Contrary thoughts on the Martin Luther King holiday and its significance in American life

(Note, Jan.18: a reader says Shrewsbury went too far in his attack on King’s character, and I reply.)

Shrewsbury writes:

Dear Mr. Auster:

As Shrewsbury believes that the blessed St. Martin’s Day, January 15, is a time of reflection for Canon Austerius and all the faithful at VFR, he thought he might offer a few thoughts of his own on the meaning of this very special holiday.

Well, let us can the irony. In truth, the King cult, by no means unlike that of Lenin, serves the totalitarian function of convincing people that no progress is possible without political action, mass rallies, and state control. Traditional ways, ideas of individual struggle, thrift, probity, diligence, restraint, are obliterated, and are meant to be. The anti-discrimination legislation of the 1960s was the foundation of American totalitarianism, though it is today idiotically hailed even by “conservatives”—see Glenn Beck’s retarded dog-and-pony show on the National Mall last October, or Jonah Goldberg (celebrated author of Liberal Fascism, forsooth!) upbraiding Rand Paul for dreamily questioning the sanctity of the Civil rights Act. We are required in these latter days to regard it as Gospel that before King’s peripatetic bloviating and the passage of the rafts of “civil rights” laws the entire white population of the United States from Seattle to Miami was frothing as one with exuberant racial hatred, and Negroes, excepting perhaps only Louis Armstrong and Willie Mays, led furtive lives in the shadows, scurrying from cotton field to Cotton Club by secret ways to avoid the roving lynch mobs. Is this really the way it was? Just for a moment, let’s try to climb back out of the Memory Hole and instead take a trip down Memory Lane.

To begin with, Shrewsbury would like to refer the reader to the early-1950s television series Amos & Andy, a spin-off of the infamous radio show. Yes, yes, a trivial thing in itself, and of course Shrewsbury knows that Amos & Andy is supposed to be the epitome of everything “racist,” but he doubts even the gentle radio show was ever that, and the television show, which had actual cullud folk playing the cullud folk*, could no more be construed as anti-black than the Honeymooners as anti-white. Amos and Andy encounter respectable black lawyers, doctors; the black characters interact with white characters on terms of perfect equality. Now, of course Shrewsbury is keenly aware that mere entertainments (or newscasts for that matter) only very rarely reflect reality, but they do reflect Zeitgeists, and the Geist of the 1950s Amos & Andy was quite different from that of the mammies and spooks and Stepin Fetchits in the moving pictures of the 1930s. And if it’s objective depictions of race relations you demand, why, the documentary-like 1953 film The Little Fugitive (which Truffaut said gave birth to cinema verité), has unstaged scenes showing white families and black families casually sharing the same beach at Coney Island in quite a piebald arrangement—more “integrated” and vastly more peaceful than you are likely to see today, in fact. Films of the World Series of the 1940s show more blacks in the crowds than you see at even regular-season baseball games today. And yet … and yet … why, somehow the blessed prophet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (pbuh), had had nothing to do with this! How can it be?

