(NNPA)—Information is indeed power and one of the most powerful instruments is the press. Manipulators try their best to influence the press and use it for their own advancement and also against their rivals and enemies. Smear campaigns and propaganda are as apparent today as ever. Fox News has a strong conservative bent while MSNBC is strongly liberal with CNN being a little soft towards the left. They deliver the news with no shame and let it be known their political preference. All other stations do the same and the newspapers can even be worse. When race becomes an issue, it gets even uglier.
Such is the case with Michael Steele, Chairman of the Republican National Committee. The press is continually attacking him from all sides. The top Democratic operative is Barack Obama, a Black man, and the other side now has a Black man. It is way too much and something has to give. The “bull’s eye” is focused on Mr. Steele and he is criticized for anything they can get their hands on. Actually, he is doing a fantastic job. He has taken the Republican Party to the greatest election victory in history—winning 690 seats—but, still, that isn’t good enough. They want him out because his voice is too strong and happens to be Black. The White press fears a Black who is accumulating power and fame. Mr. Steele has certainly done that in the last two years and they are scared to the max instead of being happy.
I learned this fact early in my career of activism. If you want to become notorious start a movement that forces change. They, the press, will follow you and do their best to find dirt, scandal and any other kind of wrong against you. When we started making changes in the way Indiana did business with Black entrepreneurs, the White Indiana democratic leaders brought out their big weapons—writers at the Indianapolis Star newspaper and a few local newscasters. They jumped on me like white on rice. In the beginning it was kind of shocking to have your picture on the front page of the newspaper and an article about how bad or pitiful you might have been. It would be all lies but they didn’t care because the intent was to smear.
The above assault would have intimidated the average person but to their dismay it was encouraging to me. I wasn’t from Indiana and my wife’s family was free and independent and beyond being hurt by them. In fact, they encouraged me to push on as they had my back. Local Black politicians and church leaders told me they knew the deal and do not let it deter me as they were there to support my efforts. I am forever grateful to them. The abuse from the White press was actually rallying the Black community around my cause and eventually gave birth to the National Black Chamber of Commerce. We could create our own power and depend just on ourselves to get the mission accomplished.
Eventually, it dawned on me to begin to fight back. The weapon I used was there all the time—the Black press. I started interviewing with the six Black newspapers in Indiana on a regular basis and started writing articles attacking the lying, conniving White press. My audience was totally Black and they knew exactly what I was talking about. It got to the point that no matter what the Indianapolis Star or evening news station would report the Black community would not pay it any attention as my word was being delivered properly in the Black newspapers. After a while my White enemies started reading Black newspapers on a continual basis to see what we were saying about them. They went on the defensive and that meant we were going to win. We did!
A few years ago I was in Indianapolis and ran into the reporter who wrote the worst articles about me. Pat Traub was in a bar and was having a few drinks. I sat down by him and struck up a conversation. He was no longer a reporter for the Indianapolis Star so I asked him “Why did you write those ruthless, lying articles about me?” He replied, “That was what I was paid to do. It was just my job—nothing personal”. Yes, my people, it is just a very cruel game and a ploy to gain or maintain power which turns into money.
So, the next time you notice the White press going after a brother or sister who is leading something please understand it is a ruthless game. Take it with a grain of “salt”. Wait and hear the other side of the story.
(Harry Alford is co-founder, president/CEO, of the National Black Chamber of Commerce. Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.)