Law and Order: A Challenge to Black Bloggers

In a recent conversation concerning justice in the town of Paris, Texas, a subplot emerged regarding the lax sentencing of crystalmeth-related crimes and the implications for elected officials across the nation.

The question arose, as well:

“How can black bloggers impact this particular issue?”  And the issue is differenial sentencing and the political posturing of law and order candidates – and all that inheres to that discussion.

In the case of Shaquanda Cotton, Chicago Tribune writer Howard Witt believes that Black bloggers played a significant role in how the case was eventually resolved.  And there’s this overview of what’s possible

We have this from ptcruiser over at P6:

“I think we, as a people, hve reached a point in America where our willingness to engage in so-called debates and discussion with non-blacks on matters of important public policy and the ephemeral issues of a celebrity drenched culture are a trap. We are losing our great collective ability to stand back from and stay at a distance from issues and problems as they are defined by people who are not black and do not, at bottom, have black folks’ interest at heart.”

And this from cnulan over at P6:

 We are in great danger of losing our hard won ability to point out the absurd contradictions of American society and the gap between what it promises and what is finally delivered.

Cobb and many others like him succumbed to Rove’s egregore a long time ago…,

Egregore (also “egregor”) is an occult concept representing a “thought form” or “collective group mind”, an autonomous psychic entity made up of, and influencing, the thoughts of a group of people. The symbiotic relationship between an egregore and its group has been compared to the more recent, non-occult concepts of the corporation (as a legal entity) and the meme.

It’s not clear to me that the process of succumbing is reversable. Hughes and others were involved in intentional communities within the segregated community of that era, and THAT is what accounts for their particularly piquant psychological insurgency.

And this from Dr. Spence over at P6:

I may have written this before on Vision Circle but I think that Temple 3 is on to something. There are a whole host of ills that statistically speaking black people participate in less than their white counterparts. Have black state legislators generate legislation that would heavily criminalize all of them. The bounce back SHOULD be more progressive policies for everyone.

I’m not sure what black blogging guerilla theater would look like.

And this from ptcruiser over at P6:

I hear you loud and clear, T3, but I think that black bloggers would be more effective if they would enlist the techniques of guerrilla theater with a heavy emphasis on parody and satire to illustrate the insanity of our current drug policies and the inane pomposity employed by the media and criminal justice system to cut meth freaks slack.

The real insanity is that we all know that drug addiction should be treated as a public health problem but look what happened to Kurt Schmoke when he raised the issue. Many of the same know-nothings in our community who denounced him then are the same ones hollering now about drug sentencing disparities.

I’ve rearranged the order because I think this may shed some light on where we hope to go.  Let’s see what happens…and, Action!


  1. one might’ve imagined that would lead the way in the space described above. knowledge, skill, ability galore, but alas, no heart.

    instead of being about something, it’s about the most pop culture infatuated joint I know, I don’t think you could pay one of the assembled or guest afrodemics to touch anything serious with a ten foot pole.

    that said, I view the ultimate limiting factors constraining the blogosphere is the tendency of bloggers to want to be popular rather than representative or instrumental. some bloggers it misleads so far, it causes them to lose their muhfuggin mind….,

  2. i totally agree with that assessment with respect to seeking popularity. this thing about e-mail communities is right on, though. with my family and friends, there is much more willingness to engage on these topics via e-mail than through blogging.

  3. From MIB on the circle (back in the day):

    “Compounding their relatively limited impacts is the matter of below-average consumption of PC devices and broadband by Af-Ams. Consider blogs, as well as web portals, e-zines and all other virtual pipelines, micromedia.

    Black punditry will remain in the information backwaters until more of us sympathetic to Black self-expression acquire mass media outlets — especially ‘over-the-air’ television & radio stations.”

  4. One of my elders and betters pointed my attention in the direction of the oversight struggle between Rep. Dingell and Kevin Martin at the FCC;

    If Dingell wins, this will open a number of opportunities for minority businessmen relative to media and spectrum ownership particularly in the emergent 700MHz space…

    As well as slow down or stop the big boys crushing the small players in VOIP and non-facilities with litigation…

    Which may well mean a recovery back to the pre-Dumbya level tech market.

