With the MLK Holiday coming up on Monday, January 20, the United States Marine Corps Special Operations Command picked a bizarre way to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr,’s birthday. On the unit’s official Twitter account, @MARSOCofficial, the Marine social media staff advised their account’s 2,500-plus followers, “Don’t be a lone shooter!”
Of course, the MLK Holiday celebrates the birth of the civil rights leader, the actual date of which is January 15. But as most everyone knows, or should know, King was assassinated by a sniper on April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old.
Authorities said the sniper was “a lone shooter.”
So what, exactly, was the Marine Corps Special Operations Command thinking? Apparently, not much. When the web site ThinkProgress heard about the strange, and strangely inappropriate, MLK Holiday tweet, its reporters called the unit’s pubic affairs office.
A Marine spokesperson said that the @MARSOCofficial account was, indeed, the unit’s authorized Twitter account, and that someone operating the account in an official capacity “may have” sent out the tweet.
The spokesperson, Gunnery Sgt. Robert Storm, told ThinkProgress, “We can pull that.” Within minutes the tweet was deleted. But ThinkProgress preserved a screen grab of it for posterity.
Here it is, complete with picture of a Marine sniper, which would normally be no big deal, but in context appeared chilling:
At 1:29 pm Eastern Time, the Special Operation command posted a new message explaining — and apologizing for — the shocking MLK holiday tweet, saying basically that it was intended as a safety message, advising Marines to buddy up during the holiday weekend. Use of the term “lone shooter” was “military jargon.”
From the Command in reference to our latest tweet: pic.twitter.com/9ln39HCWqA
— MARSOC (@MARSOCofficial) January 17, 2014
The @MARSOCofficial account is used mostly to send out such safety advice as well as morale-boosting messages to Marines at the Special Operation Command base in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. Many Marines from that base are deployed to hot spots around the world.
For those unfamiliar with what the Special Operations Command called “the historical facts concerning Martin Luther King Jr.,” even as they prepare to take the MLK Holiday off from work, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot as he stood on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis. Two months later, a small-time criminal named James Earl Ray was arrested and charged with the assassination. While authorities labeled Ray a “lone shooter” and he initially confessed, Ray later claimed that he was actually part of a conspiracy.
The conspiracy theory remains unresolved and widespread even today, 46 years later. Even the family of of Martin Luther King Jr. subscribes to the belief that Ray was not a “lone shooter.”
But on the MLK holiday, the nation doesn’t dwell on Dr. King’s death, but instead celebrates his remarkable life.