Black Panthers v. Reactionary Minds

J. Edgar Hoover, 1969:

[The Black Panther Free Breakfast for Children Program] was formed by the BPP for obvious reasons, including their efforts to create an image of civility, assume community control of Negroes, and to fill adolescent children with their insidious poison. (emphasis added)

The Reactionary Mind:

Conservatism is the theoretical voice of this animus against the agency of the subordinate classes. It provides the most consistent and profound argument as to why the lower orders should not be allowed to exercise their independent will, why they should not be allowed to govern themselves or the polity.


  1. hophmi March 27, 2013 at 4:00 pm | #

    Do you think that’s a fair explanation of what conservatism is in the US?

    • Glenn March 27, 2013 at 4:16 pm | #

      More than fair. The Chicago police killed a few of them while they were sleeping in their own beds.

      • Phil Perspective March 27, 2013 at 8:53 pm | #

        The Chicago police were far from the only ones. Oakland had it’s share too.

    • Corey Robin March 27, 2013 at 4:50 pm | #

      It might *be* unfair, but I probably — no, definitely — wouldn’t have said it, and then written a whole book defending it, and then written dozens of blog posts defending that book that defends that statement, and then written hundreds of comments defending those dozens of blog posts defending that book that defends that statement, if I didn’t *think* it was fair. Now if you want to find out why I *think* it’s fair — and then perhaps make an informed judgment as to whether it *is* indeed fair — you might want to read at least one of those comments defending one of those blog posts defending that book that defends that statement.

  2. jonnybutter March 27, 2013 at 4:38 pm | #

    “..assume community control of negros..” Oh my god. THE NEGROS. SOMEBODY has to assume community control over them, and it sure as hell shouldn’t be these ‘panthers’..

    Hophmi, I really would suggest that you at least read Prof. Robin’s book if you want to argue against it. If his whole argument was just the assertion in that quote, there would be no need for the rest of the book. Really, read it – it’s not long, and quite well written.

  3. Arkerless April 4, 2013 at 6:50 pm | #

    It’s really interesting to me that you classify J. Edgar Hoover as a conservative (and apparently think that doing so is uncontroversial) while also, apparently, assuming that the Black Panthers were not conservative (implied, but I think fairly.) Yet J. Edgar Hoover was pretty obviously anything but a conservative, and the Black Panthers are really early and very important figures in the modern guns right movement (this last is unfortunately not universally appreciated, but is clear to those who actually study the history) so at the very least they fit much more comfortably within the classification of conservative than Hoover ever would.

    • Corey Robin April 5, 2013 at 2:04 am | #

      I’m not inclined to think a commitment to gun rights is constitutive of conservatism. But then I don’t possess your vast knowledge of the history.

      • Arkerless April 5, 2013 at 9:40 am | #

        Well to a degree it depends on how you define “conservative” which certainly has some squishiness to it. But the modern conservative movement, in terms of things like the tea party, is in large part about second amendment rights.

        Now let’s go back in time a very short jump, to California 2nd May 1967, when Bobby Seale and his associates walked into the California state house, openly carrying their weapons, to protest the Mulford act, a visciously unconstitutional provision aimed squarely and intentionally at Mr Seale and his group, who were publicly and pointedly taking advantage of their rights under the second amendment and carrying openly in public. Any of this sound conservative yet?

        Now as it worked out, the racism of the political class, both left and right, united in horror and quickly agreed that having black people walking around with weapons simply would not do. The NRA backed, Ronald Reagan himself defended and signed one of the most notorious “gun control” laws in the country, and California has been a second amendment free zone since. You can end the story there and try to make it about Republican racism (which I have seen done) but this would be disingenuous.

        Because the modern second amendment movement really traces back to this moment. Even while the elites of both parties were completely unified on this, it did create internal blowback amongst the conservatives. Not the leaders, but the rank and file, in large numbers saw through the racist prejudice that animated their leaders, and started working together, demanding a change of course and a return to the second amendment. And slowly that has taken off and become stronger over the years, in ’77 the NRA was taken over by gun rights activists (though control seems to have shifted back and forth a few times since) and these days most Republicans at least seem to feel compelled to offer token support for the second amendment. Progress, if slow, and it really all starts there in California in ’67.

        • Corey Robin April 5, 2013 at 10:06 am | #

          I see irony is not your metier. So let me be more direct with you. “But the modern conservative movement, in terms of things like the tea party, is in large part about second amendment rights”: That’s neither a robust definition of what we mean by the modern conservative movement — believe it or not, there was a conservative movement before the Tea Party — nor is it accurate as a description of the main concerns of the modern conservative movement. Now I know I only wrote an entire book about this topic so therefore don’t have access to that vast archive of historical knowledge that seems to exist only in your head, but still, virtually no one who knows anything about this topic would think you were anywhere in the ballpark regarding what the conservative movement is all about.

  4. Arkerless April 5, 2013 at 11:43 am | #

    Corey, I appreciate you wrote a book on the subject, and it’s not even the worst book! But if you think irony is not on my meter that actually just cranked my irony meter (which works fine, btw) up quite a bit. You seem to play very very fast and loose with what you mean by conservative – you like to define someone as conservative and then define conservative based on them, then turn around and apply that rigged definition to vary disparate groups that may have nothing, or less than nothing, to do with your chosen prototype. Then when I try to gently nudge you towards a little more self awareness, you resort to a weak assertion and a weaker ad-hominen to counter?

    C’mon Cory. You’re smarter than that. And better than that. I wouldnt bother writing on your blog at all if I didnt believe that.

    • Corey Robin April 5, 2013 at 1:52 pm | #

      There’s nothing for me to respond to. You made a claim that is pure assertion — “the modern conservative movement…is in large part about second amendment rights” — without a shred of supporting evidence (telling a story about Ronald Reagan and the Panthers in 1967 is not evidence, for in your case, it presumes the very assertion you’re supposed to be substantiating). What’s more, it’s a rather eccentric definition of conservatism that would put Ronald Reagan outside of it and the Panthers in it. My definition of conservatism is based on a reading of the canon going back to Burke; that’s not my “chosen prototype,” that’s the recognized and agreed upon prototype. Like I said, nothing for me to respond to.

      • Arkerless April 5, 2013 at 4:20 pm | #

        If there was nothing for you to respond to you would not have responded.

        The point about Ronald Reagan appears to have flown right over your head. He was anti second amendment in ’67 when it was blacks who were asserting their rights at the statehouse. He later changed his mind in response to a growing change of consciousness amongst conservative voters. In this change, Reagan was a follower, Bobby and his Panthers were the vanguard.

        If you want to confine yourself entirely to the ivory tower paradigm of studying Burke and the more academic lines of thought descending from his, that’s fine and well. But I dont believe I am mistaken in sensing a much broader thrust to your work, an assumption of a broader validity, of some relevance to current politics. If I misread there I apologise, but if that is indeed your aim, then you cannot simply ignore the real history and aims of the conservative movement that dont fit your Burkean narrative and expect to be taken seriously.

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