TUESDAY, MARCH 23, 2021
You can't run a press corps this way: What follows is going to be somewhat unkind. What follows will also be accurate.
In what follows, we're going to focus on Don Lemon, who hosts the two-hour nightly program, CNN Tonight.
In Sunday's New York Times, Lemon was the subject of the weekly "By the Book" feature. He was interviewed about his reading habits. We were struck by this exchange:
NEW YORK TIMES (3/21/21): What’s the most interesting thing you learned from a book recently?
LEMON: I learned from “Four Hundred Souls” that my ancestors arrived here on a slave ship before the Mayflower. Just because I went to a Black Catholic elementary and middle school, which drilled Black history into us, I thought I knew more about our history than most. Alas, I was wrong.
Presumably, Lemon didn't learn in that book that any of his own particular ancestors arrived here before the Mayflower. Presumably, he meant that he learned that the first captive Africans were brought to these shores at that time.
That's true, and there's no wrong time to learn something. Having said that, good lord!
The New York Times launched its widely-discussed "1619 Project" back in August 2019. The project was very widely discussed. Its title refers to the fact that the first captive Africans arrived here in 1619.
In early discussions of the project, it was widely noted that the Pilgrims didn't arrive on the Mayflower until the following year. But even if a person missed that part of those discussions, there had always been Lerone Bennett and his famous book.
The book was published in 1962. Quite literally, its original title was this: Before the Mayflower: A History of the Negro in America, 1619-1962.
(In later editions, the title was changed to Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America.)
Bennett's book was always a bit controversial. There were always questions—questions we can't answer—about the caliber of Bennett's scholarship.
That said, the book never stopped being at least semi-famous. When Bennett died in 2018, the New York Times offered this overview at the start of its obituary:
GENZLINGER (2/16/18): Lerone Bennett Jr., a historian and journalist who wrote extensively on race relations and black history and was a top editor at Ebony magazine for decades, died on Wednesday in Chicago. He was 89.
The cause was advanced vascular dementia, Ebony said on its website.
Mr. Bennett was both lyrical and outspoken in his writing, arguing that the history of black people in the United States had been ignored or told only through a white filter.
His best-known book was “Before the Mayflower,” drawn from a series of articles for Ebony and first published in 1962. (Revised editions were still being published decades later.) In it he noted that the first blacks arrived in the colonies in 1619, the year before the Mayflower did, on a ship that reached Jamestown, Va. He wrote of that same arrival in a 1992 article in Ebony.
“No ship ever called at an American port with a more important cargo,” he said...
Why didn't Lemon know about this? We have no idea. That said, we can tell you this:
Along the way, it's been blindingly obvious that no one has ever cared about any of this. Our press corps cares about their careers. There has long been exactly zero sign that they care about anything else.
In his earlier days at CNN, Lemon hosted a weekend show. At that time, he tended to take the more conservative-ish position on various racial issues.
In recent years, a different attitude has gripped our highly performative press corps. Lemon's attitudes seem to have changed, perhaps for reasons which are fully sincere.
Then again, it's very important for people like Lemon to remain aligned with prevailing attitudes within the corporate/celebrity guild. People like Lemon are paid extremely well for the very poor work they perform. Their access to their swollen salaries is predicated upon their ability to adopt the attitudes which are currently in favor.
Lemon's changes have kept him on the air. He and Chris Cuomo treat their viewers like fools many evenings, saying how much they love one another. We the people are simply too gullible to suspect this for what it is.
One thing it is is very profitable, both for the network and for people like Lemon. Until recently, Lemon didn't know the first freaking thing about the history he's always cared about, but he may have known on which side his bread is buttered. In this piece, the Los Angeles Times reported his recent real estate sale:
FLEMMING (2/25/21): CNN anchor Don Lemon has sold his three-bedroom condo in New York’s Harlem neighborhood for $1.525 million—about $37,000 more than he paid for it in 2013.
The sale comes a few years after he picked up a place near the Hamptons, paying $3.1 million for a quaint cottage in Sag Harbor in 2016.
The condo is the smaller of his two properties, with three bedrooms and 2.5 bathrooms in just over 1,400 square feet. According to the listing, Lemon configured the space as an open-concept layout with two bedrooms during his stay.
The article didn't explain where Lemon is going to live in town at this point, or if he needs to live in town at all. Under pre-pandemic conditions, the quaint cottage in Sag Harbor would have been too far away. Does he possibly work from there now?
How much is Lemon paid by CNN? You aren't allowed to know that.
Presumably, corporate owners of our profit-based news orgs don't want you to know how much their stars get paid. Stating the obvious, they're paid what they're paid for message obedience. Very few people ever break the rules or walk away.
The ones who do are gone forever. The ones who obey get paid.
Today, we'll repeat a point we've made many times in the past. You simply can't run a middle-class democracy with a multimillionaire press corps.
When people get paid the way these people do, they (and their owners) aren't going to tell you jack squat about certain topics. Nor will they have the first f*cking clue about when the first captive Africans arrived on American shores, under American skies.
Lemon's By the Book interview could be seen as a bit embarrassing throughout. We'll point you to one more exchange:
NEW YORK TIMES: What book would you recommend for America’s current political moment?
LEMON: I don’t mean to be self-promoting but I’d have to say my book, “This Is the Fire.” That’s why I wrote it.
Lemon didn't mean to be self-promoting as he promoted his book. But then, every time we fly by his cable program of late he seems to be pimping that book. You will never get real news from people who function this way.
In fairness to Lemon, even more money was sloshing around in the good old days of MSNBC, when Chris Matthews and Tim Russert were buying "cottages" on Nantucket even pricier than Lemon's.
Those were the days when the whole NBC crew was working for Jack Welch and against the Clintons and Gore. Somewhat comically, their "cottages" weren't far from Jack's own manse on the pricey island.
The journalists who con Our Town's occasional gullibles never discuss such scams. Dearest darlings, use your heads! Within the celebrity press corps guild, such things simply aren't done! A journalist's career would come to an end the second he or she went there.
This is the way the game is played as our stupendously low-IQ nation continues to slide toward the sea. Also, the first captive Africans really did beat the Mayflower here.
That is now an established fact. By now, one of CNN's anchors has heard!
Viewership falling at CNN: Numbers are dropping all over cable. Paul Farhi reports this post-Trump slump in today's Washington Post.