Andrew and The Ethics Sage Comments on “Web Site Rewrites King’s Life”


Andrew Gates and The Ethics Sage (Steven Mintz) comment on my earlier post, Web Site Rewrites King’s Life.

Neither the King Center or martinlutherking.org are fully credible historical accounts of his life. I believe both should be taken with a grain of salt.

On one hand, the King Center is much more willing to ignore the negative aspects of Kings life and actions in order to preserve the politically correct illusion that he was some sort of second coming. For instance, it is widely known that King engaged in many extramarital affairs while he was busy with the Civil Rights Movement. There is also much evidence that many of Kings sermons and speeches contained plagiarized material. There is also much debate as to whether he ACTUALLY did the work at Boston University to earn his PhD. There are letters and testimony from some of his professors that suggests or outright states that they gave King high marks in their classes because he was black and it seemed the politically correct thing to do. None of this will be found on The King Centers website.

I would be more willing to cast aside the biography of MLK Jr. on martinlutherking.org as garbage if it didn’t have a lot of sources to back its facts up.

One the other hand, conclusions and rhetoric found in martinlutherking.org are FAR from unbiased. It does nothing to highlight the work that King did to lead the Civil Rights Movement.

I think if you take both articles and ignore the obvious bias in both, then you can get more of a full picture of the man and what he did. The King Center will point out his achievements, accomplishments, and the positive aspects of his life. martinlutherking.org does a good job (in my opinion) of bringing to light the negative characteristics and actions of the man that his PR people didn’t want the public to see.

Andrew’s Second Post one hour later –

Both websites seem to be bias and not fully trustworthy. When you get past the obvious bias of both sites and just take in the facts, I think you get a better overall picture of who MLK Jr. was and what he did.

The King Center does a good job of highlighting his accomplishments and achievements. It also does a good job of giving you the politically correct version of the man that his PR people wanted the public to see.

martinlutherking.org seems to do a decent job of highlighting the character flaws and negative actions that his PR people didn’t want the public to see. Although this sites biography is filled with extreme interpretations and rhetoric. If the biography contained no sources whatsoever, I might be more willing to cast it aside as garbage. This is not the case though.

Like it or not, MLK Jr. did more to bring about equal civil liberties for african americans than any other person. This is definitely worth being remembered. However, he was engaged in extramarital affairs and was a plagiarizer. These are facts, not opinions. He did attend Communist Party meetings. I dont personally hold that against him, but I can appreciate how that would’ve destroyed his reputation back then if it became public knowledge.

A politically correct atmosphere is just as detrimental to the preservation of truth as extreme, ignorant rhetoric.

My response –

You might want to avoid two comments so close together in time. My computer identified it as spam and didn’t post it. I’ve been checking the spam lately, found it and put it up.
Comment as often as you like. I don’t want to discourage you but I don’t always check the spam and I don’t want to lose your comments. Those were about an hour apart, so it’s more than that. Thanks for commenting.
I really don’t have anything to say in response. I did the post because of my interest in a healthy skepticism of web sources and prefer to stay in that area.
jp

Comment from The Ethics Sage –

It is amazing that such a website exists and there is a “community of white nationalists” with the theme: “White Pride, Worldwide.” I believe the proper way to handle sites like these is for teachers to discuss their points of view and refute their hatred. It can be a teachable moment and what better day to expose the lies and bigotry these groups stand for than the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

My Response –

I really want children taught early one about the need to exercise judgment about the web and sources, but I worry that the need not to offend one group or another might prevent that from happening.

An editorial comment –

I wrote the post purely to talk about the virtue of skepticism when dealing with the Internet. Discussions of Martin Luther King (and I am experienced in these) tend to go toward the FBI and J. Edgar Hoover and then they head straight for a variety of conspiracy theories. I want to talk about using the web.

Now, that does not mean, you can’t discuss those aspects of King’s life you find interesting. If you make a comment on “Web Site Rewrites King’s Life,” I’ll put it up on this post just like I did Andrew’s and The Ethics Sage’s, that is, in full with no editing.

If you wish to criticize me, even harshly, for my unwillingness to join that aspect of the discussion, you may rest assured I will put that up completely as well.

James Pilant

Web Site Rewrites King’s Life


Keith Thomson writing for The Huffington Post was alarmed to discover this.

Recently, a diverse group of New York City high school students was assigned to write reports on Martin Luther King, Jr. Searching the Internet, several students learned that the renowned civil rights leader had in fact been a drunken philandering con man. Others concluded that the federal holiday marking King’s birthday should be repealed.

Where in the www did these kids search?

Google, for starters.

If you enter “Martin Luther King, Jr.” as a search term, the site netting the third-highest ranking is martinlutherking(dot)org, which purports to be “A valuable resource for teachers and students alike.” Visit the site and you can read the “truth” about King — communist, wife-beater, plagiarist, sexual deviant and all-around fraud. There are flyers to the same effect that children can download, print and bring to school.

