Here’s another side to the Super Bowl half-time anarchy-show put on by Beyonce and her beret-wearing, fist-waving, pin-up Panther chorus-line. Two members of the New Black Panther Party, Brandon Baldwin and Olajuwon Davis were each awarded seven year sentences last year for their part in a plot to bomb Police. The attack itself was planned in response to the shooting of Michael Brown by Police in Ferguson, Missouri – an event that crucially (and quite rightly) gave rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. The pair had also planned to the bomb St. Louis’s Gateway Arch, potentially endangering dozens of civilian lives.
Of course there are those who will argue that the 60s Black Panther Movement had nothing to do with the likes of Baldwin or Davis, but you can’t freeze a movement in time like this. As New Party founder, Aaron Michaels has argued, The New Black Panther Party is as legitimate an heir as any. It’s as indebted to the lives of Seale and Newton as either Angela Davis or Nikki Giovanni and the Black Arts Movement who continue to build its future. The New Party are part of its genetic profile, its evolution. Images and symbols are seldom preserved in amber. The Star of David — the most identifiable symbol of Judaism — is not uniquely Jewish. Before it was a Jewish symbol, it also appeared in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism. And National Socialism was a legitimate workers party before it evolved so grotesquely under the patronage of Hitler and the Third Reich. And so it seems inevitable that the classic Black Panther image will continue to mutate in much the same fashion.
But the goal of progressives is to make progress, right? It’s to create freedom. And that includes freedom from the past and from lavish retro-celebrations like this. And whilst members of the original Black Panther Party have insisted that the NBPP is NOT the official successor of the Black Panther Party, as the movement’s only active representative it seems reasonable to assume that membership of it is likely to be boosted as a result of renewed media interest and the careless Googling habits of Queens Bey’s hive of teenage followers.
Inevitably, the post-match response has been like watching the Bowl’s black-strip Carolina Panthers and the white-strip Denver Broncos take up their rival positions on the field. Maybe the order to ‘get in formation’ that the singer barked from the stage was intended to go out to all of us – black and white. And maybe this was the whole intention: to polarize debate and have it collapse involuntarily into a two team square-off. Attempts by the groundskeeper to touch up the thin white lines on the end-zones couldn’t have done a better job of redefining Beyonce’s much-desired conflict order (interestingly the Denver Broncos ditched their customary Orange strip ahead of the game last Sunday in favour of their luckier White strips, a move that could only have emphasized this polarity).
Those who dismiss the backlash against the performance will blame it on ignorance, bigotry or worse still, misogyny. And sure, attitudes like these will account for a significant proportion of it, but whilst there is no doubting that Seale’s original Panther movement played a critical and very practical role in restoring the dignity of Black lives in the local Oakland ghettos and defending them from the excesses of Police violence, retrieving those fibres from beneath the layers of political, criminal, commercial opportunism that arrived in its wake has become something of a surgical procedure. Trying to isolate the layers of ‘positive’ meaning from everything else that the Panther image represents today is like trying to scratch away at the oils that make up the Mona Lisa to reveal the softer, more feminine features sketched out on the canvass in an attempt to understand the ‘true meaning’ of the artist.
Images and what they mean have a life-cycle of their own. And this is why we have to be cautious.
This is not a simple ‘with us or against us’ proposition. It’s a hugely complex issue problematized infinitely by the passage of time and by the very dissimilar goals of each of the Party’s current stakeholders.
Attempts to revive the spirit of the movement from within the considerably more toxic algorithms of Conspiracy Theory have already resulted in the deaths of vulnerable individuals like Miriam Carey (who attempted to drive her Black Infiniti coupe through a White House security checkpoint in 2013) and Aaron Alexis, responsible for the Washington Navy Yard Shooting a month before – and whose family lived back-to-back with the Careys in Brooklyn 1. And then we have the former leaders of the New Black Panther Party, Michelle Williams and King Samir Shabazz. These people renewed their demands that Blacks firebomb nurseries to kill as many white children as possible just as the perpetrator of the Charleston Church massacre, Dylann Roof was cultivating his passion for guns at a trailer-park in Lexington.
The trouble is, when you are playing with images and symbols in such a brash and reckless way the consequences are too broad to predict.
