R.I.P., W.F.B. (j.) - 1925 - 2008
Porcupine is proud to own an original hardback copy of 'God and Man at Yale'. The thesis of the book is that liberal faculty is busy inculcating students with liberal doctrines, often making at least a public agreement with a progressive point of view a prerequisite for a good grade, while abandoning the true mission of the University, which is classical and rigorous education. The book may seem a well worn theme, until you pause to consider that it was written in 1951.
William F. Buckley, Jr., Gentleman of Connecticut has passed away. There will be many news stories about him. Porcupine especially like the phrase in the Associated Press obituary - 'reptilian languor' - for Buckley's unique and often satirized style (really, it's so apt that Porcupine suspects the AP of having had this written for a while). William F. Buckley was the George Saunders of conservatism - silkily spoken, impeccably presented, and utterly addicted to the last word.
Buckley lived to debate - the livelier and more intelligent his opponents, the better - and he single handedly invented the public affairs debate show with 'Firing Line', the PBS fig leaf of conservatism from 1965 to 1999. Buckley pulled the plug on the show himself, announcing that he wished to give a competitor a chance in a new millennium. Eyes cast down, doodling on his pad, twisting further and further in his chair, Buckley would listen to his opponent - until that mistake, that inopportune word. Then, the eyebrow raised, the hooded eyes lit up, and the devastating rebuttal would begin in the odd drawl that was his speech.
Much will be written about his life and his ideas for a little while. He was a mass of odd contradictions - he angrily quit a job at the magazine American Mercury (before going on to found The National Review) because he felt it was anti-Semitic; yet he had no problem saying that southern states were right to reject the Federal government and uphold Jim Crow laws based on state's rights and white majority rule. He urged the Republican Party to purge itself of John Birch Society members as he thought them conspiracy obsessed loons; yet he was one of the few intellectuals to defend the basic premise of Sen. Joe McCarthy's investigations into communist tendencies. When your heard Buckley SAY it, it all sounded logical at the time.
He was a brilliant rhetorician. He helped Goldwater and Reagan begin their political careers. When he began publishing The National Review, intellectual discourse was primarily David Susskind liberalism, a sort of New Deal hangover. He provided a Right Brain to go with the Left, and a balance in the arena of ideas. Porcupine greatly admired his debating and writing skills (non-fiction only - his spy novels were dreadful). Before Goldwater, there was Bill Buckley - the beginning of the modern Conservative movement. It is a shame to see so much wit and style leave the public square.