"The media is the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and the guilty innocent, and that's power. Because they control the minds of the masses." - Malcolm X
Toni Lehrer once wrote that satire is dead in a world where a war criminal like Kissinger can win the Nobel Peace Prize. Every year we are reminded of this on Martin Luther King Day when liberals (63% of which virulently opposed Martin Luther King when he was alive and thought he was harming the civil rights movement) all pat themselves on the back and say how they stand for his message and honour his memory.
When the FBI – an organisation which illegally wiretapped King, sent in agents to break into houses and offices where King and his colleagues worked, and sent him a letter urging him to kill himself – claims that they stand for Martin Luther King you can’t help but laugh at the sheer absurdity of the world we live in. But all this liberal self-congratulatory back patting has a very insidious undercurrent in repeating the lie that historical change can only be achieved by being non-violent and by appealing to white moderates.
The comfortable middle classes, insulated in their safe suburbs, will bleat over and over that the ends do not justify the means and that violence in any form is abhorrent, without ever questioning the violence they export all over the world. When they wear clothes stitched together by sweatshop workers, largely women, kept in line by paramilitary forces who murder union organisers. When they look the other way at drones which bomb weddings and disproportionately murder innocent people (90% of all people killed in drone strikes are ‘unintended’ targets). They will cry out about the rule of law and respecting property rights while being curiously amnesiac about the property rights of the natives they exterminated to steal their land,
"[The Native Americans] didn't have any rights to the land and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using.... What was it they were fighting for, if they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their "right" to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or maybe a few caves above it. Any white person who brought the element of civilization had the right to take over this continent." –Ayn Rand
Saying one thing and doing another they will clutch the sanitized and white washed rosary beads of Martin Luther King, stripped of his denouncement of Americans as the greatest war criminals in the world, of calling out the three evils of Racism, Militarism and Poverty, and mumble over and over again that violence is not the answer. That you have to be polite and respectful when you protest atrocities, tip toe around controversies, and won’t anyone please think of the property rights of moderates?
In all this moral handwringing about both sides there is never any mention of the other side to the civil rights movement – the side that debunks their claims of change through non-violence and appealing to white moderates – of Malcolm X and the Black Nationalists. They can never sanitize and white wash Malcolm X the same way they did King, turning him into a red-white and blue talking point, and for that reason they shun his memory and cast him as a radical extremist.
“No, I’m not an American. I’m one of 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy. So I’m not standing here speaking to you as an American, or a patriot, or a flag-saluter, or a flag-waver – no, not I! I’m speaking as a victim of this American system. I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare!” – Malcolm X
Unlike Martin Luther King, who grew up as a member of the black middle class, attended university, and fought for the dignity of blacks in America to integrate, Malcolm had a fundamentally different experience with white America.
He grew up on the move in Michigan, fleeing towns where his family were repeatedly firebombed by the Ku Klux Klan. His father was brutally murdered by members of the Black Legion (a terrorist branch of the Klan) who tied him to the railroad tracks – his body was discovered in two separate pieces by the police. There was never any investigation or attempt to bring the killers to justice. The health insurance agent cheated his family of their claim, stating the policy was invalid because it was a ‘suicide’ and not a murder. Driven to bankruptcy Social Service workers repeatedly harassed his mother to the point of a schizophrenic breakdown whereupon they broke his family apart and sent him to a string of foster homes. Malcolm grew up abused, mistreated, discarded – dropping out of high school at 15, despite being valedictorian, after telling his teacher he wanted to be a lawyer,
“But you’ve got to be realistic about being a nigger. A lawyer – that’s no realistic goal for a nigger. You need to think about something you can be. You’re good with your hands – making things. Everybody admires you carpentry shop work. Why don’t you plan on carpentry? People like you as a person – you’d get all kinds of work.”
Malcolm didn’t have any illusions about appealing to white moderates like King. He had tried harder than anybody else to integrate into liberal white society and was bitterly disappointed in realising he would always be an outsider. He reached adulthood hustling, running guns, stealing in the ghettoes of New York where survival was a daily battle. Where he was just another statistic to be glossed over in a newspaper.
You never hear middle class liberals claiming Malcolm X as their champion because he came from a fundamentally different world than Martin Luther King – one of the Have Nots and not the Haves. Malcolm understood that you don’t achieve change by asking politely and appealing to the better nature of those who had none.
The Vietnamese tried asking the Americans politely, stating the precedents established in the American Declaration of Independence and Woodrow Wilson’s 14 points to justify their right to self-rule, and got three times the amount of bombs dropped on them than in the entirety of the Second World War. Vietnam, as well as Laos and Cambodia - the ‘collateral damage’ in America’s war against Vietnamese independence - today are massive exporters of scrap metal from all the unexploded American bombs. Malcolm said it best, “Power takes a back step only in the face of more power.”
“When we look like -- at other parts of this earth upon which we live, we find that black, brown, red, and yellow people in Africa and Asia are getting their independence. They’re not getting it by singing “We Shall Overcome.” No, they’re getting it through nationalism. It is nationalism that brought about the independence of the people in Asia. Every nation in Asia gained its independence through the philosophy of nationalism. Every nation on the African continent that has gotten its independence brought it about through the philosophy of nationalism. And it will take Black Nationalism -- that to bring about the freedom of 22 million Afro-Americans here in this country where we have suffered colonialism for the past 400 years.”
