By: Mark Glennon*
UPDATE 10/18/20: According to the film’s producers, after Amazon refused to stream the film and saying it would hear no appeal, and after extensive public criticism, Amazon proceeded nevertheless to publish the film without the producer’s consent or knowledge. They have now sent a cease and desist letter to Amazon. The producers’ version of the sequence of events is described here.
It’s tempting to dismiss this as just another instance of media censoring views it doesn’t like, but it’s about far more. It’s about the entire “conversation” we supposedly are having on race in America, and why it’s no conversation at all.
The film isn’t another look at the facts surrounding the shooting of a black man, Michael Brown, by a white cop in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. That shooting sparked riots and gave life to the entire Black Lives Matter movement as well as the “hands up, don’t shoot” meme.
Instead, Steele uses the event as an example through which his broader views are presented, updated to address America’s meltdown on racial issues over the past year. The “poetic truth” that the establishment likes to push, as Steele put it, is that Brown was executed. He wasn’t executed, making the shooting a metaphor for many other faulty “poetic truths” Steele challenges.
Since Steele himself is black and gifted with unusual clarity in thought and words, the cancel culture’s reaction should be no surprise.
Amazon, where the plan was to stream the film, abruptly cancelled, sending only a smug email saying this:
Unfortunately, we have found that your film doesn’t meet Prime Video’s content quality expectations and is not eligible for publishing at this time. We will not be accepting resubmission of this title and this decision may not be appealed.
Consider the irony in that. Amazon got its start as a book seller. Having achieved near monopoly power, it’s now a book burner.
Amazon also reportedly has contributed millions to Black Lives Matter.
But credit Amazon for knowing what to squelch because the movie undoubtedly would succeed in opening many of the minds Amazon would like kept closed.
It traces Steele’s personal story. Born in Chicago, he grew up in south suburban Harvey. His parents met while working in the early civil rights movement. He worked initially in St. Louis as what he calls a “warrior hero” in President Johnson’s War on Poverty, much of which was misguided as he now sees things. Robert Woodson also appears in the film. Like Steele, he spent his younger years administering 1960s-style welfare programs and is now a leading critic thereof.
The culture fostered by those programs eventually migrated to suburbs like Ferguson, says Steele in the film, and it’s that culture that killed Michael Brown.
As for the facts surrounding the Brown shooting, the film lays out what many Americans probably still don’t know, which is those facts are not subject to dispute. The police officer acted in self-defense according to multiple eye witnesses. A grand jury therefore declined to indict the officer. The FBI, under Attorney General Eric Holder’s Justice Department, found no wrongdoing in the shooting.
But Holder proceeded nevertheless to inflate the controversy by accusing the city of other forms of racism, ultimately hurting the entire community. “Holder made Ferguson pay the price for a racist murder that was neither racist nor a murder,” says Steele.
The film, produced by Steele’s son, Eli, brings his father’s views to life. It includes segments with Chicago’s Corey Brooks, a pastor on the Southside along with a reformed drug dealer now helping Brooks.
“I wonder what would have happened if Michael Brown had the good fortune to meet Pastor Brooks,” says Steele in the film.
All Chicago should be wondering that.
All America should be wondering that.
They aren’t, thanks to a culture that cancels and punishes such thoughts. Amazon is hardly alone. A day hardly passes now without a story from a workplace or school were somebody is flogged for daring to voice a contradiction with the prevailing view that white supremacists lurk everywhere, racism is systemic and we’re all biased but too dumb to know it.
Ferguson provided Steele with an illustration of what he thinks is wrong about America’s approach to race; Amazon has now provided him with an illustration of how views like his get silenced.
Don’t let Amazon or anybody else deter you from seeing the film. Alternate ways to view it are provided here.
*Mark Glennon is founder of Wirepoints.