The one-time hot property Melissa Harris-Perry is now absent from the MSNBC network roster of talking heads. All seemed to be well until the Harris-Perry show was pre-empted in recent weeks by election coverage. When Harris-Perry received no response to her questions from the higher ups at MSNBC she reacted angrily, which was understandable but unwise if she wanted a better exit strategy. In response to the pre-emptions and the lack of communication, Harris-Perry fired off a letter to her staff which of course made its way to the New York Times.
Black people like Melissa Harris-Perry are always problematic for the rest of us. It seems natural to come to her defense as we remember our own experiences with work place humiliation and insult. On the other hand, Harris-Perry is not in the same class as the great unwashed masses. She was not only well compensated for her work, but used it to silence black people if doing so suited the purposes of the system in general or the Obama White House in particular.
Harris-Perry was happy to carry water for Barack Obama and that is hardly surprising. She and Joy Reid and Al Sharpton and Toure and Michael Eric Dyson all benefited from his very presence in the White House. The corporate media needed black faces on screen and Harris-Perry was among those tapped for the honor. She was already well placed at The Nation magazine and as such was a headliner on the black spokesperson A-list.
But Obama will be out of office in less than one year and there is no longer any need for her services. MSNBC is also in the midst of a reorganization. Its ratings are well below those of Fox news and CNN, so who needs the face of black liberals when there are white viewers to be had. If a Republican wins the presidential election there may not be any liberal talking heads at all.
Like Obama, Harris-Perry marketed herself as a progressive but spoke against the interests of black people in order to keep the rulers from feeling uncomfortable. While doing a story on the closing of public schools in major cities like New York, Chicago and Philadelphia she and her guests debated the role of race in this policy. They did so without ever mentioning the elephant in the room. The very goal of the Obama administration Race to the Top initiative demanded that public schools be closed and replaced by charters. The woman who now says that she isn’t a “token” was very happy to be one if doing so would relieve the president of any blame.
Harris-Perry and her MSNBC colleagues are all shameless cheerleaders for Obama. The worst performance on her part was the attempt to silence Edward Snowden, Wikileaks, and the First Amendment in one fell swoop. Snowden was stranded in a Moscow airport while fleeing the long arm of Obama’s revived Espionage Act and awaiting a Russian government decision on his asylum application. While the Obama administration intimidated nations into denying Snowden his right to asylum Harris-Perry made snide remarks urging him to come home.
She and her colleague Joy Reid were particularly disgraceful in trying to double team a Wikileaks spokesman. They took turns trying to badger him and defame his organization and Snowden. Despite the fact that whistle blowers face more persecution and prosecution under Obama than any other president in recent history, Harris-Perry insisted that Snowden should turn himself in and face a long prison sentence. The two women didn’t even pretend to be journalists when Obama faced a serious threat to his legitimacy as a progressive.
Snowden was not Harris-Perry’s first victim in the Obama protection racket. When Cornel West began to speak out against Obama MHP rushed to the president’s defense faster than any Secret Service agent. She diminished West with words like these. “In a self-aggrandizing, victimology sermon deceptively wrapped in the discourse of prophetic witness, Professor West offers thin criticism of President Obama and stunning insight into the delicate ego of the self-appointed black leadership class that has been largely supplanted in recent years.”
West later fired back at Perry and the whole MSNBC crew. “Everything is up for sale. And he [Michael Eric Dyson] and Brother Sharpton and Sister Melissa and others, they have sold their souls for a mess of Obama pottage. And we invite them back to the black prophetic tradition after Obama leaves. But at the moment, they want insider access, and they want to tell those kind of lies. They want to turn their back to poor and working people. And it’s a sad thing to see them as apologists for the Obama administration in that way, given the kind of critical background that all of them have had at some point.”
Harris-Perry’s role in infamy should not be forgotten now that she has the pink slip of unemployment. West is gracious in wanting to bring her back into the fold, but that nobility need not apply to anyone else.
If you live by the sword you die by it too. Harris-Perry was naïve when she wrote that she wanted her show back. It was never hers to begin with. It always belonged to MSNBC and just as they found her convenient at one juncture she became inconvenient at another.
Harris-Perry and Toure are gone. Al Sharpton and Joy Reid are only on air on the weekend. The corporate media giveth and also taketh away. Harris-Perry realized that once her missive became public. She back tracked like Michael Jackson doing a moon walk dance step. “I don’t think anyone is doing something mean to me because I’m a black person.”
That doesn’t sound like the same woman who said she was not a “token, mammy or little brown bobble head.” No matter. She has now lost one of her gigs and hopefully she and others have learned a hard lesson. In the meantime, there is only one thing to say.