NDAA Would Have Sent MLK to Gitmo, Says Cornel West

Firebrand black activist Dr. Cornel West gave a speech at the Tavis Smiley Presents Poverty In America series on Thursday that may surprise libertarians – in how much they agree with the "socialist radical."

Decrying the erosion of civil liberties today, Dr. West loudly lamented the "crypto-fascist" state developing in America – contrasting the federal government to crack addicts, whom he said at least "are honest about their addiction. The White House is addicted to power!"

"Love and justice is always weak ... [which is why] first you have to have a suspicion of government. This is why I resonate with my conservative brothers!" West said.

Continuing, he pointed out, "governments can be repressive! Vicious! Ugly! Violate your rights! Violate your liberties! Crush your people! Generate the propaganda! We need that sensibility too!"

Dr. West says that he understands the growing collusion between corporate America and the federal government to be a form of creeping crypto-fascism, a security state where rights are routinely violated and ignored – not so dissimilar to the plight of the black community today. In particular, he described the National Defense Authorization Act as a possible tool of government oppression, pointing out that Martin Luther King Jr. was under federal surveillance from January 1956 until his death in April 1968.

Most alarming for Dr. West was that provisions of the NDAA could have been used to lock away MLK without "due process or judicial process" – because he had known links to a man then commonly called a terrorist and now referred to as a heroic freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela.

"We have black political prisons right now in America," Dr. West said.

Dr. West called for government to instead be affirmative – to focus on resolving the plight of poor and working people. And he called for Americans to rise up and retake their country.

"It's not just about justice. Any justice that's only justice will soon degenerate into something less than justice – we gotta talk about love! Martin was a titan of love! If you're not talking about love and willingness to sacrifice, all this is just sounding brass and tinkling cymbal!"

"You gotta hit the streets, you gotta go to jail, you gotta be willing to die! That's what the movement's about! And if you're not willing to do that, then keep your jobs and drink your tea!" Dr. West concluded.

His arguments are not so far from those advanced by American libertarians – particularly those opposed to the NDAA and the increased surveillance powers it grants the federal government. In December 2011, Glenn Beck – now a full-fledged Ayn Rand-style libertarian – argued that the NDAA was a mechanism to indefinitely detain political undesirables.

But Dr. West and libertarians are far more likely to disagree on other things – namely, the plight of black America and the best way to resolve deepening poverty, inequality, and the lack of opportunity that comes with it. While Dr. West urges government to be "affirmative," libertarians would rather eliminate the government entirely.

However, it is a sign that Americans of all stripes and colors are growing increasingly suspicious of the developing security state. But it seems unlikely that these disparate wings of opposition could ever unite to oppose it.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

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