The Russia Connection — A New Way To Continue The Old Tactic of Silencing Black Activists

by Jacqueline Luqman

Black politicos and activists have a hard road to toe in every aspect and level of politics. Whether it’s Progressives or Independent Black activists being kicked in the back by their racist and racist-apologizing peers; Blue Dog Democrats loyal to the party who are willing to sacrifice Black activists, politicians, and policies deemed to “radical” to adopt into their tiny, neoliberal tent; or the obvious resistance from the obvious factions on the Right; Black people in politics are constantly on alert and on defense, while having to be on the offensive with our advocacy and message, and constantly on the move to stay in the game. Add social media, biased journalism, and partisan racial politics in the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for the exhausting tap dance Black politicos have to do to fight for the political future of our constituents and our people.

We’ve talked plenty about how this plays out online, but it’s important to see how it looks in “real life;” with the “it” being “when false and dangerous narratives about Black people get cavalierly tossed around like tissue.” Case in point: Greg Bluestein penned this piece of yellow journalism in the Atlanta Journal Constitution asserting that there are nefarious ties between current Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, her former staffer Marcus Ferrell. The allegation spun in this piece of propaganda is that Abrams’ campaign is influenced in some way by Russia because Ferrell was interviewed on a show that is aired on Sputnik’s radio network.

Yes. That is the entirety of the basis for the allegation and the “article.” I know it seems ridiculous, but let’s take a look at why this is such a horrible and irresponsible piece of “writing.”

Mr. Ferrell was actually interviewed by well-respected activist Eugene Puryear on HIS show By Any Means Necessary, which does air on Sputnik radio, but which also airs on iTunes, Facebook, Spreaker, PlayerFM, and IHeartRadio. Russia must be influencing other shows and people on those networks, since Russian influence now seems to be transmitted by radio waves or post likes.

The author admits that Ferrell’s comments in the interview were “non-controversial,” but only after he oddly alleges that the Abrams campaign said that “…Ferrell violated protocol that restricts staff from speaking on the record without prior approval…” and that he resigned after questions were raised about his appearance on the show. But if his comments were “non-controversial,” why would there have been a need for him to resign? And of course, according to the author, Ferrell “…did not immediately comment,” so we can’t know what Mr. Ferrell has to say about these allegations.

Why does that sound like the journalistic equivalent of “I feared for my life?”

Of course none of this makes any sense, not even to someone who has no dog in the fight of Georgia politics (we’re in DC), but even we can tell that this article isn’t meant to actually make sense or inform. It is meant only to smear. In fact, Brustein’s current article is nothing more than a continuation of his biased misrepresentation of Black activists during Adams’ opponent — Stacey Evans’ — speech at the Netroots conference this year. An article that he wrote about an event that he did not attend. How do we know this? We know people who DID attend. How much do you want to bet that there’s more to this “story” than what Bluestein has provided?

When you read the comments on the Netroots article, you see that what Bluestein does is not report on events or issues. He only throws meat to his rabid racist following. So this is not about any “Kremlin connection” to Abrams’ campaign. This is about silencing and discrediting Black people in politics, only using the Russia narrative this time. This is how it’s done in the big-leagues, outside of the world of snotty Facebook posts and nasty Twitter conversations. In actual politics with public office seats on the line, professional paid journalists write thinly woven lies in reputable news outlets to discredit the competition. This particular lie, much like the ones we’ve been dealing with for the past few months, is especially disgusting in light of what Black activists and politicos are still fighting against and for.

People who believe that Black politicos talk about Black people, Black issues, Black politics, and injustice to Black people too much, have to shift the narrative to whatever else they can to distract from those issues. So instead of this “article” being about the issues discussed in the interview — “…how to call for the removal of Confederate Statutes in the South, the chances of Stacey Abrams, winning the Georgia gubernatorial race in 2018, and whether or not Bernie Sanders will run for President in 2020.” [taken directly from the interview description] — or even about Abrams and her campaign, the focus of this piece is about the medium her former staffer, Marcus Ferrell’s interview was conducted on — Russian-owned Sputnik.

Nevermind that Black people are fighting against White supremacy and racism and police brutality and radicalized income inequality and the school-to-prison pipeline and housing discrimination and gentrification and employment discrimination and healthcare discrimination and environmental discrimination and a myriad of other actual racially-focused issues. Why talk about any of THAT when it’s so much easier to make slanderous accusations of “Russian meddling,” simply because of the outlet one of those discussions was conducted on.

And this is all that’s needed to try to implicate a Black woman running for governor of Georgia; and worse, to try to smear two Black political operatives to take down one.

I have no idea how the gubernatorial race will turn out in Georgia. But I swear, we catch it on all sides. Everywhere. All the time.