'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Thursday, February 28, 2008

UPDATE: Reflections on the Death of William F. Buckley 

From the obituary published in the New York Times yesterday:

In 1955, Mr. Buckley started National Review as a voice for “the disciples of truth, who defend the organic moral order,” with a $100,000 gift from his father and $290,000 from outside donors. The first issue, which came out in November, claimed the publication “stands athwart history yelling Stop.”

It proved it by lining up squarely behind Southern segregationists, saying that Southern whites had the right to impose their ideas on blacks who were as yet culturally and politically inferior to them. After some conservatives objected, Mr. Buckley suggested instead that both uneducated whites and blacks should be denied the vote.

Could it be possible that Buckley and the National Review initially expanded its number of subscribers by exploiting racist opposition to desegregation? A question that seems to have eluded the author of the Times obituary.

For completists, here is the direct quote from Buckley 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 where 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.

Of course, as you might have guessed, neither Buckley nor the Review developed any insight with the passage of time, as both vigorously defended the apartheid regime in South Africa during the 1980s as sufficient global pressure emerged to ensure its demise. Buckley was a classic example of the extent to which racism has been an enduring feature of the Anglo-American political and philosophical tradition, and he was skilled, as were others before him, in clothing that racism in the garb of respectable elite discourse.

As another blogger said bluntly: Racism and power-worship—and, from first to last, uncompromising defense of the idea that society should be structured into orders and classes. Can't say it much more concisely than that.

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