What is more, Shrewsbury, who is no spring chicken, and in fact need not depend on films nor TV shows to present him with vivid recollections of a half-century ago, well remembers an early-’60s summer at one of those ghastly internment camps for inner-city yutes (“Hey, I’m depraved on account of I’m deprived!”) at which his gang’s “counselor” was what the liberals of the time would have called “a Negro,” the intelligent and long-suffering “Don.” No one thought it was strange. In the mid-’60s, aside from innumerable black classmates, Shrewsbury had a black math and a black science teacher in eighth grade, and a black math and a black biology teacher in tenth. What had they been doing before the “I Have a Dream” speech? Picking massah’s cotton? Indeed, already by the middle 1950s lynchings had ceased utterly even in the reputedly terrible South, the first five winners of the National League Rookie of the Year Award had been black, Sidney Poitier was a movie star, and Thomas Sowell was in grad school at Harvard; and yet it was just at this point, when the races were achieving a modus vivendi, not “integration” by any means, but living side by side at peace and with a little intermingling when that seemed desirable, with American goodwill and by slow natural processes developing an organic way of sharing the same nation; it was just at this point, says Shrewsbury, that the entire herdlike liberalsphere became wildly agitated, the way it always insensibly seems to do when lashed by communist subversives (as broadly defined)—now, suddenly, over compulsory racial integration (except of course for themselves, who were, after all, already ascended to a higher plane of consciousness which permitted them to love “the Negro” without actually having anything to do with him). Suddenly it was revealed to the anointed that, even in such penny-ante matters as who must serve whom a cheeseburger, the correct responses needed to be made compulsory, and thus required federal control over the benighted peasantry, indeed National Guard troops with guns at the ready. While forced integration required nothing of them but various expressions of their superiority to other whites, it did require federal boots on the necks of those horrid Southerners, who so outrageously wanted to go on living as they had been (nothing is more hateful to the totalitarian), and who so inexcusably failed to understand the politically-sanctified superiority of liberals. We are schooled to believe without question that the pre-King South was a detestable place of racial hatred and violence. Maybe. Shrewsbury has his doubts, but he wasn’t there, so he will remain agnostic on the question. Certainly he can never trust the official version, continually amazed as he is how, once you get down to actual cases, absolutely everything in the liberal canon turns out to be a squalid lie. And one should point out that those crowds of horrid white folks weren’t yelling at blacks on the way to black schools; they were yelling at blacks, who they, at rifle-point, were being forced to accept into their white schools. So how would Nancy Pelosi like it if, say, the federal government were to force her at gunpoint to eat a cheeseburger?

In short, why did we need Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.? What was he in aid of? He was a thoroughly false and wicked man, who did vastly more to destroy his own people than any white segregationist ever wanted to. Although he had no visible means of support, like the typical ubiquitous quack he endlessly peregrinated around the country (spanielled at his heels by his eager apprentice-grafter Jesse Jackson), hustling donations and shakedowns, nightly abusing hoes in sleazy motel rooms while venting obscene and blasphemous outbursts recorded by FBI bugs for posterity—bellowed ejaculations so vile, that e’en such an one as the Greenwich-Village native and possibly still slightly bohemian Shrewsbury finds the mere act of typing them too revolting to accomplish. And this is who is to be our spiritual guide? No man with so much as a shred of decency, to say nothing of integrity, or actual spiritual force, could have conducted himself in such a manner. In between his motel bacchanalias, he taught his people to look for salvation to race-hustling blowhards and orgiastic political events and dispensations from the federal government, rather than persistent individual struggle and emulation of civilized white folks, as had increasingly been occurring for many decades—until King arrived, and like a crazed Pullman porter stormed into the cab of the locomotive, grabbed the levers, and ran the train of Negro Progress right off the rails. “The Negro,” considered as a political being, then became another species of Leftist Man, “a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph.”

Of course, he had plenty of help. He knew he was not so much leading his people to the Promised Land as playing to the besotted liberalsphere, from which all blessings flow, and which saw in him a dusky Lenin, who with his revolutionary minions would help them shake the world. The liberalsphere likes nothing better than to mix the ruthless pursuit of their class interest with hosannahs, arm-waving, and soulful singing. In fact, Shrewsbury has decided that he will henceforth in his screeds refer to our supposedly kumbayah liberals as neo-Leninists. This is because, although they are certainly totalitarians, they cannot be Marxist-Leninists because (1) they need to think of themselves as nice and superior people, while (2) at the same time they don’t even pretend to give a rat’s hindquarters about the working class, indeed they frankly abhor it. They do want to be the “vanguard elite” of a new totalitarianism, but without ever admitting to themselves, and certainly to nobody else, exactly what it is they are doing. The undeluded reader of VFR however will note that their sudden bursts of crazed enthusiasm invariably have the result of fostering policies which place more power in the hands of the neo-Leninists, be it forced racial integration (of others), or mass nonwhite immigration, or preventing climate change, or homosexual privilege, or controlling “extreme” political speech, or whatever apparently absurd and destructive hobby is next.

So, as of 1964 no longer was it possible to live like people, with all their natural differences. The federal government would now tell everyone how it was to be done, and woe betide any who strayed even a whisker from the narrow track. This is today celebrated across the political spectrum as a time of deliverance from a dark and benighted era, but we ask: If the way that the races had found to live with each other had entailed a certain amount of segregation, so what? What is so odious about people living the way they want? (As if segregation has disappeared since!) But the neo-Leninists would have none of it.

