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The Martin Luther King Not Seen on TV

 
 
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 08:45 am
By Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon


It's become a TV ritual: Every year in mid-January, around the time of Martin Luther King's birthday, we get perfunctory network news reports about "the slain civil rights leader."

The remarkable thing about this annual review of King's life is that several years - his last years - are totally missing, as if flushed down a memory hole.

What TV viewers see is a closed loop of familiar file footage: King battling desegregation in Birmingham (1963); reciting his dream of racial harmony at the rally in Washington (1963); marching for voting rights in Selma, Alabama (1965); and finally, lying dead on the motel balcony in Memphis (1968).

An alert viewer might notice that the chronology jumps from 1965 to 1968. Yet King didn't take a sabbatical near the end of his life. In fact, he was speaking and organizing as diligently as ever.

Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.

Why?

It's because national news media have never come to terms with what Martin Luther King Jr. stood for during his final years.

In the early 1960s, when King focused his challenge on legalized racial discrimination in the South, most major media were his allies. Network TV and national publications graphically showed the police dogs and bullwhips and cattle prods used against Southern blacks who sought the right to vote or to eat at a public lunch counter.

But after passage of civil rights acts in 1964 and 1965, King began challenging the nation's fundamental priorities. He maintained that civil rights laws were empty without "human rights" �- including economic rights. For people too poor to eat at a restaurant or afford a decent home, King said, anti-discrimination laws were hollow.

Noting that a majority of Americans below the poverty line were white, King developed a class perspective. He decried the huge income gaps between rich and poor, and called for "radical changes in the structure of our society" to redistribute wealth and power.

"True compassion," King declared, "is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring."

By 1967, King had also become the country's most prominent opponent of the Vietnam War, and a staunch critic of overall U.S. foreign policy, which he deemed militaristic. In his "Beyond Vietnam" speech delivered at New York's Riverside Church on April 4, 1967 �- a year to the day before he was murdered �- King called the United States "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."

From Vietnam to South Africa to Latin America, King said, the U.S. was "on the wrong side of a world revolution." King questioned "our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America," and asked why the U.S. was suppressing revolutions "of the shirtless and barefoot people" in the Third World, instead of supporting them.

In foreign policy, King also offered an economic critique, complaining about "capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries."

You haven't heard the "Beyond Vietnam" speech on network news retrospectives, but national media heard it loud and clear back in 1967 �- and loudly denounced it. Time magazine called it "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post patronized that "King has diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people."

In his last months, King was organizing the most militant project of his life: the Poor People's Campaign. He crisscrossed the country to assemble "a multiracial army of the poor" that would descend on Washington �- engaging in nonviolent civil disobedience at the Capitol, if need be �- until Congress enacted a poor people's bill of rights. Reader's Digest warned of an "insurrection."

King's economic bill of rights called for massive government jobs programs to rebuild America's cities. He saw a crying need to confront a Congress that had demonstrated its "hostility to the poor" �- appropriating "military funds with alacrity and generosity," but providing "poverty funds with miserliness."

How familiar that sounds today, more than a quarter-century after King's efforts on behalf of the poor people's mobilization were cut short by an assassin's bullet.

As 1995 gets underway, in this nation of immense wealth, the White House and Congress continue to accept the perpetuation of poverty. And so do most mass media. Perhaps it's no surprise that they tell us little about the last years of Martin Luther King's life.

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=2269

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Jeff Cohen and Norman Solomon are syndicated columnists and authors of Adventures in Medialand: Behind the News, Beyond the Pundits (Common Courage Press).
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Type: Discussion • Score: 1 • Views: 6,556 • Replies: 68
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dyslexia
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 08:47 am
excellent edgar.
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 09:05 am
Quote:
Almost all of those speeches were filmed or taped. But they're not shown today on TV.

Why?


Because....You need a license to quote Martin Luther King, Jr.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 09:21 am
You don't need a license to recount the life of MLK, which can easily be done without direct quotes.
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 09:29 am
Quote:
You haven't heard the "Beyond Vietnam" speech on network news retrospectives.....


Well, you can.

<Just.... "Show me the money">
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 09:37 am
I don't know what you are getting at. Nothing you have said refutes the story I posted.
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 09:40 am
The story you posted clearly asks why all of Dr. King's speeches, which were filmed or taped, aren't shown on TV today.

The answer is they can be shown.

The price starts at around $2,000.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 09:53 am
The gist of the article is that King's last acts are glossed over by the media. A media glossing over these things does not intend to show those speeches, no matter what. So what are you trying to say? Is there a point here that I am missing?
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 10:21 am
When the "media" tried to show the speeches, they were sued.

"Eyes on the Prize" (said by many to be the most important civil rights documentary of all time - showing historical footage from the period) isn't shown publicly anymore and its creator was sued.

How can one write about a subject without using reference material of some sort, knowing that use of that material may very well get them sued?

You really think it's some vast conspiracy?

Quote:
If King remains a one-dimensional grainy black-and-white figure who utters the same sunny sound bite year after year until it's a cliche, it's because news networks won't pay for more, and researchers have been kept from delving deep into his papers to tell us something new about the Martin Luther King the man, not the statuette.

And his family wants it that way.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 10:23 am
The gist of the article was not that the speeches are not shown, but that his last acts are glossed over. Meaning, they can tell of these things without showing the speeches, but have a policy to not do it.
0 Replies
 
Bi-Polar Bear
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 10:29 am
JW will do whatever necessary to put the black hat (no pun intended) on the King camp Edgar. Ignore.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 10:31 am
I know you are right, blue veined one, but I have been trying out a policy of politeness.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 10:47 am
Besides, the rapid exchanges may have brought in more readers, if not posters.
0 Replies
 
JustWonders
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 10:51 am
So...you both agree that making Dr. King a commodity for profit is a bit cheesy.

Good to know Smile
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 10:58 am
Which thread are you trying to post on JW? So far, nothing you've posted relates to the subject in question.
0 Replies
 
Anon-Voter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 11:12 am
Edgar,

Some of us get the point of the post, which is well taken. I'm watching "Meet The Press" right now as I write, and it is going into some of the very aspects of this Topic.

I have finally found a picture of a rightwinger in deep thought that I think is very appropriate.

http://www.cyberbuzz.org

Anon
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 11:31 am
I recall very clearly the last few years of King's activism. I saw him portrayed in the news in a harsher light. I thought it possibly was attributable to his straying from his original message. I did not learn to see until later, it simply was that the press and many less committed Americans simply could not walk with him to the journey's end. We are now at a point where the dream carries on, or is thwarted a few more generations, while people sort out their true priorities. I am not generally optimistic.
0 Replies
 
Anon-Voter
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 11:40 am
Neither am I. We have taken a giant step backwards by about 50 years as near as I can tell!! Bigotry and exclusion are the "in" things at the moment while our me-first society gluts itself. It's not a pretty picture, especially when you take a look at what we're leaving posterity!!

Anon
0 Replies
 
nimh
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 11:45 am
Very interesting, Edgar.

As for the distract-the-topic-to-a-digression-that-is-only-vaguely-related-but-can-be-counted-upon-to-create-enough-contention-to-swamp-whatever-was-the-original-point-of-the-argument strategy, well, we should know it by now. It appears to be a conservative classic, at least in this era.
0 Replies
 
edgarblythe
 
  1  
Reply Sun 15 Jan, 2006 11:47 am
Yep start a thread about bread and eggs and someone will try to get you talking about feather mattresses.
0 Replies
 
 

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