William F. Buckley
|And a dirty dozen more|
“”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.
|—Buckley, behind a veil of prose and euphemisms, says, "yes, whitey shooty the blacky"|
“”It should tell you something about conservative intellectualism that the most memorable thing William F. Buckley ever said involved a homophobic slur and a threat of violence.
|—Nathan Robinson, Current Affairs|
William F. Buckley Jr. (1925–2008) was an American political commentator from the mid-twentieth century who was highly prone to sesquipedalianism. A prominent conservative in a time when that seemed almost oxymoronic, Buckley is sometimes seen as an ancestor of the modern American right-wing, although in many ways he differs radically from the modern right. Most especially, his was an intellectual conservatism; he matriculated at Yale and became well known for his erudition and powerful argumentative skills. Of course, his ideas behind the prose and big words were just as rancid and evil as his contemporaries at the time, worse in some areas, and some were scarily similar to the rhetoric of the right wing after the rise of sub-literate Donald Trump in 2016. If you care, the vaunted "F." as his middle initial stood for "Frank".
Buckley's prominent works included God and Man at Yale, a critique of secularism in academia; Firing Line, a political debate TV show in which he displayed both the aforementioned erudition and a willingness to actually listen to his opponents; and most importantly, the conservative paper National Review. (You can see how well the National Review has turned out without him, although we doubt it'd be much better with him.)
Buckley ran for Mayor of New York City in 1965 as the candidate of the Conservative Party, against liberal Republican John Lindsay (who won) and Democrat Abe Beame (who succeeded Lindsay). Buckley came a distant third, scoring 13.4% of the vote. Buckley's brother, James Buckley, fared better in politics, serving as New York Senator from 1971-1977.
- Chased some anti-Semites out of the New Right, along with other fringe lunatics such as the John Birch Society and Ayn Rand. Objectivists still hate him for that. The New Right is still filled with bigots and overall dumbassery, however.
- Helped ensure that segregationists, such as George Wallace, were marginalized in 1968. As late as 1962 though, Buckley found it easy to flip from defending to attacking segregationists.:74-75
- Managed to convince people across the spectrum that merging Tory-style high culture with the GOP's low culture was a Good Thing, and Buckley was one of those Respected Conservatives™ that just don't exist anymore in spite of the vehement racism, praise of far-right dictators, willingness to deploy nukes, and more. Buckley may have hated Gore Vidal, Chomsky, et al., but the vocabulary and tenor of these guys just blows you away by distracting you from their abhorrent ideas. There is no modern Buckley and Vidal and we don't want another.
- His son, Christopher Buckley, is a fairly pleasant, self-aware, and arguably sane conservative.[note 1]
- Criticized Donald Trump. This is not a high bar to cross. Buckley characterized Trump as a "demagogue" who'd pose danger to conservatism and "trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones" (as if the GOP was ever coherent in their ideology). This is in spite of his own efforts that threw Republicans further right (see next section)
- Wrote a bunch of mediocre spy novels.
- Wanted to outlaw tobacco use in America (though in pleas for the free market or something), and being a smoker probably helped him on this viewpoint.
- He championed the release of convicted murderer Edgar H. Smith, establishing a defense fund with top-notch lawyers. After Smith's eventual release, Smith was convicted of the brutal assault and stabbing of another woman, and he finally confessed to the first murder.
- Republican drug policy is a legacy of the 1960s, when marijuana was associated with hippies and the unrest that came with them. When Richard Nixon ran for President saying he spoke for the "Silent Majority" and Ronald Reagan ran for governor saying he would "clean up the mess in Berkeley", both of those platforms involved hard-line stances against drug users. William Buckley Jr. (himself a pill-popper who admitted to smoking pot on his yacht in international waters[note 2]) was the ideological driving force behind those policies. He believed that with the new research on addiction being an illness meant that drug users were carriers and would introduce drugs to others. By incarcerating them, the idea was that drug use would be contained within a generation (self excepted). By 1988 he admitted that he was wrong and that the policy was a failure and harmful. Too bad, by then interests were vested in the continuation.
- Helped inadvertently radicalize the Republican Party, probably more than anyone else. Along with throwing out the loonies, he then started to purify the GOP of those who he thought weren't true conservatives. This meant the fairly respectable Rockefeller/Eisenhower/Lincoln Republicans who had formerly dominated the party. He mainly did this by throwing his support behind Barry Goldwater and on at least one occasion he went so far as to endorse a certain Democrat for senator just so a liberal Republican would lose. He admitted his mayoral campaign was mainly designed to sabotage John Lindsay, whom he considered too liberal a Republican.
- Brought laissez-faire to the New Right, which was at odds with the more traditional stance of not touching regulation one way or the other so long as it wasn't needlessly damaging to the economy. This would encourage the GOP to deregulate nearly everything they could get their hands on, and this is what we got.
