Further Thoughts on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

VoltaireThumbby Monsieur Voltaire
My article on MLK’s I have a dream speech has engendered some emotional responses. The issue is whether we should give great men a pass on their flaws and judge them solely on their intentions, or whether a critical look at their words and deeds is fair game.

A commenter (with whom I otherwise share a feeling of mutual respect) has found it objectionable that I would point out MLK’s Marxist ties, his academic plagiarism and his serial womanizing as reasons not to glorify his image beyond all criticism. While evoking emotional images of Bull Connor, dogs and water cannons, the commenter stated that it is preferable to leave certain things unsaid (or to dismiss them as “scurrilous” or “baseless”) than to risk tarnishing the image of the great civil rights leader in any way while coming across as quasi-racist. My thesis was that MLK was a great man who helped right a tremendous wrong in America; but that he should not be elevated into a saintly figure, and his speech should not be used as a magical refrain to palliate some of the problems of today’s black community. Here is the original paragraph:

I’m no big fan of MLK in the first place. What we tend to gloss over is that he was a Marxist who injected political language into Christianity, a known academic plagiarist and a serial philanderer. As a tragic hero of sorts, he surely did help right a tremendous wrong in the USA, and he did so nonviolently and towards integration, at a time when other “civil rights leaders” like Yeshitela and Malcom X advocated violence and separatism. This is why I’m a fan, but not a big one.

I will now dissect this for further commentary, using as much as possible the language from my original article.

1) I am a fan of MLK, but not a big one. Why?
2) Because, on one hand, he helped right a tremendous wrong in the USA, and did so nonviolently and towards integration at a time when other “civil rights leaders” … advocated violence and separatism.
3) On the other, however, he was a Marxist who injected political language into religion, a known academic plagiarist and a serial philanderer. Evidence for this is widely available both on the Internet and in print (see, for instance, David Lewis: King, a critical biography, or Des Griffin: Martin Luther King, The man behind the myth). I can’t make myself believe that these mutually-corroborating pieces of evidence–none of which denies MLK’s vital contribution to ending the abomination of institutionalized racism–are false, prejudicial or conspiratorial. So, to call these documented allegations “baseless,” “scurrilous” and a scary foreshadowing of “the R-word” has no intellectual value; truth is not determined by who uses the biggest adjectives or who has the loudest barking voice. If there is counter-evidence to the specific instances that have been quoted, I for one am all ears.
4) Therefore, I object to MLK’s being sanctified. And the truth is that he *has* been. That my article should read like religious blasphemy and prompt strong emotional reactions confirms this–and was something I had predicted (while not wishing for it).
5) As to the speech, I noted that it had been tremendously useful at the time for helping end the abomination of institutionalized racism against blacks. But I have also said that, as all political speeches, it shouldn’t be admired like a standalone piece of art.
6) And if we judged the content of character of today’s black community leaders and their typical followers, what judgment should we come to? After 50 years of “affirmative National atonement” in its favor, too great a part of the black community has used its freedom and privileges more towards self-destruction than for integration with the fabric of America’s middle class. Illegitimacy, crime, addictions, dependency and the low incidence of stable families are readily verifiable facts that plague the black community–and they are self-inflicted.

Now, I fully expected that someone would imagine racism in or through my words. Unfortunately, that’s the way our society has programmed us to think–everything is binary: love or hate, celebrate or burn in effigy, sing Hosannas to MLK or be a racist, vote Republican or be a commie, write “he or she” or be a chauvinist pig, be for gun confiscation or want schoolchildren to die. Paraphrasing John Locke, tolerance is that wide two-way lane between these extremes: you can still like a general idea while seeing its small flaws, embrace a cause without theatrically wrapping yourself in it, disagree with a movement while allowing it to peacefully exist next to you–or be a fan of MLK without being a big one.

So, if in 2013 America you are a racist for not believing that MLK was a saint or not falling into raptures when hearing the I have a dream speech, I guess that we have made great strides in reducing systemic prejudice against blacks–while taking a few giant leaps backward in our freedom to express ideas without being “blackened” with sinister adjectives (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun).

