The Jackson Family versus Martin Luther King and the Cast of Hamilton

English: Dr. Martin Luther King giving his &qu...
Dr. Martin Luther King giving his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington in Washington, D.C., on 28 August 1963. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Actors, in a word, act. They don’t play themselves. They portray other people.

Bryan Cranston is not really a dentist (Seinfeld) or a chemist who makes methamphetamine (Breaking Bad). Christina Hendricks is not  really a con artist in space (Firefly) or the office manager of an advertising firm in the 1960s (Mad Men). They’re actors. They act.

Joseph Fiennes acts, too. He’s not really Michael Jackson. He’s just an actor who plays Michael Jackson in an episode of  the British comedy show Urban Myths. That episode was pulled from play by Sky TV after much-publicized outrage (from, among others, the late pop star’s family) over a white actor playing a black character.

The cast of the Broadway musical Hamilton aren’t really heroes of the American Revolution and founders of the United States. They’re just a bunch of black actors playing a bunch of white characters. They’ve enjoyed popular success and critical acclaim for doing so.

One of these things is not like the others.

One of these things is not like the dream of the man whose namesake holiday Americans celebrate on the third Monday of each January.

That dream:  “[T]hat my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

No one doubts that Fiennes is a master of his craft. He’s performed as a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company. He’s won the  Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. IMdb credits him with 37 film and television roles and single turns as director and producer. He’s appeared on screens big and small as a Soviet commissar, a Catholic clergyman, Merlin, and of course as Shakespeare himself.

But for some reason casting him as an African-American musician is beyond the pale.

Michael Jackson’s daughter tweets that she’s “incredibly offended” and that it makes her “want to vomit.”

Jackson’s nephew refers to the casting decision as “blatant disrespect.”

Fiennes isn’t being judged on his acting skills, on whether or not he captures the essence of Michael Jackson’s personality and successfully conveys that essence to viewers. He’s  being judged on the color of his skin, and the show’s creators are being judged on their decision to ignore his skin color.

Racism, by any other name (to butcher Juliet’s line), is just as repugnant.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Bitcoin Isn’t The Corpse. It’s The Undertaker.

The bitcoin logo
The bitcoin logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Every time the market value of Bitcoin drops as measured by its exchange value against government fiat currencies, the same people who declared it dead last time, and the time before that, come out of the woodwork to declare it dead again.

The world’s most popular cryptocurrency, which just celebrated its eighth birthday, once again finds itself surrounded by priests offering it last rites and callers asking the Make-a-Wish Foundation to offer it a trip to Disney.  Its price took a precipitous 10% fall after the Chinese central bank announced “inspections” of the country’s “Bitcoin-related businesses.”

As usual, Bitcoin naysayers are missing the forest for the trees. Why is the Chinese regime attacking Bitcoin? Because they’re afraid of it. And they should be. Chinese investors are moving capital out of the country’s fiat currency, the renminbi/yuan, and out of sight of — which means beyond the control of — the People’s Bank of China.

Governments aren’t going after Bitcoin because it’s bad. They’re going after it because it’s good. It threatens their monopoly on money, not to mention their ability to tax.

Yes, Bitcoin prices remain volatile. That’s unsurprising. As I write this, all the Bitcoin in the world, if sold at once at the current price, would bring in about $12.5 billion. That may sound like a lot, but it really isn’t.

One single corporation, Apple, is about 50 times the size of the Bitcoin marketplace, with a current market capitalization of $633 billion. When Apple’s market cap fell, quickly and by more than 10%, at the end of 2015 and again last April, I don’t remember anyone declaring Apple dead.

When the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell by nearly 30% in October and November of 2008 people were certainly worried, but not many considered it a sign that America’s economy was on its deathbed.

As with the Dow and as with Apple, a few big players can certainly rock the Bitcoin boat. But rocking that boat and sinking it aren’t the same thing.

One way in which Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies can reduce their own volatility while increasing their exchange value is by reducing the ability of nation-states to be among those big boat-rocking players.

Over the last few years there’s been ongoing and often fiery debate among cryptocurrency creators, users and advocates as to whether or not they should willingly subject themselves to government regulation and oversight.

As entities like the US Internal Revenue Service and the People’s Bank of China take increased interest in Bitcoin, those debates will presumably settle on the correct answer and the technology will follow suit.

That correct answer, in case you hadn’t guessed, is “no.” The more quickly and completely we separate money and state, the better off humanity will be.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.


Who’s More Anti-American, Russia Today or the US Director of National Intelligence?

English: Visiting the Russia Today television ...
English: Visiting the Russia Today television channel’s offices. With Editor-in-Chief of Russia Today Margarita Simonyan. Русский: Посещение телекомплекса «Russia Today». С главным редактором телеканала «Russia Today» Маргаритой Симоньян. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Someone should take US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper aside for a talk. He desperately needs to be told that when you’re deep in a hole, the first step toward getting out is to stop digging.

Clapper’s been in such a hole since 2013, when he got caught lying to Congress about the National Security Agency’s surveillance of and data collection on Americans. Oops.

On January 6, he fired up a backhoe and dug himself six feet deeper when his office issue a report on alleged Russian hacking in relation to the 2016 US presidential election.

Like previous such reports, this one — “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections” — offers no actual evidence of Russian state cyber warfare on America’s election systems or political parties. If any such evidence exists, it remains a state secret. Most of us have hopefully learned by now that when the US intelligence community says “trust us,” that’s the very last thing we should do.

In lieu of the missing evidence, the report offers definitions of foreign propaganda that should chill any any freedom-loving American to the bone.

The ODNI report takes on Russian state media — specifically, Russia Today, the Putin regime’s global television equivalent of US propaganda outlets like Radio Free Europe and Radio y Television Marti.

A few excerpts from the report’s criticisms of RT:

“RT ran numerous reports on alleged US election fraud and voting machine vulnerabilities, contending that US election results cannot be trusted and do not reflect the popular will.”

Oddly, this seems to be precisely what American mainstream media have been telling us for the last two months … and blaming the Russians for!

“In an effort to highlight the alleged ‘lack of democracy’ in the United States, RT broadcast, hosted, and advertised third party
candidate debates and ran reporting supportive of the political agenda of these candidates. The RT hosts asserted that the US two-party system does not represent the views of at least one-third of the population and is a ‘sham.'”

So Russia Today does what American media mostly refuse to do: It allows third party candidates to be part of the public discussion. And this is a bad thing exactly how?

“RT’s reports often characterize the United States as a ‘surveillance state’ and allege widespread infringements of civil liberties, police brutality, and drone use …”

Does anyone seriously doubt that characterization or those allegations?

Most Americans are presumably politically savvy enough to understand that media financed and/or operated by governments will support those governments’ agendas. Of course we should be skeptical of Russia Today … and of National Public Radio. But not as skeptical of either as we should be of the Office of the  Director of National Intelligence.

Thomas L. Knapp (Twitter: @thomaslknapp) is director and senior news analyst at the William Lloyd Garrison Center for Libertarian Advocacy Journalism ( He lives and works in north central Florida.