Learning the Game

Probably everyone knows how the Rhyming Reverends came to be multi-millionaires. How they acquired personal guestrooms in the White House and the power to fling CEOs supine with merely a curt nod. Though I suppose God was actually the prototype. Or rather that other three-letter term for him in mortal guise: MLK. The heavenly plagiarist was then succeeded by his moon-faced disciple Jesse, who wore his bloody shirt for 45 straight years before packing it in his son’s prison bag. And at some indefinable moment over the past decade the paint-shaking machine was passed to another.

A man walks down the street
He says why am I soft in the middle now
The rest of my life is so hard
Little Haiti Al Sharpton 1992

I need a photo-opportunity
I want a shot at redemption
Don’t want to end up a cartoon
In a cartoon graveyard
Sharpton Maddox Mason

Bonedigger Bonedigger
Dogs in the moonlight
Far away my well-lit door
Mr. Beerbelly Beerbelly
Get these mutts away from me
You know I don’t find this stuff amusing anymore
Al Sharpton

A man walks down the street
He says why am I short of attention
Got a short little span of attention
But oh my nights are so long

Where’s my wife and family
What if I die here
Who’ll be my role-model
Now that my role-model is
Gone Gone

He ducked back down the alley
With some roly-poly little bat-faced girl

All along along
There were incidents and accidents
There were hints and allegations

A man walks down the street
It’s a street in a strange world
Maybe it’s the Third World
Maybe it’s his first time around

He doesn’t speak the language
He holds no currency
He is a foreign man
He is surrounded by the sound
The sound

Cattle in the marketplace
Scatterlings and orphanages
He looks around, around
He sees angels in the architecture
Spinning in infinity
He says Amen! and Hallelujah!

If you’ll be my bodyguard
I can be your long lost pal
I can call you ‘Bammy
And ‘Bammy when you call me
You can call me Al

Yes, it’s good to be the reverend. But returning to the initial thought, exactly how did he become so wealthy? Was it via the invention of microchips or solid-state memory? As it turns out both of those contrivances pale (literally) to his works. Al is in the bidness of ‘isms. And bidness is better than chicken wings.

Want to influence a casino bid? Polish your corporate image? Not be labeled a racist? Then you need to pay Al Sharpton.

For more than a decade, corporations have shelled out thousands of dollars in donations and consulting fees to Sharpton’s National Action Network. What they get in return is the reverend’s supposed sway in the black community or, more often, his silence.

Sony Pictures co-chair Amy Pascal met with the activist preacher after leaked e-mails showed her making racially charged comments about President Obama. Pascal was under siege after a suspected North Korean cyber attack pressured the studio to cancel its release of “The Interview,” which depicts the assassination of dictator Kim Jong-un.

Pascal and her team were said to be “shaking in their boots” and “afraid of the Rev,” The Post reported.

No payments to NAN have been announced, but Sharpton and Pascal agreed to form a “working group” to focus on racial bias in Hollywood.

Sharpton notably did not publicly assert his support for Pascal after the meeting — what observers say seems like a typical Sharpton “shakedown” in the making. Pay him in cash or power, critics say, and you buy his support or silence.

“Al Sharpton has enriched himself and NAN for years by threatening companies with bad publicity if they didn’t come to terms with him. Put simply, Sharpton specializes in shakedowns,” said Ken Boehm, chairman of the National Legal & Policy Center, a Virginia-based watchdog group that has produced a book on Sharpton.

And Sharpton, who now boasts a close relationship with Obama and Mayor de Blasio, is in a stronger negotiating position than ever.

“Once Sharpton’s on board, he plays the race card all the way through,” said a source who has worked with the Harlem preacher. “He just keeps asking for more and more money.”

One example of Sharpton’s playbook has emerged in tax filings and a state inspector general’s report. In 2008, Plainfield Asset Management, a Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund, made a $500,000 contribution to New York nonprofit Education Reform Now. That money was immediately funneled to the National Action Network.

The donation raised eyebrows. Although the money was ostensibly to support NAN’s efforts to bring “educational equality,” it also came at a time that Plainfield was trying to get a lucrative gambling deal in New York.

Plainfield had a $250 million stake in Capital Play, a group trying to secure a license to run the coming racino at Aqueduct Racetrack in Queens. Capital Play employed a lobbyist named Charlie King, who also was the acting executive director of NAN. Sharpton has said that most of the Plainfield contribution went to pay King’s salary. King’s company, the Movement Group, was paid $243,586 by NAN in 2008, tax records show.

