That’s what Ta-Nehisi Coates says in a WaPo column today:
When the news broke last week that the rapper Nas intended to use a racial epithet as the title of his next album, it was no shock that a television reporter immediately thrust a microphone toward the Rev. Al Sharpton for a response.And we shouldn’t forget the Duke Hoax case. The Rev was out there for months before the camera’s hustling what ever Mike Nifiong, Durham Police and Duke faculty members were saying.
People who use the N-word in their music "wouldn't put out a record against whites or cops or Jews because they ain't got the guts to do that," the longtime activist declaimed, warming up for the killer sound bite. "They only got the guts to beat up on their own."
Toss another one onto the pile of headlines. It has been a banner year for Sharpton. Whether he's mixing it up with Don Imus, harassing Sen. Barack Obama, raising a ruckus over legal discrimination in Jena, La., or urging a boycott of the New York Knicks because of how they treated a female employee, Sharpton seems to make news every time he opens his mouth.
His presidential run in 2004 landed him far afield of the White House, but it succeeded in perhaps its only real aim: convincing the national media that in all things black, Sharpton is a one-stop shop.There’s a lot more to Coates’ column including statistical data suggesting Sharpton doesn’t have much standing in the black community.
Journalists thus follow the good reverend's every move as though galaxies hang in the balance. At night, he routinely accrues even more face time, matching wits with the squawking chickens of cable news.
So potent is Sharpton's visage that in its recent puff piece on Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, "60 Minutes" needed only to unveil decade-old footage of Sharpton to show the vast numbers of blacks who opposed Thomas's nomination.
Some black intellectuals cried foul, arguing that the news magazine used a wild-eyed Sharpton to trivialize legitimate criticism. But the black pundits are missing the point.
To much of white America, and much more of the white media, Sharpton isn't a front man for black America. He is black America.
It should be said that Sharpton has the support of some African Americans. Even those of us who question his methods are happy to see someone take an aggressive stand against white racism. In an April poll conducted by NBC and the Wall Street Journal, almost half of black Americans said they had a positive opinion of Sharpton.
But Sharpton's overstatements and overexposure have rendered him a divisive figure in the black community. The remaining half of blacks polled either had no opinion, a negative opinion or didn't know who he was.
Still, once upon a time, to qualify for the title of "black leader," you had to actually lead and, more important, have a following. Harriet Tubman was the paragon: Black people quite literally followed her out of slavery.
W.E.B. Du Bois helped create the NAACP, then godfathered the Harlem Renaissance. More than any single figure, Malcolm X arguably rebuilt black America's collective self-esteem, eliminating "brown bag tests" (the color caste system among blacks) and making the rest of the world safe for dreadlocks.
Sharpton . . . even in the same pile. His list of misses includes backing Tawana Brawley's fraudulent accusations of rape and his shilling on TV for predatory lenders. His 2004 campaign was a farcical remix of Jackson's. According to published reports, Sharpton's campaign was backed by Roger Stone, a controversial Republican political operative.
And when the votes were counted, Sharpton came up lame. In South Carolina, where African Americans made up almost half of the Democratic primary electorate, he not only lost overall but lost among blacks. He finished third among his alleged followers, outdone by Sens. John F. Kerry and John Edwards.
Any other public figure with such a comic . . . and dubious traction among his constituency would find himself swiftly jettisoned from the Rolodex of reporters and network anchors. […]
Memo to everyone everywhere: Al Sharpton isn't a black leader, he just plays one on TV.
So why do so many MSM news organizations have Sharpton’s cell number on speed dial? Why does he get so much face-time on the network news and cable talk shows?
For one thing, Al’s always there for those speed dial calls; and ready for the interviews.
He’s predictable. Reporters pretty much know in advance what he’s going to say: “It’s about race.” So if that’s how a reporter is spinning a story, Sharpton’s an easy interview.
In the first six or eight weeks of the Duke Hoax, Shapton was an easy interview because he was peddling the frame-up as were almost all MSM news organizations.
Outstanding, independent-minded blacks such as Stanford Scholar Thomas Sowell, Harvard Physician and Professor Alvin Poussaint, and Columnist and Blogger LaShawn Barber weren’t on many reporters speed dial lists. Why not?
Because Sowell and Barber had the Hoax figured out within a few weeks and were publicly challenging the now disbarred Mike Nifong. I bet Nifong and Duke’s Dick Brodhead didn’t fool Poussaint for very long either.
But if MSM gave much voice to what people like Sowell, Poussaint and Barber were thinking, the Hoax would have been exposed. Most MSM didn’t want that to happen in April 2006.
Anyway, Sharpton does a lot of harm to America. Most MSM helps him do it by giving him media attention and refusing to call him on his falsehoods, both those he makes out of ignorance and those he makes deliberately.
Read more about Sharpton here, here and here.
Hat tip: RealClearPolitics.com