Long ago Shrewsbury heard a radio interview with the segregationist Malcolm X in which he said that forcing people to serve you a cheeseburger was insane (or, as he said, it, insane); but the late Mr. X failed to see the totalitarian motive behind all the “civil rights” agitation. You can always tell a totalitarian movement or government because (1) it insists that people act in insane ways; and (2) it dehumanizes and/or liquidates anyone who fails to do so. The current regime hasn’t gotten around to the liquidation part yet, but it manifestly wants to go there: the neo-Leninists have ideologized their class aggression, and from the divine right of kings we’ve descended to the divine right of liberals. (“An abstract thought is always ruthless.”—C. G. Jung, quoted in the New York Times, September 29, 1912.) The supposed fundamental evil of the racist white, like that of the Jew or the bourgeois, has become the central tenet of the totalitarianism slowly settling upon our failing nation. This was vividly illustrated last year by the really depraved media response to the slaughter in Connecticut, by a black psychopath caught stealing by his employer and fired, who, mumbling about racists, returned to the workplace and murdered eight coworkers because they were white men. To the neo-Leninists of the media the murdered men were ideological non-entities, and objectively they dismissed the murders as inconsequential compared to a psychotic murderer’s blitherings about “racism.” Just as they presumed that conservative whites were somehow responsible for the recent killings in Tucson, so they presumed that “racist” whites had been responsible for their own deaths in the killings in Connecticut. This repeated and nearly unanimous perception that deviationist ideology is of infinitely greater significance than mass murder, demonstrates that to the extent that our society is “liberal” (and of course great swathes of it are entirely liberal) it is indisputably a totalitarian society. Indeed, this depraved response, one supposes, is indistinguishable from what would have been the reaction of the party organs of the 1930s Soviet Union to the news that a worker had killed eight kulaks, who, he reported, had been counterrevolutionaries; or some Beobachter in Nazi Germany if a good German had killed eight Jews whom he suspected of mocking der Fuhrer. Very messy, to be sure, but entirely understandable. How much abuse is a Proletarian/Aryan/African American expected to take at the hands of Capitalists/Jews/Racists before he snaps? And one must, after all, be utterly ruthless about eradicating such divisive elements—insects, to use Lenin’s charming terminology. Shrewsbury cannot see much difference between Lenin’s sneering rants about “insects” and our media’s reaction to the mass murder of eight “racists.” Is the way they speak even of “teabaggers,” so different? So the “liberals,” whatever they may think of themselves, are now flat-out, downright, stone-cold totalitarians—in short, neo-Leninists. But you knew that. [LA notes: Shrewsbury’s e-mail was received before the entries on the Connecticut mass murder were posted Sunday morning, meaning that he had independently been thinking along the same lines as Paul of SBPDL.]

And the King holiday is their Lenin’s tomb. Or, it is at least until the 56 feet of shelf space groaning under the sealed King files in the custody of the National Archives and Record Service are unsealed in 2027, as they are, at least, scheduled to be. But will they really be? Shrewsbury guesses that that depends on how much power the neo-Leninists have either accrued, or had wrested from them, by then.

I remain, as ever,
Yrs. Respectfully,


* One cannot fail to notice that the term colored folk, gentler, more accepting, more inclusive, less alienating than “African American,” and not at all totalitarian, has had to be liquidated, cursed as reactionary and reprobate, precisely because of its natural, apolitical character.

- end of initial entry -

LA replies:

While I agree with Shrewsbury’s overall theme, I do not agree with his 100 percent negative portrayal of Martin Luther King as a man lacking any admirable qualities whatsoever. King had admirable qualities.

Irv G. writes:


Doug H. writes:

When Shrewsbury wrote that many people think blacks went from cotton field to cotton field it reminded me of my own humble grandparents. Attached is a picture of my mother walking the cotton fields of Mississippi while my grandmother and grandfather picked cotton along with the black workers. My grandmother often talks about the wonderful songs the blacks sang as they worked.


Of course you already know what liberals will never acknowledge. Many whites also struggle to raise themselves above grinding poverty. Because of the hard work ethic of my grandparents all the children are doing well today without being handed government support.

On the article about re-Christianization of Europe, my church sends missionaries to the Netherlands.

