Melissa Harris-Perry, MSNBC, and the meaning of ‘politics’

Melissa Harris-Perry left MSNBC in a righteous huff after the network decision-makers, on two successive week-ends, “pre-empted” her show with news about the 2016 presidential primaries. Also, they excluded Harris-Perry (and Joy Reid) from an on-air discussion of black voters in South Carolina conducted by three white pundits

MSNBC sent their highest-ranking black woman, Senior Vice-President Yvette Miley, to do damage control. Miley is very adroit and very loyal to the company, and the New York Times quoted her extensively on March 2:

Yvette Miley, a senior vice president for MSNBC, said that the network would ‘continue to find distinct and diverse voices.’

“‘If they’re judging us through the lens of the departure of Melissa Harris-Perry, we know we have the perception versus reality to manage,” she said. “But we’re going to meet the challenge to still provide meaningful programming that touches people.”

… Ms. Miley confirmed that she sent email to producers that day [when MHP and Joy Reid offered to take part in the South Carolina discussion] but said the fact that Ms. Harris-Perry did not go on the air was nothing more than the “ebbs and flows” of cable news.

“I don’t think it was a purposeful intention to silence or not include her in the conversation,” she said…

As for MSNBC, Ms. Miley said, “We will spend nights thinking about what we could have done differently. But pursuing politics in this matter, and at this time, was the right call.”

Note that Ms. Miley uses ‘politics’ as a synonym for ‘electoral politics.’ This substitution is exactly what the honchos at MSNBC and the entire corporate media —right, center and ‘left— want to achieve.  They want to pre-empt the very definition of politics, and channel it into a format they can control and profit from. When the execs dub MSNBC “the place for politics,” they’re imposing a narrow, misleading definition on people’s minds.

When Tom Paine wrote “Common Sense,” wasn’t he engaged in politics? When Harry Bridges and the longshoremen MHPorganized a general strike, wasn’t that political? When Dennis Peron started a Cannabis Buyers Club in San Francisco wasn’t he engaged in politics? When Melissa Harris-Perry discusses crimes against young black men committed by the police, isn’t she engaged in politics?

The broader your definition of politics, the more people will consider themselves political. O’Shaughnessy’s stylebook says: politics is the study of who has power in any given setting —the office, the family, the county medical society, the city council, the marijuana ‘legalization’ movement, whatever— and how that power is upheld and how it is exercised and whose interests are served in the process.

Obviously, electoral politics is important; but it’s not the be-all and the end-all.