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William F. Buckley’s contributions will ultimately be as great to the Left as the Right 2/28/08

Posted by Steve Boriss in Buckley.

It is fashionable these days to paint the 1950’s with a broad brush as a time of mediocrity, lack of diversity, and societal sameness. As with just about every stereotype, it contains some truth. And, nowhere was it more true than the electronic media, where the three broadcast TV networks delivered the same center-left news stories, and Fairness Doctrine-intimidated radio stations scrupulously avoided divisive political talk. This lack of ideological diversity was so complete that literary critic Lionel Trilling declared “the plain fact” that there were no conservative ideas “in general circulation.” But, the very same thing could have also been said about far-left ideas.

We can now see in retrospect that when Buckley’s National Review “[stood] athwart history, yelling Stop,” it was standing and yelling for everyone. By establishing that there were intelligent, charming, and responsible individuals who held views that differed from the political class’ center-left consensus, he welcomed back into the marketplace of ideas not just the right, but the far-left, left, center, and center-right. He created that first crack in the dam wall through which all of these alternative ideologies now gush via cable TV, talk radio, and the Internet. In fact, Buckley was not really yelling “stop” — he was yelling “reverse,” back to a country marked by free expression and debate that should be every American’s birthright.


1. reuben - 2/29/08

May William F Buckley be blessed with abundant merit in (Shemayim) the world to come.

Steve you nailed it again.

He was without a doubt one of the greatest — if not the supreme — moral and (non-scientific) intellectual giant of the twentieth century — period.

For comparison and context one must evoke no less a figure than Churchill himself. Mister Buckley was a titanic genius whose intellect was outpaced only by his output and dedication to the preservation of the American ideal. We all live in his shadow.

He belongs in the ranks of the founding fathers of America but he just happened to be born one hundred and thirty years later. He is the only modern American of whom it even ocurs to me to think this and yet the thought comes naturally, as though it should be obvious to everyone. I wonder if I am alone in this.

Actually I am confident that he will come to be regarded as one of the transcendent figures of western civilization. In time he will be placed among the great sages and philosphers of the ages.

I am saddened at your passing but know that your reward is well earned. The feeling is bittersweet but more sweet than bitter when I think of all the mountains that you made for us.

May The Holy One (Ha Kadosh Baruch Hu) bless you and keep you William F Buckley.

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