HBO's Real Sports aired the tape of Al Sharpton negotiating a drug deal with an undercover FBI agent.
July 23, 2002 9:04 PM   Subscribe

HBO's Real Sports aired the tape of Al Sharpton negotiating a drug deal with an undercover FBI agent. I saw the show tonight, Sharpton was obviously unprepared to respond. He left and then came back after he figured out what he was going to say. Why would he refuse to watch it if he didn't know he was going to watch something as baldly incriminating as the tape? Why are black Americans (me included) allowing people like Sharpton to represent them in the media? As if you didn't need a reason before this to kick Sharpton to the curb. (more inside)
posted by McBain (27 comments total)

 
The bulk of the Real Sports story was about how the mob was fixing major league baseball. One of the Colombo family captains was doing a "tell all" for the story. He said he was trying to arrange to have drug money laundered through big time boxing. When looking for a connection, Al Sharpton hooks the mafioso up with none other then Don King. It was a good story and Bernie Goldberg is a good reporter, despite how right wing zealots have distorted his dead on claims in 'Bias'.
posted by McBain at 9:09 PM on July 23, 2002


"Dead-on claims"?? Now why'd you have to go and derail your own thread like that? Goldberg's book has a few great points (made previously by other folks who did the actual research), including the way the homeless issue disappeared from media radar once Clinton took office, but Bias also contains a shitload of unsubstantiated nonsense and anecdotal evidence reported as fact, including those infamous claims about use of the words "liberal" and "conservative" in mainstream media. Goldberg didn't bother to do one iota of actual research on that one.

Anyway, Sharpton: The article says this was reported in 1988, so why was the tape leaked to HBO now? Maybe it's because I saw Undercover Brother last weekend, but this sure smells like a set-up to hurt Sharpton's recent popularity surge. Next up: Bryant Gumbel extols the virtues of fried chicken.
posted by mediareport at 9:31 PM on July 23, 2002


Why are black Americans (me included) allowing people like Sharpton to represent them in the media?

I wish I knew.
The conspiracy theorist in me says that by allowing only buffoons (Sharpton), foamer fringies (Farrakhan), or catspaws (JC Watts) airtime, the Man is managing to dissipate the natural solidarity that would form among black and white working classes who, if led by a reasonable centrist, would find that they have much more in common than they had supposed, and then they would target out their common enemy (entrenched fatcats, robber barons, you know, the Man). Keeping RACE on the table during any political debate seems to me (when in tinfoil-hat mode) to be a great way of keeping the argument from ever reaching CLASS, which is the real issue. The proposition that poor whites have more in common with poor blacks than they do with rich whites is anathema, whether you are Sharpton or Trent Lott. Because admitting that brings us one step closer to lining those fuckers up against the wall. A notable (if contrived and trivial) exception is in advertising, which posits that every white guy has two white friends, one black friend, an Asian friend, and a friend that may be Latino, Jewish, Indian, or Arab, depending on the lighting.

[removes tinfoil hat, ceases being fold-and-mutilate]

The realist in me says, "squeaky wheel."
posted by BitterOldPunk at 9:47 PM on July 23, 2002


Why are black Americans (me included) allowing people like Sharpton to represent them in the media?

Probably for the same reasons that many gay people let Richard Goldstein, Michelangelo Signorile, GLAAD, et al speak for them. "Activists" get ossified and continue to operate like it's 1968, when the realities of life for their 'minority group' has changed dramatically. Also, these types are total camera whores, and so they push their simplistic political buttons because they know the news media will be right there to tape it. They're the offline equivalent of Usenet trolls, and should be treated as such: ignored.
posted by evanizer at 10:21 PM on July 23, 2002


"Why are black Americans (me included) allowing people like Sharpton to represent them in the media?"

Do you really think they do represent you, though? I don't. I view Sharpton, Don King, Jesse Jackson et al as simply being bombastic jackasses, same as I do Orrin Hatch, Trent Lott, Donald Trump ad infinitum. I certainly don't feel like those bozos represent me or most other white Americans, any more than I would assume the former group of bozos represents most black Americans.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:54 PM on July 23, 2002


Have you ever read the job description for Black Leader?

