Media Matters: NRO Shouldn’t Try to Reappropriate the Civil Rights Movement
National Review has published numerous articles this week marking the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington and Martin Luther King Jr.’s seminal “I have a dream” speech. Given its ugly history, the long-running conservative magazine is ill-suited for such transparent attempts to re-appropriate the civil rights movement. National Review opposed major civil rights legislation and published appallingly racist commentary during the height of the civil rights movement.
And what of the March on Washington itself? While National Review has fond words for the event fifty years after the fact, Buckley penned a column the week before the event railing against federal civil rights laws and labeling the March a “mob-deployment” and a “dangerous resort”:
National Review’s coverage of King and the movement certainly wasn’t all rosy after the seminal March, either. ln an editorial for National Review published in September 1965, Dr. Will Herberg pinned blame for the Watts riots on Martin Luther King and his associates. According to Herberg, King and other civil rights leaders’ promotion of civil disobedience — though done with “the best intentions” — had nonetheless taught “hundreds of thousands of Negroes…that it is perfectly all right to break the law and defy constitute authority if you are a Negro-with-a-grievance.” From the 1965 editorial, as reproduced in the book, The American Spirit: U.S. History as Seen by Contemporaries, Volume II:
The progressive media watch group Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting has compiled some of Buckley and his magazine’s other lowlights during the civil rights struggle, including:
National Review editors condemned the 1963 bombing of a black Birmingham Church that killed four children, but because it “set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically,” the editors wondered “whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur—of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro” (Chicago Reader, 8/26/05).
Just months before the 1965 Voting Rights Act was passed, Buckley warned in his syndicated column (2/18/65) that “chaos” and “mobocratic rule” might follow if “the entire Negro population in the South were suddenly given the vote.” In his 1969 column “On Negro Inferiority” (4/8/69), Buckley heralded as “massive” and “apparently authoritative” academic racist Arthur Jensen’s findings that blacks are less intelligent than whites and Asians.
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