Richard Hoste seems to differ from my view that the Right (used, of course, in a very broad sense) could in no way benefit from misrepresenting MLK as a small-government conservative. Richard believes that if we continue to tell blacks the noble lie, which the neoconservatives and Glenn Beck have worked so hard to spread, we may be able to neutralize all the race-hustling black leaders.
There are at least three problems with this argument that come readily to mind. One, the lie is so transparent that until now only movement conservatives have bought it; and in this case we are dealing with people who are so incredibly gullible or so thoroughly bribed that they’ll say anything they’re told to say by those who move their strings. I myself have never met a movement conservative or GOP hack who actually thought that King was a “conservative theologian” or an exponent of Thomistic natural law. Rather I’ve encountered dolts who read NR or Weekly Standard and who have told me “we should say this because that’s what we have to say.” Of course the same humanoids have proclaimed Joe Lieberman to be a conservative “because he’s good on the war.”
Two, nobody, including blacks, could possibly believe the crass lie that Richard wishes to see propagated. There is overwhelming evidence, plus media treatment of King’s life and influence, that would keep anybody with even room temperature intelligence (which may exclude most movement conservatives) from buying the proffered snake oil. Watching Beck go nuts (that is more nuts than he usually seems) because a black celebrity described King as a socialist, I had the definite feeling of being on Mars. Does anyone on this planet with even a grade school education not know that King was a left-leaning socialist, who favored special rights for his race? One can quote until the cows come home that banal line about judging people by “the content of their character.” But this does not change the rest of King’s politics, which are an open book, even for blacks.
Three, the cult of King is intertwined with a political purpose, from which it cannot be dislodged. It is a replacement theology for a now mostly moribund Christianity, which incorporates certain older religious themes but places them in a multicultural context. King is the suffering Redeemer, whose birthday comes a few weeks after the traditional date for celebrating the Christian Redeemer; and his death was expiatory, like that of Christ, although, unlike Christ’s kingdom, that of the black socialist savior is situated in this world. King’s mission began the process of cleansing white America of its original sin of racism. But this redemption did not work all at once when he died. Further sacrifice is demanded of the sinner in the form of the demands that the fallen Redeemer laid upon us, that is, more socialism, more set-asides, more rites of atonement, etc. To try to change this powerful symbolism by reconstructing King into something he clearly was not, perhaps a precursor of Glenn Beck or David Horowitz, is a fool’s errand. King was exactly what he was. That he has become the replacement Deity in a post-Christian public theology may strike some of us as laughable. But that elevation is connected to what he said and did. The cult of MLK reflects a certain reality, while Richard’s counter-narrative builds on nothing more than a neocon lie.