Long before conservatives decided to pretend MLK was one of them, they attacked him mercilessly just as they're attacking today's black leaders.
August 12, 2013

I've got a new op-ed up at Al Jazeera English, Martin Luther King, race-baiter? In it, I cite a variety of Fox News attacks on black leaders, from a Media Matters compilation, and then I say this:

For some, that was only the beginning, as they've continued similar invective for over two weeks now. Listening to this virulent outpouring of hatred, one can't help but think that if Martin Luther King were alive today, these same conservative hatemongers would be calling him a "race-hustler" a demagouge and a divider, too. This is not a mere matter of speculation. It's precisely what conservatives back then did when King was still alive.

For decades now, conservatives have tried to reinvent King as one of their own—or at the very least pretend that they agree with him. Just because he once spoke of "character", he must be a conservative, right? Unfortunately for conservatives, King said a great deal more about character than they care to remember.

One of his most famous speeches - unknown, apparently, to most conservatives - was "The Drum Major Instinct", In it, King spoke about personal responsibility with a much more lofty view than conservatives ever conceive of: that we are each responsible not just for ourselves, but for each other, and for our collective redemption from the sins of our past that stain us still. It was not about denying ego, but about putting ego into the service of others.

"Say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter." That's what King said about how he wanted to be remembered, one month before he was assassinated. That's the kind of character that King strove for in his own life, right up to the very end.

And then there is his most famous non-speech, his "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." This letter, and the occasion of its writing are the most direct refutation of the rightwing media haters of today, and their relentless attacks on the civil rights leaders of today.

Go read the whole piece for yourself.

p.s. The comment section is full of rightwing commentators inadvertently proving my point, over and over and over again. Not one of them seems to have actually read my piece. It's genuinely hilarious, albeit entirely predictable.

Can you help us out?

For 18 years we have been exposing Washington lies and untangling media deceit, but now Facebook is drowning us in an ocean of right wing lies. Please give a one-time or recurring donation, or buy a year's subscription for an ad-free experience. Thank you.


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 for information on our posting policy.