Thursday, February 28, 2008

Buckley: Rich Racist Jerkoff, but So Articulate...

Epidictic rhetoric needn't only be praiseworthy. It's the rhetoric of "praise or blame," and in this case blame is precisely appropriate and cleansing to our collective soul. It is possible to "mourn" the dead by talking about what assholes they were. William F. Buckley made the world a considerably crappier place. We should celebrate his passage by acknowledging that.

Don't let the bowtie and cheeky humor fool you. Buckley was a hater, part of a long line of haters of his political (and class) orientation who delighted in covering the hate in humor. He made Ann Coulter possible. He called people "queers" and "fags" unironically. Guiding the editorial position of the National Review, he composed the following about segregation in 1957:

"The central question that emerges ... 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 prevail 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 cultural superiority of White over Negro: but it is a fact that obtrudes, one that cannot be hidden by ever-so-busy egalitarians and anthropologists."

Much has been said about Buckley's "reformation" because he had a bunch of rich white friends who weren't racist. But in fact he continued to deeply distrust blacks all his life, pathetically lamenting about their voting patterns, opining that it was obvious whites' opinion that OJ Simpson was guilty was based on truth, while it was equally obvious that blacks' opinion of Simpson's innocence was based on race. I am still looking to track down an editorial he wrote on Somalia in the early 1990s, citing its breakdown as evidence that white colonialism was a good idea. Buckley invented and refined, out of necessity, the chuckling "innuendo racism" that characterizes great minds from Coulter to Michael Savage today. He deployed that innuendo boyishly because he could afford to never grow up, and he deployed it in the service of socioeconomic forces that really do kill people of color, every day (and a whole lot of poor white people too).

As one blogger put it, "There’s your 'refined, perspicacious mind' for you." As another put it in a headline: "Another racist asshole dead." One too few, to be sure, but well-put.

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