Between a Rock and a Hard Place: The Legacy of the Doctored King

This morning my wife, who has a bad habit of following the news,  asked me about the "legacy" of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

"I know he plagiarized his dissertation and just about every major speech or statement he made, advised soldiers to betray their country during the Vietnam War, maintained significant contacts with Communist agents, and betrayed his wife incessantly and with teenage girls.  But, to be fair, a lot of great men have had feet of clay.  What are his positive accomplishments that would be worth celebrating?"

It's not only a fair question but a valuable one.  Before trying to answer it, I would issue one caveat:  A lot depends on what we mean by "great men."  If we mean it in the Time magazine man-of-the-year sense, then Hitler and Stalin were great men because they influenced the course of history.  So were Churchill, Napoleon, and Atilla the Hun.  Setting aside Atilla, we should be prudent about deciding whether such men as Churchill and Napoleon, Alexander and Caesar should be called great.  To what degree were they children of fortune--as opposed to men of destiny with the will to change history?  To what degree did their constructive actions overbalance their bad character and the destruction they wrought?   In some respects, Caesar was the worst of the gangsters who have made their corner of humanity miserable in their lifetime.  He more or less put an end to the failing experience in self-government known as the Roman Republic.  But some case can be made for his vision of  a reconstructed Roman commonwealth that would no longer be the plaything of degenerate rich men.

So much for the caveat.

King was certainly not "great" in the sense that Caesar or Napoleon were, uniquely gifted with the powers needed to change the world.  Hundreds and thousands of people--black and white--had been working since before the War Between the States to change the situation of American blacks.  As affairs reached a crisis in the 1950's, King, with the support of the Kennedy mob, was able to generate a good deal of attention, as he muscled aside rivals with perhaps better claim to lead their people.  Like his disciple Jesse Jackson, though, King was good at PR, so good that he persuade a large number of black  Americans that their best people had sold out to the white establishment.

As for the greatness of conceiving and to some extent fulfilling worthy ambitions, King was a paltry character.  What did he teach his followers?  That it was right to break good laws if they were following the dictates of some noble principle.  This is not the teaching of Christ and St. Paul, but the vicious anti-Christian nonsense of Thoreau and Gandhi.

The greatest part of his legacy, however, is the conviction he inspired in Americans that all colored people everywhere are victims of all  white people.  The corollary of this principle--expressed in programs of affirmative action, calls for reparations to descendants of slaves, and an upsurge in the violence of young black males--is the consoling delusion that any person of color who leaves school without graduating, loses his job, or gets convicted of a felony is the victim of racism.

Some uncolored people complain; those who can afford to--principally rich leftwing Democrats--move into gated communities and talk smugly about white trash resentments; many, up till now, have simply gone along and collaborated with the political class that is attempting to enslave them.  "Just let me keep my TV so I can watch the Superbowl!"

As degraded--morally and culturally--as white people are in America, black Americans are much worse off.  A great number of them--whether it is a  majority or not I do not know-- appear to have accepted the logic of "Dr." King and to have embraced slavery as their demon-lover.  They have been taught to despise the disappearing black middle class as "Uncle Toms," to resent academic achievement, and to worship the lowest of humanity--athletes and entertainers.

Long before King had appeared on the scene, the black writer Zora Neale Hurston had shrewdly diagnosed the illness that her people had always suffered from: a resentment bred from the conviction that black people really could not and therefore should not attempt to rise above the station in life they had inherited.  She retold the black folktale of the railroad engineer's pet monkey who stole the train, while the engineer was sleeping, and drove it to his destruction.

It is as if Zora  Neale Hurston had seen it all coming, the fatal turn away from self-reliance and toward the  hatred and envy that has been institutionalized in our own day by countless government programs.  In her 1955 letter to the Orlando Sentinel, she quite rightly cited the precedent set by the Communist Party in the 1920's, when, in order to attract a black following, they promised white spouses.  The object of the Supreme Court's ruling in Brown  had little to do with integration per se and everything to do with the New Deal elite's sustained drive for centralized power.  The South, she warned, should not allow itself to be distracted:

While it is being frantic over the segregation ruling, it had better keep its eyes open for more important things. One instance of Govt by fiat has been rammed down its throat. It is possible that the end of segregation is not here and never meant to be here at present, but the attention of the South directed on what was calculated to keep us busy while more ominous things were brought to pass. The stubborn South and the Midwest kept this nation from being dragged farther to the left than it was during the New Deal.

But what if it is contemplated to do away with the two-party system and arrive at Govt by administrative decree? No questions allowed and no information given out from the administrative dept? We could get more rulings on the same subject and more far-reaching any day. It pays to weigh every saving and action, however trivial as indicating a trend.