January 18

Jason R. writes:

Shrewsbury writes:

Although he had no visible means of support, like the typical ubiquitous quack he endlessly peregrinated around the country (spanielled at his heels by his eager apprentice-grafter Jesse Jackson), hustling donations and shakedowns, nightly abusing hoes in sleazy motel rooms while venting obscene and blasphemous outbursts recorded by FBI bugs for posterity—bellowed ejaculations so vile, that e’en such an one as the Greenwich-Village native and possibly still slightly bohemian Shrewsbury finds the mere act of typing them too revolting to accomplish.

Couldn’t you ask Shrewsbury to try? At the very least, Shrewsbury should tell us where we can find the source of such information.

LA replies:

I agree that the passage is extreme and insulting. Did MLK “hustle donations and shakedowns”? He was an activist, and raised money to support his activism. Did he do this in a way that was more dishonorable than the way honorable activists have done it? I don’t know. So, I should have had Shrewsbury either provide evidence, or soften that language before I posted it.

As for MLK’s sexual activities, according to his own long-time lieutenant Ralph Abernathy, he did carry on with a great variety of women more or less continuously. He even was having a very audible sex session with a woman in his hotel room immediately after he delivered the “I have a dream speech,” while his confederates, gathered in the main room of the suite, heard the session going on. That he behaved in such a manner on that historic day suggests a person who is seriously disordered. On another occasion, which as I remember was just before his death, as told in Abernathy’s book, King got into sleazy arguments and physical fights with two different paramours on the same evening. The evidence is established that MLK was not just a man who had an adulterous liaison here and there as he traveled around the country, living and working under tremendous stress, and an object of awe and admiration, a situation that will naturally present sexual temptations, but that he was spectacularly out of control in his sexual life. A man who is spectacularly out of control in his sexual life is not a person who can properly be seen as a moral leader. Also there is evidence that King was aware of this darkness in himself, was deeply ashamed of it, but felt powerless to do anything about it, and let it continue to control him.

So, overall, I think that Shrewsbury’s language is acceptable here. However, as Jason suggests, Shrewsbury could provide more evidence for the charges, or point us to it.

Shrewsbury replies:

Dear Mr. Auster:

Canon Austerius and Jason R. seem to Shrewsbury to be requesting evidence for somewhat different things. Mr. R. seems to want a link to some of the things King said as recorded by the FBI bugs, which Shrewsbury could not bring himself to type. Just for starters, here is, not a link, but an excerpt from an article in Newsweek:

Newsweek, 01/19/98, Page 62:

January 6, 1964, was a long day for Martin Luther King Jr. He spent the morning seated in the reserved section of the Supreme Court, listening as lawyers argued New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, a landmark case rising out of King’s crusade against segregation in Alabama. The minister was something of an honored guest: Justice Arthur Goldberg quietly sent down a copy of Kings account of the Montgomery bus boycott, “Stride Toward Freedom,” asking for an autograph. That night King retired to his room at the Willard Hotel. There FBI bugs reportedly picked up 14 hours of party chatter, the clinking of glasses and the sounds of illicit sex—including King’s cries of “I’m f—ing for God…. “

Canon Austerius, on the other hand, seems to want authentication for Shrewsbury’s description of King as a hustler, an ubiquitous quack. Here’s a start, the opinion of the (politically liberal) head of FBI intelligence operations, William C. Sullivan: “It should be clear to all of us that Martin Luther King must, at some propitious point in the future, be revealed to the people of this country and to his Negro followers as being what he actually is—a fraud, demagogue and scoundrel.” Shrewsbury notes in passing that neither Newsweek nor Wikipedia is known as a venue for frothing right-wing viewpoints. He will offer further citations as time permits.

However, Shrewsbury is less interested in trashing King than in pointing out the totalitarian vectors of the whole “civil rights” “movement,” of which Martin (pbuh) is the prophet.

By the way, can anyone name any “honorable activists”? Offhand Shrewsbury can’t think of one. Phyllis Schlafly? Anyone on the left? Hard to imagine.

Also by the way, Austerius suggested that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (pbuh), had some admirable qualities, and Shrewsbury would like to ask (not in the spirit of controversy, but out of genuine curiosity, as well as a little henpecking, since the dread Mrs. Shrewsbury, for whom Shrewsbury regularly prints out pages from VFR, and who makes Shrewsbury look like a puling liberal, still weeping for the Rosenbergs, the Scottsboro Boys, and Sacco & Vanzetti, was somewhat scandalized by Austerius’s demurral to Shrewsbury’s aspersions, and urged Shrewsbury to ask Austerius what these admirable qualities were) … er … what were they?