  5. oh, f’sho…,

    Michael Cobb, oops, I mean’t Michael Powell was the sorcerer’s apprentice who made Clear Channel and many another egregious (akin to egregores) media monstrosity feasible…,

  6. My point about the limitations of the Black blogosphere begin with one of the foundational assumptions in structural sociology; actors(bloggers) occupy differentiated positions in social structures(blogosphere), and opportunities for influnence and change agency (and by implication the constraints that impede it) are systematically linked to these positions. This commonsense observation underlies and unifies my own realworld emphasis on Blackness as interpersonal communion and my less than sanguine outlook for Black agency in the blogosphere.

    The information available to an actor(blogger), the attitudinal influences to which the actor is exposed, the actor’s prestige, the quality of the actor’s reputation, and the likelihood the actor will receive referrals from others are all influenced by the connections that embed the actor(blogger) into multiple, interwoven social networks.

    The differential positions of blogs in the social hierarchy of the blogosphere provide insights into the potential for change agency enjoyed by any given blog. AFAICT – it’s what accounts for Cobb’s hyperassimilationist contortions, and he’s deluding himself, and it accounts for the relative impotence of the Black blogosphere. Positions in social structure determine th opportunities available to the actors that occupy them. Given the technical mapping of social parameters presented by the blogosphere, measuring the prospects for any given blog is a fairly straightforward proposition.

  7. That’s all true. I’m wondering, however, if there’s an opportunity for some synergies that would still be productive – in this instance. I believe there are. It’s a question of variable tactics vs. solid principles. The principle you’ve expressed is clear – and therefore, the only question is about the efficiency of action and the preservation of finite resources and energy.

    I am also wondering if there aren’t types of issues that are more conducive to this type of work. Given mass media’s affiinity for blogs and reliance on some measure of automation to make linkages, it may be that some low-volume, low-visibility issues are best suited.

    btw, I guess this means pt is not rolling with rush and rushtown management. “i made it easy to dance to this…”

  8. Thanks for hipping me to this conversation kid.

    There are two issues. The specific issue about meth is something worth exploring…then I’ll touch on the black blog thing afterwards.

    Shaquanda Cotton is an excellent case of how flash point events can bubble up. So not only does Cotton get freed, but attention is levied towards more systemic issues. And the bloggers send information about the event as well as phone numbers and the like through their networks.

    What would that look like for meth? It seems to me that we’d need some case of a meth addicted person committing some heinous crime against a black legislator’s constituent that could then be used to call for harsher penalties. If this were coordinated with other similar efforts in other spaces i think there are some strong possibilities here.

    The black blogger thing? Even if we’re talking about people who not only identify as black but deal specifically with politics, it seems to me that the people who spend a great deal of time doing it aren’t connected to flesh and blood networks per se. And I think this matters, even before we take prominence, status, etc. into account.

  9. talk about your worst case scenario…i was thinking that linking meth proceeds to resources for white supremacist groups would be a viable connection – and a solid base to build from…unless the great majority of that type of activity is restricted to the West and Northwest…but meth is damn popular all over the country.

    i read on the DOJ site that lab seizures within the US have decreased significantly after spiking a few years back. the DOJ is suggesting that organized mexican groups have make inroads in manufacturing, sale and distribution. there goes that black-brown alliance thing folks are so fond of. i’m being facetious. seriously, though, i need to get a better handle on what’s real for users vs. DOJ’s typically 5-year lag reports. i figure if they’re not seizing labs, folks are using this respite to go high-tech and insulate themselves.

  10. So the idea is to chase one bad policy with another bad policy in the hopes of demonstrating that the first bad policy should be dismantled? The Black bolgosphere should make an issue of the fact that meth users, producers, et al should get harsher treatment and that will somehow translate to more equitable sentencing for black drug offenders? I dont see the logic.

    As far as the AfroSphere is concerned, i for one never started doing this for power, prestige, or position. That type of person is a cancer on any endeavor. Is it possible that a large enough group of people can form a community of interest just because they want to do what’s right, and not worry if some individual happens to get the most tangible benefit or notice. Can’t we start something without worrying about the crabs?

