1956) we’ve chosen the Democratic Party by large majorities. That choice was rationally made between two competing and general political philosophies – one which promised an aggressive defense of civil rights and the prospect of economic growth and security, the other offering the vicissitudes of the marketplace and less vigorous federal protection of – and in many cases a retreat from – civil rights. Using that general standard, we’ve consistently voted for Democrats, and I expect that pattern to be followed for the foreseeable future. In recent elections, our choice has also been a matter of the Republican Party repulsing us rather than the Democratic Party attracting us.”
Bond agreed that Republicans should be rewarded with votes if they “adopt policies deemed favorable” to Black interests. “It would be the height of idiocy, however, to suggest that having given our votes to one party for so long we ought to give them to the other for no reason except that we could,” said Bond. “The old mantra, ‘taken for granted by one party; ignored by the other’ isn’t remedied by giving our votes to a party that doesn’t make any rational appeal for them.”
No wonder Bob Johnson wants to hold narrowly framed meetings about electoral strategies with Black leadership, rather than discuss bread and butter issues – he is so far to the right, he’s off the screen of the Black Political Consensus.
A Pioneer privatizer
"We're all on the Titanic as it relates to Social Security and people are telling us it's the safest ship afloat. But we are heading for a disaster.'' – Bob Johnson
Only hard-core GOP Rightists shrilled like that in 2002 – back then, the Republican National Committee specifically forbade its congressional candidates from campaigning on the shaky ground of Social Security privatization. But Bob Johnson was on a Bush-mission to spread hysteria and confusion in Black America, and he performed shamelessly. Johnson was picked for a slot on Bush’s supposedly bi-partisan Commission to Strengthen Social Security – as a Democratic member! Thus, Bush got an African American commissioner who cared nothing for the interests of the masses of Blacks or Democrats. And he got a mouthpiece for the evolving GOP Social Security line for Black consumption. “African Americans who contribute to the Social Security system and payroll taxes also have one of the highest mortality rates, so in the end, they may not receive the full benefits of what they put in Social Security,” said Johnson, a message that would be repeated on hundreds of Black radio stations during the 2002 congressional elections.
Yes, Bob Johnson is a true media pioneer – a veteran polluter of the Black airwaves. His original “Black” rationale for Social Security privatization is now a centerpiece of White House propaganda – the context in which his call for a meeting of Black minds must be viewed.
However, it would be wrong to assume that Johnson is simply playing at right-wing politics because the Republicans control the government. He’s been hanging with the troglodytes since 1979, when he hooked up with John C. Malone, of Tele-Communications Inc. To ease his way into cable franchises in heavily Black cities, Malone needed someone to provide African American programming. He bankrolled Johnson for $500,000 in return for a 35 percent share in their new baby, BET. (Johnson put up just $15,000 in borrowed money.) Malone and Johnson have been joined at the wallet ever since; Malone never gave up his BET stock. When Johnson sold BET to Viacom for $3 billion in 2000, Malone’s company received $800 million in Viacom stock.
Johnson’s partner Malone is on the board of the Cato Institute – in the Right’s division of labor arrangement, the point organization on Social Security privatization. This is the political company Bob Johnson keeps, when he’s not using his wealth to tease cash-starved Black leadership structures into paying him undue attention.
A disruptive bank account
Donna Brazile, head of the Democratic National Committee’s Voting Rights Institute, would have attended Johnson’s meeting had it come off. “Look, on questions of partisanship, I am a strong and faithful Democrat,” she told . “But, I welcome a dialogue with those on the other side to see what, if anything, they are willing to bring to the table. In the past, they have come up empty handed and with a stick to beat Democrats down. Now, if Bob wants to have a conversation with all sides, I am ready, but actions still speak louder than words.”
It’s not clear if Brazile considers Johnson to be on “the other side” or not. Indeed, it’s hard not to be at the center of attention when one comprises half of the total billionaire population of Black America. Johnson, who is leaving BET by the end of the year, will certainly enjoy a well-attended “summit” of his own choosing – whether secret or public – if he reschedules it wisely. But everyone in attendance should know what the real agenda is: to lure Blacks into a relationship with the Republican Party or, failing that, to cause splintering and confusion in the ranks.
Bob Johnson doesn't like criticism, or questions. But he loved being John Malone's bitch when he ran BET.
When he was begged, over and over, to not air all the videos of gyrating, nearly nude women, over and over in the middle of the day, on the channel, he just sneered at his critics. He even went so far as to launch a full-page screed against a young Aaron MacGruder for daring to critize the tits and ass nature of BET's programming. Johnson never liked unions or union wages either. Nor developing talent. All cost too much money. Johnson's opinion of the intellect of black people is a dim one at best. He closed Emerge, which was the only black political magazine, to start Savoy, which would be about men's fashions.
While Johnson was eager to play on blackness to get ahead, he paid the lowest wages for talent in the DC area. When he wanted to do a comedy show, he paid below union scale and when called on it, moved the show to Atlanta, most talented black comics stayed away, rather than make $300. I am hardly surprised that Johnson's assistant sneered about being called on his little sucker the negroes meeting. When BET went public, at a time companies were handing out shares like beers at a frat party, Johnson gave his loyal staff zero shares. When a black reporter for the WaPo wrote about how BET was a non-union shop, paying the worst media wages in DC, the attack was called racist.
Bob Johnson learned how the rich behaved well at Princeton. Too bad he never learned about social responsibility.
But obviously, there is more here. There is a coordinated effort by Rove to drive a wedge between blacks and the democratic party while not chamging the largely Southern-based nature of the GOP. They want blacks to doubt the Democratic Party, and then force the Dems to overreact, becoming the black party, securing the south for them. Johnson doesn't even see how he's being played as long as his wallets are fat. The GOP don't want niggers, they want to look like they want them, and then force the dems to fight for them, saying "See, that's the nigger loving party". While they lie to Hispanics and do nothing for them. They can't deliver on immigration because of the Tom Tancredos, who hate Mexicans like his forefathers did, excepot they don't use the rope and the gun any more.
But the difference is this: Johnson ain't Oprah. People hate Bob Johnson. They resent the hell out of BET, and how he's shoveled crap into people's homes. Few people were upset when he sold out to Viacom, because he had sold out the black community long ago. Think his daughter could have showed up with Petey Pablo or Chingy at a party? Hell no? They'd have shoved his black ass out that mansion at gunpoint. But it's ok for my niece and nephew to watch them after school. Well, it isn't, which is why they watch Nick or Cartoon Network or Disney.
Johnson is rich and clever, but not bright. When he sold BET to massa John Malone, he wanted to open a commuter airline. Which smacked of idiocy at the time and remains only a notion today.
Ironically, BET is most hated among the most conservative elements in the black community. It's programming is so reviled that another network, Black Family Channel, was created as an alternative. BET runs church early and hoochies the rest of the time, I guess to cover their bases. But the reason Johnson had to sneak thief this is simple: if he did it openly, he would have been called out by the community.
posted by Steve @ 8:57:00 AM