The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Muhammad Ali:
A pitchman for everything he used to oppose

Jan 21, 2002

Muhammad Ali has agreed to be a pitchman for what the U.S. government claims is its war against terror, that is, the war that the U.S. is carrying out not only against the people in Afghanistan, but many other countries as well. Ali’s propaganda advertisement will be designed for broadcast in several translations throughout the Middle East, that is, among the very peoples that the U.S. has targeted for its war. It is being produced by Hollywood 9/11, a committee of Hollywood studio executives pulled together by Bush’s chief of staff, Karl Rove.

These supposedly “independent” and “patriotic” studio executives say that Ali will tell the world how well Muslims are treated in the United States – in other words, the U.S., which has carried out and supported wars all over the world, is a supposedly free, democratic and just society – and other hogwash.

Obviously, for the government and the studio executives, Ali is the perfect front man for the U.S. war. As opposed to most performers who slavishly do whatever the government and the companies tell them to, Ali earned respect for stands he took in the 1960s, when he denounced this racist society and the U.S. war in Viet Nam

Certainly there are black people, including Muslims, who today are completely accepted into the highest levels of this racist society. That is, a small privileged minority of black people benefitted from the gains won by the mass black movement of the 1950s and 60s.

But that changes nothing about the basic injustice of this society, nor the necessity for the masses of the working class and oppressed to change it.

Today, Ali seems ready to turn his back on what he once stood for – letting himself be used to support everything that, as a young man, he opposed. This contradiction couldn’t be more glaring, at the very moment that the movie Ali opens, showing that what he once spoke up for, he now renounces.

It’s sad.