  11. Midwestern meth labs have been suppressed because raw materials are now on a very tight leash. You have to show ID in order to buy pseudofed and you have to get it directly from the pharmacist when you have a head cold. Heaven forbid you try to by ephedrine (mini-thins) any longer. (thus the proliferation of all those so-called energy drinks)

    I would love nothing more than to see the medicalization of meth effectively, politically compared and contrasted with the hypercriminalization of crack. It is a ridiculous and obvious case of disparate application of law, law enforcement, and injustice, a picture perfect teaching example.

    But back to the afrosphere as EM put it, the social and technical architecture of the afrosphere do not appear to me to be vulnerable to systematic subversion, I don’t think there’s anyway to hack your way to greater influence. On the one hand, we have folks on the right trying to coon their way into more links, hits, and “prominence”, and on the left, seriously proposing self-segregation as an answer to what?

    The Cotton anomaly notwithstanding, and I consider it a pure anomaly until I see something like it happen again and can identify a repeatable underlying mechanism, (Bacardi Jackson e-mail?) I don’t think the sphere is a technical or social environment sufficiently engineerable or exploitable for systematic change agency. This, leaving aside its connectedness to somatic networks, which as Spence notes, would be an imperative for it to become really effective.

  12. EM there are a few reasons why whites support punitive measures over other measures. The first is that crime is associated with black men in the media, and this has an effect on their attitudes. The second is that rural communities gain political and economic power by increased incarceration–through increased employment opportunities and through counting felons as citizens of rural communities. The third is that they believe that increased incarceration has no detrimental effect on their own communities. I believe that the intervention we propose would increase the negative consequences of incarceration in white rural communities compared to the benefits. And these negative consequences would be directly felt rather than something ephemeral, as the white young adult population would be largely decimated in these communities. They would be forced to do the same type of things that black and Latina mothers do on a regular basis–travel hours to visit their sons for minutes. Paying exorbitant phone rates just for short conversations. Experiencing this will either cause them to revist their ideas about rehabilitation, or it will at least imprison those who are as deserving of prison as their crack dealing counterparts.

  13. Craig hit the nail on the head. I have been blessed in that my blogging has helped me to sustain one relationship (Temple3 and I had fallen out of touch for several years before this) and build others (my relationship with Craig, George Kelley, even Cobb, is almost solely virtual–I still haven’t met Craig ftf).

    I think the best we can hope for with black bloggers is that small cells of us can organize in order to generate change in communities. But even here the fact that we are dispersed across the country serves as a short-term hurdle. If we were all in Kansas City for example, I could see using this medium to both generate interest in Craig’s Dubois Learning Center, and to generate more work for that and similar projects.

  14. ptcruiser was talking about using some sort of artistic/cultural tool to convey this message. i didn’t get it all clearly, but i thought he considered it as an add-on to blogging – and not merely putting words together. given some of the references he made, it sounded to me as though dave chappelle’s show would have been the ideal venue for this. then again, any rapper who loves to write about drug dealing (too many to count) with a mostly white audience (too many to count) could also firing some shots across the bow…they won’t, however, get picked up by the MSM unless the song is a high-flyer on the charts.

  15. well there is academic literature pointing to the john stewart show effect, and my own work points to the role of rap as an agenda-setting vehicle. i know what “guerilla theater” is in general, and how it could be applied.

    but i didn’t know exactly how this would work among black bloggers. further i think he is positing a relationship between black bloggers and other black people that doesn’t exist. black bloggers aren’t “tastemakers” in the traditional sense, nor should (or could) they be thought of as intellectual elites that guide black opinion.

  16. this work is better done than not, because it gives us a snapshot of what black bloggers who proclaim to be interested in politics are doing.

    but we still don’t know three critical things:

    1. To what degree are bloggers doing what they say they are doing?

    2. To what degree are readers listening to them and following through?

    3. To what degree are bloggers connected to brick and mortar networks and pursuing the same ends through them?

    For our purposes the answer to #1 isn’t half as important as the answers to #2 and #3. But the answers to all are still important.