Highlights:

High probability of assassination
Constant death threats
Hated on by both Blacks and Whites
Annual accusations that you, are in fact the racist
Low Pay, Long Hours
Accused of being "media whore" and "attention seeker" for basically doing your job
Media will constantly dwell on your negative sides, making it impossible for you to communicate effectively..
etc, etc, etc.

Remember that Malcom X and Martinl Luther King, JR, two of the most important, influential, and positive Americans of all time were villified in their time. But also remember that they warned us against the likes of shysters, false prophets, and race-playing opportunists... and it's no wonder that it's so hard to find people able or willing to follow in their footsteps.
posted by chaz at 11:23 PM on July 23, 2002


"Why are black Americans (me included) allowing people like Sharpton to represent them in the media?"

Good question for the media, I think. I suspect it is because every circus needs clowns, and lots of them. Hence, Ann Coulter.

Heck, I can do better than your complaint. Terry McAullife of the DNC and Marc Racicot of the RNC. There, now we're all misrepresented.

and on preview, good points chaz
posted by dglynn at 11:28 PM on July 23, 2002


chaz, you can't seriously be comparing Rev. Al to Dr. King, can you?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 12:01 AM on July 24, 2002


Comparing MLK to Sharpton is a bit of a stretch. A long, long bit of a stretch. A long, long, long bit of a stretch.
posted by evanizer at 12:02 AM on July 24, 2002


Huh, I read chaz to be implying Sharpton in his "shysters, false prophets, and race-playing opportunists" comments.

Did I read that wrong?
posted by dglynn at 12:30 AM on July 24, 2002


Naw, I think you read chaz right. Sharpton is an extremist sans credibility, MLK was merely painted as one.
posted by scottymac at 12:45 AM on July 24, 2002


While the media has some blame, "Step-N-Fetch" Al makes it easy for people to follow him. If you listen to Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, etc. blacks have no culpability for the state of their being any more. Every problem in the black community is mysteriously transposed to the overarching conspiracy of "the man" (see UnderCover Brother). Because, see, they're trying to "keep us down". People will always take the easy way out. Instead of self-improvement, they can just say "whitey did it".

Sharpton is a carnie act, and people keep paying to go in the tent.
posted by owillis at 1:12 AM on July 24, 2002


More like the media keeps throwing the tent open for the world to take a peek inside. (This was a point in Goldberg's book, btw.) Why do certain media outlets continue to call upon Sharpton for his views as a representative of the African-American community? I'd lay wager that it's the same reason why they call NOW for the "women's perspective" or Jerry Falwell for the "Christian perspective" or Phyllis Schafly for the "pro-life perspective." It's easy, cheap and doesn't require much work to think outside that box, or consider that there are better representatives or spokespeople for these positions. They have anointed certain people as de facto leadership, and everyone just tows the line behind.
posted by Dreama at 3:25 AM on July 24, 2002


Much as I can't stand Sharpton, I believe that in regards to this tape, he is telling the truth: that realizing he was in a setup situation, he was playing along, playing it cool... Sharpton must have realized that he wasn't sure whom he was dealing with, organized criminals or undercover cops, but in either case, he needed to walk on eggshells. As a public liar and something of a pariah, Sharpton is terribly exposed, and can't afford to bluster or go all high and mighty with either the mob or the Man, in private. His words on tape are non-committal, or the sort of vaguely affirmative things you or I might say to preserve our butts in a similar situation.
My fervent hope is that Al Sharpton will survive this crisis and be able to mount a credible campaign for the Democratic nomination in the next presidential election. He and Jesse Jackson. And Ralph Nadar. And any one else who wants to dive into the fray, and split the party into a thousand hissing and spitting rival factions.
posted by Faze at 6:09 AM on July 24, 2002


>And any one else who wants to dive into the fray, and split the party into a thousand hissing and spitting rival factions.

To what end?
posted by McBain at 6:23 AM on July 24, 2002


To what end?

Why, to make sure Bush wins again! 'Cause it's not looking like he'll be able to win on the issues...

ok, back on topic, back on topic...
posted by mkultra at 7:32 AM on July 24, 2002


'Cause it's not looking like he'll be able to win on the issues...

Then why should he? Why would you want him to?
posted by McBain at 7:37 AM on July 24, 2002


Why are black Americans (me included) allowing people like Sharpton to represent them in the media?

