[sixties-l] Re: The Other Dr. King

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@lehigh.edu)
Date: Thu Feb 22 2001 - 11:15:12 EST

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    I appreciate Stonewall's personal reminiscence about Martin Luther King's
    speech on the war. However, I think there was "something different" about
    the public response to this speech (as opposed to the long-term current of
    red-baiting, etc. that was widespread before). This dismissal of King came
    from the heart of the "liberal establishment" that was "on his side" on
    civil rights --Johnson administration people (most blatantly, Roche, who
    shall live in infamy), the New York Times, the Washington Post, etc.
    [Compare their treatment of his Vietnam speech, for example, with his "I
    have a Dream" speech.]

    This is one of the real good examples in the 1960s of the "ideological
    boundaries" of the mass media system & public discourse at work --i.e.,
    positions which are system-critical lie 'outside' the bounds of legitimate
    discourse, whereas those that are critical of particular actors of subsets
    of the system are perfectly legitimate (e.g., civil rights & the attack on
    Southern apartheid vs. the grass-roots effort to confront systemic urban
    (and other) poverty linked to the political economy & local power
    structures; or the Vietnam War as "not working" (legitimate and fully
    visible as part of the mainstream debate in the media and halls of Congress)
    vs. as "US assault on SE Asian nation" (illegitimate and missing from the
    mainstream media).

    One of the impacts of this 'closed' system of discourse, I argue in the book
    I'm working on, is that is pushes "outsiders" in the direction of letting
    their "actions" speak for them --i.e, increasing militance, which becomes
    defined by the media as "radical" when in fact it may not be, etc. Thus
    --for this and many other reasons (! repression by police/govt.; the
    continuing obscene war, etc.)-- the trajectory of the1960s, new left,
    antiwar movement, etc.

    These boundaries continue to hold fast (see just about any foreign policy
    intervention, globalizing capitalism, etc.), while the fixation with
    dramatic action & visuals and the co-optive portrayal of "dissent" and
    "rebellion" throughout the consumer culture are both more pervasive. With
    huge implications for the possibilities of effective democratic mobilization

    Ted Morgan

    Stonewall McMurray wrote:

    > Thanks for this piece. I remember that those of us who had moved on
    > from Civil Rights to the anti-war movement longed for Dr. King to speak
    > out against the war; indeed, there were some who denounced him for not
    > doing so, while others understood that his doing so would cause
    > difficulty for the civil rights movement, which still had things to
    > accomplish.
    > When he finally gave the sermon at Riverside Church, it was broadcast
    > (and rebroadcast) on WRVR, Riverside Church's-then fm station, which
    > carried their services and a mix of classical and jazz. Those of us who
    > had joined the anti-war movement rejoiced that he had finally come out
    > aganst the war, which many of us saw as of a piece with the civil rights
    > question.
    > Yes, it did lead to yet more denunciations of Dr. King as red; but this
    > was nothing new: it went back all the way to Montgomery, once it was
    > learned that he was associated with the Highlander School and those
    > nasty New York Jewish liberals, some of whom did indeed have present or
    > past Communist ties.
    > ANYthing on the even the right fringe of the liberal side of politics
    > was often so denounced in the 40's-60's-- even, e.g., my future
    > mother-in-law for urging public kindergartens in Houston, or my cousin,
    > a Presbyterian minister, when his Houston congregation's elders refused
    > to allow a John Bircher to donate American flags to put in every Sunday
    > School classroom. (Both of these things from the mid-50's.) The
    > Birchers were all over the place in the newspapers and on radio and tv.
    > And even LBJ was labelled a "Communist" in his Congressional and the
    > 1948 Senate campaigns, because he favored low-interest-rate Federal
    > loans to the Rural Electrification Program for rural power distribution
    > facilities to farmers who lacked electricity because the private
    > utilities thought the investment cost too high to build them and for the
    > development of co-op electric generation and transmission systems such
    > as the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) and Brazos Electric Power
    > Cooperative(BEPC) which sold power to the REA coops in Texas when the
    > private utilities wanted too high a price for electricity -- and this
    > not from the right-wing organizations, but from the campaign of Texas'
    > Governor Coke Stevenson, his opponent in the Democratic Senate Primary
    > which ended in the infamous "landslide".

    Ted Morgan
    Department of Political Science
    Lehigh University
    Maginnes Hall #9
    Bethlehem, PA 18015
    Phone: (610) 758-3345
    Fax: (610) 758-6554

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