Democrats, #BlackLivesMatter, Netroots Nation, kayfabe, and ka-ching
As usual, Bruce Dixon lays it on the line:
The first thing to know about the #BlackLivesMatter confrontation with Democratic presidential candidates Martin O'Malley and Bernie Sanders is that it didn't happen on the street or some neutral setting, it didn't happen at some random campaign appearance. It happened at the annual NetRootsNation gathering, this year in Phoenix. ....
If you're a black Democratic party activist like I was for 25 years, even if like me, you never called yourself that, you go to NetRoots to connect with other Democratic party activists, and hopefully, with the people who will be handing out grassroots money, among other things, to get out the Big Black Vote in November, without which Democrats on every level have no hope of winning.
High ranking Democrats who hand out money, whether through partisan campaigns or to ostensibly nonpartisan and/or nonprofit organizations are always on the lookout for new activist blood with catchy new hooks, for activists who'll say the things they will not say in the effort to turn out the black masses for that Big Black Vote. So if you're a black activist at NetRoots you really NEED to stand out, to get noticed by the people who can give you fellowships, grants, jobs, funding of all kinds, and a career.
Since Hillary is the all but inevitable Democratic nominee, confronting two minor white male candidates, demanding they “say her name” and come up with solutions that address white supremacy, structural racism and the runaway police state is pretty much a foolproof strategy to get noticed, and as Hillary did not attend NetRoots, they got to do it without antagonizing the Clinton camp. Hillary wisely covered her own ass by releasing a tweet that unequivocally said “black lives DO matter.”
But all in all, the NetRootsNation confrontation wasn't the stirring of black women activists “taking their rightful place at the front of the progressive movement,” as one breathless tweet called it. It didn't tell us anything we didn't know about O'Malley or Sanders, or about hypocritical Hillary.
It was about flying the #BlackLivesMatter flag to jockey for positions inside the machinery that is the Democratic party and its affiliates.
So, I guess we won't be seeing #BlackLivesMatter activists -- the "top" ones, anyhow -- confronting Democrats with real power anytime soon, then? (I've given one very obvious approach for such a confrontation here).
I follow lots of interesting people in Baltimore, St Louis, and elsewhere who are "flying the #BlackLivesMatter flag": Reporters, legal activists, cop watchers, people doing direct provision of vital services and so forth (and some of them paying a real price in terms of trolling, harassment, etc.) I didn't see a lot of reaction from them on the Netroots Nation thing at all, one way or the other; perhaps they're too busy doing "the work."
But then, if the Democrats were creaming off a few photogenic activists to create a new "Black Misleadership Class," that separation* between the nationally visible "spokespersons" and the nationally invisible local workers is exactly what you'd expect, isn't it?
NOTE I'll give it another two weeks. No disruption of a Clinton event by #BlackLivesMatter activists by that point -- and I know a script when I see one -- and my guess is that we can nail the coffin lid of co-optation down. Sad, but we know the playbook, we know who runs the plays, and we've seen the play before.
NOTE * It is true that with hash tag as an armature for national publicity, that the "top" activists can shine the national media spotlight on any local event, simply by visiting the event. (Tinfoil hat time: A candidate will, at some point, spontaneously appear at one.) But that's not the same as organizing, and it's not the same as issuing demands to which the powers-that-be can react, or not. Occupy never did manage to issue demands, but I can't help but think that the reason that #BlackLivesMatter -- if I can use a hash tag as a proxy for a social formation -- has so far failed to issue demands may not be for the same reasons Occupy failed to.
UPDATE If anything, DHS surveillance supports this model. The invisibles are the dangerous ones, and the visibles need to be vetted.