Books on terrorism have been a growth industry since 911. Two books have stood out in the press as particularly sensational and should be noted. The reviews of these books in the press are also interesting as they uncover certain attitudes by those who write and publish them about the role of terrorism. Jesse Berrett's review of Beverly Gage's book, The Day Wall Street Exploded , published last year and concerns the supposed anarchist involvement in the 1920s bombing repeats the same old propaganda published about the event nearly 100 years ago. It was strange enough to read John Freeman's review of the Mike Davis book on the car bomb you published last year. He had written an article for the Chronicle that was basically a review of Beverly Gage's book at that time. The bomb went off just before J.P. Morgan was to be investigated for fraud. Many noted the connection at the time. Neither author of these books repeats this information, nor do either of the reviewers.
Mr. Mike Davis' book, like his article on the first supposed car bomb in history was sensational, but it does seem as if both books and all three reviews are beating a dead horse with a straw man. Why does the Chronicle want to keep repeating this story? The newest review coincides with a labor dispute at the Chronicle and one wonders if that is an important clue. In both cases everything centers on Mario Buda. Unfortunately, there is almost nothing in the Buda story that is factual, and both books use the same propagandist anti-anarchist sources. From the opening description of Mario Buda's involvement in the bombing outside of the J.P. Morgan building in 1920, to the origin of the car bomb, we are showered with fabrications and stories used as fact. Even the reference to Paul Avrich's book on anarchism that relates the story of the bomb we find Mr. Davis weaving one event reference into a proof of guilt. Beverly Gage's newer book, The Day Wall Street Exploded (2006), goes over the same terrain and reproduces the same evidence attempting to link Buda with the bombing. The problem is that there was no evidence. The single piece of material that was used to convince the public that anarchists had anything to do with the bombing was a piece of paper on which was printed a series of slogans found several days later far from the site of the explosion. Avrich's only other piece of evidence was his claim that decades later an associate of a man named Galliani told him Buda was the driver of the wagon containing the bomb.
What is missing from Davis's article is the context of the time, it was the end of the First World War, there was a frenzy of anti-immigrant propaganda aimed at discrediting a rising and successful union movement. People like Mitchell Palmer, Attorney General of Massachusetts were using anti-immigrant and anti-communist propaganda to produce a Red Scare that resulted in detentions and raids on homes of thousands of people and the eventual forced removal of tens of thousands of Italian immigrants back to Italy for suspected anti-American activities. Palmer became known for this illegal raids and use of created evidence. Bombs and other "red activities" always occurred curiously at opportune times during his election efforts. One can also note that the Morgan bombing occurred just as J.P. Morgan was being accused of illegal dealings in domestic and foreign war bonds and manipulation of financial institutions as detailed by Ferdinand Lundberg in his America's 60 Families. THis would be like a bombing on Wall Street today by Madoff blamed on anarchists to distract from the credit crisis and his fraud.
All the charges against Morgan disappeared after the bombing.
As for the J.P. Morgan bombing being the first car bomb, this is absurd. Mobile bombs had been used in war dating back to Roman times, for example, in the form of "fire ships." As Gibbon tells us in his Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, the invention of the use of naphtha was applied to a number of mobile carriers. Combined with mining under walls or buildings and placing this substance or gunpowder, it produced a means of terrorizing populations as well as armies and was used, for example, at the siege of Vienna in 1528-30. Similar uses of carts loaded with gunpowder, dynamite or other flammable substances have been used by rebels before and during the American Civil War and since. The Morgan bombing is only new in Davis's mind. And Gage is just rehashing old sensationalism in a new cheap cover. What is not new is using violence or supposed terror to motivate attacks on scapegoats.