The reality is that the 60s Civil Rights Movement, spearheaded by Martin Luther King did more for Black Rights in ten years than the Panther movement has done in fifty. And it advocated non-violent civil disobedience to do it. It might not seem ‘cool’ to say it, but the Panther Party was and remains a non-essential item in the Civil Rights bagging area. It’s legitimate Black Pride under the infinitely more cynical patronage of Socialist Revolutionary Nationalism and Racial Supremacism.
Attempts to re-cast Beyonce as the New Political Goddess are hardly going to encounter much of a challenge from White Male America. The singer’s crude, belligerent grasp of Black Politics is going to be a whole lot easier to tackle than the images and arguments put together by more agile opponents like Alice Walker, Michelle Alexander, Toni Morrison or Patricia Hill Collins. As soon as press stories start unravelling the singer’s celebrity-scale hypocrisy, Beyonce and the political challenge she represents is likely to weaken considerably — as will the movement she has come to epitomize. As political opponents go she must rank as White Male America’s most highly favoured lady.
If Beyonce is the future of Black Politics, then it’s a bleak one. Powerful images are one thing, but you need images that are built to last.
Defenders of Beyonce like comedian Margaret Cho are of the opinion that Black Pride ‘doesn’t have to take anything away from White Culture’, that it can ‘exist on its own’. A similar view of successful autonomous, mono-racial communities was put forward by former Chelsea headhunter, Troy Southgate, spokesman for Europe’s New Right Nationalist movement. It’s also a view shared by David Duke, Jared Taylor and the Islamic State, but I don’t see quite so many people nodding their heads earnestly in agreement.
Beyonce is not the first person to have sought to promote ethnic nationalism as a progressive cause. And she won’t be the last.
There’s a very worthy issue pulsing away at the heart of all this, but it demands urgency not recklessness. It’s outreach not outrage that will serve the people of Ferguson best in the long run, even if spectacles like this create an uplifting short-term buzz.
Whichever way you look at it, such a display was always going to be divisive. As soon as you play the race card, the atom gets split and opinion and emotion accelerates in either direction, gathering critical mass at both extremes. At this point all attempts at holding a serious debate break down. The major media representatives gravitate intuitively toward their respective reader biases, and the natural grouping strategies of Social Media splits users down into ‘pros’ or ‘haters’. It’s the cultural equivalent of pouring petrol onto a fire and watching which way people run.
As much as America needs a wake-up call, it was an overly antagonistic affair. In fact it’s fair to say that if it hadn’t have been for the references to Malcolm X and the combat gear, the whole ‘Black Lives Matter’ message might have gained traction with a much broader, and much more egalitarian demographic. Lumping the two together in this way, not only militarizes the Rights message, it also alienates and antagonizes vast swathes of Middle America. And given Beyonce and her husband’s already considerable support for loony Black Supremacy Movements like Five Percent Nation and Michael Muhammad Knight (“F–k white people. Seriously. White people are devils”) it’s fair to say that this might have been the intent and the ‘Black Lives Matter’ message was little more than a sugar-coated launch vehicle for a reckless race-war fantasy 2. Ok Ladies Now Lets Get in Formation. Prove to me you got some coordination, ’cause I slay. Slay trick, or you get eliminated. Metaphorical or not, the request is unequivocal: you either kill or be killed. The actual terms of engagement make her husband’s revolutionary posturing on Magna Carta Holy Grail seem positively humble by comparison. And of course, the entire display takes place in Californ-ia – the spiritual homeland of Charlie Manson’s Helter Skelter. It’s like somebody just hit repeat on Aquarius from Sky Atlantic. 3
As far as the left-wing press are concerned though, criticism of the performance is likely to be scarce, if not virtually non-existent. Any moral or political shortcomings that Beyonce or her husband have are likely to be sidelined in favour of her inestimable worth as a pre-election stock-option. Beyonce has come to do battle with Angry White Guy America. She could have spent Thanksgiving roasting children on a spit and we wouldn’t care. And for the sake of a temporary moral triumph over the bad guys, it just has to be worth it now doesn’t it? Well as sorely tempting as it is, I’m really not too sure.
