Another Stream of Martin Luther King's Legacy

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 1587 ... April 13, 2018
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Another Stream of Martin Luther King’s Legacy

Jeremy Milloy

The Dodge Ram Trucks’ 2018 Super Bowl ad, harnessing the rousing oratory of Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to service, the "Drum Major Instinct" speech, to loving close-ups of 350-horsepower pickup trucks, attracted instant, widespread condemnation. Many lampooned the use of King’s image to sell trucks, and a parody of the ad, recut with King’s critique of the ad industry’s persuasions from the very same speech used by Ram, has been viewed over 2 million times.

The controversy is the latest example of an ad maker stepping just a bit too far in the ongoing, unceasing cannibalization of everything noble, meaningful, fun, or weird in our culture by the machinery of capitalism; the chorus of... derision it provoked can be understood as the policing of the excesses of that process as a breach of corporate etiquette, in a way that allows the overall commercialization of everything to proceed as usual. "We’re just in a place where we get called on authenticity and people don’t want to be emotionally manipulated," concluded ad executive Susan Credle in the New York Times. Those who condemn the ad, however, ignore the deep connection of Dodge Chrysler, Ram Trucks’ predecessor company, with America’s Black liberation struggle.

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