IN Focus: Progressive journalist Benjamin Dixon unearths Bloomberg ‘stop and frisk’ audio

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ATLANTA, Ga. -- A faith-inspired, progressive podcaster made some major waves in the discourse surrounding the 2020 Democratic primary last week.

Benjamin Dixon unearthed audio clips of presidential candidate and former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg advocating controversial stop-and-frisk policies. The freshly-edited discovery blew up on social media along with the hashtag #BloombergIsARacist.

“When I put the audio with the video and shared it, they could hear the conviction in his voice and his commitment to the stop-and-frisk policy. I think that’s why it resonated with so many people,” Dixon says from his home in Atlanta. 

Major outlets picked up the story, and the resurfaced comments became one of many topics that fellow candidates were able to pound Bloomberg on at Wednesday’s Democratic debate in Las Vegas. When asked about the response to his work, Dixon says it’s been a mixed bag.

“I had a lot of positive responses from people who felt similarly about Bloomberg. We knew about the stop-and-frisk, but we could not understand how he was going through this entire process without any media questions about it. Quite frankly, there were a lot more people who were grateful for our efforts than there were people who came against us.”

Known for scathing political critiques and a vast vocabulary, the host/writer/journalist of The Benjamin Dixon Show podcast is also a contributor to TheGuardian.com, and a frequent guest on The Majority Report with Sam Seeder.

In progressive journalism circles, Dixon is recognized as the founder of The Progressive Army, co-founder of the relaunched The North Star and collaborator with outlets like The Intercept.

As to the future of the Democratic primary, he says voters shouldn’t trust the man who ran for mayor of New York twice as a Republican and amplified the policy instituted by mayor Rudy Giuliani. (A federal judge found the stop-and-frisk police practices unconstitutional in 2013) 

“During his time, the sum total of all of the stops was 5 million people,” he explains. “They stopped more black men in New York than exist in New York. So that means there were men that were stopped on regular occasions.”

The now-famous Bloomberg audio wasn’t exactly hidden, as Dixon points out. But he thought the comments needed to be out in the zeitgeist in a more digestible form. 

“I felt that we were not giving Michael Bloomberg the kind of vetting that was necessary. So I turned my little podcast’s attention to him, and within 30 minutes of searching, I stumbled onto this audio that had been on YouTube for five years. I realised, this is important.”

Not one to mince words, Dixon bluntly says the policies heightened in the Bloomberg Era are racist, and violated civil liberties while causing trauma to black and brown communities.

“Out of all of the stops, they only turned up 2% [of weapons]. There are literally hundreds of thousands - millions - of people who had encounters with police officers said they were accosted, molested, and they had their rights violated. On top of that, they had done nothing wrong.” 

He’s also not shy of his progressive-activist title, and says his Christian faith informs his activism. For him, the struggle for progressive values is the fight for the least of us. He talks about his book God Is Not A Republican published in 2010.

“There’s an assumption that’s been prevalent for years that in order to be a good Christian, then you have to vote with the Republican party. A lot of people of good conscience and faith started to believe in that, so I wanted to write the book to address the fallacies of that assumption. There are a lot of policies that Republicans advocate for, that are completely antithetical to Christianity.”

The breakout of the audio has since placed Dixon at the forefront of anti-Bloomberg voices, which has garnered support from progressive groups and some hefty backlash from Bloomberg supporters and cable news commentators.

“I found out really quickly what $500 million in advertisements does for you, right?” Dixon says with a chuckle. “I was attacked on CNN by one of their commentators, who tried to throw doubt into my motivation. But my motivation was, ‘I found something that I think is important, and I’m going to share it on the same exact day that I found it.’ It just so happened that that day was the day of the New Hampshire primary.”

Dixon had been a supporter of Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, but says that within the past month, he’s shifted that support to Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. 

“I was a fan of Elizabeth Warren back in 2015 with the Run Warren Run campaign; I really wanted her to run. So, I’d been torn between she and Senator Sanders. I think there’s a lot of similarities between the two candidates. I think there’s some important differences - which is why I’m supporting Senator Sanders.” 

The long-time-Warren-but-now-Sanders advocate wants all of the candidates to have a fair run. Ultimately, he says a Bloomberg-bought election would be a detriment to democracy and must be resisted.

“If you are an Amy Klobuchar supporter, if you are a Pete Buttigieg supporter, whoever you support, Joe Biden, no matter who we support - that’s our business, that’s our prerogative, right? I think all of us should be concerned with the fact that this former Republican, billionaire oligarch is able to spend half a billion dollars and buy his way into this campaign.”

The rumbling of discussion surrounding Bloomberg’s first debate performance is settling, and Dixon continues to tussle in the news world. Next, he plans to organize voters to be ready to challenge the Democratic Party, should the nomination process become undemocratic. 

“The conversation is turning to a brokered convention, a contested convention, all with the hopes of stopping Bernie Sanders. While I know Donald Trump is an imminent threat and we need to get rid of him, I think stealing democracy from the people is just as much of a serious threat. So, we are preemptively letting the Democratic Party know that we’re organizing to have several million people who are going to speak out.”

Benjamin Dixon can be found on Twitter @BenjaminPDixon, and The Benjamin Dixon Show is available on podcast platforms including Stitcher and Apple.

Follow Jeremiah Beaver at FOX59.com and on Twitter: @JerBearMedia

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