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It's Not What You Say, It's How You Say It Department: Christopher Hitchens, The Ron Paul Letter, And Dr. King
One of the shock-shock-shocking things The New Republic revealed about the Ron Paul Letters is that he said unkind things about Martin Luther King. That he was pro-Communist, that he was a plagiarist, and that he engaged in sexual immorality.
Christopher Hitchens is a great admirer of Dr.King's non-violent campaign, of his preaching, (which Hitchens insists could have been just as good if Dr. King hadn't been a Christian) and because of Hitchens own personal and ideological history, he doesn't think any of this is particularly wrong.
So Hitchens repeats, more or less approvingly, all the same facts:
The entire self-definition of "the South" was that it was white, and Christian. This is exactly what gave Dr. King his moral leverage, because he could outpreach the rednecks. But the heavy burden would never have been laid upon him if religiosity had not been so deeply entrenched to begin with. As Taylor Branch shows, many of King's inner circle and entourage were secular Communists and socialists who had been manuring the ground for a civil rights movement for several decades and helping train brave volunteers like Mrs. Rosa Parks for a careful strategy of mass civil disobedience, and these "atheistic" associations were to be used against King all the time, especially from the pulpit. Indeed, one result of his campaign was to generate the "backlash" of white right-wing Christianity which is still such a potent force below the Mason-Dixon line...
At no point did Dr. Kingâ€”who was once photographed in a bookstore waiting calmly for a physician while the knife of a maniac was sticking straight out of his chestâ€”even hint that those who injured and reviled him were to be threatened with any revenge or punishment, in this world or the next, save the consequences of their own brute selfishness and stupidity. And he even phrased that appeal more courteously than, in my humble opinion, its targets deserved. In no real as opposed to nominal sense, then, was he a Christian. [VDARE.com Note: Please understand that Hitchens means this as a compliment.]
This does not in the least diminish his standing as a great preacher, any more than does the fact that he was a mammal like the rest of us, and probably plagiarized his doctoral dissertation, and had a notorious fondness for booze and for women a good deal younger than his wife. He spent the remainder of his last evening in orgiastic dissipation, for which I don't blame him. (These things, which of course disturb the faithful, are rather encouraging in that they show that a high moral character is not a precondition for great moral accomplishments.)[God Is Not Great, P. 176, By Christopher Hitchens, , 2007]
Of course, these facts are more or less inescapable, and are featured in regular biographies, like Bearing The Cross, by David Garrow, and in fact in a report that Sam Francis submitted to Congress when they were discussing making Martin Luther King Day a national holiday. Jesse Helms gave a speech about some of it.
At the moment, my point is not to condemn either King or Hitchens for immorality or pro-Communism, but to point out that if James Kirchick had been looking for evil condemnations of Dr. King, he could have found them closer than the musty libraries that hold the Ron Paul Reports--he could have found them on the New York Times bestseller list, authored by Christopher Hitchens.