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Selling Racism—A Lesson From Pretoria

By Ron Jacobs | CounterPunch | December 2, 2016

The movement against South African apartheid was perhaps the most universal and popular movement in the western world in the 1980s. Hundreds of thousands protested in a multitude of ways—from letter-writing campaigns to shantytown occupations of city squares and college campus greens. Institutions of all types, from churches to universities, from corporations and banks to city halls, were forced to remove their investments from companies doing business with the racist South African regime, ultimately forcing that regime to end its racist legal system. Even the right wing Reagan and Thatcher regimes were ultimately forced to end their support for Pretoria’s racist system and grudgingly go along with the popular will.

However, as Ron Nixon’s new book, titled Selling Apartheid, makes clear, the South African regime was not going to go down without a fight. In addition to police and military actions of varying brutality, the regime hired advertising men to sell their brand of repression to people and governments around the world. The campaign he describes involved a cynical manipulation of emotions about race, implied white supremacist chauvinism, and outright lies. Advertising campaigns presented South Africa as a tourist destination full of beauty and the perfect climate (which it had) with absolutely no mention of the racial discrimination built into its social and political systems. Glossy photo spreads were bought in newspaper and magazines and television programs were made and sold to television networks in the United States and Britain. These shows were then shown to the unsuspecting viewer as if they were made by agencies independent of the apartheid government and their only agenda was tourism.

In a particularly cynical move, the South African government was able to buy off a few African-Americans over the years in what was ultimately a vain attempt to convince Black Americans that apartheid was okay. The first of these individuals was a former supporter of the Black resistance movement in South Africa, Max Yergan. In what can only be described as a complete sell out, Yergan went from working with early members of what would become the primary resistance organization against apartheid—the African National Congress(ANC)—to giving speeches in the United States and Africa aimed at convincing his audiences that apartheid helped Blacks. Once a committed left-winger, Yergan came under pressure during the McCarthy era in the United States, became an informer for the FBI, and turned against his friends in South Africa; friends that included freedom fighters Nelson Mandela and Joseph Tambo. Yergan was but the first of a few such individuals who would follow in his treacherous footsteps.

The bottom line for the white South African regime and the United States was money. Several US companies had millions invested in South African industry. These companies took advantage of the cheap labor (and maximized profits resulting from that labor) and minimal regulations offered by the Pretoria regime. In turn, they either supported or at the least, tacitly accepted the racism and brutality that defined the apartheid system. Consequently, it was these corporations and financial institutions that were targeted by the anti-apartheid movement’s divestment campaign. Churches, universities, and other institutions that had investments in such companies were ultimately convinced to drop those investments. Sometimes that convincing was purely of a moral plea, other times it required a concerted effort that combined direct action, monetary boycotts, and legislative pressure.

As an advocate of the current campaign against Israeli apartheid, it was more than interesting to compare the similarities in the campaign waged against the movement against South Africa’s apartheid and that currently waged against the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement of today. Residents of western nations are constantly barraged with imagery that attempts to portray the Tel Aviv government as a beacon of fairness and democracy in the Middle East. Furthermore, one is constantly told that the Palestinians who resist the occupation of their lands and the ever-present system of discrimination are nothing but terrorists. This latter phenomenon was also the case in South Africa. Indeed, the ANC was not removed from the US list of “terrorist” organizations until 2008, more than fifteen years after apartheid met its well-deserved end. Of course, there are specific differences between the two systems of separation referred to here, but the essential fact apartheid is true for the historic South African regime and the current Israeli one.

Ron Nixon’s text is an essential addition to the volume of work on South Africa’s apartheid regime. Rich in detail, it provides the reader with an extended look at the nature of propaganda in modern society. A one-time journalist for the New York Times, Nixon makes his argument with facts and writing that is both accessible and engaging. In doing so, he exposes the moral vacuousness of those who propagandized for the racists of South Africa not because they necessarily believed in apartheid, but because they made money from doing so.  Furthermore, in his telling Nixon doesn’t just rake the white South African regime over the coals, he also points his pen at the equally deserving US and British governments, especially those of Reagan and Thatcher. In terms of how the world seems to work, Selling Apartheid is a tawdry yet familiar tale.

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December 2, 2016 - Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | ,

1 Comment »

  1. BLACK SUPREMACY
    Black Supremacist Nation of Islam Offers ‘Protection’ to Beyoncé

    By:
    Michael Qazvini
    February 24, 2016

    On Sunday, Louis Farrakhan, the head minister of the black supremacist hate group Nation of Islam, offered “protection” to his “sweet sister Beyoncé” as she embarks on a multi-million dollar world concert tour. In a keynote address delivered to a Chicago audience, Farrakhan promised to provide security to the superstar if the police officers offended by her Super Bowl Black Panther-tribute were wary about staffing her concert tour.

    The black Muslim radical also blasted “white folks” for even daring to criticize Beyoncé’s supposed genius. Mocking the supposedly perplexed “white” community, Farrakhan stated, “She started talking that black stuff … and white folks (said), ‘We don’t know how to deal with that.'”

    Here’s a video of his fiery sermon on Sunday:

    The video features an irate Farrakhan responding to calls by police unions around the country to boycott Beyoncé’s concert tour. After deriding the “white folks” for apparently refusing to bow to Beyoncé, Farrakhan shouts, “Look at how you treatin’ Beyoncé now. You gonna picket. You not gonna offer her police protection. But the FOI [Fruit of Islam] will.”

    The fanatic Islamic leader appears to offer his best foot soldiers in the form of “Fruit of Islam,” or FOI, for the pop superstar. FOI is the male-only paramilitary division within the Nation of Islam. Members don white or blue uniforms, resembling police officers, during patrols. FOI draws its recruits from the temples of the Nation of Islam. Louis Farrakhan himself is the “Commander-in-Chief” the group. What’s more disconcerting than an all-male black supremacist security force? An all-female black supremacist defense group! Muslim Girls in Training, or MGT, is the female counterpart to FOI. Its members are trained in self-defense and Islamic modesty.

    Even the leftist Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) considers the Nation of Islam to be a virulently racist hate group. Here’s their profile on the group:

    Since its founding in 1930, the Nation of Islam (NOI) has grown into one of the wealthiest and best-known organizations in black America. Its theology of innate black superiority over whites and the deeply racist, anti-Semitic and anti-gay rhetoric of its leaders have earned the NOI a prominent position in the ranks of organized hate.

    As usual, NOI’s leader somehow managed to pull the Jews into the conversation. In his speech on Sunday, Farrakhan marred the memory of the Holocaust, comparing the mass genocide of Jews to “white folks'” treatment of Beyoncé.

    “Well, you taught us everywhere we went about the Holocaust. But we have sympathy for you. But when one of us shows some independence look at how you’re treating Beyoncé now,” he declared.

    Ironically, Farrakhan’s last public statements on Beyoncé were slightly less supportive. According to CNN, Farrakhan invoked Islamic modesty laws to humiliate and sexualize the superstar in a 2005 interview.

    “Today, you strip the woman of her clothes,” he gloated. “How can a man think straight, looking at the beauty of Beyoncé?” he said.

    This time, however, the black supremacist bully sensed an opportunity to exploit heightened racial tensions in the age of “post-racial” Obama. And he took it.

    Like

    Comment by Buddy Holly | December 4, 2016 | Reply


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