Antagonists & Adversaries, The Russia Narrative

The Jester as Oracle: Lawrence Ross, #ADOS, and the Sad Spectacle of Making Continuously Wrong Predictions

Lawrence Ross was in The Root yesterday offering his readers a peek into what he believes will eventuate within the political and cultural landscape of America in 2020. Topping Ross’s list is the thoroughly unoriginal and demonstrably absurd idea that “Russia will amplify #ADOS”, and that—subsequently—the movement will “implode.”

I hadn’t realized that, when it comes to prediction making, Ross in fact has something of a history of publicly inflicting a great deal of abuse upon himself. So it seems, in light of these new projections of his, that it might be worthwhile to look back on some of his past efforts at prognostication and see how they’ve aged (spoiler alert: not well!).

Here’s Ross in early 2017, hunched over his crystal ball…

1. Donald Trump will create his own version of ‘African America,’ and his administration will promote them to death in ’17. Donald Trump and his white supremacist administration don’t mind working with black people, as long as those black people mimic their priorities. Black collaborators like Kanye, Omarosa, Dr. Ben Carson, et cetera, will be promoted as authentic voices within our community. And don’t be surprised if Trump uses black platforms like World Star to promote policies that hurt the black community. We must fight back against this by not being distracted by the subterfuge, and instead work to strengthen our communities against those skin folk who ain’t kinfolk.

Literally all that this ‘prediction’ claims to foretell is that a conservative administration will promote black conservative voices to help advance a conservative agenda. That’s it. Which is essentially the equivalent of making a ‘prediction’ about the outcome of a basketball game and saying, “I predict that the members of one team will pass the ball to their teammates in an effort to score points.”

Masquerading as apparent political insight, Ross’s ‘prediction’ unquestionably ranks as one of the most dim-witted statements in the history of political analysis. As far as the World Star thing goes, I sort of don’t even know where to begin. To my knowledge, the site hadn’t—back in 2017—exactly rushed to start churning out op-Eds in an effort to garner support for the Trump administration’s nakedly regressive tax policy, or his DOJ’s obvious suppression of civil rights, but I could be wrong. Content-wise, though, it looks like the most popular thing on the site that year was a clip from an episode of The Steve Wilkos Show called “I’m in High School and Need a DNA Test.”

2. One city will burn due to a police shooting. For the past five years, black folks have dealt with a constant assault of police violence, and the Trump administration intends on giving more power to the police. We’ve been told to “not jump to conclusions” but the formula of injustice has been the same with each case: Outrage. An appeal for calm. The justice system lets us down. And then the police declare that they’re the real victims. If Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was correct in that violence is the language of the unheard, then at least one city will hear the pain of black people in ’17. This is not a desire or a wish, but a rational prediction of what happens when the voices of black people are unheard and unvalued.

To predict that an urban area in America will respond with civil unrest over a police shooting is to predict that prepared TNT will explode when the detonator button is pressed. Again, what Ross was doing here is less an exercise in studied conjecture than simply stating the totally fucking obvious. Also, King didn’t say ‘violence’ is the language of the unheard; what he said was that riots are. There’s a difference, obviously, and it’s important. And while of course 2017 brought with it the absolutely maddening obscenity of a police officer being acquitted after murdering an unarmed black man, the city did not burn in the way Ross envisioned. No city did.

3. A major figure will emerge from college campus protests. In 2017, I suspect that college campuses will continue to erupt with protests against racism (I documented the history of campus racism in my new book, Blackballed: The Black and White Politics of Race on America’s Campuses, so you can read that to get an understanding of the issue), but what we’ll see is a young college student emerge as a galvanizing and charismatic leader. Everyone loves to dump on black millennials for being lazy or not focused, but I’ve visited enough campuses to know that’s not true. And watch … one or more will begin to lead, not just their fellow college students, but also the nation.

In 2017, college campuses will continue to be popular sites of dissent against the state’s ongoing efforts to further disempower marginalized groups. I further predict that oranges will continue to be used in the production of orange juice.

The fact that this man has been asked multiple times in the span of four years to weigh in on the possibility of certain eventualities in American politics and culture suggests that the only sure thing in our future is that—if we continue to allow pseudo-intellectuals like Ross a space to opine—we are going to really accelerate towards our society’s imminent collision with rock bottom. Alas, while colleges and universities (obviously!) remained highly politicized spaces in 2017, one struggles to come up with the national anti-racist figurehead that Ross declared would come forth from collegiate obscurity and lead the country down a path of profound reckoning.

4. A liberal black version of the Tea Party will challenge establishment black politicians. I have a feeling that black folks are tired of seeing the same ole black faces as their mayors, state representatives and congressional representatives. And if these pols think that they can trot out the same ole rhetoric while black folks feel the heel of the Trump administration, they’re greatly mistaken. Maybe it’ll be an offshoot of Black Lives Matter, or a new movement, but look for raucous town hall meetings and challengers to folks you thought would never lose. If I were in Congress, I might wanna dial back on those Congressional Black Caucus black-tie confabs.

Uh. Insofar as Ross was, in 2017, suggesting that we’d soon witness a bourgeoning movement of newly politicized black Americans intent on challenging a sclerotic old guard who—despite bearing a superficial likeness to the community they claim to represent, have in fact proven quite willing to sacrifice that community’s well-being for their own personal gain—then he is here describing #ADOS exactly. And isn’t it just so odd that the only prediction of Ross’s to 1.) actually qualify as a prediction, and 2.) actually manifest in some recognizable way here in the present, is the very prediction that he now, in 2019, says will ‘implode’? Isn’t it odd how the demands that Ross envisions being made upon the gatekeepers by this movement—which in 2017 he described with such an obvious sense of respect—he now characterizes as “loud and shit”, and “myopic, stupid, damaging [and] destructive”?

5. Donald Glover and Issa Rae will be the new thought leaders. With Glover’s Atlanta and Rae’s Insecure, look for 2017 to be the year where books, television, movies and the rest of the arts reflect a more subtle, nuanced and sophisticated look at what it means to be black in America.

These were his supposed ‘thought leaders’? Dude, I mean, Donald Glover is currently like helping Andrew fucking Yang sell merch in pop-up shops in downtown LA, and Issa Rae just opened a hipster coffee shop in La Brea where one can surely rack up a hefty bill on their turmeric lattes and free range chicken salads.

Ross is an embarrassment to earnest writers everywhere, and material like this is a total affront to thoughtful and intelligent discussion and analysis. My only prediction as we leave 2019 is that, in four years’ time, we will look back on Ross’s speculative flings and see (again) his deficiencies as a thinker confirmed. More importantly, though, the chorus of anti-ADOS voices continues to incorporate and swell with what are hands-down the most observably un-serious of voices. And it’s hard not to see how #ADOS won’t be able to easily continue differentiating itself as a sincerely committed and highly disciplined political force amid the cacophony of howling, scattered clowns who, at the end of the day, only really seem to want to open their mouths to receive little food pellets of acknowledgement tossed their way from colleagues and ‘woke-culture’ figures rather than to speak in favor of justice for the group that everyone is so obviously eager to just completely forget about. And while Ross casts his sights to the future in precisely this fashion, he and others like him would do well to bear in mind that history tends to have a very unforgiving way of dealing with charlatans who possess such revolting and contemptible motivations.