No One To Speak For Black Rights On The Internet

A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford


Black luminaries like Tom Joyner, allied with huge media corporations, preach that Big Business interests and those of Black folks coincide - that there is no need for Internet neutrality. Glenn Beck, Tom Joyner and the NAACP's Ben Jealous talk the same garbage, for corporate rewards. If the Internet is the future, then the future is bleak for African Americans, whose digital "lines of defense are virtually nonexistent."


 

No One to Speak for Black Rights on the Internet


A Black Agenda Radio commentary by Glen Ford


"Forty million Black people have no one fighting for them on the digital front lines."


There is not a single Black national media organization dedicated to fighting for net neutrality. Not one. It is as if 40 million African Americans have no interest in ensuring that the New Media that are swiftly coming to dominate our political, economic and social lives, operate in ways that serve the people with the least resources - meaning, masses of Black people - rather than giant corporations. Black people's most basic interests should dictate that African Americans lead the way in demanding a democratic Internet, to make sure that deeply ingrained patterns of wealth and privilege are not reproduced far into the digital future in Internet content and access. The Black stake in the Internet is both obvious and critical - as it is for Latinos, who at least have one organization, the National Hispanic Media Coalition, that is committed to net neutrality. Yet 40 million Black people have no one fighting for them on the digital front lines.


Why is Black America stumbling into the New Media future with literally no protection from corporate abusers? The answer is simple: we have been sold out yet again by the Black misleadership class, one of the most selfish and self-dealing gaggles of folks on earth.


Back in the days when cable television was the New Media, Black politicians and community groups responded to the corporate challenge by ensuring that companies were required to wire every neighborhood in a city or county. Black folks knew that, left to their own devices, the new cable companies would only wire the affluent sides of town, and leave the rest of us in a media desert. Thirty years later, the issues of content and access remain essentially the same, but the giant telecommunications companies have learned that the Black misleadership class can be easily bought.


"We have been sold out yet again by the Black misleadership class."


The turning point came in 2006, when millions in corporate bribes in the form of campaign contributions and so-called charity neutralized Black opposition to legislation that, as Bruce Dixon wrote at the time, would "turn the free and open Information Superhighway into a corporate toll road, and lift regulations that force cable and telephone companies to serve poor and minority areas."


In addition to the massive bribery of Black politicians and so-called civil rights organizations, the telecoms pressured thousands of their Black employees to staff phone banks, inundating Black office-holders with pleas on behalf of their bosses. Two-thirds of the Congressional Black Caucus betrayed their own people's vital communications interests, and organized Black resistance to the telecoms was wiped out.


Now another corporate offensive is underway, and Black lines of defense are virtually nonexistent. If you want to know where Tom Joyner and the NAACP's Ben Jealous all converge with the Tea Party, look to the ranks of those opposing Internet neutrality. The Black luminaries and misleaders are sipping cocktails with the Tea Partyers, at the digital corporate bar. For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Glen Ford. On the web, go to www.BlackAgendaReport.com.


BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at [email protected].