FIRST TIME FARCE: When Al Sharpton took to the streets of Manhattan this past weekend to protest the recording industry's exploitation of black musicians, it surprised no one. After all, Sharpton has by now conclusively established himself as America's foremost champion of the invented racial grievance. But Sharpton's partner in protest was a bit surprising: Michael Jackson, who, in a remarkable rebranding effort, now apparently wants to be known as a race man. Even more surprising, the Gloved One actually put the Rotund One to shame in the demagoguery department. While Sharpton kept his criticism of record executives vague and relatively gentle--"The record industry at the top needs to become more inclusive," he said--Jackson was specific and vicious. Jackson singled out Tommy Mottola, who runs Sony Music (Jackson's record company), for attack. Mottola, Jackson said, is "mean, he's a racist, and he's very, very, very devilish." Just in case people didn't get the point, Jackson held up a poster of Mottola sporting horns and a pitchfork. Of course, Jackson's anger at Mottola probably has less to do with race--even Sharpton later conceded that Mottola has "always been supportive of the black music industry"--and more to do with the fact that Sony, having spent $50 million to make and market Jackson's dud album Invincible, now refuses to spend more. But Jackson, perhaps taking a clue from Sharpton, is happy to blame all his problems--and not just his slumping record sales--on racism. "I broke Elvis Presley's record, I broke The Beatles' record--once I started doing that, overnight, they called me a freak, a homosexual, a child molester," Jackson complained. "They did everything they could to turn the public against me. It's a conspiracy." Looks like they've had more than a little help.
SECOND TIME TRAGEDY: Not to be outdone in the noxious-bedfellows department, Louis Farrakhan this weekend traveled to Iraq to voice his support for Saddam Hussein. Meeting with Iraq's Islamic Affairs Minister, Abdul Munem Saleh, Farrakhan, according to the official Iraqi News Agency, declared, "[T]he Muslim American people are praying to the almighty God to grant victory to Iraq." Before going to Iraq, Farrakhan visited Lebanon, where he met with president Emile Lahoud. According to Lahoud's office, Farrakhan told the president that he intended to "create a political group, gathering Christians and Muslims from different denominations and ethnic groups, to ... influence the U.S. administration on the problems posed, notably in the Middle East and Muslim countries, by the Zionist lobby." Farrakhan did not say whether the Zionist lobby was part of the conspiracy against Michael Jackson.