February 29, 2008

Our Saint of Buckley: Derided, Defiled and Condemned

In the land of nightmare and fantasy that passes for the United States today, a nation which is unquestionably the highest note in the song sung by the many universes, facts and history have been banished altogether. In other circumstances, I might have waited until next week before adding a few words to the breathless, interminable hymns of praise offered to the memory of Our Saint of Buckley, but lately of this vale of tears and now pretentiously and piously preaching to the angels, as he yachts among the stars. Since the actual significance of Buckley's life and work has been obliterated by the acid of yet another eructation (ha!) of our maudlin, sickeningly sentimental, intellectually vacant "national discourse" -- alas! lamentable, woeful phrase! -- I assume that good manners have similarly been destroyed. On these grounds, I proceed.

I was prompted to offer a few thoughts on this subject after I happily read the remarks of one Mr. Gore Vidal. Mr. Vidal -- who is surely no saint, a salaciously glorious fact for which we daily thank the non-existent gods -- had the temerity to scribble some nasty words in our national hymnal, The New York Times. The Times offers a brief history of Our Saint of Buckley's teevee show, "Firing Line." Various important people tell us that Our Saint of Buckley was "classy," "charming" and "kind." He was a goddamned saint, Our Saint of Buckley.

In the midst of this celebration of the well-lived life -- and let me tell you, when you're the son of a multimillionaire and enjoy forever after a life of privilege, power and wealth known only to the ruling class, you do indeed live well -- Mr. Vidal rudely utters That Which Must Never Be Spoken, that is to say, the truth:
"I was never on his show," Gore Vidal, with whom Mr. Buckley had a famous feud, said on Thursday. "I don’t like fascism much."

He added: "I was one of the first people he asked. And, of course, I refused to be on it. And, of course, he lied about it afterward."
I had never understood why Vidal preceded earlier references to Our Saint of Buckley with "crypto." I am very glad to see it gone.

Our Saint of Buckley devoted his life to ensuring that the limitless benefits and privileges conferred by membership in the ruling class would never be diminished in the slightest degree; wherever and whenever possible, he worked to ensure that those benefits and privileges would be increased. One example will suffice, since it is an example of unbreached, unforgivable evil. A few years ago, Brad DeLong reprinted a National Review editorial, dated August 24, 1957. At the time of DeLong's entry, National Review was happily wandering down the misty paths of memory on the occasion of its fiftieth anniversary, yet it unaccountably failed to note earlier articles of this particular kind. Here are the major points:
The central question that emerges -- and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalog of the rights of American citizens, born Equal -- is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes -- the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race. It is not easy, and it is unpleasant, to adduce statistics evidencing the median cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists. The question, as far as the White community is concerned, is whether the claims of civilization supersede those of universal suffrage. The British believe they do, and acted accordingly, in Kenya, where the choice was dramatically one between civilization and barbarism, and elsewhere; the South, where the conflict is by no means dramatic, as in Kenya, nevertheless perceives important qualitative differences between its culture and the Negroes', and intends to assert its own.

National Review believes that the South's premises are correct. If the majority wills what is socially atavistic, then to thwart the majority may be, though undemocratic, enlightened. It is more important for any community, anywhere in the world, to affirm and live by civilized standards, than to bow to the demands of the numerical majority. Sometimes it becomes impossible to assert the will of a minority, in which case it must give way, and the society will regress; sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence.


The South confronts one grave moral challenge. It must not exploit the fact of Negro backwardness to preserve the Negro as a servile class. It is tempting and convenient to block the progress of a minority whose services, as menials, are economically useful. Let the South never permit itself to do this. So long as it is merely asserting the right to impose superior mores for whatever period it takes to effect a genuine cultural equality between the races, and so long as it does so by humane and charitable means, the South is in step with civilization, as is the Congress that permits it to function.
This is as pure an expression of evil in thought and action (actual and implied) as can be imagined. Some people attempt to minimize these vicious utterances, noting that Buckley later modified his views. It is suggested that Buckley was horrified by the murderous violence used by "the White community" to maintain its "cultural superiority," and so he partially recanted. This rather badly reverses causality: it is because of views like those expressed in the National Review editorial that "the White community" believed it had the right -- and even the duty -- to resort to violence. Note the critical language: "sometimes the numerical minority cannot prevail except by violence: then it must determine whether the prevalence of its will is worth the terrible price of violence." The editorial does not repudiate violence; it does not state that violence of this kind is unequivocally wrong. It asks only a question relating to tactics, and to the crudest sort of utilitarian balancing, devoid of all moral considerations: Is violence "worth the terrible price"? In other words: Will violence work?

If violence engaged in by "the White community" had worked, Buckley would have had no principled objection whatsoever. He would have celebrated the victory of "civilization." That is what this editorial says, and what it means. Buckley altered his views only because the tide of history was clearly against him, and against his preferences. If he wished to maintain his privileged status, he needed to change, but only so much as was absolutely required. It was a small price for him to pay; anything to make certain those yachting vacations would continue uninterrupted. I further note that the disgusting racism so proudly proclaimed in the 1957 editorial continues at National Review today, with all the talk from Mark Steyn and many others about the "demographic catastrophe" that awaits the Western world -- that is, the affluent, privileged, white, male world -- because Arab Muslims are propagating in numbers that supposedly threaten Western "superiority" and dominance. See Chris Floyd on the odious Steyn and other criminals of like mind.

On the general subject of Our Saint of Buckley and various earlier doings (and video!) involving the deliciously sinful Vidal, see also, this (in view of the commentary about Buckley, I overlook the undeserved and deeply unjust sniping at Vidal, but just barely and only for the moment), which concludes:
The National Review still exists, Goldwater Republicans are still enjoying the fruits of their eventual success, and the conservative movement as a whole has seized upon the culture wars with such fervor that a high-falutin' fancy-talkin' New York college boy like Buckley would never, ever achieve such prominence in the movement he nurtured, should he come around today. Because he'd obviously be a big stupid quee-ah.

So fuck him for foisting upon us this anti-intellectual bullshit mess of a nation we've become, but we're glad that his followers helped destroy the intellectual heart of his ideology.

Buckley is survived by his hip satirical novelist son Christopher, his pale imitation of its former self magazine, and George Will's wardrobe and middle initial.
And some of you think I'm mean.