Hip-Hop Fridays: Rap COINTELPRO Part III
In the last of our three-part series on COINTELPRO and its possible application to the Hip-Hop Industry and Community we take a look at some of the work that the U.S. intelligence community has performed via media outlets. The purpose in doing so is to establish that in fact, there exists documented evidence that the U.S. government has used T.V. Stations, radio stations, newspapers and their editors and journalists to spread misinformation, lies and half-truths designed to destabilize Black and progressive organizations. Furthermore, said reporters and editors have been used to actually spy on such organizations as well as on liberation movements in foreign lands - all on behalf of the U.S. government. The New York Times revealed some of this in 1977 - showing that Reuters, CBS and several newspapers had been used by intelligence agencies. The most instructive example, relevant to the education of the Hip-Hop community, that I have been able to locate in regards to finding an example of how media outlets were used to destabilize Black groups and organizations, is the work the FBI accomplished through media outlets in the 50s, 60s and 70s against the Nation of Islam. This example should be combined with a thorough knowledge of what the FBI did to oppose the Five Percent Nation of Islam, particularly from 1965-1967. Why? Because these groups (NOI and Five Percenters) are still around today and arguably have had more impact on the evolution of Hip-Hop than any other force - spiritual, political, economic or cultural. That point is almost beyond debate, just weigh the impact that the NOI and Five-Percent teachings have had on Rakim, Public Enemy, Ice Cube, Wu-Tang Clan and Lauryn Hill. And then look at the impact these individuals and groups have had on Hip-Hop, America and youth culture in general.
In a book entitled This Is The One, written by Nation of Islam Minister Jabril Muhammad (he was known as Minister Bernard Cushmeer when he wrote This Is The One) the question of the coordination of media outlets in a propaganda war against the Nation of Islam was raised. Keep in mind that Minister Muhammad began writing this book in the late 60s when COINTELPRO was not known to be in existence by the general public. This kind of reminds me of the situation that we find ourselves in today, where, for the most part members of the Black and Hip-Hop Community don't have public knowledge of any intelligence campaign being waged against them by the FBI, CIA or NSA. Here is the actual quote of what Minister Muhammad wrote in his book which he began in 1968:
Back In 1959, the white press, as if on signal, launched a furious attack on Messenger Muhammad and The Nation Of Islam, following the dishonest portrayal of us entitled: "The Hate That Hate Produced." Through such publications as Time, U.S. News and World Report, Newsweek, The Reporter, Esquire, Confidential, True, Saga, and a host of other magazines and newspapers; white America spewed forth a flood of articles, both superficial, spurious and poisonous in nature. A few among them did a creditable job, as far as they went. But the bulk of what was written was insidious and rotten to the core. But it did not hurt us.
There is plenty of evidence to show that much of the material was deliberately misleading. There are instances when reporters found interpolations in the text of their stories that were altered, here and there, by their "bosses" so as to misrepresent their findings of the Messenger and his followers.
The white people - newscasters, commentators, etc.,--have lied in concert. The television newsmen were not, and are not, above editing their films in such manner as to actually tell lies to their viewers. They conspired to deceive the public regarding Messenger Muhammad. This can be proven with ease. Members of a large orchestra do not accidentally play the same tune.
Was Minister Muhammad right? According to a White Swedish Scholar, Mattias Gardell, he was absolutely correct. In Mr. Gardell's book, In The Name of Elijah Muhammad: Louis Farrakhan And The Nation Of Islam, published in 1996 (28 years after Minister Muhammad began his book) Gardell verifies the truth of what Minister Muhammad wrote. Gardell writes:
In 1959, the FBI launched a large-scale media campaign. In this first phase, the FBI briefed selected journalists who wittingly channeled the view of the bureau to the American public. The special agent in charge (SAC) in Chicago, wrote: "Originally the program was centered around espousing to the public, both white and black, on a nationwide basis the abhorrent aspects of the organization and its racist, hatetype teachings. This was done in such leading magazines as Time, U.S. News and World Report, Saturday Evening Post etc., as well as through newspapers." The sudden outburst of media interest is commented on by NOI apologist Jabril Muhammad (then Bernard Cushmeer). His view might have seemed overly paranoid to some readers, but Cushmeer was correct: "Back in 1959, the white press, as if on signal, launched a furious attack on Messenger Muhammad and the Nation of Islam…white America spewed forth a flood of articles, both superficial, spurious and poisonous [sic] in nature…They conspired to deceive the public...Members of a large orchestra do not accidentally play the same tune."
In the notes in his book, Gardell makes reference to the actual FBI files that he saw, on which he bases his statements.
For context, for those so inclined, get the Church Committee Report, go into the Congressional Record and look into the Second Session of the 94th Congress and get Senate Report Number 755. You will find, very clearly, the various lies, tricks and evil which the U.S. government directed at certain groups in order to destabilize and destroy them. All of which are maneuvers used in modern warfare.
Go to the FBI's own online website and read the files that they have released pertaining to COINTELPRO and how they had virtually every organization that even thought of doing any good under surveillance. The address is http://foia.fbi.gov/room.htm
Again don't forget to play close attention to the Five Percenter file which is available in two parts. And lastly, apply what you see to what happened to the Hip-Hop community, particularly what happened to the industry after the golden era of Hip-Hop consciousness, which in my opinion, ran from 1988-1992. Was it an accident that the industry moved so dramatically away from this era? Was and is there any interaction between intelligence officials and music industry executives like there is between the CIA and executives in other industries (I hope most of you are aware of this and are familiar with industrial espionage and how the government relies upon business executives to supply info on other countries, governments and citizens that it does business with in foreign lands - to the skeptics, if you don't know anything about this please do some research of your own or reserve judgment until I write about this in a future A Deeper Look)?
What about the dramatic impact that marijuana and now ecstasy is having on the Hip-Hop community? To what degree has the FBI, Justice Department and DEA coordinated its crime fighting and war on drugs and "gangs" with those who work in the music industry? We already know that the U.S. Drug Czar Gen. Barry McCaffrey, works with news outlets and editors and "rewards" them for content that is viewed as helpful in the "war on drugs". If you are unfamiliar with this please visit Salon Magazine's expose on this at
Propaganda for dollars
And never forget how the war on drugs has hurt and not helped Blacks and Black Youth in particular. This month a slew of studies came out about this.
And remember, Gen. McCaffrey's position was made a cabinet-level position by President Clinton. He is officially part of the executive branch of the United States government.
Finally play particular attention to how the East Coast-West Coast feud was played up in the media and how freely the FBI and police departments gave info to journalists covering the supposed "feud" and the murders of Tupac and Biggie. Get your hands on old newspaper articles that came out in major cities the week after Biggie's murder, in particular. And of course please re-read my series in its entirety, whenever your schedule permits, things that were a bit foggy when I first began this series may now be more clear, hopefully.
May we learn the lessons of history and not have to wait 28 years before we figure out what has been going on today. If I seem paranoid to some of viewers, then I consider myself to be in good company (smile).
Thanks for staying with me during this series.
Friday, June 30, 2000