Same reason white folks let themselves be represented by the likes of Jerry Fallwell and Pat Buchanan. Demagogues count on people being easily led and tell them what they want to hear.
posted by jonmc at 8:04 AM on July 24, 2002


'Cause it's not looking like he'll be able to win on the issues...

Why? Is the economy in bad shape?

Anyway, about Sharpton: I agree he is a carnival act and a joke, and if I were African American I'd be real mad to see him portrayed as some sort of spokesman for black people. What suprprises me even more, tho, is the way he managed not to be completely destroyed after the Tawana Brawley shameless, cynical, racist scam

Same reason white folks let themselves be represented by the likes of Jerry Fallwell and Pat Buchanan

They're not representatives of white folks in the media, come on, not in a million years: they represent Extreme Right Wing Christian Fundamentalist folks (Falwell) and Jingoistic Isolationist Anti-Semitic folks (Buchanan). It's much more narrow
posted by matteo at 8:24 AM on July 24, 2002


It's not like the majority of black people that I've met(I'd never presume to speak for them) consider Sharpton to be their representative. He's just a guy who's good at television trolling, thus he makes for good TV, which is why the talk shows and pundit shows put him on.
posted by jonmc at 8:50 AM on July 24, 2002


Just to save time and energy, I'd like to note that henceforth in the media I will be represented by Henry Rollins. Not because he and I see eye-to-eye on everything, but because he can pretty much kick the asses of all the other spokespeople.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 8:57 AM on July 24, 2002


henceforth in the media I will be represented by Henry Rollins

Liar.
posted by delapohl at 9:09 AM on July 24, 2002


BitterOldPunk, I'd be more inclined to pick someone without a history of threatening to beat up my scrawnier buddies when they were highschool kids doing what they were supposed to do.
posted by NortonDC at 9:17 AM on July 24, 2002


There's a long, detailed analysis of Sharpton's motives, strategy and chances in this February Boston Phoenix article.

"Sharpton is planning to do on the national level what he has already done in New York. Three times, Sharpton parlayed New York electoral runs into power and influence in the state. His candidacies eviscerated the senatorial hopes of former attorney general Robert Abrams in 1992 and the mayoral hopes of Mark Green in 2001...'What he does in each of his runs is he positions himself as a guy who, unless you give him what he needs in prestige and standing, he'll take you down in the general election,' says Fred Siegel, a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute, a think tank linked to the Democratic Leadership Council."

No wonder the Democrats gave HBO that tape. :)
posted by mediareport at 9:24 AM on July 24, 2002


Ok. Let's ask an analogous question about "white people". After all, we all know they agree wholeheartedly with all their so called leaders. So we'll pick some guy, say he's a senator, one that's been re-elected by his constituents since the stone age so we'll be certain that he's a genuine leader, say he's Stromm Thurmond. In the same spirit as McBain's question let me ask why do white people chose this man as their leader? See the problem?
posted by rdr at 10:55 AM on July 24, 2002


Imagine a time in the not-too-distant future when Ashcroft can direct his FBI to create a similar circumstance for any perceived enemies of the Duhbya regime...McCain will not just be called "crazy from the POW camps during the war"...they'll have tape for the cable news channels to "prove" it.
It's fairly well known that the FBI used lots of dirty tricks under J Edgar to entrap political enemies and this easily falls into that category. If they had a hell's chance of pinning any muddy allegations to Sharpton you better believe it would have already been done.

I don't agree with Sharpton or his methods on many occasions but I distrust the FBI enough to suspect he is correct in the setup charge. Look at it this way, if I have a choice of trusting Sharpton or Ashcroft, I'll trust Sharpton.
posted by nofundy at 12:42 PM on July 24, 2002


How many black people actually consider Sharpton to be their leader? From what I've seen and heard, it's more that they've noticed that he's one of the few blacks other than professional entertainers--who mostly have their own reasons for not being too political--who can get the press to come to a news conference and actually report on what he says. Not so much that he's who they've chosen, or would choose, than that even a leaky boat is better than drowning.

Carl McCall gets a lot less press attention than Sharpton. Sharpton has never been elected to anything; McCall is state comptroller, and one of two serious Democratic candidates for governor right now. By any plausible standard, when the the only Democrat holding a statewide elected office in New York is black, he counts as a black leader. McCall is also a calm, reasonable man, who it's a lot harder to paint as weird, extremist, et cetera.
posted by rosvicl at 2:54 PM on July 24, 2002


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