Malcolm believed firmly that you achieved change by taking action yourself – whether by ballot or bullet – rather than by appealing to those already in power to do for you what you ought to do yourself. You got change by standing up straight and taking pride in who you are and where you come from. In having your own centres of cultural, political, social, and economic power instead of relying on what is already established.
“This is part of what’s wrong with you -- you do too much singing. Today it’s time to stop singing and start swinging. You can’t sing up on freedom, but you can swing up on some freedom. Cassius Clay can sing, but singing didn’t help him to become the heavy-weight champion of the world -- swinging helped him become the heavy-weight champion. This government has failed us; the government itself has failed us, and the white liberals who have been posing as our friends have failed us.
And once we see that all these other sources to which we’ve turned have failed, we stop turning to them and turn to ourselves. We need a self help program, a do-it-yourself philosophy, a do-it-right-now philosophy, a it’s-already-too- late philosophy. This is what you and I need to get with, and the only time -- the only way we are going to solve our problem is with a self-help program. Before we can get a self-help program started we have to have a self-help philosophy.”
Malcolm didn’t believe that you could magically fix deeply entrenched problems by blindly voting Democrat or Republican and choosing the lesser of two evils. Malcolm knew, as Thomas Sankara knew that, “He who feeds you, controls you.” That token gestures of inclusivity and progress to treat symptoms were nothing more than a farce if they did not address causes.
He believed in speaking the truth about power, in getting the masses of ordinary people who had been so brutalised and disenfranchised to wake up and see how badly they were being manipulated and lied to - both by the white establishment and by the black bourgeoisie who cared more about their place on the totem pole than anything else.
He made ordinary people realise that they were the holders of the Sword of Damocles, hanging over those in power, and they didn’t need to get voted in to change things. That they could achieve change by making those in power very afraid of what they would reap if they continued to sow misery.
“I read once, passingly, about a man named Shakespeare. I only read about him passingly, but I remember one thing he wrote that kind of moved me. He put it in the mouth of Hamlet, I think, it was, who said, ‘To be or not to be.’ He was in doubt about something—whether it was nobler in the mind of man to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune—moderation—or to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. And I go for that. If you take up arms, you’ll end it, but if you sit around and wait for the one who’s in power to make up his mind that he should end it, you’ll be waiting a long time. And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built, and the only way it’s going to be built—is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone—I don’t care what color you are—as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”
We are told the lie of the noble non-violent protestors who achieved change by asking nicely. We prop up a twisted version of King who only cared about racial justice and not about economic justice. Because when you start talking about economic justice you start talking about power and who holds it. You start to notice that there are an awful lot of Have-Nots and remarkably few Haves. You start to understand that change does not come from the enlightened actions from the top-down, but from the mass movements from the bottom-up.
We never learn about the upraised fist alongside the extended hand – of Malcolm’s push to achieve change By Any Means Necessary, alongside King’s I Have A Dream. Because King spoke to the morality of the Haves while Malcolm spoke to the rage of the Have-Nots. Because King relied on the benevolence of the few; Malcolm relied on the action of the many.
Malcolm spoke to the engrained self-hatred and inferiority complex written into the minority by the majority. Malcolm called to shake off the shackles of mental colonisation, to be proud of who you are and to see yourself as part of a much larger world united in the common bonds of humanity.
“Who taught you to hate the color of your skin? Who taught you to hate the texture of your hair? Who taught you to hate the shape of your nose and the shape of your lips? Who taught you to hate yourself from the top of your head to the soles of your feet? Who taught you to hate your own kind? Who taught you to hate the race that you belong to so much so that you don’t want to be around each other? You know. Before you come asking Mr. Muhammad does he teach hate, you should ask yourself who taught you to hate being what God made you.”
That is why he made those in power so afraid, because he was saying openly what they had been trying so hard to censor secretly. That you need to give those in power an incentive to make any concessions in the first place.
You don’t negotiate to a man holding a gun at your head by calling on his better nature; you do it by pointing one right back at him and making him recognise the danger he is in.
Across the red states of America in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona teachers are demonstrating Malcolm’s message as they go on wildcat strikes without union consent. All across France we see the beginning of a French Spring as students and socialists, public workers and citizens, take power into their own hands and vote with their feet.
If we want to achieve better conditions for ourselves and for our communities we aren’t going to get it by waiting around and asking politely. We aren’t going to get any change by emulating the sanitised and sterilised doll of King they keep selling in stores. We’re going to get it the way the downtrodden and dispossessed have always gotten it - by the ballot or the bullet.
By forcing those in power to make concessions by making it clear it is either reform or revolution, and that they’re running out of time.
 https://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/16/magazine/what-an-uncensored-letter-to-mlk-reveals.html for more information also see COINTELPRO
 https://www.amazon.com/Ayn-Rand-Answers-Best-Her/dp/0451216652 page 100-102.
 Alex Haley, The Autobiography of Malcolm X as told to Alex Haley.
 Ibid, Chapter 2: Mascot.
 http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon2/hochiminh/ series of letters sent by Ho Chi Minh to American leaders between ’45 and 69 to call for the independence of Vietnam, using the precedents established by the American Revolution.
 https://libcom.org/history/1957-1975-the-vietnam-war an estimated 2.3 million tons of bombs were dropped in WWII compared to the 7 million tons dropped on Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos
 Ibid, the Ballot or the Bullet
Born somewhere between the old world of Korea and the new world of New Zealand Isaac is an award winning writer, teacher of literature and nomad currently residing in Nanjing.