On Buckley’s Civility, Part II

Dear All,

I can see from some of the comments on my first blog yesterday that blogging and nuance don’t mix well. As I said, I liked Buckley somewhat and I would never celebrate his death except to the extent that he, as a Catholic, would want me to. All I was saying is that some balance was needed in the assessment of him. If you don’t want to assess him, that’s fine. But when commentator after commentator comments on his civility without hedging the compliment, that’s where balance is required. Moreover, contrary to one of the commenters on my first blog, I was not making a judgment about his personality apart from his ideas. It was when he tried to defend war against the devastating criticism of Noam Chomsky that this unpleasant aspect of his personality came out.

Also, those who think one should not speak ill of the dead would certainly not have found agreement from–William F. Buckley. See what he wrote about Murray Rothbard after Murray died, for example.

And I know what follows next: some will say that what I really tried to do with my blog on WFB was to pay him back for his bad treatment of Murray. But if you knew Murray and some of the nasty things he wrote about me, you would not make that claim.

7 thoughts on “On Buckley’s Civility, Part II”

  1. I understood–and appreciated–your first posting. It inspired me to go to YouTube and watch the Buckley/Chomsky clips again. Now it looks like I have some Rothbard/Buckley reading to do…

    It’s only fair to want to add more depth to the post-mortem analyses of Buckley, and you have done so. Once again, it was appreciated.

  2. Thank you for the clarification. My first comment was directed not so much at your criticism, which I felt was balanced and appropriately respectful, but at the deluge polemical idiocy it was bound to produce.

  3. In Sidney Lens’ autobiography, “Unrepentent Radical,” he relates that in November 1962 he debated Buckley at Indiana’s Purdue University on the feasibility of the arms race. For some reason Buckley gave an intellectually lazy performance, in which he confined himself to ad hominem quips denigrating Lens. But Lens was a former Trotskyist and knew how to debate. He quickly exposed the fact that Buckley was insulting the intelligence of the overwhelmingly conservative audience by not addressing the subject. When Buckley responded by digging himself in deeper with more witticisms, he began to get heckled with shouts of, “Answer the question!” Buckley’s performance was so inept that he was forced to renege on an agreement to release tapes of the event to other schools. The next time Buckley debated Lens he was on his best behavior.

  4. Just because you don’t gloat over this mfer’s death doesn’t mean that the rest of us can’t.

    1. Yeah, see the previous thread on this. Buckley v. Vidal was not a civil exchange on either side by any stretch, and Buckley flew off the handle. He was extremely embarrassed about it later, and even poked fun at himself for it in the Chomsky debate.

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