  17. Spence, you agitating in STL to get this crack/meth dichotomy spoof underway?

    A St. Louis legislator wants to require that baking soda be sold behind the pharmacy counter as part of an anti-drug effort aimed at a base ingredient in crack cocaine.

    The proposal by Democratic Rep. Talibdin El-Amin is modeled after a state law that already requires cold medicines with pseudoephedrine to be placed behind the pharmacy counter. That law is aimed at a key ingredient in the illegal drug methamphetamine.

    The anti-meth law requires customers to show a photo ID and sign a log book specifying their name, address and how much they purchased. It also requires someone be at least 18 years old to buy the medications.

    El-Amin’s bill would implement similar requirements for the purchase of sodium bicarbonate, otherwise known as baking soda. The measure was filed last month and has yet to receive a hearing.

    Cape Girardeau County Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said, “I seriously doubt this will have an impact on the sale of cocaine.”

  18. PT dropped his initial thoughts on Black Guerilla Theatre..,

    Since the first slaves arrived on these shores people of African descent have found it necessary and provident to construct objective factual and mythological counter-narratives as a means to resist the seemingly endless tide of verbal, conceptual and theoretical attacks on our humanity. In fact, today, there are entire institutions and many thousands of African Americans and others devoted to sifting through the shards and artifacts of American history to show that we arrived here fully human and that nothing that occurred in the interim has succeeded in stripping away our humanity.

    The concern I was attempting to address in my earlier post was a fear, on my part, that the continuing focus on producing factual counter-narratives might be slowly depleting us of the power to offer alternative narratives that are more rooted in African American and African folk culture. I am not suggesting that these factual counter-narratives are not important, but it is possible that because of the way they are produced and certified they are losing or lack a certain appeal to the broader masses of black folk.

    (I am also concerned about a contradictory development that I find particularly troubling which is that the growth of these counter-factual institutions is occurring during a period when many African Americans have detected, in their opinion, a corresponding decline of a certain sense of traditional self-regard and self-respect [I am groping for words and terms here] among some elements of the lower classes of African American society and culture. [It may be true that this sense of proportion and insight is declining among the black middle class too. It may even be on a precipitous decline throughout the whole of American society.] In crass and graphic terms, it appears that the more African Americans are striving to prove that they ain’t niggers in a factual sense, the more that many of them are beginning to suspect and fear that they are niggers in a cultural sense.)

    This conflict or trend occurred to me several threads ago during our discussion of Tyler Perry and his appeal to the black masses and the lack of appeal among this same group for works done by those who consider themselves to be superior creative artists to Perry. I don’t want to recapitulate the points of that discussion here but it did raise questions as to how and why Perry can reach a broad audience but his alleged rivals remain stuck in relative anonymity despite their assertions of producing superior products.

    My thoughts on this matter came into sharper focus when I thought about the results of our campaign to use the Internet to publicize Shaquanda Cotton’s plight. What I saw emerge during this process was not the triumphant notes of the factual counter-narrative but a vibrant reappearance of the proverbial drum and grapevine. Most of us did not, for example, become mired in whether Shaquanda had committed the offense for which she was charged, found guilty and sentenced but whether the entire process, including the involvement of the criminal justice system itself, was even remotely appropriate in this case. In short, we used our tools to create a counter-narrative that was based less on the “facts” and more on our historical understanding of how the trappings and processes of the justice system are used to deny justice and equal treatment.

    I used the term “black guerrilla theater” as a way to describe or invoke what I thought should be a process not for simply arguing against those who would either outright deny or question our humanity but for reducing the power of their arguments to hold any sway at all over us. I now think that a more appropriate term might be the old French phrase “coup de théâtre” with all of its sensational and dramatic connotations attached. What I was trying to get at in perhaps a fumbling or inchoate manner is that if we want to find ways to attract the attention and time of a greater proportion of the masses of black folks then we need to package and market (yes, these are good terms) our products (or offerings) in ways that more easily and readily connect with the people’s sense of theater or drama.

