He's right. The revolution is not being sponsored by Xerox.
Its sponsors are "AT and T, Viacom, Walmart, Perennial Strategy Group, Combs Enterprises, Comcast Corporation, McDonald’s, Ronald Perelman, Earvin 'Magic' Johnson, Forest City Ratner, Time Warner Cable, Barney’s, Coca-Cola, Essence Communications, Ford Division, Home Depot, Crystal McCrary and Raymond J. McGuire, the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the NBA, Verizon, Colgate Palmolive, Macy’s, NASCAR, OraSure Technologies Inc., Best Buy, Greentrack Inc., the IM Foundation, Con Edison, and Entergy."
That is the list of corporate sponsors of Al Sharpton's tax-exempt group, National Action Network, as compiled by Jillian Kay Melchior of the National Review. She wrote: "Despite questions of the Rev’s financial irregularities and allegations of shakedowns, they support him."
Shakedown is an interesting description of the relationship between Sharpton and his 29 corporate sponsors. It implies that he is an accomplished extortionist who can command powerful corporate CEOs to do his bidding against their will. The National Legal and Policy Center chairman Ken Boehm told the New York Post in January: “Sharpton has enriched himself and NAN for years by threatening companies with bad publicity if they don’t come to terms with him. Put simply, Sharpton specializes in shakedowns.”
However, one man's shakedown artist is another man's shill. The companies that Sharpton shook down are rather small. Why not Google? Why not Microsoft? Why not Apple? If I were trying to shake someone down, I wouldn't waste my time on Best Buy, which seems to be the next Radio Shack. No, I would go after Exxon. Why bother with minnows when there are so many fat whales just waiting to be harpooned.
Sharpton also rounded up the usual suspects, people who market the black consumer. I mean how much arm-twisting does one have to do to get Essence Communications on board? The National Review asked Nascar why it signed up, but did not ask the NBA. Ah, Nascar is for white people, the NBA is for black people. I get it. The Nascar statement was very telling: "NASCAR and its leaders participate in a wide variety of opportunities to engage both the professional sports industry and our fans on relevant topics important to the continued growth of our sport. With that said, our involvement at a specific event should not be taken as any tacit endorsement of any positions or views or beliefs presented their beyond those offered by our leaders, NASCAR participants."
It is marketing. Belittle Al Sharpton's ratings all you want, but he is the No. 1 black newsman in America. You want to expand your stock car racing into the African-American market, you hire Sharpton. Shakedown -- sellout -- the description does not matter. What does matter is these companies are buying what Sharpton is selling. In the case of Comcast and Time Warner Cable, they bought access to the White House to approve their merger, but that failed.
Gil Scott-Heron wrote in that 1970 song:
Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies and Hooterville JunctionHe was prophetic. Within a year, CBS dumped "Green Acres," "The Beverly Hillbillies" and "Petticoat Junction" in favor of more relevant shows by Norman Lear and the like. Within a few years, John Amos was playing a black Jed Clampett in a Chicago ghetto but without the money or a Mister Drysdale living next door. Jimmy Walker played Jethro. Dyn-oh-mite! CBS improved its ratings. The white people who had watched the Hooterville shows remained seated, while black people flocked to see the new shows. The Vast Wasteland was now the Vast Recycling Center.
Will no longer be so damned relevant
And women will not care if Dick finally gets down with Jane
On search for tomorrow because black people
Will be in the street looking for a brighter day
The revolution will not be televised
The corporate sponsors of NAN know what they are getting from Sharpton. He is a proven commodity in marketing to African-Americans. I am surprised that Walmart did not sign on. It has saturated the white market and it is time Walmart expanded into the African-American market. Sharpton did a terrific job in destroying Ferguson, which had been a safe haven for black people who sought to escape the crime and lunacy of St. Louis. In 10 years the government will buy the land and turn it over to some tax-exempt corporate entity to create jobs in the Michael Brown Memorial Industrial Park. Sharpton can be there at the ribbon cutting, and maybe take a cut of the action for himself.
The symbiotic relationship between Sharpton and his 29 corporate sponsors is not extortion; it is marketing.