Robert Parry, Oprah Winfrey and Advocacy Journalism

On the birthday of an influential journalist to me, Ms. Oprah Winfrey and one day after learning of the passing on Saturday of Robert Parry, founder of ConsortiumNews.com, I wanted to reflect on the difference between them.  I am finishing a manuscript on the difference between two types of journalists: advocacy journalists and industry journalists.

Advocacy journalists are advocates for the societies most affected by white supremacy and capitalism, which are Black and Brown communities.

Industry journalists represent the industry narrative which is the narrative of the wealthy that tend to ignore and downplay the ills of capitalism and racism.

I think Ms. Winfrey’s work as a television news journalist-turned-talk show mogul and philanthropist poses the most fundamental questions of individual responsibility, namely her 1997 production of Beloved, a film based on Toni Morrison’s  1988 novel based on Margaret Garner and her 2003 interview with Jacqui Saburido.

I appreciate the work Ms. Winfrey has brought to the world, however it still encourages the idea embodied in her quote to Fred Griffith: “If I could do it, you could do it.”  This is not true for those affected by the growing prison industrial complex.

Kitty Kelley’s 2010 book entitled “Oprah” suggests in my mind that ever since leaving Baltimore as a television news journalist, Ms. Winfrey’s primary focus has been her public image bolstered by her very popular syndicated daytime television talk show that ran from 1986 to 2011. This image endorses U.S. industry.

According to his son Sam Parry’s recent piece about his father, Robert Parry chose to cover stories that challenged the role of U.S. industry in bolstering repressive regimes in Iran and Nicaragua.   The Reagan administration was supporting anti-Sandinista rebels in a guerrilla war against the Nicaraguan government.  Fidel Castro and the revolutionary Cuban government provided material support for the Sandinistas.

I appreciated most Robert Parry’s July exposure of “Russiagate” as a pathetic attempt by the Democratic Party establishment and those supportive of it in U.S. intelligence to explain the party’s inability to win the 2016 presidential election.

Parry’s journalism reminds me of a bold, fearless advocacy journalist in Marcus Garvey who was an advocate for the Black community and sought to inspire Black people in the United States to become producers and not merely consumers.  Parry reminds me about another fearless advocacy journalist Pauline Hopkins who wrote in 1900 in her Colored American Magazine that the Haitian revolution is “a point of interest for all Negroes” across the world.  Obviously Parry assumed that the Reagan administration using taxpayer dollars to undermine the Sandinista revolution and the C.I.A. importation of crack cocaine into Los Angeles was “a point of interest” for all his readers.  The Cuban and Sandinista revolutions, Gary Webb’s reporting are all twenty first century “points of interest” for all Negroes in the Western hemisphere.  U.S. industry requires that those journalists support this remain silent on the implications of the Sandinista revolution for those most affected by the prison industrial complex in the U.S.

Ms. Winfrey’s silence on the U.S. government importing crack is frightening.

Ms. Winfrey’s overall message is individual responsibility.

Kelley wrote that Bill Cosby was very influential in Ms. Winfrey’s rise to stardom.  Ms. Winfrey’s response to the crack epidemic that Parry covered is similar to Bill Cosby’s response, written about most recently by Ta-Nehisi Coates  in his latest book We Were Eight Years in Power:  “Cosby disparaged the activists who charge the criminal-justice system with racism.”  Part of the reason according to Cosby for the prison industrial complex incarcerating more Black families is the absence of a solid family structure in many Black homes.  Ms. Winfrey promotes the same message. Coates writes that when people hear Cosby’s message many assume that he is the product of the sort of family he’s promoting–two caring parents, a stable home life, a working father.  In fact, like many of the men he admonishes, Cosby was born into a troubled home.  And according to Kelley’s biography of Ms. Winfrey, so was Ms. Winfrey.

However both promote individual responsibility and both, since they’ve become famous, are silent on how the U.S. government’s increasing investment in its military and prisons here and across the world.  Their lack of response  has made them more titans of industry than of those like Robert Parry who shed light on the dishonesty of our government and its current attempt to streamline the Left into demonizing Russia and not the Zionist-Nazi allegiance of the U.S .government.

As Paul Robeson said, Russia is not more our enemy than the Nazi supporting forces in this country. -RF.

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Author: Dr. Rhone Fraser

Dr. Rhone Fraser is an independent writer and journalist born of Jamaican immigrants in Brooklyn, New York, on October 12, 1979. He moved to Florida in 1989 and graduated from Zephyrhills (FL) High School in 1997. He graduated from Yale University in 2001, after which time he taught in the public school systems in New Haven (CT) and the Bronx for three years. He then began writing independently and finished a documentary play on the life of Fannie Lou Hamer entitled, "Living Sacrifice," for which he still seeks publication. He earned his Ph.D. in African American Studies from Temple as of August 31, 2012. His dissertation was a literary and historical analysis of Pauline Hopkins, A. Philip Randolph and Paul Robeson. He also is a freelance editor and radio producer, and is currently producer of WPEB's Freedom Readers on 88.1 FM in Philadelphia.