Counterpunch, 1-15 November 2010

The latest issue of Counterpunch quotes a Nashville Tennessean article that  documents how much-publicized “anti-terrorism expert” Steven Emerson has never shown any evidence that he knows anything at all about terrorism, but that he has made a great deal of money by smearing and persecuting certain law-abiding Muslims.

The same issue cites another Tennessee newspaper article much less favorably.  In September, the Memphis Commercial Appeal recently ran a story labeling photographer Ernest Withers (1922-2007) as an “FBI mole” inside the civil rights movement of the 1960s.  That piece went so far as to insinuate that Withers may have been complicit in the assassination of Martin Luther King, Junior.  Other news outlets picked the story up, claiming that Withers had been exposed as a “closely supervised, paid informant.”  Counterpunch‘s Daniel Wolff read the documents on which the Commercial Appeal based its story, finding that none of them supports any of the inflammatory charges against Withers.  For example, the articles claim that Withers gave the FBI a list of names of organizers of the 1968 sanitation workers’ strike in Memphis; that charge is technically true, in the sense that Withers helped put together the press release in which those organizers announced their names to the public.  The rest of the charges are even less well-founded.  It’s a shame that so distinguished a figure as Dick Gregory took the Commercial Appeal‘s story at face value and called Withers a “thug,” a “Judas,” and “a guy hired by the FBI to destroy us.”

Withers’ photos played a crucial role in raising public awareness of the civil rights movement; the Panopticon Gallery has a fine collection of them, viewable here.   This one shows Dr. King’s funeral procession:

Funeral Procession for the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior; photograph by Ernest C. Withers (courtesy of Panopticon Gallery)

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