- Set the "groundwork" that would get Saint Ronnie elected president.
- Brought Dinesh D'Souza to prominence (caveat emptor).
- Supported apartheid in South Africa.
- He wrote a column arguing for tattooing people with AIDS, saying it would help stop the spread of HIV.
William F. Buckley, when starting the National Review, was an ardent supporter of segregation. He later renounced his support for segregation in the mid-1960s, but his racism would only morph into another issue. In addition, he even wrote an article in support of white supremacy, only falling short of racialists of the time, and he never really apologized for the article. In response to Coretta Scott King's failed negotiations to get a statue for Martin Luther King Jr., Buckley said the equivalent of this: "No, she's the real racist! If Martin Luther King Jr. was white he wouldn't get a statue either! Andrew Jackson has no statues after all! She should be told to stop being such a racist and so antagonistic."[note 3]
Despite having status of a "respected" conservative "intellectual", some of Buckley's views on hot issues for his time were on par with other vehement racists, with some shockingly similar to some of today's Trump supporters of late 2010s. Similar to many conservative pundits suggesting conspiracy to stem sympathy for victims concerning attacks on Democratic politicians (see conservative pundit reactions of the aftermath of the failed 2018 United States mail bombing attempts), Buckley and other National Review editors offered the idea that the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing was carried out by
antifa a provocateur or a "crazed" African American for setting "back the cause of the white people there so dramatically". After Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, Buckley also suggested that this could be carried out by a "leftist" because a Klan member wouldn't do this to arouse anger against their group. In addition, Buckley, while trying to condemn the violence, tried to use the now common "look at what you made me do" excuse for the assassin by claiming that "the cretin who leveled his rifle at the head of Martin Luther King, may have absorbed the talk[…] about the supremacy of the individual conscience, such talk as Martin Luther King… had so widely, and so indiscriminately, indulged in."
William F. Buckley was unabashedly in support of authoritarian regimes as well as supporting bombing several countries he didn't like. He spoke very favorably of fascist dictators such as Francisco Franco and Augusto Pinochet because they opposed communism and despite the fact that the left-wing governments their coup d'etats toppled were democratically elected. He even praised Franco after Franco's death.
Buckley really didn't like viewpoints that were opposed to him. Really. While he walked back a bit on many of his views or at least morphed them when they were no longer politically acceptable, McCarthyism was one he never really changed. Additionally, Buckley’s career began in 1951 with the publication of God and Man at Yale, an attack on his alma mater that urged the firing of professors whom he felt were insufficiently hostile to socialism and atheism. Despite this early assault on academic freedom, Buckley in later years routinely took offense at what he saw as liberal "political correctness".
Bombs, bombs, and bombs
William F. Buckley really loved bombs. During the Cold War, Buckley advocated preemptive strikes against disfavored nations. In 1965, four years after the Bay of Pigs fiasco, he continued to call for an invasion of Cuba. The same year, he called for a nuclear attack on China's nuclear production facilities. In a syndicated column, he urged a nuclear attack on North Vietnam.
In a debate with Carl Sagan, he argued strongly in support of stockpiling nuclear weapons as a means to keep the USSR in check, even though both sides already had enough nukes to destroy each other multiple times over.[note 4]
- Gore Vidal, with whom he debated
- "I'll sock you in the goddamn face!"
- Transcript: James Baldwin debates William F. Buckley (1965) — noteworthy because of Baldwin's forcefully eloquent introductory statement, and for Buckley resoundingly losing the debate
- Though wingnuts have hated him ever since he endorsed Obama in 2008.
- According to Christopher B., he was a pretty ardent user. In his book "Losing Mum and Pup," the younger Buckley writes that his father developed a habit of downing sleeping pills, booze and Ritalin in an attempt to moderate his alertness and his sleep. "Pup's self-medicating was, I'd venture, a chemical extension of the control he asserted over every other aspect of his life," Christopher wrote.
- What Buckley actually wrote was far more disprespectful of the widow:
“”Because Mr. Nixon would never have paused to negotiate with Mrs. King concerning a national memorial to her husband except for the fact that Dr. King was a Negro… If he had been white, the suggestion of raising a monument to him would have been presumptively ridiculous, not because a white man carrying the message of Dr. King on into martyrdom would be less than an object of national honor, but because there is a long line of men who are deemed to have been national benefactors who have not yet been memorialized in concrete, and some of them have been dead (Andrew Jackson, say) for more than 100 Years…. [King] was the spokesman for a point of view on citizenship which in the opinion of some—e.g., me—is mortal to civil society… Above all, Mrs. King should be counseled to stop the racist talk.
- Not all nuclear weapons will find their targets; some will be shot down, malfunction, or otherwise miss their marks. Furthermore, some high-value assets, such as the Three Gorges Dam in China, are built to withstand nuclear attacks.
