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Kiddie Pool Antics: The Anti-ADOS Campaign and the “N’COBRA Memo”

I’ve been really trying now, for what seems like the last hour, to affect a kind of Greenwald-esque manner in dispassionately reporting on an apparently confidential 10-page document concerning the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N’COBRA) and the coordinated efforts of its leadership to discredit, disparage and delegitimize those at the fore of the American Descendants of Slavery (ADOS) movement by alleging that they are in league with conservative ideologues to manipulate the black vote in advance of the 2020 election.

Maybe I have Mueller fatigue. Isn’t there nowadays—having just come off a nearly 3-year bender of constant, sensationalized reporting on an investigation that, in the end, effectively placed a raw, open-eyed fish on the plates of the chanting, salivating masses—a kind of ambient, almost post-febrile weariness of disclosure? And I honestly think I’m just having difficulty summoning the kind of quasi-sincere, sober impartiality that would be required to make the contents of the reported N’COBRA memo seem even remotely consequential.

I don’t even know if the memo is real. It was submitted via email from a source who claims to have been provided the material by an individual in N’COBRA who is uncomfortable with the tack the organization is assuming with regard to its position on ADOS. Subsequent requests for comment on its veracity and the nature of the allegations therein have gone completely ignored by N’COBRA personnel. But insofar as the memo attempts to implicate ADOS co-founder Yvette Carnell in a nexus of xenophobic white nationalists, well, it certainly conforms to longstanding efforts by known associates of N’COBRA to ‘expose’ her and Antonio Moore’s political project as being some manipulative operation of right-wing forces. And so I guess I wouldn’t be surprised if it does in fact turn out to be authentic. But that particular accusation is one that has been levied at Carnell now for—literally—years, and if the document’s creators understand her affiliation with Progressives for Immigration Reform (PFIR) as a discovery that leaves no doubt of there being some unsavory figures furtively at the helm of the ADOS movement, she has already publicly addressed these allegations head-on on both her YouTube live show and, more recently, has taken to her Twitter page to explicitly refute the charges that PFIR is somehow financially involved.

Perhaps the most unexpected (and execrable) aspect of the document is the lengths to which it goes in order to try and impugn the character of Duke professor and leading wealth economist Sandy Darity and inculpate him in the movement’s ostensibly nefarious aims and pro-Republican leanings. The accusations, however, are so thin and tenuous (at one point submitting as evidence for Dr. Darity’s involvement in the far-right machinations of ADOS his “publicly advocating for the group”) that—if what they are attempting to do wasn’t so totally repugnant—they would be basically laughable. Moreover, if simply expressing support for the political project of Yvette Carnell and Antonio Moore is the criteria the makers of the document use to identify a person as a puppet of conservatism, then the recent pro-ADOS comments made by Dr. Cornel West—someone who is not exactly widely regarded in U.S. politics as having reactionary and retrogradist attitudes—would no doubt prompt these people to designate him as a divisive agent of white supremacy as well.

And I think this is the upshot. The overall content of the memo is more eye-rolling rather than eye-opening. I don’t know. Maybe there’s something more there; someone who maybe gives more of a shit about what certain detractors of the movement have to say can feel free to do a real close read of the thing and dig and speculate on the speculation and maybe produce something more revelatory and consequential vis a vis the future of ADOS. Be my guest. The document, in its entirety and reaction, is available below. I really don’t mean to be dismissive, or like cavalier, but it should be evident by now that there are just an astounding number of increasingly lower-tier figures and nominally socially ‘woke’ political neophytes whose voices are somehow being elevated in a conversation that is so observably removed from their level of understanding and ability to engage with meaningfully. Dreck like this document—authentic or not—becomes more baseless ammo for them to affect some kind of virtue and authority online and castigate and smear the people who are actually doing the work in trying to move the ball downfield for securing justice for their group. And to the extent that this is in fact an N’COBRA hatchet job on ADOS, one just sort of gets the sense that it’s essentially a petulant, sulky response to the ADOS movement having effectively picked up the issue of reparations off the shelf, blown off the thick layer of dust that has been allowed to accrete on it over the years, and told the old guard “Thank you, we’ll take it from here.”

The fact is that these individuals and groups will continue to scream and howl louder and louder from the yawning void of irrelevance into which their basic inaction and ineffectiveness over the years has consigned them. And there’s going to be a real stomach required to tolerate the attacks on ADOS and move forward as the group—in direct proportion to the former gatekeepers’ increasing condition of inconsequentiality—becomes ascendant in the national discourse on reparations. This stuff, this document and the accusations, is comparatively tee ball for what’s presumably coming down the pike. It is finger-flicking water at each other in the political kiddie pool. And it seems, looking ahead, like there are basically two options: either get out and towel off, or get ready to wade out into the deep end together.


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  1. Pingback: Loud and Wrong: Some Rebuttals to the Latest ADOS Smear | Paul Sowers

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