Let’s be clear about one thing, Beyonce wasn’t conveying a political message here, she was issuing a belligerent call-to-arms as the opening shot of a mid-life transformation into ‘Black Goddess Rising’. It was grandstanding in the worst possible taste. At a time when Paris is still reeling from the brutal attacks on the Bataclan Theatre and California from the shootings in San Bernardino, the singer made it her business to strap on a black and gold X-shaped palate with amo style embellishments across her chest and twerk her own five-minute take on Malcolm X’s ‘By Any Means Necessary‘. It might not have been the tale of social, political, spiritual redemption that Malcolm originally had in mind but as a tits and ass guide to the 60s Civil Rights Movement, it worked on so many levels.
If the glitzy guerrilla chic was anything to go by, then Beyonce and her husband Jay Z had clearly been left buoyant and encouraged by the attacks in Paris.
But stunts of this nature are nothing new to celebrities hitting their mid-to-late thirties. Madonna re-calibrated her celebrity in much the same way and at a very similar age. The star’s ‘Earth Mother-slash-Babalon’ makeover for the Music and Ray of Light releases was a wily post-Modernist mash-up of cut n’ paste kabbalah and classic cowgirl denim. The look was clearly appealing to another vintage female archetype, and it was played out with all the aplomb of an accomplished Quick-Change artist. Madonna’s next release, American Life went one step further with a cover that derived much of its inspiration from the revolutionary-chic of celebrated resistance icons like Patty Hearst and Che Guevara. And just to ram the point home, she even wore the beret. Madonna took the American Dream and earmarked it for a journey of semiological blood-letting. By contrast, Beyonce took the dreams and phantasmagoria of the 60s Black Power movement and reduced them to burlesque.
In terms of a career re-boot it was a successful sleight-of-hand trick then and it’s a successful sleight-of-hand trick now. America’s most lucrative trade is in archetypes: the cowboy, the spaceman, the super hero, the soldier. It was really only ever a matter of time before the Black Panther entered the same hall of fame. And why? Because it’s right up there with the SS Uniforms of Hugo Boss when it comes to revolutionary glamour. Ethics don’t move mountains – images do. Today it’s about being the right kind of revolutionary. It’s about the b-bling b-bling: the uh cha-ching cha-ching (MIA and Diplo’s ‘Paper Planes‘ with the gunshots chiming with the sound of a cash register hinted at much the same thing).
It seems like only yesterday that everybody was filtering their Facebook profile pic with the defiant Tricolore flag. In November 2015 the world was uniting against violence. For a few weeks at least, it was certainly NOT By Any Means Necessary. To those keying ‘peace, love and understanding’ into their Smartphones and Tablets that week there were no concessions. A spirit of reconciliation spread across the globe like a late Arab Spring and peace and respect were non-negotiable. And yet that same tricolore nation who got so ‘totally’ behind the victims of the attacks in Paris are also playing a pivotal role in the Social Media stormfront whipped up by Beyonce and her crew. Why? Because the injustices that the West perceives taking place (and which really are taking place, I should add) are occurring in a neighbourhood we recognise as our own (or one we might recognise from the movies, at the very least). It’s the same reason that people often don’t give a toss about Government Policy until it affects them economically: violence to advance a cause is okay if it’s something that we too believe in.
The outrage we rightly feel over the cruel, appalling deaths of Black teenagers like Laquan McDonald, often result in even the most diplomatic folk among us reaching for the clip, and uncoupling the sound suppressor; we want justice and we want it now. So of course, when the opportunity presents itself, we are going to be in the market for a Saviour and we’ll be looking for the cheapest and most convenient option. Everything is instant in the digital world we inhabit and with this comes the desire for plug-and-play redeemers like Beyonce: she’s a fake we can at least have faith in.
My worry is that if Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi could sheik his ass with the same brassy vigour, maybe he too would win our support.
Marshall McLuhan was right about one thing at least: power circulates in instantaneous images. And with a dash of funky choreography there’s really no telling just how potent these images can be. Israel in 4 BC had no mass communication. But just imagine the damage that a dozen or so hipster revolutionaries could have done if they’d had a high-kicking Kali dance troupe bumping and grinding away in the background? If you were looking for a strong rear-guard, then they don’t get much stronger than this.