I remain,

Yrs. respectfully,


LA replies:

Dear Shrewsbury:

Publicly he had the quality of a transcendent moral leader. His life was devoted to a cause, and he traveled around the country putting his body on the line over and over in the name of that cause, among other things, being repeatedly arrested. In his speeches and books, such as Why We Can’t Wait, he made a case for the wrongness of dicrimination against Negroes, and for the end of such discrimination, which carried a moral impact, touched the consciences of millions of people, and persuaded them to the rightness of civil rights for blacks. One reason he was so successful was that he completely rejected any animosity against whites and completely rejected violence. He appealed to a higher principle of right, and made that principle identical with America itself, America as he said it ought to be. It wasn’t for nothing that people had great admiration for him. They didn’t have admiration for a “fraud, demagogue, and scoundrel,” for a “hustler and a quack.” They had admiration for someone who was appealing with great effectiveness and eloquence to a moral principle, and who didn’t just talk, but who put his body and his freedom on the line, sometimes risking his life. For example, when he was arrested during the 1960 presidential campaign, there were fears for his safety, which was part of what compelled Kennedy and Nixon to make public statements about their concern for him.

It’s also simply untrue to describe King as a demagogue. A demagogue is someone who stirs up people’s unworthy passions. King appealed to a moral principle, not to the low passions of the crowd.

Obviously the man had good and admirable qualities, and to deny them is folly. The hate-King campaign of the last several decades, while understandable up to a point, is disgusting in its portrayal of King as nothing but some repellent lowlife. Mere smearing of King’s character, regardless of how much truth it may contain, does nothing to persuade people that King’s cause was wrong. It only persuades people that King’s opponents are motivated by low animus (I am not suggesting that Shrewsbury is so motivated).

The only way the segregationists and the conservative opponents of the civil rights laws could have won was by having a moral principle of their own that was as appealing as King’s and more persuasive. As I have said many times, mere proceduralism—states’ rights—by itself was not enough. They needed to show the substantive rightness of segregation and institutional inequality. This they didn’t even attempt to do. In my own writings on the subject, particularly this, I have offered an alternative racial vision that might have been followed instead of the civil rights vision we did follow—a vision which ineluctably led to the conviction that white America is guilty for existing and deserves to be displaced and eliminated.

Shrewsbury replies:
“It only persuades people that King’s opponents are motivated by low animus (I am not suggesting that Shrewsbury is so motivated).”

Actually, low animus is one of Shrewsbury’s most frequent motivations. Still, he is only judging Martin (pbuh) by the content of his character, and he still thinks that Austerius might be overvaluing the prophet of the Civil rights Movement. Martin (pbuh) was certainly canny enough to know that he wouldn’t get what he wanted by stirring up anything resembling a race war when his people were 10 percent of the population, any more than Obama would have gotten what he wanted, the White House, had he stated his true academic-lefty views during the presidential campaign. So Shrewsbury values Martin’s (pbuh) moderate public statements just as much as he values Obama’s. The question is, what exactly did Martin (pbuh) want, politically? For starters, federal boots on the necks of white Southerners, Affirmative Action, and cash reparations for slavery. Did he have any longer-term goals? Perhaps his numerous card-carrying commie-rat associates could have elucidated….

LA replies:

I have said many times that the real goal of the civil rights movement, from the 1940s on, was not mere legal equality of blacks, but the substantive advance of black people, by any means that would work. Demanding legal equality was but the first step.

At the same time, with regard to the question of King’s admirable qualities, I was not discussing his possible inner thoughts and ultimate motivations; I was discussing his public role in the late fifties and early sixties and what he explicitly stood for. Only a person who is blind or bigoted would deny that he took principled positions (e.g., non-violence and non-resentment of whites) and evinced admirable qualities. There are some whites (I got an e-mail from one of them tonight) who cannot endure hearing such a statement, no matter how many qualifications I’ve put around it.

Mark Jaws writes:

The older article you just linked concerning the inevitable conclusions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act is simply brilliant—one of your very, very best!

LA replies:

Thank you.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 17, 2011 11:20 AM | Send

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