Glenn Beck Is Still In Denial About Martin Luther King's Progressive Leadership

[oldembed width="400" height="275" src="http://cloudfront.mediamatters.org/static/flash/pl55.swf" flashvars="config=http://mediamatters.org/embed/cfg3?id=201103210012" resize="1" fid="10"]

Glenn Beck has always been a bit muddled about just whose side Martin Luther King -- whose legacy Beck has tried to hijack in the most bizarre fashion for some time now -- was really on. Beck has often tried to exalt King on the one hand while smearing progressives as evil -- even though King in fact was a leader not merely of the Civil Rights movement but also of the larger progressive movement of his time.

So today he sneered at Richard Trumka for recalling King's martyrdom while standing up for the workers in a public employees union:

GLENN BECK: Madison is just the beginning, AFL-CIO chief Richard Trumka told a union rally in Annapolis on Monday. Madison is just the beginning; you ain't seen nothing yet, he says. The message? Angry schoolteachers and the unions are the same. Join us April 4th, 2011, a day to stand in solidarity with working people of Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana, and a dozen other states, where well-funded right-wing corporate politicians are trying to take away the rights that Dr. King gave his life for.

Wait, wait, hold it, just a second. Dr. King lost his life for collective bargaining for the public unions, really? Did you know that? 'Cause -- that -- we have to update our history books, because I didn't know that. Did you know that?

PAT GRAY: I personally didn't. (Laughs)

BECK: Thank you for that.

GRAY: I didn't know that. I - I was - I'm a little confused, I guess, 'cause, yeah, I thought it had something to do with civil rights, but it was a union deal?

As Media Matters explains, King in fact was assassinated while fighting for a public union:

King Spoke On Behalf Of Memphis "Public Servants" In His Final Speech. From Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech, delivered the day before his assassination:

The issues is injustice. The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. Now, we've got to keep attention on that. That's always the problem with a little violence. You know what happened the other day, and the press dealt only with the window-breaking. I read the articles. They very seldom got around to mentioning the fact that one thousand, three hundred sanitation workers were on strike, and that Memphis is not being fair to them, and that Mayor Loeb is in dire need of a doctor. They didn't get around to that.

Now we're going to march again, and we've got to march again, in order to put the issue where it is supposed to be. And force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God's children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. That's the issue. And we've got to say to the nation: we know it's coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory. [Dr. Martin Luther King, 4/3/1968, via American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees]

King Was Assassinated While In Memphis To Support Public Sanitation Workers.
[...]

Memphis Workers Were Fighting For Recognition Of Their Union, Better Wages.

Of course, not only is Beck absurdly confused about whose side progressives were on in the civil-rights struggle, he has a convenient case of amnesia when it comes to which side conservatives were on. Hint: It wasn't Martin Luther King's side.

Especially conservatives who Glenn Beck avidly promotes, such as Mormon far-right icon W. Cleon Skousen. Here's a flier that was distributed by Skousen's friend and longtime associate, Ezra Taft Benson:

BensonFlier_b5a8e.JPG

Among the foremost leaders in the campaign to discredit King as a Communist, especially among Mormons, was none other than the Church's future president, Benson.

Here are some prime quotes from Benson:

“LOGAN, UTAH-Former Agriculture Secretary Ezra Taft Benson charged Friday night that the civil-rights movement in the South had been ‘formatted almost entirely by the Communists.’ Elder Benson, a member of the Council of the Twelve of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said in a public meeting here that the whole civil-rights movement was ‘phony.’” (Deseret News, Dec. 14, 1963)

“The Communist program for revolution in America has been in progress for many years and is far advanced. While it can be thwarted in a fairly short period of time merely by sufficient exposure, the evil effects of what has already been accomplished cannot be removed overnight. The animosities, the hatred, the extension of government control into our daily lives–all this will take time to repair. The already-inflicted wounds will be slow to heal. First of all, we must not place blame on the Negroes. They are merely the unfortunate group that has been selected by professional Communist agitators to be used as the primary source of cannon fodder. Not one in a thousand Americans–black or white–really understands the full implications of today’s civil-rights agitation. The planning, direction, and leadership come from the Communists, and most of those are white men who fully intend to destroy America by spilling Negro blood, rather
than their own.

Next, we must not participate in any so-called ‘blacklash’ activity which might tend to further intensify inter-racial friction. Anti-Negro vigilante action, or mob action, of any kind fits perfectly into the Communist plan. This is one of the best ways to force the decent Negro into cooperating with militant Negro groups. The Communists are just as anxious to spearhead such anti-Negro actions as they are to organize demonstrations that are calculated to irritate white people.

We must insist that duly authorized legislative investigating committees launch an even more exhaustive study and expose the degree to which secret Communists have penetrated into the civil rights movement. The same needs to be done with militant anti-Negro groups. This is an effective way for the American people of both races to find out who are the false leaders among them” (Ezra Taft Benson, General Conference Report, Oct. 1967).

And here's the cover of a book for which Benson wrote the introduction:

TheBlackHammer.jpg

Alexander Zaitchik describes the book in his recent piece for the SPLC on Beck's espousal of Skousen:

Benson was also an advocate for Bircher-style conspiracy theories. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, he saw the hand of communism in every social welfare policy and fought them as both immoral and unconstitutional. A rabid foe of the civil rights movement, Benson in 1971 allowed one of his anti-civil rights talks to be reprinted as the introduction to a book of race hate called Black Hammer: A Study of Black Power, Red Influence, and White Alternatives. The book's cover featured the severed, bloody head of an African American. By the end of the decade, his politics had taken a similar turn to that of his friend Skousen. During a 1972 general conference of the Church of Latter-day Saints, Benson recommended all Mormons read Gary Allen's New World Order tract None Dare Call it Conspiracy.

And then there was Skousen -- whose views on race somehow are never mentioned by Beck:

Skousen's rolling theocratic lecture tour ran into problems in 1987, when outsiders started examining the contents of the book on which the seminars were based. The Making of America, it turned out, presented a history of slavery that could have been written by a propagandist for the Ku Klux Klan. Skousen relied for his interpretation of slavery on historian Fred Albert Shannon's Economic History of the People of the United States (1934). Quoting Shannon, Skousen described African-American children as "pickaninnies" and described American slave owners as the "worst victims" of the slavery system. He further explained that "[slave] gangs in transit were usually a cheerful lot, though the presence of a number of the more vicious type sometimes made it necessary for them all to go in chains." Shannon and Skousen also cast a skeptical eye on accounts of cruelty by slave masters and expressed much more interest in the "fear" Southern whites had while trying to protect "white civilization" from slave revolts.

This is why Beck's constant posturing on behalf of the civil-rights movement -- mostly in order to claim a King-like aura for himself -- is so bizarre. In order for Glenn Beck to convince his fellow conservatives to adopt this mantle, he essentially has to persuade millions of people who have opposed it with every fiber of their beings for most of their lives to completely reverse course and claim the opposite of their former beliefs.

In reality, of course, it's just a pose intended to mislead the gullible and blunt the critics who can see right through Beck's phony veneer of advocacy for the civil rights of right-wing white people.

Comments

We welcome relevant, respectful comments. Any comments that are sexist or in any other way deemed hateful by our staff will be deleted and constitute grounds for a ban from posting on the site. Please refer to our Terms of Service (revised 3/17/2016) for information on our posting policy.