Nattering nabob

The death of conservative icon William F. Buckley led someone, I don't remember who, to eulogize that "he loved his own ideas more than he hated theirs."  He wasn't, in other words, one of those "liberals are fascists" or "party of death" types that dominate conservative thought these days.  I can't really say for certain whether that's true.  My suspicion, however, is that it isn't.  Helping me along with this suspicion is William Kristol.  Writing in today's New York Times, he says:

In my high school yearbook (Collegiate School, class of 1970), there’s a photo of me wearing a political button. (Everyone did in those days. I wasn’t that much dorkier than everyone else.) The button said, “Don’t let THEM immanentize the Eschaton.”

There you see an example of the influence of Bill Buckley, who died last week at age 82. For it was Buckley who had promulgated this slogan, as an amusing distillation of the thinking of the very difficult historian of political philosophy Eric Voegelin. I’d of course not read Voegelin then (there’s a lot of him I still haven’t read, to tell the truth). But the basic thought was: Don’t let ideologues try to create heaven on earth, because they’ll deprive us of freedom and make things a lot worse.

To read Buckley growing up in the 1960s was bracing. Buckley and his colleagues — some merrily, some mordantly —  mercilessly eviscerated the idiocies of the New Left. They also exposed the flaccidity of the older liberalism. If, like me, you already had a sense from listening to most of your peers and some of your elders that a lot of what they believed was silly (or worse), you couldn’t help but be attracted to Buckley.

That doesn't paint a rosy picture.  Aside from the obsession with the worst caricature of the opposition (with the ever present but equally silly idea that their idiocy guarantees the legitimacy of your view–it doesn't), Buckley's slogan has a kind of ironic ring to it.  Conservatives have now embraced those people who literally want to bring about the Eschaton.  Just ask John Hagee.

*minor edit for sense above–"loved his ideas more than he hated THEIRS"–apologies–I posted too damn early in the morning. 

**minor edit in "minor edit"–thanks Jem. 

5 thoughts on “Nattering nabob”

  1. Don’t know if you’ve seen Greenwald’s stuff on the Hagee/Farrakhan double standard, but it’s chilling.As for Buckley, the rush to saint the dead on this one is just the ickiest sort of necrophilia. In case there were any doubts about his drive to make lefties look silly, check out his 1969 interview with Chomsky Part two is here

  2. I’ll also remember Buckley for arguing that a blind person sailing alone "contra naturam."  Then of course there was his being against the "eschaton" of civil rights–and his being for tattooing HIV-positive people (a position he later changed to "discrete" tattooing). 

  3. Hey! Nifty new website! One minor point: "*minor edit for sense above–"loved his ideas more than he hated THEIRS"–apologies–I posted to damn early in the morning. "  Not sure if that was intensional. Ahh, I kill myself…On a side note, and more as a matter of observation, look at the tone of the language Kristol uses to describe the work of Buckley and friends. The merciless evisceration and the exposure of the old flaccidity of liberalism (sections that you nicely highlight) seem not so much bracing, as violent and aggressive polemics. Those unmanly liberal ideals…

  4. Hi guys,I love the new site.  I don’t contribute much but I read it everyday. Its one of my home pages.  jcasey, I’m having a sfolgiatella for you. keep up the good work! ciao for now!

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