Intellectually, I find it gravely disappointing when a logical attempt to look at an issue is met with adjective-laden emotionalism and a “certain things should be left unsaid” attitude. Projecting violent emotional images of Selma, water cannons, dogs and Bull Connor has ZERO to do with the arguments in the article–and the implication that failing to absolutely glorify MLK amounts to ill-concealed nostalgia for the “good old days” of separate water fountains is nothing but a cheap emotional shot–again, with ZERO logical value. And what does it add to the conversation? Only that we should be happy to stay confined in the ever-shrinking PC reservation imposed on us by the Left–touch one of the sacred cows making up the perimeter, and be forever consigned to the intellectual gulags.

For that’s exactly what the PC code is: the concentration camp of civic discourse.

In conclusion, I have nothing at all to apologize for or to retract. This is what I think and, I hope, I have given sufficient commentary as to why I think it. If anyone could look into my heart, they would see that I admire people of all colors and walks of life who contribute something to the world–if only as little as kindness and a neighborly smile–while not admiring those who don’t. And as far as I have observed, practically all thinking people I know (of any color) share this sentiment of mine. I can’t logically love or give a pass to a whole group just for having a certain physical trait, just like I can’t look askance at another for the same reason. I could list all the black people I have admired (and still do) in my life, but that would sound like hiding behind amulets to show what an oh-so-good social conscience I have. And I don’t treat people as amulets–besides not having anything bad weighing on my conscience.

Bottom line: if you don’t want to be cast into a negative stereotype, there’s a perfectly simple way to prevent that–and it’s not by shutting up or character-assassinating those who have the courage to point out what you’ve allowed yourself to become.

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18 Responses to Further Thoughts on MLK’s “I Have a Dream” Speech

  1. faba calculo says:

    Can you provide a quick summation of the best evidence we have that MLK was a Marxist?

    • Monsieur Voltaire says:

      Faba, I’ll refer you to Kung Fu’s excellent summary on the comment section of my original post (see below).


      Bayard Rustin was a close associate of King’s and helped found the SCLC. Rustin had belonged to the Young Communist League. He resigned but later joined the Socialist Party of America. To bring about the 1963 march on Washington, he cooperated with A. Philip Randolph, who was the most powerful African American labor union leader and a socialist.

      King studied under Myles Horton an avowed socialist and believer in “economic and social justice”, who founded the Highlander Folk School which openly stated part of its mission was to teach radicals to change the States. Another founder of this school was Don West, another avowed socialist who was only not a communist as he didn’t carry a membership card.

      I believe Jack O’Dell, another of King’s colleagues, was a member of the National Committee of the Communist Party of the USA in 1962. I can’t recall if he was with the SCLC or NAACP. In any case, he had joined the party in the 1940′s or 1950′s.

      The CPUSA’s newspaper “The Worker” openly declared the King’s 1st March on Washington to be a communist project.

      Stanley Levison another adviser and colleague of King’s had been a leader in the CPUSA but resigned. Many communists resigned their memberships as to go undercover. (Look at the history of the 1920′s, 1930′ and 1940′s as regards communist espionage in the USA government.) After he resigned from the party he continued to make monetary contributions to it.

      There is substantial documented evidence that Soviet Union decided as early as in the 1920′s to use the racial divide in the USA as a tool to help weaken the USA.

      King biographer, David Garrow states, “King privately described himself as a Marxist”.

      Garrow further maintains King said the following in SCLC staff meetings, “we have moved into a new era which must be an era of revolution…the whole structure of the American life must be changed…we are engaged in the class struggle.”

      This information is easily confirmed on the internet. I haven’t even begun to look more deeply into it. But a man’s associations certainly say a lot about him. Whether you think Marxist is an incorrect term or not, there is no double that King had very intimate associations with the Far Left.


      Also, please refer to the two printed sources I have quoted.

      Best, MV.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        MV, I don’t know which I find to to be more depressing about today’s America, 1) the lack of interest in ascertaining the facts of a situation, 2) the lack of critical thinking or 3) the lack of intellectual honesty.

        I recently read something to the effect that Republican’s are sometimes too smart for their own good as reasoned argument does not work as about 85% of the electorate makes decisions on basis of emotions. Whether or not this applies only to the Republicans, it is certainly true that reason has taken a hit in this country.

        I have come to the conclusion that for many in the USA, especially those inclined to the Left, the new motto is “don’t confuse me with the facts, I know what I think.”

