Outlets use MLK Day to co-opt, distort King’s message

January 16, 2023

By Tim Worstall

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a great man, no doubt about that. Also on the right side of history.

However, those two points also mean that everyone with an axe to grind these days tries to co-opt his memory and assert that his ideas were the same as theirs today. This is not necessarily true.

One example is from NowThis News and in this video.

“I have a dream that my 4 little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

This quote is often used to promote a “post-racial” agenda, criticize affirmative action, and silence those who advocate for race to be taken into consideration while working toward a fairer and more equitable America.

The quote is taken from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered before a crowd of more than 250,000 people on August 28, 1963, at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That march was organized because King and his collaborators recognized the racial inequalities and injustices that persisted in society. They did not seek a “post-racial” existence; they sought equity.

The problem here is that the meaning of the word “equity” has changed over those 60 and more years. Back then it meant “an equal chance” and today’s activists use it to mean “an equal outcome”. These are very different things. We can indeed find examples of the Rev King arguing for equity. But what he meant by that is not the same as today’s meaning of that word.

Teen Vogue also veers off the tracks:

Andrew J. Douglas: The concept of racial capitalism helps us think about how racial violence and inequality are integral to how capitalism works. They are what enable and sustain profitability, growth, private wealth capture. The idea is that we can’t have capitalism without racism, and we can’t be antiracist without being anticapitalist.

In the book, we turn to contemporary discourse on racial capitalism in an effort to reconstruct King’s critique of capitalist society. King, of course, didn’t use this language, but it can be applied to his life’s work remarkably well.

Well, no, it can’t. Feudal societies, those before capitalism, had both slavery and racism. Free market capitalism is actually the thing that killed slavery. That godfather of the system, Adam Smith, was one of the first to point out that not only was slavery immoral, but also profit-reducing. J.S. Mill, a generation later, proved that wage labor was more profitable than slavery. And Gary Becker, another generation later, showed that capitalism and markets will wipe out discrimination. His actual example was the Jim Crow laws. The very reason for the laws, the insistence upon racist discrimination, was that free market capitalism would wipe out that discrimination in the pursuit of profits.

This is not to argue the specific points so much. Rather, it’s to point out what always does happen with history. Here is this grand example of something we all approve of. So, today’s propagandists will use that approval to mean that if we agree on that grand example then, therefore, we must agree with their current proposal.

Whether we call this just historical propaganda or disinformation is up to us. But this is what they are doing. Here, it’s that MLK was indeed a great man. But that doesn’t mean – despite the claims – that he either proves or even would have agreed with the claims of modern-day activists.

NowThis News ranks out at 2,000 and more on the listings of US media outlets. It gains a little over 700,000 monthly visits from that position. But far more important is the YouTube channel is 2,25 million subscribers.

Teen Vogue ranks at 424, gaining 5.6 million visits a month. The concentration of the readership is teenage girls, of course. Their tagline is “Educating the influencers of the future”. We agree that education is a great idea, we just wish Teen Vogue would do more of it.

We do all agree that MLK was one of those rare great men – with the flaws of being human of course. But it’s exactly that general agreement which means that today’s activists are calling on his memory to justify their current obsessions. To the point of misinforming us about both reality and King’s own beliefs.


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