Thursday, February 28, 2008

Buckley Lived To See Dream Fulfilled, But For Many It's A Nightmare

By Manifesto Joe

The obituary du jour has been that of William F. Buckley Jr. (1925-2008) He was a mercurial sort who gave differing impressions to many people. And, in later years, even old foes like Norman Mailer and Kurt Vonnegut seemed to have some personal liking for the man.

But let's remember a few things:

-- National Review was openly opposed to integration during the heyday of the civil rights movement. That went on for many years, and has been ignored in the obits by most of the MSM.

-- As a cultural commentator, he tended to shoot prejudicially, straight from the hip, as conservatives are apt to. He pronounced the Beatles so bad that they should be crowned as monarchs of anti-music. He probably wrote that after hearing just one of their less-refined early songs. I'd say that after about four LPs, the world had pretty much agreed that the Fab Four were a phenomenon. But, being Bill Buckley meant never having to say you were wrong about anything.

-- Go to YouTube and dig up that 1968 exchange with Gore Vidal at the Chicago Democratic Convention. That should clear up any inner-child notion of Buckley as a warm/fuzzy. Vidal said that after the on-camera clash, Buckley approached him and said something like, you're going to be sorry for this. Vidal told him, "Do your worst." Vidal was a little too big by then to be "blacklisted" a second time, but I'd say he and a few others like Noam Chomsky are still on sort of an MSM graylist. (But I'm sure Buckley had nothing at all to do with that.)

-- I recall one-time Goldwater speechwriter Karl Hess, in a 1976 Playboy interview, talking about his split with the mainstream conservative movement. Per Buckley's emphasis on the importance of recognizing achievements of superior individuals, Hess said something like, hell, Bill IS superior. Why shouldn't he be? He always got the best food and the finest education money could buy, largely from private tutors. He didn't grow up in a ghetto eating bad, undernourishing food, so that his brain failed to develop into the organ it should have. He never went to an inner-city school. Of course Bill is superior ... Why shouldn't he be?

I confess having fallen under the spell of Buckley Junior for a time as a teenager, lured into that den of iniquity that is libertarian conservatism. I read Up From Liberalism (1959), and was sadly hooked and deluded for a while during the early '70s.

It took a few years, but in time, I realized that the only thing that had made it possible for me to EAT for a while as a child, let alone go to college later, was the FDR- and LBJ-spawned welfare state that Buckley Junior so despised and devoted his life to destroying.

And, he lived to see his dream of conservative dominance come true. Let us look over this wasteland -- as a great deal less than lords of all we survey, Bill's ghost.

After nearly 30 years of this ideology's ascendancy, we're in two costly wars without apparent end, and one of them was absolutely unnecessary. (You even admitted that about one of them before you died. My God, let's mark that one.) The annual deficit is approaching half a trillion, and the cumulative national debt is over $9 trillion. We have a federal government that is encroaching on our rights and privacy more each day, and is engaged in Nazi-like torture of anyone suspected of being an enemy.

Our infrastructure is slowly crumbling. Income inequality is the greatest it has been in 80 years. "Free trade" agreements have shipped millions of American jobs overseas. Big corporations and Wall Street types have made off with anything that wasn't nailed down, thanks to deregulation. Home foreclosures have reached alarming levels. Dependence on crude oil that went on decades after it was clearly unwise is menacing not only the U.S. economy, but the whole planet.

I hope that if God is there, and indeed forgives arrogant sinners -- as Buckley's Roman Catholicism asserts -- that the first words out of Buckley's mouth after his passing on were, "Jesus, You're a liberal?"

Manifesto Joe Is An Underground Writer Living In Texas.

Postscript: Here is Buckley vs. Vidal, Aug. 28, 1968:

1 comment:

Marc McDonald said...

I think The Beatles' early material was just as great as their later material.

I agree with "Mystery Train" author Greil Marcus, the dean of American rock critics, that early Beatles tracks like "There's A Place," "What You're Doing," "It Won't Be Long," and "I'll Be Back" were as great as anything produced by any band in the history of rock 'n' roll.

I don't, however, agree with Marcus that most of the Beatles post-1967 work was inferior. But his assessment that "Rubber Soul" was the finest Beatles album is probably on the mark.

Actually, Marcus was actually kinder to The Beatles than most critics of the 1960s and 1970s, who rated The Beatles' work as inferior to that of The Stones, The Byrds and even The Beach Boys.

And the harshest critic of all was John Lennon himself. Lennon was always dismissive of much of the Beatles' post-1966 work.

Indeed, Lennon often said the Beatles' greatest work was never recorded. He said the band essentially lost its muse and "sold out" after a 1962 theater tour of Britain.

If one listens to the scratchy 1962 recordings made in Hamburg, there is actually tantalizing evidence that Lennon was right. Buried underneath the blizzard of static and noise is an incredible music that Marcus once summed up well:

"It was the crassest, most brutal rockabilly, straight legacy of Presley, Perkins, Richard, and Vincent, manhandled into a sound that was authentically new--and more than a little scary."