A review of the essential new 594-page biography of “Malcom X: A Life of Reinvention” by the Columbia professor Manning Marable , who spent more that two decades devoted to the project, reveals:
Malcolm X himself contributed to many of the fictions, Mr. Marable argues, by exaggerating, glossing over or omitting important incidents in his life. These episodes include a criminal career far more modest than he claimed, an early homosexual relationship with a white businessman, his mother’s confinement in a mental hospital for nearly 25 years and secret meetings with leaders of groups as divergent as the Ku Klux Klan and the Palestine Liberation Organization.
“Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention” shows, for instance, that at a time when Malcolm X claimed in the autobiography to have “devoted himself to increasingly violent crime” in New York, he was actually in Lansing, Mich., his hometown. Mr. Marable attributes the embroidery of “amateurish attempts at gangsterism” to Malcolm X’s wish to demonstrate that the Nation of Islam’s gospel of pride and self-respect had the power to redeem even the most depraved criminal.
Fast forward to the queen of reinvention, Madonna. It was recently revealed that the charity foundation she had set up to build a school for girls in Malawi was forced to cancel those plans due to gross mismanagement of funds, sheer incompetence (the boyfriend of her former trainer was the Executive Director) and a fundamental misunderstanding of the cultural limits of celebrity vanity and charity.
Trevor Neilson, a founder of the Global Philanthropy Group, which Madonna recruited last November amid signs of upheaval at her charity, said he told her that building an expensive school in Malawi was an ineffective form of philanthropy, and suggested instead using resources to finance education programs though existing and proven nongovernmental organizations.
“Despite $3.8 million having been spent by the previous management team, the project has not broken ground, there was no title to the land and there was, over all, a startling lack of accountability on the part of the management team in Malawi and the management team in the United States,” he said. “We have yet to determine exactly what happened to all of that $3.8 million. We have not accounted for all the funds that were used.”
Last nite “60 Minutes” aired a stunning profile of pure invention. It was a profile on Greg Mortenson, the author of “Three Cups of Tea” and “Stones into Schools,” two best sellers that have turned him into a wealthy cultlike figure in the world of the crosscultural motivational movement. His books have become required reading for soldiers deploying for Afghanistan.
The profile reveals that much of his personal story which appears in both books is pure fiction and that more of the money he raises for his declared charitable purpose is spent on generating publicity for himself than building schools for the disadvantaged in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Tom Kolovos is Editor In Chief of aControlledSubstance.com