This morning, I have been accused of white supremacy, misogyny and infantilizing black people because I had the temerity to call out the two idiots who stormed the Bernie Sanders rally in Seattle last weekend and defend the Senator as one of the greatest hopes for progressivism in America. This stemmed from an appearance on the Huff Post Live this morning after being asked to weigh in on the Seattle spectacle, where I was essentially pitted against everyone else on the show.
I was basically set up to be the paternalistic white male by the producers who played the best clip of the two protestors speaking in front of the Sanders rally, while one provocative paragraph from my piece about them was read out as I was introduced. I certainly stand by everything I wrote, but my stance was certainly more nuanced than that one paragraph would indicate. I have stated on numerous occasions that the Black Lives Matter movement is one of the most important causes in decades (and on the show no less), and is literally a matter of life and death for black Americans. Regardless, it served the purpose of the show for me to be provocateur and the other guests laid into me for minimizing the lives of black women, being a paternalistic white hypocrite etc etc etc.
Senior editor at The New Republic Jamil Smith and Every Day Feminist writer Jamie Utt consistently tried to twist my words to make it seem like I wanted to dismiss the experience of black women and was more concerned about white people being called racists than actual racism against black people – all of which is ludicrous if you’ve read anything I’ve written about racism. Smith even accused me of spreading conspiracy theories about the activists Marissa Janae Johnson and Mara Jacqeline Willaford, who are both members of Outside Agitators 206 – an organization that is dedicated to getting rid of all police in America. Their manifesto reads:
Fuck the police: As an institution fundamentally rooted in white supremacy and anti-Blackness we reject the police presence in our communities, absolutely. It is our responsibility to hold each other accountable and keep each other safe.
According to Smith, this is all hearsay and distraction. “Can he prove any of that?” he asked. Well yes, I can as this article written by Johnson and Willaford on the Outside Agitators site clearly demonstrates.
Here’s the full Huff Post segment:
The insults and grotesque characterization of my comments and article continued after the show with Utt accusing me of “anti black misogyny”, and a treasure trove of comically stereotypical social justice warriors chiming in with comments like this:
— mr cohen, an attorney (@RaisingOneBrow) August 11, 2015
The funny thing is, this high minded liberal militancy does the exact same thing it claims to be against. When I accused Johnson and Willaford of being childish, I was speaking specifically about them, not black women in general – a point I genuinely resent having to make. If I wanted to infantilize black people, I wouldn’t bother criticizing them. Unlike guilt ridden liberals, I don’t see black people as being any more or less able to handle criticism than anyone else. I’ll say it again: Johnson and Willaford are childish brats who hijacked a cause to grab attention for themselves. They disrespected a true progressive in Bernie Sanders, and disgustingly accused a crowd of thousands of people they didn’t know of being “white supremacists”. You just need to watch the first minute of the debacle on stage in Seattle to see how appalling their behavior was:
This behavior was something Utt and Smith refused to acknowledge, and apparently the Huff Post producers supported entirely as the event was made to look like the bad white men on stage were trying to suppress the poor oppressed black women through selective editing. In reality, Sanders, a 73 year old man, was the only person vulnerable during the awful spectacle.
I am not completely opposed to many of the other guests’ points at all – I think the argument that Johnson and Willaford have helped force Sanders to make the issue of police violence against black people more prominent is not unfounded. This may well be the case, but it is still completely unknown as to whether it will make any difference at all in the long run. Bernie Sanders has to persuade lots of different demographics if he wants to become President, and letting the Black Lives Matter movement dictate what takes priority would be absolutely suicidal. If Sanders does become the Democratic nominee, then he’ll be facing off against a Republican who will have billions of dollars at his disposal for the sole purpose of smearing Sanders into oblivion. President Obama’s campaign in 2008 was almost derailed because he once sat on the same board as Bill Ayers and bumped into him while biking several years later.
Imagine what they will do to Bernie Sanders.
Regardless, my opinion remains the same: the Black Lives Matter movement is one of the most important causes in decades, and it must think carefully about how to make a real dent in mainstream American politics. The Occupy Wall St movement basically collapsed because it had no specific goals, no leadership, and no sense of how to strategize effectively against overwhelming odds. America has racism and misogyny built into the fabric of its society, and overcoming that will take many years of disciplined de-conditioning efforts. Jumping on stage to accuse a man who not only lost half his family to the holocaust, but fought for decades against segregation and discrimination is just not the way to go about it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.