“Sorry to Bother You” director Boots Riley slammed Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” in a lengthy essay posted to Twitter on Friday, which accused the film of skewing facts to falsely paint law enforcement as heroes.
“BlacKkKlansmen” and “Sorry to Bother You” are two summer films that have been revered for their progressive story lines spotlighting the African American community. Though “BlacKkKlansman” is based on a true story, Riley said he is skeptical of it and claims it’s full of “fabricated story notes” about its protagonists, Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), a black detective who infiltrates a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan with his white partner (Adam Driver).
“It’s a made up story in which the false parts of it try to make a cop the protagonist in the fight against racist oppression,” Riley wrote in his introduction. “It’s being put while Black Lives Matter is a discussion, and this is not coincidental.”
The director argued that the purpose of “BlacKkKlansman’s” alleged revisionist history is to portray the police in a more favorable light in an attempt to soften relations between law enforcement and people of color amid the Black Lives Matter movement. In support of his claim, Riley questions the validity of Stallworth’s memoir and its film adaptation, which credits Stallworth and his partner for halting white supremacist attacks, including an attempted bombing.
“Stallworth wrote a memoir to put himself in a different light, but let’s look at what else we know,” Riley wrote. “There was no bombing that Stallworth or the police thwarted. This was not in Stallworth’s memoir. That was made up for the movie to make the police seem like heroes.”
The essay states that, in actuality, Stallworth was a member of the FBI’s Counter Intelligence Program (Cointelpro), whose “objectives were to destroy radical organizations, especially black radical organizations.”
“When white supremacist organizations were infiltrated by the FBI and the cops, it was not to disrupt them,” he argued. “They weren’t disrupted. It was to use them to threaten and/or physically attack radical organizations. There was no directive to stop the rise of white supremacist organizations.”
Riley also accused the real Stallworth of aiding in the orchestration of terrorist attacks on the African American community during the Civil Rights Movement, including church bombings in Birmingham, Ala., the assassination of a Civil Rights organizer from Detroit, and the Greensboro Massacre of Communist Workers Party members in 1979.
“This is what Ron Stallworth was helping to do, and he was doing it in that era,” he wrote.
To cap his essay, Riley referenced reports that Lee received $200,000 from the NYPD “to help in an ad campaign that was ‘aimed at improving relations with minority communities.’”
“Whether it actually is or not, ‘BlacKkKlansman feels like an extension of that ad campaign,” he wrote.