As you have probably guessed, this site is not run by the King Center, the memorial established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King to the advance her husband’s legacy (TheKingCenter.org ranks seventh on Google). Rather, MartinLutherKing(dot)org is a spinoff of Stormfront(dot)org, the “white nationalist” online community created in 1995 by former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Don Black. Stormfront’s Web forum now claims nearly 214,000 participants. Black registered martinlutherking(dot)org on January 14, 1999, later adding MLKing(dot)org and MLKing(dot)com.

Some years ago, I was doing research on Joseph Stalin. I had looked at a number of web sites and found one with a lot of information. Strangely it considered him one of the greatest rulers in Russian history. I found this difficult to reconcile with the 51 million dead people. So, I did some further research. I discovered that the Communist party had not disappeared in Russia and there had been regular demonstrations calling for a return to Communist rule and opposed to historical research that cast the years of Communist rule in a “bad” light. The web site I had found was one of theirs. It was fake history, a fantasy

I am a college teacher. I have a posting I call “The Internet Care Kit” with the more important and reliable web sites on them. I usually post them on the class website about midway through the semester. I find it odd that the old creaky teacher (me) often knows more about web than my students. Oh, they can social media better than me but they are often helpless on important topics. I only rarely find a student who knows what Project Gutenberg is.

I know it’s hard to navigate the web without abundant caution But I treasure the huge amount of information and opinion on the web. I am old enough to remember crawling on the floor of a university library to get to the lower cards in a card catalog that was almost too tall to reach and far too low for comfort. I would be trying to find an appropriate source for my writing . It would take me thirty minutes to get five sources and if it was an esoteric topic, nothing at all.

Now, it’s amazing. I can find hundreds, sometimes thousands of postings on even rare subjects. For the learner, it’s a dream come to life. Sometimes, I just prowl the internet. I find one interesting posting and follow a link from it to another site and then another and so on.

When I was a little boy and watched science fiction movies with mainframe computers that filled buildings, I dreamed one day I would work one of those. Even today, working on a computer never quite feels like work. It’s an adventure.

Along with adventure, there are viruses, spam, malware, rip-offs, pornography and enough just simple strangeness to frighten the most stalwart among us. But I wouldn’t go back to crawling on the floor of the library looking hopefully for some kind of information.

I don’t know anything that will help people get through their research safe from falsehood and political fantasy besides a healthy skepticism. That’s probably how it should be. We are beset continually by lies and exaggeration. Why should we expect the web to be any better?

Are you confident in the 24 hours news cycle? Are you confident in the promises of the political world? Do you find the beltway commentators reliable? Does corporate PR give you a sense of security? The web is treacherous but it is not alone in its danger.

Those children have to learn caution sometime and it’s better now than later. Now, they don’t have credit card accounts to be stolen, Nigerian princes willing to share their millions with them, the secrets to investing in gold, the coming apocalypse or their vital need for an interesting variety of performance enhancing drugs. I understand that the young face threats of their own on the web but isn’t that something that a healthy dose of skepticism will assist in. Let’s develop their judgment early.

James Pilant

Patriotism, Citizenship and Holidays


Arthur Dobrin (Arthurdobrin’s Weblog) had these thoughts in a post he called, Closing schools, Martin Luther King and ethics. This is an eloquent discussion of the importance of citizenship. Here is an excerpt.

We have confused citizenship with consumerism. A citizen is one who is concerned with the public realm and makes choices about representation and policy; a consumer is concerned with the private realm and makes choices about products and prices. By closing schools on national holidays we reinforce notions of buying. If schools remained open, there is the opportunity to underline what it means to be a citizen.

National holidays should be time for discussions about the difficulties and dilemmas of ethical choices in a democracy, the hard and sometimes muddy choices. There is George Washington, the man who could have become king but walked away from a third term as president, the same one was the leader of a troop that engaged in an Indian massacre; Abraham Lincoln, the emancipator of slaves, who also suspended the writ of habeas corpus in several places, then ignored a court orders to restore it; the veterans who served when called upon, occasionally in wars that shouldn’t have been fought; and, of course today, MLK, the civil rights hero who broke the law for the sake of fulfilling America’s more nobler self.

Citizenship and patriotism have been hit hard in the last few years. Oh, I have no doubt that virtually all Americans consider themselves, and justly so, to be patriots. Nevertheless, the development of an American economic class with slender ties to the United States is a disastrous event. Further, the ascendency of economic theories, free market fundamentalism, allows certain individuals to make decisions damaging to the nation which they pretend to be justified philosophically.

If a human has the heart of a patriot, hollowing out the nation’s infrastructure and manufacturing is not justified by any theory at any time at any place.