Harold Levy, a former New York City schools chancellor who was a managing director at Plainfield at the time, has denied the contribution was made to curry favor with Sharpton or anyone else. But a year later, as the battle for the racino license heated up, NAN raked in another $100,000 from representatives of the AEG consortium, which was the successor company to Capital Play.

One AEG member e-mailed another in 2009 saying, “Sharpton lobbied [then-Gov. David Paterson] hard over the weekend on our behalf,” according to the state inspector general’s 2010 report on the corrupt racino licensing process.

In order to discredit SL Green, one of the rival bidders whose plan included a Hard Rock Hotel, an AEG executive sent another e-mail outlining tactics to conscript local leaders to its cause.

“We are going to need it, and we are going to need . . . Sharpton to piss on hard rock,” according to the undated e-mail cited in the IG’s report. Sharpton denied he lobbied on behalf of AEG.

The donations, meanwhile, came at an opportune time for Sharpton, as NAN was deep in debt to the IRS in 2008. It owed $1.3 million in unpaid federal, state and city payroll taxes including interest and penalties.

AEG viewed its payments to Sharpton as more of an insurance policy so he wouldn’t scuttle its chances by criticizing the group, said a source familiar with the racino controversy.

Sharpton raised $1 million for NAN at his 60th birthday bash in October, with donations rolling in from unions and a corporate roster of contributors including AT&T, McDonald’s, Verizon and Walmart.

Companies have long gotten in line to pay Sharpton. Macy’s and Pfizer have forked over thousands to NAN, as have General Motors, American Honda and Chrysler.

NAN had repeatedly and without success asked GM for donations for six years beginning in August 2000, a GM spokesman told The Post. Then, in 2006, Sharpton threatened a boycott of GM over the planned closing of an African-American-owned dealership in The Bronx. He picketed outside GM’s Fifth Avenue headquarters. GM wrote checks to NAN for $5,000 in 2007 and another $5,000 in 2008.

Sharpton targeted American Honda in 2003 for not hiring enough African-Americans in management positions.

“We support those that support us,” Sharpton wrote to the company. “We cannot be silent while African-Americans spend hard-earned dollars with a company that does not hire, promote or do business with us in a statistically significant manner.”

Two months later, car-company leaders met with Sharpton, and Honda began to sponsor NAN’s events. The protests stopped.

Sharpton landed a gig as a $25,000-a-year adviser to Pepsi after he threatened a consumer boycott of the soda company in 1998, saying its ads did not portray African-Americans. He held the position until 2007

With apologies for the lengthy quote, I find it all interesting in a way similar to watching Kobayashi consume a crater of meat by-product…you know exactly how it’s going to happen, yet remain persistently amazed. And again the hold of that gossamer thread. This time bearing the weight of Jheri-curled Damocles. Pay us. Or racist. It’s all so pedestrian in its tawdriness. One almost wishes for a more florid malice. Something interesting or innovative. Something to elicit admiration for its cunning. But no, just this. This very dumb utterly predictable and rapaciously profitable shake-down. Executed with excruciating tedium again and again and again. And corporate captains of many standard deviations pay the toll.

And they pay because their keen statistical insight tells them that the toll will cost less than the fight. Yet because they know only producing and selling widgets, they have no imagination for the war beyond these skirmishes. Or just as likely they don’t care…minds consumed with more pressing concerns like decreasing wages and increasing consumers.

There’s a lesson in this we as people seem determined to never absorb. Corporations, like all other institutions, are tools. They are tools of those who control or manipulate them. Guileless Westerners do not understand this utility, believing institutions are exclusively for the application of stated purposes. The media is for reporting news. The military is for defending our nation. Right? Others see institutions as tools for their own group advancement, and when in control deploy them accordingly.

In the difference is everything. And if Al’s escapades serve no other purpose, learning that alone would suffice.

As an epilogue, the linked New York Post article was one of the most subtly heartening I have read in a while. And if you click, be sure to note the headline. In it appears the gossamer thread…in sneer quotes. How Sharpton gets paid to not cry ‘racism’ at corporations. That is a small seed, but one that can grow robustly. If millions of whites began incarcerating that term in mental quotes, the dear reverend would quickly find himself off corporate welfare and back to penuriously peddling rape hoaxes. Hey, ya got to make a living with what you bring yourself to sell.


3 thoughts on “Learning the Game

  1. Change public perception and you’ll change corporate behavior. In order to do that you have to get rid of the fake victim culture. In order to do that you have to get rid of human rights. In order to do that you have to get rid of emptiness and irony and re-establish a chain-of-being and -becoming, with a mysterious divinity at the top. But, as we all know, we don’t want no stinking rules from santa claus. Bit of a conundrum, I’d say.

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