National Review and Terrorism Revisited

Victims of the church bombing.

If you go over to the website of National Review you’ll find many, many articles about the supposed connections between Barack Obama and Bill Ayers. Ayers is, of course, a onetime member of the Weathermen, a famous (and, it has to be said, very inept) radical terrorist group of the 1960s and 1970s. Although Ayers has never been charged with a crime and the Weathermen were largely a danger to themselves, the fact that he and Obama know each other is said to reflect poorly on the Democratic presidential candidate.

National Review has gone fairly haywire for this story.  One enterprising reader counted up more than 100 articles and blog postings on the National Review website. The obsession with Ayers is easy to understand: it’s the rightwing talking point du jour, nevermind that Obama has condemned Ayers’s Weathermen activities and the New York Times has definitively documented that there is only the most tenuous link between the two men.

Because National Review is going on and on about terrorism, this might be a good occasion to revisit that magazine’s own relationship with political violence. I’ve written on this subject before but the current situation makes it interesting to recall these facts:

1. On September 15, 1963 a bomb went off at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing 4 black girls and injuring many more children. (Those killed were Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson, Addie Mae Collins, Denise McNair; McNair had been a classmate of the young Condoleezza Rice).  The bomb was set by members of the Klu Klux Klan, as part of a wave of terror designed to intimidate the civil rights movement. Here is how National Review commented on the bombing in the October 1, 1963 issue of their biweekly Bulletin: “The fiend who set off the bomb does not have the sympathy of the white population in the South; in fact, he set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically as to raise the question whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur – of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro. Some circumstantial evidence lends a hint of plausibility to that notion, especially the ten-minute fuse (surely a white man walking away form the church basement ten minutes earlier would have been noticed?). And let it be said that the convulsions that go on, and are bound to continue, have resulted from revolutionary assaults on the status quo, and a contempt for the law, which are traceable to the Supreme Court’s manifest contempt for the settled traditions of Constitutional practice.”

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