Citizenship is a similar issue. It is difficult to live anywhere in the United States where companies are not seeking through legislation, favors, “economic development zones,” and outright blackmail to evade paying taxes. They use the educational system, the roads and the other infrastructures but they will not willingly pay any sum whatever for the support of their community or nation.

This is citizenship only in “reasoning” built on deluded greed.

Yes, the holidays should mean more than a day off. We all need to consider the duties of citizenship and patriotism from time to time.

James Pilant

Economic Inequality and Global Elites


What do the global elites think about the issue of inequality (economic disparity)? One clue might be the Global Risks 2011, Sixth Edition. This report is issued by the World Economic Forum –

From Wikipedia

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a Geneva-based non-profit foundation best known for its annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland, which brings together top business leaders, international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss the most pressing issues facing the world, including health and the environment. Beside meetings, the WEF produces a series of research reports and engages its members in sector specific initiatives

 James Ledbetter writing for Reuters has some thoughts on the subject –

This year’s report makes a big deal about “economic disparity,” which it helpfully defines as “wealth and income disparities, both within countries and between countries.” We used to call this “inequality.” The WEF report rightly points to OECD data indicating real income growth of the top income quintiles in wealthy countries (Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy and the United States) was twice as large as that of the bottom quintiles between the mid-1980s to mid-2000s. The poor may not be getting poorer, but the rich are getting richer at a much faster pace than everyone else. That situation is not only immoral, but dangerous, as it can lead to open conflict between nations and internal political turmoil.

But wait — why is this happening? The WEF report cites “the erosion of employment culture, the decline of organized labor, and failures of education systems to keep pace with the increasing demands of the workplace.” That all sounds plausible, but the time frame cited marks the heyday of the very global governance institutions the WEF seeks to support. You don’t have to accept a causal relationship — though it certainly suggests itself — but at a minimum, global governance institutions have been demonstrably ineffective in addressing the economic structural issues that the WEF now worries about.

I have to disagree on one point. Mr. Ledbetter points out that “the poor may not be getting poorer.” While in these other countries, finland, etc., the poor, the lower classes have kept pace with their previous income. That is not the case in the United States. The middle class here has lost ground, their wages stagnant for three decades and their manufacturing jobs being outsourced as a deliberate policy of the United States government.

I am aware that in an article of that length, he hardly has an opportunity to break it down by country. But I am more local.

To summarize, James Ledbetter’s conclusion, they don’t know what to do about inequality and institutions like theirs do not have the influence to make changes should they suddenly discover the secret of income equality.

When you erode national sovereignty to build international trade and finance, there is no one to deal with issues like income distribution. Now, you might argue that international organizations like the United Nations or the World Economic Forum might fill in the gap. It’s a weak argument. The huge international corporate and financial combines have no intention of yeilding one iota of money or authority to anyone anywhere. And I am cynical enough to believe that military and judicial power trumps economic. If you want to take on an international organization be it organized crime or another kind of organization, use real power, not moral persuasion, not an argument that they should honor stakeholders, you put them in prison, you take their buildings and facilities, you confiscate their money, you leave them no where to hide and you never ever stop chasing them.

Of course, I am not referring to any American corporation.

James Pilant

P.S. The World Economic Forum’s report has been downloaded about 6,000 times. Considering the number of people online, that is not a large number. So I am flying in a high intellectual circles today.

Illusions of Free Markets


Chasing Fat Tails has an interesting post. It is a discussion of the issue discussed in the book, Illusions of Free Markets, Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order, written by Bernard E. Harcourt.

Harcourt’s book is vital and bracing reading, and once read isn’t easy to forget.  Its two central ideas, that “free market” rhetoric masks the inevitable regulation that must occur and encourages mass incarceration, start popping up everywhere once you start to look for them.  It touches on any rhetoric about regulation, any argument about prisons, and any idea that’s concerned about affecting change in either.

The argument isn’t perfect.  Those familiar with recent trends in the industrial-prison complex will already be asking: what about the steep rise in private prisons?  Doesn’t that interfere with the book’s claim that incarceration is strictly the province of the government?  (For the record: yes it does, and it’s an instance of the power of free market rhetoric that it can infiltrate a long-held province of legitimate state action).  But the intellectual history is too airtight, the relationships mapped too perfectly, to dismiss.

I share the author’s skepticism about free markets and the “natural order.” To me, the natural order sounds very similar to the divine right of kings. After all wasn’t that the nature of reality in the 16th century?

Humans are not an orderly species. They vary in talent, morality, training and experience. To expect a clockwork mechanism based on an inevitable economic cooperation is the height of delusion. Yet, I encounter it everyday.

You can knock down every premise of the free market fundamentalist and it comes back like Dracula in a Hammer film.

I will write about this in more length later. Right now, I would like you to read Chasing Fat Tails and take a look at the book on Amazon. There are two more reviews there you might find interesting.

James Pilant