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(The Late) M.L. King Still Silenced

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April 4, 2008
by Jeff Cohen

Soon after Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday became a federal holiday in
1986, I began prodding mainstream media to cover the dramatic story of King’s
last year
as he campaigned militantly against U.S. foreign and economic policy.

Most of his last speeches were recorded. But year after year, corporate networks
have refused to air the tapes.

Last night, NBC Nightly News anchor Brian Williams enthused over new color
footage of King that adorned its coverage of the 40th anniversary of the assassination.
The report focused on the last phase of King’s life. But the same old
blinders were in place.

NBC showed young working-class whites in Chicago taunting King. But there was
no mention of how elite media had taunted King in his last year. In 1967 and
‘68, mainstream media saw Rev. King a bit like they now see Rev. Jeremiah

Back then they denounced King’s critical comments; today they simply
silence them.

While noting in passing that King spoke out against the Vietnam War, mainstream
reports today rarely acknowledge that he went way beyond Vietnam to decry U.S.
militarism in general.

“I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed
in the ghettos,” said King in 1967 speeches on foreign policy, “without
having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world
today – my own government."

In response to these speeches, Newsweek said King was “over his head”
and wanted a “race-conscious minority” to dictate U.S. foreign policy.

Life magazine described the Nobel Peace Prize winner as a communist pawn who
advocated “abject surrender in Vietnam.”

The Washington Post couldn’t have been more patronizing: "King has
diminished his usefulness to his cause, to his country, and to his people."

When King’s moral voice moved beyond racial discrimination to international
issues, the New York Times attacked his efforts to link the civil rights and
antiwar movements.

King’s sermons on Vietnam could get as angry as those of Barack Obama’s
ex-pastor: “God didn’t call America to engage in a senseless, unjust
war,” King declared. “We’ve committed more war crimes almost
than any nation in the world.”

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