National Review and the Black Panthers

Over at the nation’s most historically racist opinion rag, the National Review, David French is beside himself that the left criticized some Super Bowl ads for being politically incorrect while celebrating Beyoncé’s halftime act. He was truly offended that Elon James White made the following Tweet in response to a Toyota advertisement involving a high speed car chase.

Did Elon James White say that black people are “always” killed when they evade police?

Apparently Mr. White has already forgotten about LaVoy Finicum, the white protester shot after a car chase in Oregon. Besides, it is patently absurd to contend that black drivers in car chases are always killed. In fact, such slayings are mercifully rare.

So much wrong with that response.

But Mr. French’s real ire was reserved for Beyoncé.

The Left simply could not stop slobbering over Beyoncé’s use of Black Panther imagery during her halftime performance. The Atlantic’s Spencer Kornhaber called it a “display of cultural power.” Vox raves that Beyoncé “came to play.” The Guardian’s Alex Needham declared that “Queen Bey” was “at the height of her powers.” But the Black Panthers, recall, aren’t guilty of “merely” murdering police officers; they tortured and murdered their own members. They embodied the Malcolm X philosophy of “by any means necessary” and carried it out with murderous efficiency.

If I wanted to fully re-litigate the legacy of the original Black Panther Party here, this would be a very long piece. I’m going to cheat a little for brevity’s sake and just give you a couple of links to explore. The first is the Wikipedia entry for Fred Hampton, a charismatic Chicago-based Panther who was executed in his bed by the police after being drugged with barbiturates by his bodyguard. Of course, his bodyguard was an FBI informant.

The second link comes from an article published yesterday in The Oregonian, which details the history of the Black Panther Party in Portland. Maybe the most significant thing about this piece is that The Oregonian takes responsibility for their horribly biased reporting that turned the public against the Panthers in a way that was totally unjustified by their activities.

If you’re really interested in this subject, you’ll want to look into the FBI program called COINTELPRO which targeted the Panthers with at least 233 covert actions in an effort to disrupt and discredit their activities, turn them against each other, and sow violence in their communities.

At the time, organizations like the National Review were supremely unconcerned with the police violence that had spawned the Panther movement in Oakland. They were even less concerned with the Second Amendment rights of black organizers who sought to shadow the police and document their abuses. In fact, they were supportive of the heavy-handed tactics used by the FBI and were completely appalled when those tactics were exposed by the Church Committee in the mid-1970’s. Just last year, the Review published a piece by infamous torture-apologist John Yoo in which he said “the Church Committee…set back the intelligence agencies for years.”

So, today’s piece by Mr. French is just the latest in a long and consistent line of articles in which the Review has supported Apartheid, opposed all anti-poverty programs, and objected to passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They’ve never changed, and they’re still blaming the Panthers for infighting in their ranks that was deliberately created at the instruction of J. Edgar Hoover.

In closing, I’ll just give you this reminder of how COINTELPRO actually operated.

According to attorney Brian Glick in his book War at Home, the FBI used four main methods during COINTELPRO:

Infiltration: Agents and informers did not merely spy on political activists. Their main purpose was to discredit and disrupt. Their very presence served to undermine trust and scare off potential supporters. The FBI and police exploited this fear to smear genuine activists as agents.
Psychological warfare: The FBI and police used myriad “dirty tricks” to undermine progressive movements. They planted false media stories and published bogus leaflets and other publications in the name of targeted groups. They forged correspondence, sent anonymous letters, and made anonymous telephone calls. They spread misinformation about meetings and events, set up pseudo movement groups run by government agents, and manipulated or strong-armed parents, employers, landlords, school officials and others to cause trouble for activists. They used bad-jacketing to create suspicion about targeted activists, sometimes with lethal consequences.
Legal harassment: The FBI and police abused the legal system to harass dissidents and make them appear to be criminals. Officers of the law gave perjured testimony and presented fabricated evidence as a pretext for false arrests and wrongful imprisonment. They discriminatorily enforced tax laws and other government regulations and used conspicuous surveillance, “investigative” interviews, and grand jury subpoenas in an effort to intimidate activists and silence their supporters.
Illegal force: The FBI conspired with local police departments to threaten dissidents; to conduct illegal break-ins in order to search dissident homes; and to commit vandalism, assaults, beatings and assassinations. The object was to frighten or eliminate dissidents and disrupt their movements.

This is the kind of stuff that Glenn Beck and Alex Jones accuse the left of doing or plotting to do. It’s pure projection. And, in any case, just as with infringements on the right to bear arms, it’s all okay if the victims are black.

No wonder the right didn’t like Beyoncé’s homage to the Panthers.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.