It’s a little too close to bedtime for an in-depth discussion of the wiretapping issue, as much as I’m itching to get to that, but I wanted to post this tonight, and it didn’t quite fit anywhere in the previous post. Matt Welch of reason.com and Ed Brayton weigh in briefly on J. Edgar Hoover’s wiretapping of MLK, by way of an LA Times op-ed this morning. The most infuriating bit is the recounting of the FBI’s antagonism towards Dr. King (emphasis mine):
The FBI recorded tapes of King conducting extramarital affairs — and later had the tapes mailed to King anonymously, in one case actually encouraging him to commit suicide. Tapes were played for journalists, and the FBI sought to discredit King with foreign leaders, religious leaders, White House personnel and members of Congress. The bureau tried to kill a favorable magazine profile and encouraged one university to withhold an honorary degree.
The lesson to be taken from this is not just that MLK’s ideas were as unpopular with Hoover as they were with southern segregationists. Progress is a difficult thing to come by. It requires immense dedication and persistence, it requires forceful ideas and passionate rhetoric, and most of the time it requires many years to really take hold. Ignorance is not the only obstacle—unchecked political power of the sort that is currently being pursued so recklessly is just as much of a problem. But above all, this: the ideas are greater than the man, as great as the man may be, for the man can be intimidated or blackmailed or imprisoned or assassinated, but the ideology of progress is not so easily confined. Something to remember.