- Why the South Must Prevail National Review editorial, 1957
- How To Be A Respectable Public Intellectual
- "Sean Hannity Is No William F. Buckley" by Bret Stephens (6 July 2017) The New York Times.
- Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints, and Voices by Roger Chapman (2009) Routledge. ISBN 0765617617.
- Goddess of the Market: Ayn Rand and the American Right by Jennifer Burns (2009) Oxford University Press. ISBN 0195324870.
- Debunking a Longstanding Myth About William F. Buckley: The popular notion that the National Review founder expelled the fringe from the conservative movement is wrong. by Matthew Dallek (03/31/2023 04:30 AM EDT).
- Birchers: How the John Birch Society Radicalized the American Right by Matthew Dallek (2023) Basic Books. ISBN 1541673565.
- Anatomy Of A Takedown: William F. Buckley Jr. Vs. George Wallace by Rich Barlow (March 06, 2017) WBUR.
- "Bill Buckley's Lesson for Today's Conservatives" by Neal B. Freeman (Updated Feb. 27, 2016 8:11 a.m. ET) Wall Street Journal.
- Sorry, Dad, I'm Voting for Obama: The son of William F. Buckley has decided—shock!—to vote for a Democrat. by Christopher Buckley (Updated Jul. 14, 2017 6:01PM ET; Published Oct. 10, 2008 3:33AM ET) Daily Beast.
- Donald Trump Is Ridiculously Wrong About William F. Buckley: The billionaire thinks the conservative icon would object to National Review's "Against Trump" issue. But Buckley decried Trump as a demagogue. by John Nichols (January 22, 2016) The Nation.
- My Smoking Confessional by William F. Buckley Jr. (December 3, 2007) '"New York Sun.
- Edgar H. Smith, death row inmate whose release was championed by William F. Buckley Jr., dies at 83 by Paul W. Valentine (September 23 at 9:00 PM) The Washington Post.
- William F. Buckley, Rest in Praise: Glowing obits obscure an ugly record by Steve Rendall (June 1, 2008) FAIR.
- The War on Drugs is Lost by NRO Staff (July 28, 2014 3:07 PM) National Review.
- The End of Republican 'Fusionism'? by Rovert Tracinski (March 01, 2008) Real Clear Politics.
- William F. Buckley, Jr.: Patron Saint of the Conservatives by John B. Judis (2001) Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0743217977.
- Did He Kiss Joe? by William F. Buckley Jr. (July 5, 2006 4:25 PM) National Review.
- William F. Buckley's Unmaking of a Mayor…and the making of a national coalition by Fred Siegel (March 3, 2008) City Journal.
- Why Conservatives Got Segregation Wrong a Second Time in South Africa
- "Crucial Steps in Combating the AIDS Epidemic: Identify All the Carriers". The New York Times. March 18, 1986.
- The Way We Live Now, 7/11/04: Questions for William F. Buckley; Conservatively Speaking by Deborah Solomon (July 11, 2004) The New York Times.
- Robinson, N. (September 10, 2020). "William F. Buckley How To Be A Respectable Public Intellectual". Current Affairs. Accessed February 7, 2021.
- Rendall, S. (June 1, 2008). "William F. Buckley, Rest in Praise: Glowing obits obscure an ugly record". Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting. Accessed February 7, 2020.
National Review editors condemned the 1963 bombing of a black Birmingham Church that killed four children, but because it "set back the cause of the white people there so dramatically," the editors wondered "whether in fact the explosion was the act of a provocateur—of a Communist, or of a crazed Negro"
- No Irish Need Apply
- "Yes, and Many Thanks, But Now the War Is Over" by William F. Buckley (October 26, 1957) National Review "General Franco is an authentic national hero."
- National Review's Bad Conscience: Why the magazine is quick to accuse liberals of fascism and Nazism by Jeet Heer (July 29, 2015) The New Republic.
- National Review, 11/23/1998
- McCarthy and His Enemies: The Record and Its Meaning by William F. Buckley Jr. (1954) Regnery Publishing. ISBN 0895264722. Page 132.
- TV Reviews: Liberal Arts Education Is Focus of the 'Firing Line' by Robert Kohler (July 10, 1993, 12 AM) Los Angeles Times.
- "A Distasteful Encounter with William F. Buckley Jr." by Gore Vidal September 1969) Esquire.
- Buckley: Bush Not A True Conservative (July 22, 2006, 8:27 PM) CBS Evening News. Oh boy, did Buckley have quite the weakness for No true Scotsman.
- The Famous Baldwin-Buckley Debate Still Matters Today: In 1965, two American titans faced off on the subject of the country’s racial divides. Nearly 55 years later, the event has lost none of its relevance, as a recent book attests. by Gabrielle Bellot (December 2, 2019) The Atlantic.