In a post on his Facebook group For the New Intellectuals, Anoop Verma highlighted an Objective Standard article by Ari Armstrong titled “Dr. King Ended the Terror of Living in the South”. In a comment, Jim Austin wrote:
The legend of the late Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King continues to grow, even as people have long lost sight of his actual ideas.
Each year we hear of his dreams of "freedom," "liberty," "justice," "equality," "brotherhood," "peace." King was not at all reluctant to give specific meaning to his grandiose words. However, as far as the media was concerned, such efforts rarely made it past the editor's cutting knife.
When King announced his opposition to the Vietnam War, he gave his reasons: "These are revolutionary times," he said April 4, 1967. "All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the womb a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born...We in the West must support these revolutions."
This was his description of such progressive movements as the Viet Cong, the Pathet Lao and the Khmer Rouge.
The words were intended for the eyes and ears of the entire world. But an admiring media deliberately suppressed them. They did not consider the American people ready to understand a champion of peace and freedom siding with a vicious, totalitarian movement.
King is not now nor has he ever been an authentic American hero. From the beginning King was a media hero. Reporters and TV cameras followed him about, always at his beck and call.
King never actually stood up to the violence of the KKK and other various dumb, ignorant, knuckle-dragging rednecks in the South. Rather, in following the teachings of Mohandas Gandhi, whose advice to Jews facing extermination in Nazi Germany was to throw themselves off the hills and cliffs of Europe into the sea, in effect saving Hitler the trouble and expense of killing them, King encourage his followers to provoke and then passively endure racist violence in an effort to gain sympathy from the nation watching them on TV.
However, during the last year of his life, King was very much a fading star as journalists rushed their cameras and microphones to various black militants and revolutionaries whose threats of murder and mayhem seemed more fascinating then King's own words of nonviolence.
To do justice to the memory of King, we should at least remember his actual ideas.
I left this rebuttal:
I don’t think one can extrapolate from that brief statement of 4/4/67 that King supported the sinister agendas of these movements, which camouflaged their true totalitarian motives behind veneers of peace, justice, and equality. The Khmer Rouge was barely known in 1967, didn’t come to power in Cambodia until the mid-1970s, and whose crimes were not recognized until the late 1970s.
Consider another speech that same year, August 16, 1967—“Where Do We Go From Here?,” Delivered at the 11th Annual SCLC Convention. Here, King presents his actual ideas on changing American society, and it certainly didn’t include a communist revolution. “It is perfectly clear that a violent revolution on the part of American blacks would find no sympathy and support from the white population and very little from the majority of the Negroes themselves.”
Instead, he said “What is needed is a strategy for change, a tactical program that will bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life as quickly as possible." King wanted to “bring the Negro into the mainstream of American life,” not overthrow it. That certainly doesn’t jibe with the sinister agendas of the Viet Cong, the Pathet Lao, or the Khmer Rouge. Furthermore, though King called for us to “begin to question the capitalistic economy”—which he wrongly believed America had at the time—King rejected communism:
“Now, don't think you have me in a bind today. I'm not talking about communism. What I'm talking about is far beyond communism. My inspiration didn't come from Karl Marx; my inspiration didn't come from Engels; my inspiration didn't come from Trotsky; my inspiration didn't come from Lenin. Yes, I read Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital a long time ago, and I saw that maybe Marx didn't follow Hegel enough. He took his dialectics, but he left out his idealism and his spiritualism. And he went over to a German philosopher by the name of Feuerbach, and took his materialism and made it into a system that he called ‘dialectical materialism.’ I have to reject that.
“What I'm saying to you this morning is communism forgets that life is individual. Capitalism forgets that life is social. And the kingdom of brotherhood is found neither in the thesis of communism nor the antithesis of capitalism, but in a higher synthesis. It is found in a higher synthesis that combines the truths of both.”
In other words, King advocated a mixed economy, hardly a radical view in America. The “synthesis” he spoke of was not just rhetoric. He advocated private voluntary initiatives to bring about change, and lauded the successes of initiatives like Operation Breadbasket and the Housing Development Corporation. But he also promoted some socialist “solutions” (such as the guaranteed basic income)—typical mixed economy thinking. King didn’t fully understand capitalism. But he was no communist.
Importantly, King promotes individualism (the “potential of the individual”) and self-esteem as a vital attributes for black success, hardly values to which communist insurgents would adhere.
King was a mixed bag, as many American heroes have been, and his policies reflected that. He was strong on civil rights and getting rid of legally enforced segregation, but he leaned Left economically. Unlike most of the Left, however, King didn’t view America's Founding principles as a failure or as outdated. Following in the footsteps of the abolitionist Frederick Douglass a century before, King saw them as relevant and as a guide forward, as evidenced in his “I Have a Dream” speech. It’s important when leaders reiterate those principles. On balance, King left the nation a better place. I think he deserves the accolade American hero.