So, there it is,  the real legacy of Martin Luther King: government by administrative decree.  Working Americans of all colors now work half time for government, and the people he and his Communist advisors claimed to be helping now receive the 40 acres and a mule they were always promised, but the 40 acres turns out to be space in housing projects and the mule is drug addiction backed up by guns.

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

13 Responses

  1. James D. says:

    Thank you, Dr. Fleming. Sam Francis had some excellent pieces on King, some of which are still available in the archives of VDare. King (plagiarizing another’s words I’m sure,) implored us to judge people the content of their character. Ironically, few are willing to judge King himself by the content of his character. If you were to look at him this way, you would find a crooked preacher with more skeletons than most politicians, which is really saying something. There was an article in one of the British papers a few years ago that had firsthand sources from JFK’s funeral who said King showed up drunk, was laughing and cracking jokes about the family, and was even propositioning women and trying to set up an orgy for later that night.

  2. Dot says:

    Today the traffic was light. All government offices and schools were closed. The students were happy; they had a day off. The South as far as I know just about shut down.

    It seems to me that of all these businesses, it should be the schools that should be open. Having MLK as a school holiday just fosters unimportance of education. Now this will stretch into AA History month in February.

    The Chinese was the only race that contributed to the building of the transcontinental railroad. Others worked at it but gave up. The Chinese continued this slave labor with ax and shovel. I doubt if they call themselves victims wanting reparations.

  3. Robert Peters says:

    In the 50’s and early 60’s in my neck of the woods, we got hard news from three completing newspapers, all locally owned, who had a small cast of political reporters made in the image of Mike Hammer. They followed men like Dr. King around and reported stories through the local papers, stories which we did not get from Huntley and Brinkley, Walter Cronkite, or Howard K. Smith, the only three national news sources we had since only the pretentious read the New York Times. Our native prejudices against Dr. King were reinforced by their print stories alleging his plagiarism, his philandering, and his communist connections. I was, therefore, not surprised to again read about the allegations as they emerged in various newsletters and publications in the 90’s. The latest iteration came out with the publishing of some of the JFK papers at the end of 2017. It is not so much the flawed and ambitious Dr. King who bothers me; it is the fact that so many who think themselves to be “conservatives” have recast Dr. King as a “conservative;” and so many who think themselves to be “orthodox Christians” have recast him as an “orthodox Christian.” In these two matters, there is an interesting parallel between his transformation and that of President Abraham Lincoln.

  4. Andrew G Van Sant says:

    On the other hand, my birthday is close to King’s, so when I was working I always got a day off to celebrate mine.

    On the gripping hand, in Annapolis we also have the annual Kunta Kinte festival derived from Alex Haley’s Roots. Haley paid a settlement for his plagiarism in the book.

  5. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    AGVS, Yes, for his historical account of an ancestor’s life, Haley plagiarized a novel! That’s truth in these United States.

    RP, all the Trumps and the so-called Conservatives spent yesterday praising the lying communist child-molestor. Limbaugh led the pack, braying that liberal Democrats were betraying the legacy of the great Doctor King.

    Dot, it is simply not true that the Chinese were “the only race that contributed to the building of the transcontinental railroad.” Obviously it was the Anglos who conceived and paid for the project and many groups, particularly the Irish, took part. The Chinese did not receive due credit for their work, that is true, largely because no one wanted them here, but that is another story.

  6. Raymond Olson says:

    I daresay you’re right about government by fiat being MLK’s legacy, but did he ever call for government by fiat himself?

  7. Robert Peters says:

    Mr. Olson, if the 1964 Civil Rights Act can in any way be attributed to the agitations of Dr. King, then he is at least indirectly responsible for government by fiat; for the 1964 Civil Rights Act – the pleadings and decisions of the Supreme Court thereupon notwithstanding – was on its face unconstitutional. (I note that the Constitution ratified by sovereign states was in 1964 as it continues to be today of no effect because the union of constitutionally federated republics ceased to exist in 1865, but I continue to use the now useless Constitution as a touchstone for my own arguments.) The real damage was that it was the beginning of the end for the last vestiges of subsidiarity, in particular the authority of an individual, a family, an association or a lesser jurisdiction of the polity to determine with whom and how one would associate with other individuals, families, associations and polities. I use the word “authority” rather than “right” because we do not get rights from our Lord; we get authority from our Lord, authority necessary to carry out our duties, responsibilities and obligations in love to our families, the Church, our associations, out communities (not abstract ones) and our near polities – county, town, state. The authority to associate with whom we will for the protection and nurturing of our households, our parishes and our communities was swept away. At the deepest, it took away my authority to be a moral agent. I might refuse to rent to you because I am a bigot, a chauvinist or a homophobe; I may chose to rent to you to exploit you in some way. I may refuse to rent to you because you are bad for business. I may chose to rent to you out of Christian charity. All of those moral (immoral) options are gone; I rent to you for one reason: I will likely be fined and perhaps go to jail if I do not, even if renting to you is not my best interest, in the interest of my family, or in the interest of my community. Conservatives who have embraced the letter and the spirit of the 1964 Civil Rights Act do not have a leg to stand on when it then comes to LGBT “rights” in a legal or federal context. I have watch many conservatives squirm trying to uphold the Act while attempting to deny that it can be applied to the LGBT folks.