        • Monsieur Voltaire says:

          Here’s what I find most depressing. History teaches that the people are fickle and fairly easy to turn; which is why the best demagogue (in the Classical sense of “leader of the common people”) is the one who usually wins the day. The International Right has forgotten this after allowing itself to be equated with Nazism (a lie if there ever was one–but hey, they are the ones who invented mass propaganda).

          If you appeal to reason alone, you automatically lose 50% of your audience (and I’m being charitable). On top of this, if you think that the dirty grunt- and shoeleather work of politics is beneath you, you find yourself shouting syllogisms down from a lonely mountain-top to an imaginary crowd; while your opponents pack stadiums, TV screens, schools, entertainment and much of Government and dish out sugary soundbites on which gullible minds fatten themselves to no end. The lowest common denominator is not necessarily something to scoff at or lie to–but it’s essential that we talk to it and persuade it. And we don’t.

          We have let go of the means of information and of the ability to translate complex truths into emotionally-digestible soundbites. And we never show up for a fight worth its name, because we have conceded all the emotional premises to the Left.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            I believe strict reason is best used in written discourse. Normally, the reader has time to consider what is written and reread a piece as often as he wishes. And this is what I was thinking about with my post.

            Moving groups has always been about oratory and convincing oratory was considered to be a great achievement by both the ancient Greeks and Romans. (see Gustav Le Bon’s, “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind” for an interesting insight to your observations about approaching large numbers of people.)

            The Right hasn’t had an orator since Reagan. We end up with people who cannot put two words together to make a sentence. I am not sure why this is the case, but after the Bushes, Dole, McCain, Romney, Boehner and many others, I think the Right has better come up with someone very fast.

            Whether one likes him or not, Cruz is an excellent speaker for conservative principals. He is already being lambasted from Left and Right.

            • ladykrystyna says:

              You are correct about Reagan and our choices.

              I think many mistake some of us on the Right as looking for Reagan 2.0.

              I think it’s more like we’re looking for someone to be the next Great Communicator.

              I remember Mark Levin reading from a speech that Reagan gave at CPAC (I think that’s where it was) in 1976 after he lost the nomination. And he discussed at length the right’s need to COMMUNICATE, the need to prep the youth of the right for communication. It was brilliant (as usual with Reagan).

              But I’ve decided that the GOP let real conservatism/libertarianism slide for those 8 years, because they went right back to the SSDD they’ve been doing since T. Roosevelt and Hoover – Republican Progressivism.

              Bush 1, Bush 2, Dole, McCain, Romney – SSDD.

              That is why I hold out so little hope that we’ll turn this ship around. We’ve got 2 viable parties and they are both out to ruin this country and turn into, at best, European lite, and at worst, “1984” with sprinkle of “Brave New World”.

          • ladykrystyna says:

            Wow, that is depressing. Especially because I cannot disagree with any of it.

            • Monsieur Voltaire says:

              I agree with all the above posts (Cruz, Reagan 2.0, the paltry lineup of second-rate pickings we’ve had in the last few elections… My God, McCain. Someone needs to ship him to California with an endless supply of straw hats and Hawaiian shirts and let him play golf against his own shadow for the rest of his life–an I do wish him a long and happy one, out of the public sphere, thank you very much).

              BUT: what we have is a healthy opposition in the non-elected world–the Left could never have Rush, Levin, Prager, Williams, Steyn *and* keep an open forum. Leftist ideas must be protected from questioning or dissent (see Obama’s so-called “press conferences.” Hah.). And we have intelligent guerrilla troops such as ourselves on ST, who stand ready to offer the non-PC standpoint and hopefully persuade a few minds at a time.

              I see a three-pronged strategy, if I had a magic wand: 1) replace the AP–this needs to happen–as well as at least one of the major networks. 2) Bombard the mainstream public with new points of view–from the Right, unified–well crafted, truthful but palatable (and we at ST are being part of this). 3) Identify a point-person who has the chance to embody all the new solutions that the electorate now *understands* it needs–and propel him to victory through a scorched-earth political campaign. Enough with the kid gloves.

              It’s either this, or as Titanic USA sinks, we Rightist toffs are going to be stoically sipping our last Sidecar and talking WFB while Leftists at the next table gloat about “The Iceberg was shaped like a Dem Donkey! In your face, you reactionary sods!” as they too disappear under the waves.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Mr. Kung, I know what you mean by reason vs. emotion. But even if this were true, ought not emotion just as easily drive one to love the whole truth instead of a nice-sounding myth?

