Some of you may be familiar with the internet phenomenon of recent years whereby people, seeking to make some form of political point, choose to put hilariously implausible words in the mouths of their small children. Usually, in these stories, the children are implausibly eloquent, extraordinarily concerned about political issues, and coincidentally, hold the exact same views as their parents.
Usually, in these fables, the outpouring of wisdom from the small child results in a moment of real moral clarity for the people who happened to be listening, resulting in an emotional outpouring of new understanding.
Here’s an example:
“We looked at the floor and wept”. Quite.
Why do people make up stories like this? Well, one explanation is that it’s nothing new at all.
“Wisdom from the mouth of babes” is a trope as old as storytelling itself. As a species, we’re very fond of the idea that children, freed of the need to face the complexities of the world, can see things more simply, and with greater clarity, than the rest of us.
Also, there’s always a certain appeal in the idea that while one’s political views might not be popular today, the next generation see your case so clearly and simply that long term victory is inevitable. In the case of the Brexit story above, a big part of the appeal for people who want to believe it is that it demonstrates that in just a few decades time, children like the author’s son will take power and reverse the thing that the reader doesn’t like.
Anyway, there’s another variant to stories like this one. Usually, they feature wisdom from a small child. But in very rare, very self-aggrandising instances, they feature the person themselves, as an extraordinarily precocious young child. Here’s the next Vice President of the United States, describing her actions on a Civil Rights March, at the age of six:
I don’t want to ruin everybody’s Lockdown, but I think we’ve already got the #DHOTYA2021 winner…
— Didn’t Happen of the Year Awards (@_DHOTYA) January 4, 2021
It’s cute and harmless, right? The only problem is, she appears to have plagiarised the story from, of all people, Martin Luther King:
So it turns out Kamala Harris lifted her "Fweedom" story from a 1965 Playboy interview with Martin Luther King, by Alex Haley. Much thanks to @EngelsFreddie for spotting the similarityhttps://t.co/zDONW4Ueqs pic.twitter.com/yQuWZHYEMz
— Q. Anthony (ɔpɛ asem) (@andraydomise) January 4, 2021
To deal with one theory right away: There’s no chance that Kamala Harris and the little girl in MLK’s story are the same person. Harris says her cry for fweedom happened in Oakland, California. King witnessed the little girl standing up to the policeman in Birmingham, Alabama. Also, the timings don’t match up: Harris was born in 1968, but King gave his interview in which he mentioned the story in 1965. For it to have been Harris, she’d have had to have been at least minus three years old.
Did Harris just make the story up? Well, nobody can say for certain, but let’s face it, she made it up.
This might seem like an insignificant story, and in many ways it is. But the issue for Harris is that as someone with Presidential aspirations, things like this can stick in the memory, and be used to ridicule a candidate, for many years. It creates a certain unwanted “Walter Mitty” image, doesn’t it?
Anyway, needless to say, if this was a Republican Vice President, this story would quickly become the stuff of folklore, like that time Dan Quayle mis-spelled “potato”. But since it’s Kamala Harris, and she’s a glass-ceiling-shattering icon, every effort will be made either not to notice, or to forget it ever happened.