If I learned just one thing from the half-time Super Bowl (apart from the score updates, which seem unfathomable to most Brits) it was that Beyonce’s arse over tit take on self-determination revealed the mounting excesses of ethical egotism in the Modern World. It wasn’t easy listening, and it wasn’t easy watching. Energizing or empowering a movement doesn’t automatically result in change. It always needs ongoing support from above whether it is powerful orators like King Jr, grassroots specialists like Ella Baker or the soaring imaginations of novelists like Toni Morrison. As Ella once famously said, “strong people don’t need strong leaders” 4.
In all fairness, the deaths of Laquan McDonald, Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown are not rights issues. There is no law that currently supports the unlawful killing of unarmed Black teenagers. Change cannot be brought about at a legislative level. It’s the views of people that have to change. And changing the views of people is a damn sight harder than changing laws. It certainly can’t be achieved during a 30-minute interval.
The laws are there. They just need to be applied more aggressively and more consistently across all races.
When all is said and done this had to rank as one of the cheesiest, most humiliating Blaxploitation spectacles I’ve ever seen. As a parody it was right up there with Mel Brook’s ‘Springtime For Hitler and Germany’. Only this time there was no irony. If ever there was an image that was likely to draw the wrath of Angry White America it was this. And in view of Beyonce’s equally controversial Indian makeover as the Goddess Kali in the new Coldplay video (released to coincide with the Super Bowl 50), such a display has done little to quash those outlandish ‘Illuminati’ claims from the scores of Internet crazies out there. If anything Sunday’s performance was a cause of and a cause likely to perpetuate those extraordinary claims.
The sad truth is, reinstating Black radicalism within the codices of quasi-religious Nationalism and fruitcake Apocalypticism has robbed the movement of a more credible raison d’être. You’d also have to question the wisdom of making such a radical bid for freedom at Levi Stadium and in the context of the Super Bowl final, which has become such a potent symbol of White capitalism in the West.
Who hired Beyonce for the performance? Well to all intents and purposes it was Roger Goodell, Commissioner of the National League Association and the man who was revealed just last year to be the Republican’s ‘secret weapon’ in the upcoming race for the White House. He is also famous for making the kind of ‘mistakes’ that make vast sums of money. And as luck would have it, Goodell is married to former Fox News Channel anchor Jane Skinner, the news agency whose post-match analysis did such an outstanding job of getting the angry white-guy caucus foaming at the mouth (just as Goodell had left people foaming over the similarly race-centered, Washington Red Skins affair).
And if you hadn’t noticed there was quite a shock result in the New Hampshire primaries that came two days after the Super Bowl 50. According to the International Business Times the controversial businessman (and breakaway Republican candidate) Donald Trump led the field with more than 38 percent, a three-point increase since the last NBC News/Survey Monkey poll was released on February 8.
Maybe what we are seeing with Goodell and the NFL is something more akin to the ‘controlled-burn’ method favoured by forest managers and experts in prairie restoration; only this time it’s the hearts, minds and souls of White Guy America that Beyonce and the gang are helping to restore.
What causes poor uneducated White People to vote Republican? The answer is simple: it’s reckless, anti-progressive displays like this. And such alchemical properties won’t be confined to the poor and the uneducated, as the Trump win in New Hampshire made abundantly clear. If the same thing happens in Nevada, with its similarly broad mix of Republican voting groups, we’ll be in serious trouble. More so if another disturbed young loner like Aaron Alexis should unleash another 24 rounds of ammo in the name of #BlackLivesMatter.
Reinstating the Rights message within the toxic framework of radical Black Nationalism could backfire seriously on the campaigners. In a new development it seems that Facebook staffers have been replacing ‘black lives matter’ with ‘all lives matter’ and undermining the minority angle that gives the message its potent charge. In my own view #blacklivesmatter is a legitimate slogan in the context of affirmative action. Afterall, was the call to ‘Free Mandela!’ in the 1980s ever regarded as a snub to other political prisoners? Desperate demands need desperate images.
Sadly though the group’s brief liaison with Queen Bey might well be one that #BlackLivesMatter, Hillary Clinton and the Democrats eventually come to regret.
My own fear is that Super Bowl 50’s most enduring legacy will not be in having re-energized the Civil Rights Movement but that it will come to be regarded instead as a critical moment in the transformation of Donald Trump from a hopeless opportunist to the country’s most unlikely great white hope 5.
