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“Common” controversy shows distraction politics is working

This week, the blogsphere and Twitterverse were abuzz over news that Michelle Obama had included  a “vile rapper” among a list of  poets and lyrical artists invited  to a May 11 celebration of poetry event at the White House.   So it appears that someone got a list of participants, quickly went on an Andrew Breitbart-like scavenger hunt because after all, rappers are misogynistic and hateful people, right?   After the search revealed that Common’s lyrics are hardly gangster like, and that he is more commonly known these days as an actor, spokesman, philanthropist and conscious lyricist than anything,  a semi-dated poem that included violent lyrics about police officers had to do.  It was news talk fodder for a few days.

And the rest is side-show history, as they say.  By now, the ruckus  may be dying down, but I can’t help but notice how quickly it was  gobbled up, repackaged and regurgitated to the masses.  It mildly satiated the appetite of those who are itching to get the Obamas out of the  White House.  Luckily for Sean Hannity, who first reported the story on his FOX news show,  it was effective in swaying the dialogue and distracting the public from more important issues.  It reached many, but mainly people who already have a distorted, stereotypical, uneven and limited understanding of or facts about  rap music (such as the fact that European and Christan rappers are among the growing subgenres  or rappers)   But it’s not like they would even ever care to know more because all they know is they don’t like it.  To some, rap and hip hop represent a culture of crime and is associated only with thuggish black people in the hood.

It was/is all about the fact that a rapper, ergo a really really really bad person, was let into the sacred White House.

This incident, said one commentator on a Washington Times article, is an example of how “they” (and I assume he is talking about Barack and Michelle  and not black people in general) do not respect the White House.

The beauty of a 24 hour news cycle  is that just as fast as Hannity could kick up a fuss about Common’s invitation, get Sarah Palin to comment on it and generate static, Comedy Central funnyman Jon Stewart could put together a piece poking fun at the hypocrisy of it all that night on his show. (Click here for a video link)

The gem in the Stewart piece is the part where he pointed out that  George Bush had invited  to the White House, celebrated and  applauded veteran song-man Johnny Cash, who in his past penned these lyrics once upon a time:

But I shot a man in Reno,
Just to watch him die,
When I hear that whistle blowin’,
I hang my head and cry.

I would imagine if we dug deep into the closets or writing records of a substantial number of past White House guests, you’d find something that should be tucked back into said closet.

At this time, it may be appropriate to take cues from current Republican  Presidential nominee candidate Newt Gingrich who wants us to always consider the sum of a person’s past and life before judging their worth and value.   He  has asked some in the country to suspend their disappointment over his personal life with various wives and to consider how awesome he would be as a President.  The guy is smart, charismatic, maybe a game changer? Who knows.   Likewise,  if I ever were to seek a high office or get to an esteemed invitation, I certainly wouldn’t want some of the silly and goofy stuff I wrote about in my college newspaper to haunt me.  We can’t all live our lives perfectly and without error, like Mr. John Roberts and Ms. Elena Kagan, cautiously waiting for a US Supreme Court confirmation hearing.

But despite all of that, I also feel to note that several US Presidents and even a US Supreme Court Justice member had been a member of the hate group, the Ku Klux Klan.  Yes, that was a different time and era, but the point is still valid that every person who enters the White House, whether as the supreme commander or a visitor is not perfect.

In short, all of this hub bub was just another distraction strategy. I am still anxiously waiting for my GOP friends in Congress to produce a direct comprehensive strategy and plan to get more Americans working again.  These indirect plans, via cutting taxes of the super rich that haven’t been affected by the recession;  fighting for oil subsidies to remain; and killing the Healthcare Reform act (read “Obamacare” ) through razor cut slices and dices in its funding are not part of a credible job plan.

I am not sure if many are buying what’s being sold to them, but I do know, as Republican strategist Karl Rove knows well, Americans are easily distracted by things like a rapper at the White House.


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Jeneba “JJ Ghatt”,is editor at, an online hub where she helps social media butterfly who empowers digital entrepreneurs and professionals to create great things online at her online learning platform Digital Publishing Academy.  She is an editor of tech blog and founded the annual 200 Black Women to Follow On Twitter List. Read her bio, then get all of her online & digital biz startup advice and tools in one spot here!

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