          I don’t know that the currency in today’s politics is emotion as much as it is a new kind of Atonement. Your average person who has made it to adulthood has been fairly heavily propagandized into the idea that white people, America, Western Civilization, Christianity, men, Republicans, and conservatives are all bad things — inherently racist, sexist, homophobes, etc. Or as Dennis Prager calls it, “SIXHIRB” (sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobic, racist, bigoted).

          Add in a healthy dash of paranoia (well, not so healthy). We thus get to this ridiculous point where you get dog-whistle racism. There’s no actual racism. It’s just assumed. I think it was the flake, Maureen Dowd, who heard “boy” after Joe Wilson’s “You lie” exclamation during Obama’s prevarication of the union speech.

          So calling others racist is a means of Atonement (should probably use a small “a” for that). The white guilt is so built up, along with the paranoia, that you get people finding racism where it isn’t. It’s a way to remain part of the club of “not racist” people. You simply denounce others. You get your card punched.

          Another huge factor is psychological projection. I don’t give a flying fart if a person is black or white. It matters what they believe, if they can do the job, etc. But otherwise, I don’t treat black people any different. But look who it is who treats black people like retards, as if they couldn’t make it on their own. It’s the Democrats.

          I know that people such as Kevin Williamson do not like the idea of the “new plantation” the Democrats are said have the blacks on (but that is the favored way of thinking about it by Allen West). But that’s the situation. They and their politics have stoked racial hatred, ruined the black family, ruined education opportunities for many blacks, and just have otherwise mired many in generational welfare and poverty. With friends like that, who needs enemies?

          I have no need to go around accusing others of being racist because I just don’t think in terms of racial inferiority or superiority. I have nothing to hide. I don’t need to put up a smokescreen. But there are those who do. And these are the ones who accuse others of it as a way to deny and cover up their true beliefs. It’s classic psychological projection.

          I don’t use black people to try to show how supposedly righteous I am. But some do. And to some extent it’s understandable. There’s just been so much propaganda, paranoia, and outright bigotry spread out there that it becomes the easiest thing in the world to just engage in a little moral grandstanding.

          I think one of the truisms of conservatism is that you can’t be a conservative without moral courage. And it shows.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            Let me modify one of Samuel Johnson’s aphorisms.

            “Accusing others of racism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              Yes, some are indeed scoundrels. But there’s been so much guilting of people about race in our society, it’s become an automatic impulse to think in terms of banging someone else over the head if they don’t stick to the party line.

              It’s somewhat in line with what Allan Bloom writes about in his book, “The Closing of the American Mind.” It’s about, well, the closing of the American mind. People aren’t even interested in what is real. They’ll take the soundbyte. After all, to quote a famous politician, “What difference does it make?”

              Like I said before, I remember having a discussion online with someone and the topic was global warming. I voiced skepticism and was told that I was just being a tool of the oil companies. This was the paranoia-based meme the guy had someone gained from the culture, as if by osmosis. And I don’t consider him a Leftist by any means.

              This is what happens when too many people become the proverbial “low information voter.” Forget the formula of reason vs. emotion. I think that paradigm is somewhat overrated. It’s thinking vs. groupthink. It’s real truth vs. Mass-Truth.

              And I think Jonah Goldberg makes the fair point in “Liberal Fascism” that it’s also about things being politicized. A thing can’t just be what it is. It has to have further implications. And people begin thinking like this, if only because they’ve been coerced by political correctness to do so.

              A joke can’t just be a joke anymore. It has to MEAN something more. So out even with the possibility of a Don Rickles. In this fascistically ramped-up uptight hyper-political culture, a reasonable essay about Martin Luther King just can’t be a reasonable essay about Martin Luther King. We get that old dog-whistle, the kind of racism only some can hear. MV’s essay has to be about something more.

              And this is just driving people insane. It has indeed acted to close the American mind.

        • ladykrystyna says:

          “I have come to the conclusion that for many in the USA, especially those inclined to the Left, the new motto is “don’t confuse me with the facts, I know what I think.”

          You’ve just described my mother. She has such a virulent distrust for “the rich” or for “corporations” that she can’t comprehend the idea of a “free market”.

          She’s no communist, I know that (other than her immediate family, her relatives all lived through Nazis and Communists in Poland). But neither can she seem to grasp the idea of “free market”. I call her a “right wing populist”. She’s right wing on social issues, she doesn’t necessarily like the government poking around where it doesn’t belong, but, by God, those rich people and corporations need to be controlled.

