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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Buckley, r.i.p

The only American conservative I have any regard for just died – William Buckley.

It is a long regard, going back to my teen years. Not that Buckley has been a force on the right since the eighties. He was as alien to the Bush right as he was to the liberalism of the Great Society era. The right's utter intellectual collapse must have pained him - he always believed that the alliance between rich drones and highly stupid people was redeemed by tone. He had wit and literacy. You can search high and low for that in the National Review of the past decade, but you'll search in vain. The last controversial utterance from the old man was that Iraq was a big fuck up, which was greeted with the embarrassed silence the heirs reserve for the batty grandpa, peeing in his recliner.

And so is extinguished the last dying claim of conservatism to truth, beauty or logic. I'm not sure if I should quote Yeats, at this point - or Pope's the Dunciad.


Brian said...

Are you sure, Roger? I think Dennis Perrin, another of my favorite writers, would disagree. Watch how Noam Chomsky tears apart this pompous effeminate fascist.


roger said...

Brian, Hey, I'm not saying that Buckley was producing works as saintly as St. Francis - he was a cold war intellectual and a conservative. He stood against the civil rights struggle, he stood for the missile building state, he stood for all the shit. But he was a good writer and, within the niches of the empire, he stood for some good things - as I pointed out in a post on Buckley years ago, one of his mayoral campaign themes, legalizing drug use, would have made this an immensely more liberal country - when you have one person in one hundred serving time in prison, you can be sure that has an enormous effect on voting patterns, for instance. Shame on Buckley for missing the civil rights battle, shame on the various liberals who have assiduously kept up the drug war that has imprisoned, and stripped of their civil rights, hundreds of thousands of african americans in the South alone.

Brian said...

Well...You're right. It's easy to stereotype him as 100% evil. Legalizing drugs would have maybe had more benefit to the African-American community than any government EEO officer!

I think Mr. Perrin, who is by no means a standard "liberal" might vehemently agree with your last point

roger said...

ps - actually, what Buckley stood for matters less than what Buckley helped bring about. One of the things he brought about was a profound change on the right with regard to race. Conservatism since the imperialist 1870s had attached itself very much to white power. Buckley went along with that until well in the sixties, but then executed an important shift that acknowledged not only the legitimacy of civil rights legislation, but of the anti-racist stance.

Why is this important? It is hugely important to any black man or woman working in the U.S., to not feel a certain hole over their heads, as though the vilest racist behavior could come crashing down at any time. There's no special little enclave with a sign up saying goody goody liberal whites here (and, if there was, let's face it, you'll be able to pick your peck of racist attitudes among them soon enough). From the time Buckley attacked Shockley in the seventies to his writing Buchanan out of the movement, Buckley did more than any other right opinion maker to shift American conservatism away from racism - at least, of a certain type. God knows if this is a transitional property of the American right.

Matt said...

ON the contrary, Roger, not only did it pain him but and he also talked about it.

Matt said...

Your admiration for this man is truly bewildering.

Of course by contemporary standards he looks like a saint (who the fuck doesn't). I fail to grasp how he helped, let alone pioneered the cause of anti-racism one bit; your logic is bizarre to say the least.

Arkady said...

My first reaction was to be appalled -- Buckley?! Eugggh! -- but the chance to tease Roger for years on this is too much to pass up. The mass of contradictions to be found at LI is a splendid gift and one I intend to mine forever.