Beck’s Taming of King

At this point,  I figure enough press has been given to Beck. Nevertheless, I think it is worth mentioning that what he did yesterday was tame Doctor King, by a lot. He ignores a lot of King’s work because it contrasts and contradicts social and fiscal conservatism. I am not terribly surprised Beck ignores this because most people ignore a LOT of Doctor King’s work. Martin Luther King Day focuses almost exclusively on his “I Have a Dream” Speech ignoring, for instance, that the speech was delivered in 1963 when King was assassinated five years later at an AFSCME strike in 1968. We’re missing five years of King’s thought. I am not saying we should stop focusing on the Civil Rights Movement or his involvement within it, or even saying that his later actions aren’t part of the civil rights movement. What I am saying is that we have someone who fought against racism, war, and poverty, especially someone who envisions war and poverty being integrally linked within our nation.

King was opposed to the Vietnam War and saw our occupation there as colonial in nature. He saw it as extremely violent and even criticized the government by saying that the United States government was, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” However, he also believed that a large issue with the war is that money was going into military spending that could be spent on social welfare and on anti-poverty programs. He believed that because we were spending more and more on military and less and less on social uplift, we were reaching our spiritual demise.

We also forget that King helped organize the Poor People’s Campaign. The poor people’s campaign demanded an economic bill of rights and that the government prioritize helping the poor by committing itself to granting full-employment to the poor, guaranteeing an annual income measure and to creating low-income housing. King believed that this was the second phase of the civil rights movement.

In other words, there are crucial portions of King’s thinking that are at odds with Beck’s movement. Beck ignores this and it is impossible to tell if Beck ignores this because America as a whole tends to ignore it or if Beck consciously ignores King’s thinking in order to cast King as a figure who is consistent with his own message. Considering that he has already done so with the Founding Fathers and Abraham Lincoln, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s attempting to do the same with King. Maybe I should give him the benefit of the doubt.

At this point, I am concerned about the amount of historical revisionism that is taking place in our nation. History is always an interpretation of events and there is no universal historical narrative. History is lived through the lenses of our contexts. However, I also believe that historical events can be clearly perverted. Beck has done it in the past with the Holocaust, arguing that liberals are the heirs to Nazi Germany, or that we are living in a time much like the Weimar Republic.


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