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Jewish World Review
Nov. 25, 2005
/ 23 Mar-Cheshvan, 5766
Buckley beat them at their own game
There was a grand event in New York City last
week. One of the most consequential figures of the last half of the 20th
Century observed his 80th birthday in the glamorous Pierre Hotel with
several hundred of the most influential members of the political movement
that he helped to found, the modern conservative movement. The consequential
figure was, of course, William F. Buckley, Jr. Close students of the
American scene will thus understand why no organs of major media covered the
event. Major media used to cover what were called "public intellectuals."
They stopped covering them when conservatives joined the ranks of public
intellectuals and then overwhelmed the ranks.
What claims the attention of major media today is a phenomenon
called Kultursmog . It is the popular culture of the
United States, polluted utterly by a weird politics, a politics that is
often called liberal but is actually simply leftish and adolescent. It has
no fixed values or ideas other than to disturb the peace, which the
legally-attuned will recognize as a misdemeanor in most jurisdictions of the
civilized world. Kultursmog is a culture that mixes
rock stars in with fashion models and the ideas of Al Gore. Occasionally the
smog actually includes the Hon. Gore, along with those other "rock star"
personalities, the Clintons. The Kultursmog is always
politically correct, ever sensitive to the whims of the Democratic National
Committee and increasingly anti-intellectual.
What makes it anti-intellectual is that the ideas behind public
policy today are almost completely derived from Buckley, Milton Friedman,
Irving Kristol and other less well-known conservatives and neoconservatives.
In fact I think I can argue successfully, if ironically, that Buckley is
personally responsible for the anti-intellectualism that has spread
throughout major media over the past 25 years. There once was a time when
the late-night television shows, the morning chat shows, and the personality
sections of print journalism would occasionally feature the likes of Buckley
and his most frequent liberal opponents, John Kenneth Galbraith and Gore
Vidal. The time is long past. Buckley finished off his opponents years ago,
and no young egghead was up to taking on his wit or erudition.
The wit has been quick and lethal. The other night at the Pierre
episodes of Buckley from his television show "Firing Line" and from
interviews on major media, most memorably "60 Minutes," demonstrated his
debating skills and reminded me that no one in the many decades of Buckley's
career ever got the best of him, at least not for more than a few minutes.
Buckley in his 80 years founded one of the most important
intellectual magazines in American history, National Review. He was there at
the founding of New York's influential Conservative Party, which utterly
transformed New York politics, leaving a one-party state with two very
competitive parties, the old minority party now on top. He was friend and
advisor to Barry Goldwater, modern conservatism's first presidential
contender, and Ronald Reagan, the man who brought modern conservatism to
Washington where it has pretty much dominated since 1980. Forget not Bill
Clinton's line "The era of big government is over." Buckley also ran for
office, lectured and debated weekly, and wrote scores of books and thousands
of newspaper columns, all so stylishly that the left came to reject stylish
writing. Writers on the left seem to think stylish writing is the mark of
the "elitist" conservative. That is another mark against Buckley. He
encouraged anti-intellectualism on the left and bad writing.
The Kultursmog may be anti-intellectual,
vulgar and politically out of touch, but it remains very influential. To a
vast degree, it decides what the members of the chattering class talk about
and are aware of. Its most effective instrument in influencing them is
omission. It simply omits what it does not want to acknowledge. When Senator
Daniel Patrick Moynihan died a couple of years ago nowhere was it reported
in major media that in the 1960s and early 1970s he was associated with
neoconservatives such as Kristol and Jeane Kirkpatrick. At the Pierre the
other night Henry Kissinger, Mike Wallace, Tom Wolfe, and scores of other
notables paused to celebrate Buckley. In the Kultursmog the event never took place and eventually Bill Buckley will never have
existed. But Buckley helped create what in politics has become the winning
side, and in time the Kultursmog will not exist at
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© 2005, Creators Syndicate