Margaret Kimberley The United States government last week seized the website of the Iranian news service Press TV and three dozen of that country’s other Internet outlets claiming the sites were spreading “disinformation” unquote. What gives Washington the right to roam the planet, shutting down other nations’ information services? We posed that question to Ajamu Baraka, national organizer for the Black Alliance for Peace.
Ajamu Baraka What it says is that the U.S. will continue to operate as a rogue state for as long as it can get away with it. One way that people need to understand what is happening with this latest move by the state, and this is a direct state move as opposed to the big tech which is actually part of the state also, but because they are under private ownership we can pretend like in that part of the ideological state apparatus, they engage in direct censorship. But this time the US state is now directly involved in seizing platforms that are tasked with the responsibility, according to their missions, of reporting and commenting on issues affecting their country and the world. And the US has decided that what they are in fact doing is because of disinformation and therefore they will cease their platforms from disseminating information. Now I see rogue states because this is a clear violation of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights that says that we have a right, the people of the planet have a right to the free dissemination of information and analysis to be able to engage in free-thinking, et cetera, et cetera. But the US has taken it upon itself to determine and define what is acceptable official knowledge that can be disseminated to the masses if you will. So this is a continuation of a very troubling trend, not only the fact that they did, Glen, but the lack of effective and loud opposition to it, that if a state is identified as an enemy for whatever reason, then the US feels that it can move with impunity and violating international norms and international law in order to advance its particular deal, strategic interests and that’s quite troubling.
Glen Ford Well, what the United States has said is that these outlets are not just outlets or unfriendly states, but their information outlets. But that’s the same charge that has been made against domestic Internet sites like Black Agenda Report and about a score of other sites four years ago. I’m sure the list is longer now. So what’s to stop them from shutting us down for disinformation?
Ajamu Baraka Nothing and what’s dangerous about the move against PressTV, for example, is that there have been a number of rescues and others who have appeared on PressTV, including some folks from Black Agenda Report. And so if the US state has says that this outlet engages in disinformation, then the full implication is that everyone else who participated well may have expressed views that are counter to the official position of the U.S. state that we are all subject to being charged with engaging in not only disinformation but disinformation in the service of a foreign government. So there is no real prevention except for potential political opposition to the state of the US. They will be against Black Agenda Report website and the other organizations. And that’s the danger that we are facing in this growing neo-fascist environment and neo fascist environment being pushed by neo-liberal totalitarians who make up and orient control of the US state at this moment.
Glen Ford You were speaking of big tech. Thomas Ferguson, the political scientist, and researcher, has shown rather conclusively that big tech is the closest sector of the ruling sectors to the Democratic Party. The most influential sector with the Democrats.
Ajamu Baraka is that I mean, this is not even debatable in terms of the political alignment between Silicon Valley and the liberal element— liberal bourgeoisie element— of the other ruling class. And they are operating instrument of the Democrat Party. So and the far-right sees that. They recognize that even some elements of the latte left in the U.S. recognize that. But a large number of other people don’t seem to recognize that alignment and don’t seem to be able to make the proper assessment of the policies that are being pursued by big tech in support of the interests of the Democrat Party and the internationalist liberal bourgeoisie that they represent. So this class struggle, this intraclass struggle that’s taking place, is resulting in the constraining of democratic space for all of us. And that will continue as long as there’s no real attention being applied, being given to this and no real effective political opposition before we know it, beginning to shut down all of us under the guise of security and protecting the population from these dangerous ideas and thoughts from various sources outside the country and inside for, you know, I guess the fifth column working with these foreign entities.
Glen Ford Yes. And in terms of a regime that has now devolved to the point where it seems willing to outlaw every manifestation of the anti-imperialism, what does that say about the actual strength and vitality of that of capitalism at that stage? That they can’t stand to live in a world in which they are criticized?
Ajamu Baraka Well, what it says is that they are engaging in preemptive activity to ensure that there is an ideological conclusion that they can construct as they recognize. And they know that the contributions that have been generated by for more than 40 years of neo-liberal policies have created a social, economic, and political crisis that no matter how much they address or an attempt to divert the attention of the masses, it’s not going away. And they have no response to these contradictions and the social explosion that they know is coming except to shield themselves to the extent that they can or and or accept a fascist reform to make sure to maintain their hegemony. So, you know, they are moving before there’s really effective opposition. They know that the left is weak. And that’s why they are moving essentially against the far right, which they perceive to be the most dangerous potential opponent at this moment. So, you know, they understand sometimes better than left forces for the short and long-term ideological challenges that they are preparing themselves for that.
Glen Ford And in terms of the Black community, I remember, of course, when lots of white social forces were much further to the right than verbally expressed today, but that Black mainstream Democrats were not nearly as right-wing, as pro-imperialist, as loudly pro “USA, USA” as they are now. It seems that the imperialist jingoism has permeated much of the Black political class much more deeply than in past years.
