National Review, the CIA, Racism, and Pandering

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Writes one reader, PG, in response to this post: “Uh, you mean CIA funded cover National Review for CIA agent William F. Buckley? Pushing white segregationists.”

I can’t tell if the reader is mocking me or agreeing with me, and the sentence fragment isn’t helping either. But, I should note, that in relation to the NR record on segregation, I don’t think that either Buckley or Frank Meyer were actual racists. (I try not to run around wildly accusing everyone I see of racism lest I be mistaken for someone at the SPLC.)

Meyer and Buckley were simply pandering to the white Southern culture warriors in an effort to gain GOP votes. This was likely a case of a non-racist northeastern Catholic and a New York Jew pretending to be white supremacists to cynically court the segregationist vote.

With the CIA comment, the reader may be implying that while the apparent aim of the pro-segregation effort at NR was to get votes, the actual aim may have been to sow discord in a sort of COINTELPRO-type operation. Or he’s simply mocking the whole idea.

I don’t know if there was a CIA plot in the NR‘s turn on segregation, and it would be pure speculation on my part to guess that it was. I doubt it. I think it was just pandering for votes.

The speculation about an NR-CIA connection goes back at least to the sixties, however, and Rothbard provides a concise summary in The Betrayal of the American Right (p 161):

In the light of hindsight, we should now ask whether or not a major objective of National Review from its inception was to transform the right wing from an isolationist to global warmongering anti-Communist movement; and, particularly, whether or not the entire effort was in essence a CIA operation. We now know that Bill Buckley, for the two years prior to establishing National Review, was admittedly a CIA agent in Mexico City, and that the sinister E. Howard Hunt was his control. His sister Priscilla, who became managing editor of National Review, was also in the CIA; and other editors James Burnham and Willmoore Kendall had at least been recipients of CIA largesse in the anti-Communist Congress for Cultural Freedom. In addition, Burnham has been identified by two reliable sources as a consultant for the CIA in the years after World War II. Moreover, Garry Wills relates in his memoirs of the conservative movement that Frank Meyer, to whom he was close at the time, was convinced that the magazine was a CIA operation. With his Leninist-trained nose for intrigue, Meyer must be considered an important witness.

3:32 pm on November 13, 2012