Sky Atlantic can have the last word …
1 Whilst there’s no evidence to suggest the two had ever met, the families of Carey and Alexis lived within yards of each other in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The apartments, on Putnam Avenue and Madison Street are just three minutes walk apart. Why am I mentioning this? Well, the seeds of what took place might well have taken root in Bed-Stuy. The area has a fiercely proud Black Power heritage. And there’s none fiercer than local activist, Viola Plummer, a senior aide to Councillor (and ex-Panther member) Charles Barron, who led several controversial meetings already in Bed-Stuy. Eddie Ellis, the former Black Panther who served 23 years in Prison, was, like Carey’s sister Valarie actively involved in local housing development and preservation projects in the area.
It is crucial to understand that this is a tight community whose solidarity has been shaped by the crushing poverty and oppression its members have experienced over the years. Battle-lines are well defined here and tough tactics are part of the fabric of the place. It has only been the decisive and uncompromising action of its firebrand campaigners that has kept a tight reign on crime. It was also their input that helped clean-up the district’s notorious ‘crack’ problem in the 1990s.
Just across the road from the home shared by Aaron’s sister Naomi and Anthony Little on Putnam Avenue is the home of Roger Wareham.
Wareham, a veteran activist even at the time of his arrest in the 1980s, was charged along with Plummer and six others over a failed bid to spring two members of the 1981 Brinks Car Robbery (and members of the Black Liberation movement) from jail. One of the guards, Joe Trombino, survived the attacks only to die in the 9/11 attacks on World Trade Center in 2001. Plummer escaped conviction and remains a committed activist and campaigner. Both Plummer and Wareham were later cleared.
It’s crucial to remember that these people see themselves as ‘martyrs’ to a cause. Wareham talks in his notes and letters at the time of his arrest of the ‘sacrifice‘ he is about to make. Actions like these are carried out very much in the spirit of Huey Newton’s ‘Revolutionary Suicide’, and although I am sure Miriam Carey did not expect to die that day in Washington, it’s possible that her actions were part of a desperate bid to bring media attention to the plight of vulnerable Black Americans – possibly as a response to the Navy Yard shootings just weeks before.
And it may not be as unlikely as it sounds. Just a week or so before Miriam died at the hands of Federal Agents in Washington, 5Linx Enterprises gave a check for $54,000 to the Trayvon Martin Foundation. Valarie Carey was National Director of 5Linx at this time. It was the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Trayvon Martin from which the Black Lives Matter movement sprang (another report suggests that Miriam Carey’s Hood TC donated a similar amount around this time to the same foundation, although her position as Sales Manager suggests she would have had no influence to bear on the decision whatsoever).
According to a story on the City Council Watch website (dated just days/weeks before the two events in Washington in 2013) Charles Barron and Viola Plummer “earmarked hundreds of thousands of dollars for Man Up!” another action group run by Andre Mitchell in the Brooklyn area. Mitchell was at this time down as Senior Vice President of 5Linx. He and Plummer sit on the board of several community projects including Community Board 5 and East New York Restoration.
The same City Council Watch report also mentions that Barron and Plummer had also received full backing and support of ex-Klan leader, David Duke (who has likewise endorsed the Separatist ideals of Farrakhan and Trump).
It’s clear these people cared, and cared deeply about these issues.
But there’s another, much darker side to all this. Viola Plummer and Louis Farrakhan routinely flood their public addresses with references to the New World Order, ‘Mind Control’ and Illuminati, and its from this volatile muddle of paranoid conspiracy theory and crude revolutionary soap-boxing that lone-wolf terrorism takes shape.
It’s what preys on the dreams of these people that does the damage.
Within hours of the Washington Navy Yard Shooting vast expanses of the dark web were screaming that it was the work of the CIA and MK-Ultra and that Alexis was little more than an expendable puppet in some elaborate Illuminati power-game. And to an unbalanced mind demanding justice at all costs, what further provocation does one need?
Let’s be clear about one thing: it’s the Conspiracy Junk that orbit the dreams of people like Carey and Alexis that are to blame for their paranoid, delusional actions, not the dreams themselves. The fantastical narrative devices used to motivate and mobilise these people too often end up killing them. Such a crushing Totalitarian picture offers no freedom, and no sense of hope. And it is this desperate sense of hopelessness that has such a devastating effect on individuals. Narratives that tell a story of such total domination offer no practical escape route; they offer no plausible way out.
