Ebony Magazine During the Civil Rights Era

By: Inoljt, http://mypolitikal.com/

In 2008 Ebony magazine made available much of its archive, dating all the way back to 1959. The archive can be read here, and it offers a fascinating perspective on America during the past. Most magazines write from the normal perspective of the white community. Ebony, however, writes from the quite different lens of black America. This perspective is quite interesting from the viewpoint of the modern reader.

All in all, most of the Civil Rights era passes quite unremarkably. It is quite hum-drum, as if nobody realizes what an enormous change is happening. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter From Birmingham Jail is interspersed with articles such as “Should a Machine Select Your Mate?”

Some events are mentioned. The March on Washington gets front-page coverage on the November 1963 issue. On the other hand, the momentous passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and 1965 Voting Rights Act go entirely unwritten about.

It is really after the Civil Rights era that things seem to change. The tone, for instance, undergoes a subtle but clear shift. Before the Civil Rights era, Ebony’s tone was perhaps best described as aspirational and optimistic. It was aspirational in the sense that the magazine seemed to be aspiring to be white. The female models, for instance, looked like exact replicas of white ’60s models, with straight hair and skin so light many could have passed for white (to be fair, both trends are still occurring today). The tone was also optimistic and hopeful. There might be much discrimination against “Negroes,” as the magazine put it, but things would definitely get better.

After Civil Rights, however, this optimism and aspiration disappears – even as things do get very much better. The tone of Ebony shifts, to something that is more familiar to those acquainted with racial politics. It takes on a harder, more cynical edge. Ebony becomes less hopeful and optimistic, more demanding and proud. One example of this pride occurs in June 1966, when Ebony debuts a women wearing natural, non-straightened black hair. The title is “The Natural Look.”

The conversation becomes a lot more familiar in other ways. Before and during the Civil Rights era Ebony uses the word “Negro” in place of where the word “black” would be used today. Then one issue, in the summer of 1968, Ebony simply drops “Negro” and starts using “black.” In September 1966, another familiar term appears: “Black Power”. The next year, in October 1967, Ebony addresses the decaying inner city. A year later, Ebony starts using the term “ghetto.”

Fundamentally, by the late 1960s the voice of black America has essentially become the same as it is today. Ebony’s voice in 1960 is almost unrecognizable compared to its voice in 2011, but its tone in 1970 is pretty much the same as its tone today. The irony is that while in 1950s blacks occupied a far worse position in American society, their voice was a lot lighter and more optimistic. By 1970 the status of African-Americans had improved tremendously. Yet one could be forgiven for thinking, in comparing Ebony’s tone in 1958 to its tone in 1968, that blacks were worse off in 1968 than they were in 1958. 

 

The Civilian and the General: he Reality Behind the McChrystal Interview Fall-Out

 

by Walter Brasch

 

            For a few days last week, the harpies of the extreme right assaulted the president of the United States for first considering, and then firing Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of allied forces in Afghanistan.

             In a 10-day interview with Michael Hastings of Rolling Stone, McChrystal and his senior aides poked fun or criticized almost every civilian in the highest levels of the chain of command, including the President, Vice-President, and National Security Advisor James L. Jones, former Marine Corps commandant who, an aide told the magazine, was a "clown." Another aide told Hastings that Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) "turn up, have a meeting with [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai, criticize him at the airport press conference, then get back for the Sunday talk shows. Frankly, it's not very helpful."

             Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and almost the entire tea bag movement supported McChrystal. They screeched that it was not McChrystal who should be fired but Obama for his war strategy. That would be the same strategy that was designed and executed by—Gen. McChrystal.

             This wasn’t the first time McChrystal was out of line. Previously, he tried to box in Obama. His tactic was not to be a part of a vigorous discussion with other military leaders and the Commander-in-Chief about the strategy in Afghanistan. He decided to just go to the media and "tell all," essentially begging the President to significantly increase troop presence in Afghanistan and widen the war, which has now lasted more than eight years. This is also the same general who we now know was one of the major players in covering up the cause of the death of former NFL millionaire star Pat Tillman who became an Army Ranger, and then was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan. This is also the general who was in command of a task force that had 34 of its members disciplined for prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib.

             McChrystal wasn't about to get any sympathy from his superiors. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who had served George W. Bush prior to being asked to stay by President Obama, said that McChrystal "made a significant mistake and exercised poor judgment." Adm. Mike Mullen, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, also supported the firing. But, it was the words of three leading senators who should have provided the beacon to the unenlightened of the reactionary right. In a joint statement, the senators said they had "the highest respect for General McChrystal and honor his brave service and sacrifice to our nation," but that his comments were "inappropriate and inconsistent with the traditional relationship between Commander-in-Chief and the military." The three senators, all known hawks, were Joe Lieberman, an Independent; and Republicans John McCain, a former Navy captain; and Lindsey Graham, a colonel in the Air Force Reserve.

             For his part, Gen. McChrystal knew he was out of line. “I extend my sincerest apology for this profile. It was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened,” McChrystal said, and noted that he believed that in his 34-year military career, he "lived by the principles of personal honor and professional integrity [and what] is reflected in this article falls far short of that standard."