          Kind of like a modern day Teddy Roosevelt.

          I’ve yet to be able to crack that open. Same goes for the Second Amendment (I chalk that up to her being raised in England – you can take the girl out of Europe, but you can’t take Europe out of the girl).

          • Kurt NY says:

            I would imagine such a distrustful attitude of capitalism was pretty endemic throughout much of Easter Europe, especially peasant households. In Russia, pre-Revolution peasant communes were characterized by behaviors suspicious of others, wherein you would rather suffer poverty than see your neighbor get rich, something all too common on the modern American left now come to think of it.

            Which might also be a rational way of looking at life if mercantile interchange is seen through a prism of lack of societal trust, where one man’s gain is another man’s loss rather than a win/win situation. One of the overlooked benefits of American commercial regulation is that, for the most part, we all assume the law will compel a certain basic fairness in our dealings with each other, so there is less room for suspicion. But, in the absence of regulation, where businessmen looking to maximize profit do so in ways indistinguishable from theft? Which is kind of like the way in which Russia privatized after the fall of the Soviet Union.

  2. Kurt NY says:

    I don’t believe it ever a useful exercise to sanitize our public figures. Every person who ever lived has been flawed to some degree or another, and those interplay with their nobler impulses throughout their life’s work. A priest once said in his homily (I’m sure it’s a quote but I don’t know from who) that we come to God broken and He makes use of us in our brokenness.

    How can we judge Jefferson’s magnificent, transcendent verbiage in the Declaration of Independence without recognizing his deeply conflicted personal history with human chattel slavery, possibly siring a child upon his slave Sally Hemings (something today we might consider rape)? Both Lincoln and Churchill supposedly battled depression. Walt Disney (and a variety of other magnates) went bankrupt before hitting it big. Henry Ford was a racist and treated his son abominably. Both FDR and his wife kept their mistresses with them in the White House during his term. Ben Franklin is a possible suspect as a serial killer in Britain, and helped arrange the imprisonment of his loyalist son during the Revolution. I read once that the founder of Fedex did so by kiting checks and filching relatives’ money. There’s light and dark in all our souls and in all our stories.

    With MLK, while he was deeply flawed, I think the legacy for which he is remembered is a crucial one, one absolutely integral to fully realizing the promise of the aspirations of our founding documents (which, as stated before, were also produced by deeply conflicted individuals). And, maybe like Jefferson, much of the legacy for which he is remembered and celebrated might not be what he actually thought. But it is his perceived place in history for which we celebrate him, and leavening that appreciation with an understanding for his flaws helps us put the man, his times, and ourselves in perspective.

    • Kung Fu Zu says:

      Never heard about Franklin being a serial killer or Smith kiting checks (but I find that more likely than the thing about Franklin). Do you have any info on these two points? I would like to look into both.

      • Kurt NY says:

        Ran into the bit on Fedex in a book about start-ups my boss gave me once, maybe 18 years ago. Have no idea how to confirm that.

        As for Franklin, supposedly a house in which he resided in Britain for a bunch of years was recently renovated, in the course of which they found a number of skeletons buried within it, all roughly traceable to the period in which he lived there. Although the other guy living there in that period (don’t know if they co-habited or one came after the other) supposedly had an interest in vivisection, etc. I strongly doubt Franklin had anything to do with it, but it’s still pretty creepy, like sharing digs with Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy.

  3. Perpetua Perpetua says:

    M. Voltaire, you are brave for trying to balance the hagiography of MLK, Jr., with verified, if shocking, history in order not only to have an honest discussion but also to identify a solution. Stay the course. Bringing a demagogu–I mean demigod back down to earth fits right in with, say, noting that Thomas Jefferson, Mr. “All Men Are Created Equal,” fathered a child with his slave Sally Hemings. As you wrote, a hero’s failures do not negate his successes but rather make the discussion of the man and his legacy more honest, more useful in addressing problems, and I’d add more human. Being confronted with a hero’s failing(s) is always painful and always elicits an emotional response–that’s as human as the hero failing to live up to his principles–and you’ve got to prepare for the emotional side of the argument as well as the logical side. Reiterating what MLK did well alongside what he did not, and using King’s own words to question the state of blacks today strike a good balance. Bravo.

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