    I also note the pathogens of the community which the 1964 Civil Rights Act was supposed to mitigate if not eliminate have all gotten worse.

    So, I hold that there is a good argument, intended or not intended, that Dr. King played a major role in bring about a government by fiat, whether that call was audible or sublime.

  8. Dot says:

    Dr. Fleming: Regarding the Transcontinental Railroad: “Although most of the Union Pacific and Central Pacific railroad companies’ workers were initially from Ireland and Union Pacific employed some native-born American soldiers, the vast majority of workers for Central Pacific were Chinese immigrants by the time the railroad was finished.”
    “More than 40,000 Chinese immigrants arrived in California during the 1850s” The Central Pacific railroad company needed thousands of laborers and had only been able to find hundreds. In addition, the Irish workers it had managed to hire were requesting higher wages.” So they decided to hire the Chinese laborers. “These workers were willing to lay tracks in dangerous areas for extremely low pay. …”When the Transcontinental Railroad was complete, Chinese laborers made up over 90% of Central Pacific’s workforce.
    “Without the work of these immigrants, the Transcontinental Railroad might nave never been built. In turn, the West would have remained difficult to settle and might not have become as developed and populated as it is today”

    I read this about the Chinese and their contribution to the construction of the Transcontinental Railroad several years ago. I don’t blast my mouth off without knowing or remembering about a subject.

  9. Dot says:

    PS: In addition I wrote that “Others worked at it but gave up”. Apparently you didn’t read that sentence.

  10. Avatar photo Thomas Fleming says:

    Dot, I did read the additional sentence, but is is not true. It’s not an important point, really, and I have no wish to denigrate the contribution of the Chinese, but, first, the source you cite does not back up your claim, and second, it is an ideological source with an ax to grind. I really don’t like to press this–though a major American historian of the period has asked me to make this point–but this argument derives from an anti-American ideology that should be opposed on moral grounds alone. I certainly dod not think you were “blasting” your mouth or being in any way offensive, but I was trying to inject some balance. Let’s not quarrel over a disagreement that can only be resolved by a careful examination of historical records.

  11. Frank Brownlow says:

    “Government by fiat” is socialism, isn’t it? When the English, to everyone’s surprise, elected an explicitly socialist government in 1945, perhaps the chief reason they did that was that during over five years of Churchill’s wartime “national” government they had become used to government by fiat, i.e., socialism, reaching into every nook and cranny of life, and they liked it. They liked rent-control, cheap (if near-inedible) meals in “British” restaurants, free milk and cod-liver oil for the kiddies. They liked “Woolton pies,” sausages made mostly with bread, and shoddy clothes with the government’s “utility” label because it all showed that the government was looking after them by being “fair.” They even liked rationing, because it was “fair”—they just wished the portions were bigger.
    Once the principle of “fairness” is admitted, there is no going back because in a perfect socialist paradise, everyone is entitled to everything.

  12. Robert Reavis says:

    Once the principle of “fairness” is admitted, there is no going back because in a perfect socialist paradise, everyone is entitled to everything.”

    Well said, Professor Brownlow.

    “For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is a householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard. And when he had agreed with the labourers for a penny a day, he sent them into his vineyard. And he went out about the third hour, and saw others standing idle in the marketplace, And said unto them; Go ye also into the vineyard, and whatsoever is right I will give you. And they went their way. Again he went out about the sixth and ninth hour, and did likewise. And about the eleventh hour he went out, and found others standing idle, and saith unto them, Why stand ye here all the day idle? They say unto him, Because no man hath hired us. He saith unto them, Go ye also into the vineyard; and whatsoever is right, that shall ye receive. So when evening was come, the lord of the vineyard saith unto his steward, Call the labourers, and give them their hire, beginning from the last unto the first. And when they came that were hired about the eleventh hour, they received every man a penny. But when the first came, they supposed that they should have received more; and they likewise received every man a penny. And when they had received it, they murmured against the goodman of the house, Saying, These last have wrought but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day.”

  13. Kurt Kronfuss says:

    Me residing less than 15 miles from Eatonville Fl. proclaimed to be the first black incorporated community in the US, Ms. Hurston is, at least at times, a legend around here. Sadly for humanity, ‘Doctored’ King has the streets named after him. Even the Zora Festival in Eatonville is held on Kennedy Blvd. in Eatonville. One of the many things wrong with the world today-popular names of boulevards are more important than sound, insightful word by those such as Zora Neale Hurston.