Malcolm Gladwell and Revisionist Civil Rights History

Look, those people are tricking the police into beating them!
(from here)

I thought once you’ve been a Big Tobacco shill, you really can’t sink any lower. I was wrong–there’s always revisionist history that slights the civil rights movement (behind paywall–but you should subscribe; boldface mine):

The way he[Gladwell] tells it, conditions on the streets of Birmingham that day weren’t as violent as the people were led to believe. Sure, multiple news reports, eyewitness accounts and photographs showed police dogs attacking black protesters, biting them and ripping their clothes. Gladwell says photos can be deceptive. The truth is that Birmingham’s K-9 unit wasn’t known for violence, racism or bigotry. They were generally nice guys who just happened to be taking their pups out for a walk that day. If you analyze the photo carefully you can see that the police officer and his snarling German shepherd are not the aggressors. They are the victims of a raging black youth who decided to have a bit of fun by kicking the poor mutt in the jaw.

“The officer in the picture is Dick Middleton. He was a modest and reserved man… The dog’s name is Leo. Now look at the faces of the black bystanders in the background. Shouldn’t they be surprised or horrified? They’re not. Next, look at the leash in Middleton’s hand. It’s taut, as if he’s trying to restrain Leo. And look at Gadsden’s left hand. He’s gripping Middleton on the forearm. Look at Gadsden’s left leg. He’s kicking Leo, isn’t he?… Gadsden wasn’t the martyr, passively leaning forward as if to say, ‘Take me, here I am.’ He’s steadying himself, with a hand on Middleton, so he can deliver a sharper blow. The word around the movement, afterward, was that he’d broken Leo’s jaw. Hudson’s photograph is not at all what the world thought it was.

In reality what happened that was that black protesters taunted the police and sparked the confrontation with the aim of getting some sympathetic press. There was no real bloodshed or violence, and the protest was actually fun and exciting for the black folks involved. But of course that’s not how it was reported by the national press hungry for racy headlines, which hyped the violence and compared Birmingham to apartheid South Africa. So in the end, the Americans were duped into supporting the civil rights movement by a crafty PR strategy and sympathetic news media.

It’s a very strange revisionist history that strips all the moral and political elements of the civil rights movement out of the story, reducing it to marketing strategy and tactics. But it’s also something potentially much more sinister: it promotes the idea that race relations in the South were not as bad as people believe, and that the civil rights movement was some sort of hoax.

As Levine notes, this sort of revisionism is common in the fever swamps of the racist right (you probably don’t want to click that link).

You can take the boy out of the right-wing collegiate ‘journalism’ training grounds, but you can’t take the right-wing collegiate ‘journalism’ training grounds out of the boy….

Update:. Racists keep showing up in the comments. I’m trying to keep up but sometimes they slip by.

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8 Responses to Malcolm Gladwell and Revisionist Civil Rights History

  1. jonolan says:

    😆 Talk about revisionism! I just love when it your kind deletes comments that don’t agree with your ideology. It proves what you are and what Americans truly fully need to do to your sort.

    See ya later…when we put you and yours up against the wall. 😉

  2. noddin0ff says:

    @jonolan. You’re making death threats because someone deleted hate speech posted on their own personal blog?

    • jonolan says:

      One – “Hate Speech” is a fiction created by Leftist agendists.

      Two – What I said couldn’t even qualify as such by most of their standards – though the reply to it was offensive.

      Three – death threat is bit of a stretch. I’m likely not close enough to be the one that kills him when the purge finally happens and, as I’m speaking of – you’ll like this 😉 – a collective action by Americans to cleanse our nation of its domestic enemies, it’s doesn’t begin to qualify as a personal threat. It’s just a statement of what I expect and hope to happen in the not too distant future.

  3. noddin0ff says:

    ah. Then you’re not a hater, you’re just a paranoid delusional? Would you care to list who these domestic enemies might be?

    If the question were put to me, I’d say that domestic enemies are characterized by the desire to “cleanse” the US of citizens and legal residents by force, intimidation, discrimination or without the popular will of the people.

  4. Malcolm Gladwell’s rejection letter (

  5. Regarding the offensive comments, why don;t you set yourself up to approve comments. Do to Dashboard –> Settings –> Discussion –> click “Comment must be manually approved”

  6. mikenreich says:

    Fantasizing about “cleansing domestic enemies” is, obviously, fascist language.

  7. Pingback: How Much is Enough? | learn with me now

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