The Persecution of Michael Jackson by Ishmael Reed

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JUNE 29, 2009

The Persecution of Michael Jackson
by ISHMAEL REED

Last Thursday, while working on some writing deadlines, I was switching channels on cable. On CNN they were promoting “Black In America,” an exercise meant to boost ratings by making whites feel good by making blacks look bad, the marketing strategy of the mass media since the 1830s, according to a useful book entitled “The Showman and the Slave,” by Benjamin Reiss. The early penny press sold a “whiteness” upgrade to newly arriving immigrants by depicting blacks in illicit situations. By doing so they were marketing an early version of a self esteem boosting product. One of the initial sensational stories was about the autopsy of a black woman named Joice Heth, who claimed to be George Washington’s nurse and over one hundred years old. It was the O. J. story of the time. Circus master, P. T. Barnum…

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