Ajamu Baraka You’re absolutely right. We have to recognize that as US society as a whole has moved to the right. So has Black America, if you will. And that’s moving toward the right has been reflected in the kinds of representation that we see not only on the national level but also on the on the local level in terms of these folks who have political perspectives and agendas that in no way can even be defined as liberal in the traditional sense of the word. So, you know, we have to recognize that because those forces also try to maintain their role as the professional and managerial class charged with the responsibility of administering the native in the locales. So, you know, this intensifying ideological struggle is reflective of the intensifying class struggle, not only in terms of the broader society but the intensifying class struggle that’s being waged that must be waged internally to the Black community, because as long as that professional managerial misleadership class, if you will, is able to carry out its function, then to the extent that that element will serve as a continued brake on the radicalization of the masses of African working-class people and press in this country. So, you know, the instability that we see in the society and the legitimacy crisis is one of which we see the impact that on the Black leadership class also. And they are, they have a tendency and they will and have aligned themselves with those powerful elements in the national state to ensure that their interests will be protected and that they will be allowed to use unrestrained force against protesters, against resisters in their various cities that we’ve seen, that we saw with Baltimore. We saw that during the George Floyd uprisings, people had to be reminded that most of the major urban centers where you had the George Floyd rebellion if you will, and that was viciously repressed, were in cities controlled by Black politicians. So, you know, all of this is reflective of the crisis we have in this country and the tendency on the part of the political state to use the weapon that it’s always used for control, enforcement, state violence. But the state violence also still needs to be propped up ideologically. So that’s why they’re ability also to constrain and constrict the areas of acceptable information and knowledge in order to ensure that there’s not a shift in consciousness that can support the radical opposition that has to be created in this country to stop this neo-fascist trajectory.
Glen Ford Yes, Black Agenda Report has been saying for some time that increasingly the struggle in Black America will have to be an internal one, one that is not hobbled by false objectives of unity. You can’t unify with forces in the Black community that are consciously and actively supporting the oppressor.
Ajamu Baraka Exactly. And that is the shift is taking place in Black politics in terms of the traditional Black politics, but also among the Black left. This notion of a united front ism is something that many, many are now questioning and in fact, even rejecting that even among the Black left, that has to be a basis for unity beyond the fact that we might define ourselves as Black and left. It has to have an ideological and a political agreement among whatever forces we attempt to try to unify. So if you have some elements that are still pushing sort of a partnership, if you will, strategic and short term, they claim, with a neoliberal Democrats because they say they claim that’s where the people are at. And, you know, that has to be rejected because that cannot serve as a long-term basis for any kind of Black unity, in my opinion. So, yes, the ongoing and deepening social crisis is resulting in a renewed examination of all of the strategies and practices that we have engaged in over the last few decades regarding how we build and conduct Black left, oppositional politics in the United States of America and even the George Floyd, the rebellion has some elements that were raising demands for changes beyond just so-called criminal justice reform or this amorphous call for racial justice, those elements that were in the minority. And because they were it caused a pivot away from this amorphous racial justice and even the person of George Floyd is a grotesque murder because they didn’t pivot from that to a demand, there were broader and even more significant in terms of the social and economic conditions created 40 years of neoliberalism and the devastating impact on Black and brown communities. Because that pivot didn’t take place, the potential radicalization and the long-term oppositional potential of those rebellions were not realized. And so in some ways, that rebellion ended up propping up in some ways and enhancing the role of the Black leadership class because they weren’t challenged by the social forces so that they can engage in the cynicism of a Juneteenth celebration and holiday a few days before the Democrats then sell-out Black folks once again around the issue of voting rights to do that was coming. They play this game by giving folks this holiday that nobody asked about it and turned right back around to play the cynical game like they were really serious about trying to pass this bill when they knew that the votes weren’t there, they weren’t even really seriously in support of it themselves. So this is the kind of cynical game being played and the Black leadership class plays along with it with impunity. And that is what has to change. That’s why we have to have this intensifying internal class struggle to dislodge that element and its ability to play the role of buffer. If we’re playing here for the last few decades, and you’re right, is a well-oiled machine, that that machine is breaking down and you know it and they know it. But right now, Massa doesn’t really understand it or see themselves.
Glen Ford You’re the co-founder of the Black Alliance for Peace and the National Organizer. And, of course, that plays the essential role in trying to revive the anti-imperialism in the Black community, but also to make the link between militarization of the police and other measures domestically that are an extension of the imperial nature of the beast. I would think that BAP in this imperialist offensive is quite vulnerable.
Ajamu Baraka while we are. But because of our strategy, because we are not dependent on, for example, foundation resources, because we have been very disciplined in how we have built this formation and grounding it with the people having absolutely clear politics and a clear mission. Yes, we know that we have elements who are really coming up into this formation because they know that, I think the state recognizes, there’s not too many elements like this that excuse us, but what we do is to continue putting out the messages, continuing to organize independently, to prepare ourselves for the intensifying fight. We also know that our space in terms of our ability to disseminate information, to keep our website in place, to tweet. The way we tweet is vulnerable and we are preparing and have plans in case we have to exercise those plans if in fact we are moved against by the state. So, yes, we know we are attracting some of the finest Africans in this country who are looking for a radical home, and they feel that they are finding that this Black Alliance For Peace.
Margaret Kimberley That was Ajamu Baraka, national organizer with the Black Alliance for Peace.