There was no revolutionary conspiracy here. It was something more inevitable than that. This is just what happens in the Valley of Ashes.
Alexis arrived in Washington DC around August 26, just days before a major rally took place to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington led by where Martin Luther King gave his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech. Thoughts of freedom and redemption are likely to have been rushing through his mind. Perhaps he saw it as a time of sacrifice, a time of action.
Just prior to events in Washington Obama was also seeking the approval of Congress to launch a military offensive against Assad as a result of the chemical attacks on Ghouta. To the likes of Barron, Plummer, Farrakhan and Duke, Assad, like Gaddafi before him, is lauded as an anti-Zionist hero, and an important link in the chain of a united Africa.
However you decide to account for their actions it is critical to remember that in the cases of Carey and Alexis, it was the charge provided by the paranoid narratives of Conspiracy Theory that tipped the balance in both instances. It was the additional emotional and psychological traumas that gave their actions that volatile edge.
On February 22nd of this year, just several days after the Super Bowl performance, Frederick Jamal Funes, a recent convert to Islam with a history of domestic and mental health issues deliberately engaged Police Officers in gun fight in Bed-Stuy at the intersection between Malcolm X Boulevard and Lexington Avenue. NYPD spokesman, told reporters that Funes was connected to known extremists being looked at by the NYPD and FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force. It was the second time in days that Funes had shot at officers.
Bed-Stuy maintains a strong radical heritage. Further reading: Black Radical Brookyn.
For obvious reasons I am not disclosing the full addresses of each but the markers are accurate in themselves.
2 Journalist and film maker, Charlie Ahearn put together a great introduction to the Five Percent Nation’s impact on Hip Hop and Rap in SPIN magazine. The Five Percent Solution can be read here.
In 2002 the Five Percent Nation came to public attention for all the wrong reasons when John Allen Muhammad and John Lee Malvo were discovered to have made statements broadly in line with Five Percent teachings prior to Beltway sniper attacks in Washington DC. Both men were found guilty. John, who was executed in 2009, had been an active member of the Nation of Islam. Whilst the pair appear to have had no formal ties to the Five Percenters, its likely that both men had been influenced by its teachings in the music that they had been listening to, which for the most part exists in a very separate capacity to the organization itself.
3 Beyonce and her husband, Jay Z are no stranger to the disturbed race-war fantasy dreamed-up by Charlie Manson and his followers. Back in February 2004 the hacktivists, Anonymous backed a day of ‘coordinated civil disobedience’ spearheaded by online music activists, Downhill Battle. They promoted the day with the illegal distribution of a digital copy of The Grey Album, a bootleg bastard blend of The Beatles so-called White Album and The Black Album by Five Percent Nation fetishist, Jay-Z. The White Album had played a central part in Manson’s race-war fantasy in which he imagined the Blacks ‘rising’ up against Hollywood’s White establishment. He conveyed this vision to his followers by quoting lyrics from the album. The Grey Album was put together with the approval of Jay Z by his collaborator, Danger Mouse.
The word ‘RISE’ was written in blood on the walls of a house owned by Leno and Rosemary LaBianca. The couple’s murder was the third and final event in the Manson killing spree.
According to his followers, Manson was fond of the world ‘rise’. This probably owed no small part to his strict Christian upbringing. For him, The Beatles Revolution 9 was a clear reference to Chapter 9 of the Book of Revelation, and he attributed the repeated words, ‘Rise’ to The Beatles issuing a direct order for the Blacks to rise against their oppressors, not least because the phrase also appeared in the famous speech given by Martin Luther King at the Lincoln Memorial in 1963 (“one day this nation will rise up and live up to its creed.”)
It’s a phrase that also appears in Matthew 24:7, Luke 21:7, Mark 13:8, when Jesus says, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”.
Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian (and committed Five Percent Nation member) repeats the image in his description of the groups’ so-called ‘Earth Mothers: “women are the soil from which the Nation will rise”.
