Harry Belafonte has always been good with a siren's song. And now he has upped the ante on political commentary. Belafonte called the Koch brothers the KKK.
In the theater of politics, the only thing more devastating, more intentionally aimed at amplifying the debate like napalm on a jungle or a Howitzer across a frozen trench of Allies, is to call your enemy "Hitler Nazi." Hyperbole is the mother of all repertorial devices, but in this case, how far off is Belafonte?
In his native New York, in anticipation of New York's mayoral election that will put left-of-Bernie-Sanders Bill De Blasio in office, Belafonte told congregants at the First Corinthian Baptist Church: “Already we have lost 14 states in this union to the most corrupt group of citizens I’ve ever known. They make up the heart and the thinking in the minds of those who would belong to the Ku Klux Klan. They are white supremacists. They are men of evil. They have names. They are flooding our country with money.''
Also: “They’ve come into to New York City. They are beginning to buy their way in to city politics. They are pouring money into Presbyterian Hospital to take over the medical care system. The Koch brothers, that’s their name. Their money is already sewn into the fabric of our daily system, and they must be stopped.”
As if De Blasio, cruising for landslide victory, needed to rally any more support. But who can blame Belafonte for seizing the New York mayoral race in context of the larger battle currently pushing our country to a funky little precipice of anxious self-annihilation?
The Koch brothers, fresh off their capitalist retreat from the Ted-Cruz-Government-Shutdown Offensive that they hilariously claim they did not inspire or fund, clearly understand that the ground war against them has escalated. They quickly condemned Belafonte, because, we suppose, an old Civil Rights activist alarmed at the perversion of the electoral process and overly-influential role of billionaires is worse than billionaires seeding "grassroots" campaigns aimed at taking over state and local governments for the sheer purpose of allowing said capitalists unfettered access to our savings, homes, tuition rates and reproductive organs.
When it comes to"constructive" criticism and lawful dissent of our nation's myriad policy contradictions (exporting democracy via shock, awe & drones etc.) no one has amassed quite the record of Harold George Belafonte. Who doesn't admire an activist who speaks truth to power?
Well, there have been those dangerous liaisons Belafonte passionately sought with the likes of Hugo Chavez, making Belafonte the Dennis Rodman of U.S.-Venezuela relations long before the tall, tattooed diplomat from Las Vegas ever set foot in Pyongang. Still, this Belafonte was mentored by Paul Robeson; he was a confidante of Martin Luther King; he was among the first to call out Gen. Colin Powell for the Secretary of State's role in selling the weapons of mass destruction lie that sent Americans barreling across the Iraqi desert, blowing up oil fields and limbs of the murdered/maimed innocent. Belafonte has staked his claim as the truth-speaking outlier, the Eric Snowden-esque keeper of Democracy without the stolen microchips and damaging data dumps.
In a country teetering on its roiling, contradictory freedoms, maybe it takes the winnowing up of messages to their most succinct, visual, visceral, essential elements, no matter how hyperbolic, how festooned in cartoonish, confusing and scary drama. Daylight's come and we want to go home, y'all.
Is a former political and sports columnist who worked great cities like Albany NY, Seattle, Baltimore and Harrisburg PA. She lives New York.