             Of course, the attacking force on the right flank, who were silent when the Bush–Cheney administration choked the First Amendment rights of civilians, put both their brain cells together and claimed Obama was stifling free speech. Here's some constitutional law that will enlighten even the dimmest bulb. Freedom of speech, by law, does not extend to the military. That applies to privates as well as generals. The extreme right, which has proven embarrassing to true conservatives and the Republican party itself, apparently overlooked the fact that George W. Bush, while President, fired or marginalized senior officers for disagreeing with civilian policy. Gen. Peter Pace, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, did not get a usual second term after he not only challenged the Bush–Cheney Administration on its stand about torture and on Administration claims, later proven to be false, that Iran was supplying munitions to Iraqi insurgents. Sealing his fate, however, was his public belief that gays were immoral. Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army's Chief of Staff, had bluntly told the Senate Armed Forces committee in a mandated appearance that there were significant problems with the Bush–Cheney–Rumsfeld plan for the forthcoming invasion of Iraq. He retired without the customary recognition by civilian leadership. Adm. William Fallon, commander of the U.S. Central Command, was terminated for challenging the Bush–Cheney strategy that might have led to war with Iran. The reality that Shinseki and Fallon were eventually proven to be right was of little consequence. The President, in his role as Commander-in-Chief, has authority to discipline his senior officers for disagreeing with him, even privately.

             While President Obama, perhaps more than most of his predecessors, encourages debate and vigorous discussion, he couldn't have a field commander publically disagreeing with him. McChrystal’s statements, said the President, represent conduct that “undermines the civilian control of the military that is at the core of our democratic system." It was a concept fully supported by Gen. George Washington before and during his presidency.  

             When the right-wing got tired of attacking President Obama, they attacked the messenger. Rolling Stone, they shrieked, wasn't even a good magazine. Gen. McChrystal shouldn't even have been talking to it. It was—you know—an entertainment magazine, thus proving how little they truly know about the media or journalism.

             The 24/7 cable news networks, ecstatic that they had a brief diversion from the Gulf Coast oil spill and athletes not kicking soccer balls into nets, for their part brought in all kinds of experts to spew opinions that sometimes seemed to make the pundits look brilliant by comparison.

             Somehow in all this orgasmic hyperbole, Fox's Gretchen Carlson told the "Fox and Friends" audience that being president involves making "these tough, huge, monumental decisions." But then she explained that the work of TV anchors—the real journalists, apparently—was similar to that of the president of the United States, since they have to make decisions on breaking news stories under near-battlefield conditions all the time, and "they would have to carry a story all along." This is the same news anchor who called Ted Kennedy a "hostile enemy" and whose own combat experience was restricted to fighting with double-sided tape to hold her swim suit intact during the Miss America competition.

             There is no question that President Obama needed to relieve Gen. McChrystal of his command or risk appearing to be weak and ineffective during wartime. But there are other realities. The extreme right wing, blinded by their venomous hatred of President Obama, used the words of Gen. McChrystal to bolster their attacks upon the President. The left-wing, already upset with the expansion of the war, piously screamed their support of the President, but only if he got rid of the "troublemaker."

             Lost in the war of words is the reality of who and what Stanley McChrystal is. He is a loyal American who grew up in a military family and who has siblings and in-laws who also were career soldiers. He is, by training and disposition, not a diplomat but a warrior, the kind you want on the front lines of any war. He was obviously frustrated by the lack of progress in Afghanistan, by a war that seemed to be doomed to failure no matter whose strategy was used, by an Afghani army and a civilian population that was easily compromised by warlords and the Taliban, by a country whose cash crop isn't grain but opium.

             McChrystal understands the military system; he has little understanding of civilians and the media. Perhaps in the field, he and his senior aides would have been more cautious than on a diplomatic mission in Paris and Berlin hotels and nightclubs, areas that invaded their comfort zone. He was poorly prepared and ill-advised about being so open when talking to a reporter who had a notepad, a tape recorder, and made clear the rules of the interview. For a junior officer to make these mistakes is understandable; but, a four-star general should have known better. And that, not his words, was his downfall.

 [Among Walter Brasch's 17 books are Sinking the Ship of State, an investigation of the Bush–Cheney administration; and Sex and the Single Beer Can, a humorous and sometimes sarcastic look into the mass media. Both are available at amazon.com and other stores.]

 

 

 

People. People Who Don't Need People

For the 21st time, People Magazine has published its Most Beautiful People list. And, once again, the editors have proven how journalistically vacuous they truly are.

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Time Warner's Postal Rate Attack on Independent Publishers

I'm gonna go out on a limb here and assume it's very important to everyone that we have a healthy number of small and independent publications in this country. You know, to help keep the big boys honest if they should ever become lax in their duties as the fourth estate (heaven forbid). Unfortunately, it looks like these publications are under a stealth attack, via Common Dreams:

The Post Office is in the process of implementing a radical reformulation of its mailing rates for magazines. Under the plan, smaller periodicals will be hit with a much larger increase than the big magazines, as much as 30 percent. Some of the largest circulation magazines will face hikes of less than 10 percent.

The new rates, which go into effect on July 15, were developed with no public involvement or congressional oversight, and the increased costs could damage hundreds, even thousands, of smaller publications, possibly putting many out of business. This includes nearly every political journal in the nation. These are the magazines that often provide the most original journalism and analysis. These are the magazines that provide much of the content on Common Dreams. We desperately need them.

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ThinkingBlue Search: focused web search for progressive community

(cross-posted at dailykos)

Check out this new online search tool we are offering to the progressive community: It's called ThinkingBlue Search (http://www.thinkingbluesearch.com), and it is a google-powered custom and focused search engine.

ThinkingBlue Search is currently covering about 470 web sites, including:

every major progressive blog that discusses politics and policy (over 200 of them and adding more daily), every major progressive think tank (over 40 of them), every major official Democratic web site including every single local State party website (about 70-ish of them), every major liberal political journal and magazine in print and online (over 25), most of the major progressive syndicated columnists (right now just over 20 and growing), most of the progressive watchdog groups (also about 20 at the moment) and lastly, it also searches the early progressive political wikis that exist (about a dozen or so).

..and we're adding sites daily.

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