    In other words, we should give some thought to using more humor, comedy, music and dance in trying to address and speak to our people about the events and issues that are shaping and changing the world around all of us. There is a complex relationship between comedy, for example, and the social differences among African Americans about class, age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity and even region. Comedy, for example, has long been used to sustain, challenge and throw over power relationships in society. Comedy may not produce social change but it does create a bond or glue between people that is not easily dissolved.

    (There are real and profound differences, for example, between African Americans living in, say, California who are descendants of blacks who migrated from Louisiana and Texas and blacks living in New York or Pennsylvania whose ancestors migrated from Virginia and the Carolinas. I have long thought these differences are often ignored or too easily overlooked by, for example, black intellectuals. There are immense differences between the worlds of Bigger Thomas and Socrates Fortlow and those differences have to be understood and appreciated.)

    What I am trying to get at here is that in the 21st Century we need to employ more and different kinds of tropes in our efforts to beat back the narratives that were used for generations to disparage our humanity because the mutual assurance that we once shared as a people regarding our individual and collective humanity seems to have lost its hold on us. The relentless onslaught of a highly sexualized, but pseudo-erotic, and decadent pop culture that has successfully married the rhythms of African American popular music with an expanding and never sated appetite for consumer objects and the glamorization of violence has broken down the barriers and let loose what the CIA types used to refer to as a “stranger in our house” when they thought one of their own had double-crossed them.

    (Black intellectuals and artists continue to speak but less and less of what they say is ever heard by the masses including the black middle class. The failure of Kasi Lemmons’ remarkable and brilliant film “Eve’s Bayou” which starred Samuel L. Jackson and Lynn Whitfield, which was nominated for seven NAACP Image Awards in 1997 but failed to win even one is a sign that something in our own culture has either become unmoored or was never properly anchored. )

    I think the Internet offers us a unique opportunity to put some new mortar between the bricks that once formed the walls that kept us safe not from the outside world but from its relentless efforts to sever our bonds. And there are no reasons why what we create within this space cannot be removed and used in another medium and then recycled and used again and again wherever it is appropriate.

    I have to haul up here.

  19. from nulan, back in the day – same day as above.

    “Too many idiosyncratic (subjective/mechanical) incompatible psychological garments of blackness

    Not enough interpersonal-communion based project-oriented objectives for blackness

    Gotta put all these ideology bots to work brah. Work is all that’s real, everything else is merely conversation..,”

  20. pt is on to something. i’m just not convinced that black bloggers are the ones he should be sending this message to.

    at hopkins we had a racist flareup during halloween that i was helping the bsu to deal with. i’ve got the president in my class this semester so only now do i have the relationship with her to broach what for me was the central question: couldn’t you all have come up with another way to deal with this issue?

    now what i was thinking about here WAS pure guerilla theater. i suggested that before she leave some type of workshop be held to get black students on this program.

    black guerilla theater can be hot. but for black bloggers? nope.

  21. I had the feeling that PT was actually getting at something along these lines. He’s right, as he usually is… This doesn’t have to be beyond the realm of bloggers though. The issue is that the medium of the internet (high-speed, especially) remains a barrier. Still, there things like myspace, youtube and the like are very popular with the target audience…and people are increasingly using cell phones to access these different sites/content. Red Herring magazine has an article about Mobile 3.0 in its latest issue.

  22. check this out…

    This link is part of an extensive series that is gaining popularity on YouTube. It’s not quite Black Guerrilla, but it’s close – and the snippets are short enough and funny enough to be engaging.

  23. I think black blogs can use our power to address police “excess force.” I define police “excess force” as “the difference between the force that police apply to white people with under a given set of circustances and exhibiting behavior, and the force police apply to Blacks exhibiting the same behavior.”

    I think perhaps Blacks should work to limit the pay and benefits of police officers and funding for police departments, agreeing to increased pay and funding only in exchange for concessions on things like new use of force policies, improved relations with Black communities, reduced use of lethal force, increased minority hiring, etc.

  24. A quick thought: Francis, don’t you think there should be an independent standard to determine police brutality – I mean, there are plenty of examples of white folks getting their heads cracked for all kinds of things: CRM, environmental protests, corporate WTA events, etc.

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