Was King all bad, all the time?

I heard about a well-attended meeting in New York City last evening where Paul Gottfried spoke about Martin Luther King. It seems Gottfried said that King was always a radical, always a quasi-Communist, always demanding racial equality of economic outcome, always seeking racial reparations, and so on. Others at the meeting disagreed with this, pointing out that King started out as a liberal (i.e., a “right-liberal” in VFR’s meaning of the term), but that he changed in the mid 1960s when he realized that the condition of blacks in the Northern cities was so bad that equality of rights by itself would not equalize or even significantly raise their material and social condition. From that point on King progressively turned into something which had no name in the 1960s but for which Peter Brimelow coined an apt term in the 1990s: a racial socialist.

I of course agree with the latter, evolutionary, view of King. The liberal King of Letter from the Birmingham Jail, of the “I Have a Dream” speech, of Why We Can’t Wait (which moved and influenced me when I read it in the summer of 1964 at age 15), was not the leftist King who in 1967 excoriated America in standard leftist terms as the principal source of injustice and inequality in the world.

Gottfried’s uncharitable view of King, denying that there was ever anything good or admirable or even not terrible about the man, is typical of paleoconservatives, who seem to be incapable of acknowledging anything positive about people they oppose, and are lacking in the tragic view of life, in which good is mixed with bad and often turns into bad.

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LA writes:

A leading example of the paleoconservatives’ and Buchanites’ lack of the tragic sense is their position that Britain and America should not have fought Hitler’s Germany. As I wrote at VFR in 2002:

Some very regrettable consequences came from our involvement in World War II, among them the Soviet domination of Eastern and Central Europe, and the ascendancy of liberalism in the West. But the consequences of our not fighting Hitler would have been infinitely worse. Unfortunately many paleocons, just like liberals, have lost the tragic sense of life, and so have lost the ability to make such prudential judgments.

Posted by Lawrence Auster at January 17, 2012 03:55 PM | Send

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