"Let me say at once, for the benefit of the wicked, fearful South, that Martin Luther King wil never rouse a rabble"

Poor National Review. It has to deal with getting written off as hacks by the older generation of conservatives:

Buckley once quipped, after Garry Wills, Joan Didion, and John Leonard had decamped, that he hadn't realized that he was "running a finishing school for young apostates."…

("[60s NR writer Jeffrey] Hart is clearly uneasy about the rise of the younger generation, which, under the editorship of Richard Lowry, has been generally enthusiastic about the Bush administration. "Perhaps surprisingly, none of these now prominent figures at the magazine had been known for books or even important articles on politics or political thought," he sniffs. "Where they stood on the spectrum of conservative thought–traditionalist, individualist, libertarian, skeptical, Straussian, Burkean, Voegelinian–was completely unknown."),

I don't know what they are talking about with not being intellectual enough. Check that second quote against Jonah Goldberg's FAQ about himself: "You'll note that the second I became quasi-famous for the French-bashing stuff, I all but stopped the French-bashing. Similarly, I cut wayyyy back on quoting The Simpsons once that became sort of my official shtick. " It's kind of like Maxim, but the only product to sell is knee-jerk fratboy libertarianism.

But let's take a peek at what all those brilliant minds were doing back in the day. Let's take a quick moment on Martin Luther King's birthday to go back and see what those important contributors of political thought at the National Review have told us over the years about the Civil Rights movement – the highbrow equivalent of fire hoses and attack dogs (hat tip to Brad Delong).

William F. Buckley, from the February 22, 1956 issue:

On February 6, Miss Autherine J. Lucy went to class at the University of Alabama, which admitted her by the order of a federal court. When she left the building she was assaulted by a mob…. It was the culmination of a weekend of demonstrations against the admission of a Negro…. [T]he nation cannot get away with feigning surprie at the fact that there was a demonstration by students, nor even that the demonstration became ugly and uncontrolled. For in defiance of constitutional practice, with a total disregard of custom and tradition, the Supreme Court a year ago illegalized a whole set of deeply-rooted folkways and mores…. The incident involving Miss Lucy is only one of many such incidents whose occurrence we had better get used to if we intend to enforce the Supreme Court's decision at bayonet point… the consequences of exacting of a whole region of our country compliance with a law that in the opinion of Southerners unsettles the basis of their society. The Supreme Court elected to tamper with organic growth. It must, under the circumstances, accept the fatherhood of social deformity.

Now to L. Brent Bozell, from the June 4, 1963 issue:

The… governor of Alabama, acting for his state, filed a suit in the United States Supreme Court that asked… whether the educated citizens of the Kennedy Administration are concerned with discharging this special responsibility [to uphold the law] or merely with gassing about it…. [D]id the President act within his authority in sending federal troops to Alabama in the wake of the Birmingham riots?…. Alabama's principal contention… is that the Act of Congress under which the President dispatched the troops is unconstitutional… that the 14th amendment… is "null and void"… that the President's actions did not comply with [the act's] conditions….

The statute… a law the Reconstruction Congress enacted in 1871…. [T]he President can send in troops… only when… there must be some "domestic violence" or "insurrection," and let us agree that condition was met b the Negro rioters…. [T]he domestic violence must be the cause… [of] a denial of equal protection… [or] obstruction of federal laws. Now: how in Heaven's name–granted they created a certain amount of havoc–can the Negro riots be said to have caused either of those consequences? Finally, assuming it is a violence-inspired enail of equal protection… the local authorities must have shown themselves either unable or unwilling to deal with the situation. Yet the authorities in Birmingham [police chief "Bull" Connor and Governor George Wallace] apparently did have the matter under control before Kennedy pushed the button….

[T]he legality of the 14th amendment…. The argument that it was improperly ratified is historically irrefragable….

It is undoubtedly too much to hope that Alabama will win her case: the President's cavalier action is not likely to raise many eyebrows on a Court that handed down those sit-in decisions. But… Alabama's lawyers can help but the public straight on who is and who isn't concerned these das with working otu the nation's terrible racial problem within the framework of law.

And for my favorite, let's roll it back to Mr William Buckley to take us home. From 1959:

The soberly-dressed "clerky" little man… seemed oddly unsuited to his unmentioned but implicit role of propagandist…. Let me say at once, for the benefit of the wicked, fearful South, that Martin Luther King wil never rouse a rabble; in fact, I doubt very much if he could keep a rabble awake… past its bedtime… lecture… delivered with all the force and fervor of the five-year-old who nightly recites: "Our Father, Who art in New Haven, Harold be Thy name."…

The history of Negro freedom in the United States… according to Dr. King, is actually a history of Supreme Court decisions… in each of these decisions "the Supreme Court gave validity to the prevailing mores of the times." (That's how they decide, you see? They look up the prevailing mores–probably in the Sunday New York Times.)…

In the future, [according to King] the reactionary white south will try…. Nevertheless, victory is inevitable for the Good Guys…. The Negro must… expect suffering and sacrifice, which he must resist without sacrifice, for this kind of resistance will leqve the violent segregationist "glutted with his own barbarity. Forced to stand before the world and his God splattered with the blood and reeking with the stench of his Negro brother, he will call an end to his self-defeating massacre." (I don't think [King had] really examined that one, do you?)…

In the words of an editorial from next morning's Yale Daily News, "a bearded white listener rose, then a whole row, and then a standing ovation." Did you ever see a standing ovation rise? It's most interesting! Anyway, I rose and applauded heartily. I was applauding Dr. King for not saying "the trusth shall make you free," because actually it took the Supreme Court, in this case, didn't it?…

[A] discussion period for undergraduates followed the lecture…. Here was no trace of the sing-song "culluh'd preachuh" chant, the incongruously gaudy phrases…. Martin Luther King… relies almost entirely on force of one kind or another to accomplish integration…. [I]t seems curiously inconsistent to hear him, time after time, suggest power, or force–the force of labor, of legislation, of federal strength–as the solution….

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2 thoughts on “"Let me say at once, for the benefit of the wicked, fearful South, that Martin Luther King wil never rouse a rabble"”

  • Mr. King most certainly roused a rabble here in Atlanta today…the traffic I suffered through past his Memorial Center on my way home from the movies was just unspeakable!

  • It's simply unbelievable what a chode Jonah Goldberg is. If you need any evidence that the NR has standards that are about as stringent as FHM these days, all you need to do is read his masterpieces for a few weeks.

    I am 99% confident that I could randomly select a conservative undergraduate from one of my classes and give them Jonah's job without any noticeable drop-off in quality. That's not to say all my students (or Mr. Goldberg) are complete idiots, but I can't see why their opinions would belong in a world-famous publication.

    There are plenty of blogging positions open at Powerline and Little Green Footballs for right-wingers whose arguments have shockingly little substance. The least the NR can do is give us wingnut commentators who have read a few books in their lives and can recall things that happened before 1980. Everything Jonah Goldberg writes feels like a 100-foot sphere of cotton candy – it's really big, but it can feasibly be condensed to the size of a golf ball.

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