Those involved in the Manson murders left ‘paw prints’ on the walls, a well-know Panther symbol. Manson prosecutor Victor Bugliosi persuaded the court that Manson was deliberately trying to implicate the Black Panther Party in the killings, in the hope of provoking a violent White backlash and kick-starting the racial apocalypse longed for by the likes of Malcolm X and Elijah Mohammed, and further reinforced by white TV evangelists like Pat Robertson and the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Manson’s final words to the court on the subject are unequivocal: “Is it a conspiracy that the music is telling the youth to rise up against the establishment because the establishment is rapidly destroying things? Is that a conspiracy?”
In 2014 the Beyonce endorsed ‘Rise’ perfume was released by Coty, Inc. Winks and nods to the dark side of popular-culture may work in The Simpsons but they can seem pretty grotesque in the context of Black Rights. Not sure I understand the wisdom of Beyonce naming her product, ‘Rise’.
In fairness, the Black Panther Party, being one of the most visually compelling ‘resistance’ groups in America tended to attract the crazies. Both Newton and Panther associate Angela Davis had struck up a casual partnership with Jim Jones of The People’s Temple. Like X and Manson, Jim Jones anticipated an apocalypse that would eventually give rise to a socialist paradise on earth. In 1978 over 900 people died at his commune in the so-called Jonestown Massacre in Guyana. Although Davis shouldn’t escape criticism for helping fuel his ‘Conspiracy’ paranoia in a letter issued shortly prior to the six day siege, she was just one of dozens of radical stakeholders who took an interest in his plight. Other supporters included Senator Dianne Feinstein, journalist Herb Caen and celebrated progressive Harvey Milk. Panther chief counsel Charles Garry represented Jones and the People’s Temple in a series of suits in the late 70s. Let’s be clear about one thing: Jones had a lot of people fooled. It wasn’t just the progressives.
Did Jones tailor his plans for a mass suicide from the cloth provided by Huey Newton’s autobiography, ‘Revolutionary Suicide’ as some Conservative observers suggest? I’m not so sure. Like Manson I think Jones just cut his paranoid fantasies from whatever fabric was currently in vogue at the time. If we are to learn anything it is just how easy it is for revolutionary rhetoric to escalate into madness and self harm. An article by Nassir Ghaemi of Pyschology Today takes a look at Newton’s memoir and is well worth a read.
4 Interestingly, Martin Luther King’s assassin, James Earl Ray used the name of Atlas Shrugged hero, John Galt to evade arrest. Ray had also used the name John Willard. Willard featured as one of several people executed during the famous Salem Witch Trials. Between 1967 and 1968, the Process Church of The Final Judgment, whose members Manson had encountered in Los Angeles and San Francisco, had a HQ at 1205 Royal Street, New Orleans. Earl Ray visited his friend Charles Stein’s apartment at 4019 Royal Street, New Orleans, days before the hit on Luther King (its a five minute walk between the two addresses).
Earl Ray left his London hideout just two days after Sirhan Sirhan shot dead Senator Robert Kennedy at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. This would have been a hazardous action to take given the intense security measures already in place at Heathrow Airport. Given Sirhan’s interest in esoteric matters and the enigmatic scrawlings in his notebooks, it’s possible that the pair had crossed paths (they’re respective trips to Mexico and Los Angeles also coincide).
Rand’s book depicts a dystopian America and was a major influence on Manson fringe-character, Anton LaVey. In later years, LaVey even admitted to stealing large chunks of Rand’s novel for his, ‘Nine Satanic Statements’.
5 Trump’s ascendancy has seen a steep growth curve since the attacks in San Barnardino in December (which had, in a cruel twist, been carried out on the anniversary of the arrest of Manson Family members, Tom Watson, Patricia Krenwinkel, and Linda Kasabian in Death Valley, just north of San Barnardino County). Whilst it would be foolish to pin Trump’s surging popularity solely on the attack and the regressive spectacle put on by Beyonce, there’s no denying its impact on sentiment in certain States.
About the author
The author graduated in Literature & Linguistics at Sheffield Hallam University in 1993 before making the unlikely transition to Information Systems a few years later. Editor at Crud Music Magazine from 2000 to 2012. Interests include signs, semiosis and other crazy phenomena that contribute to the mechanics of communication. Also likes baking.
Lives in the Central Highlands of Scotland with his wife and two daughters.