Bill Buckley


According to Garry Wills, regarding creepy pseudointellectual Bill Buckley,

One of his teachers at Yale, the philosopher Paul Weiss, told me that Bill was very good at discussing books he had not read.

He also claims

Bill was not, and did not pretend to be, a real intellectual.

Did not pretend to be? 1504 episodes of Firing Line say otherwise. According to Chico Marx in Duck Soup

Who you gonna believe, me or your own eyes?

When you find yourself despairing, “I’m wasting my life!”, just think of Bill Buckley and know, “It could be worse.”


One response »

  1. According to Gore Vidal

    William F. Buckley Sr. was a Texan and an oil speculator who made a small fortune and had ten children. Politically , he was a perfect example of what Professor Richard Hofstader has called the “paranoid style” in American political life. A nouveau riche of limited intelligence but powerful prejudices, Buckley Sr. felt that he should have more influence in the country than indeed he had. In this he follows what Professor Hofstader has shown to be a classic pattern. Whenever a member of one of the immigrant groups to the United States moves from poverty to affluence, his first response is a sense of letdown that he is still no closer to the levers of power than he was before. If he is of a paranoid disposition, he will suspect conspiracy; he will blame them. The John Birch Society is a particular haven for this kind of malcontent. It seems likely that Buckley Senior felt insufficiently acknowledged. Despite the legend of his great fortune, he was never listed in Who’s Who in America, Current Biography, Poor’s Register of Corporations, Directors and Executives, or even the Social Register. Like a cut-rate Joe Kennedy, he then decided to compensate through his children. The were taught total conservatism. They were privately tutored. All were sent to England to acquire patrician accents. William Jr.’s did not quite take. The result was a vigorous, highly articulate brood who, in the words of one (John), ” are all good conservatives and, thank heavens, we all married conservatives.” The family is as devoted to one another as the Kennedys and on the important issues, they think alike. When Buckley Junior was attacking the faculty at Yale for “collectivist” tendencies, two sisters opened up separate fronts at Smith and Vassar.

    Though Buckley Jr. is usually candid about his love of war and distaste for blacks, he is extremely wary of appearing anti-Semitic. In this he resembles Robert Welch, though not the late irrepressible George Lincoln Rockwell. Very seldom does he betray his actual feelings as he did on Tex McCrary’s radio program 25 September 1964. ” . . . they [the Jews] tend to construct an engaging political myth, centered around the Hitlerian experience, which more or less suggests that Hitler was the embodiment of the ultra-Right, and that the true enemies of Hitler, many of them ‘ that the true enemies were, in fact, many of them Communists during the early Thirties. And under the circumstances they, I think, emotionally feel a kind of toleration for Communist excesses in this country . . .” Arnold Forster of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith answered Buckley four days later on the same program. To Buckley’s charge that Jews feel a kind of toleration for Communist excesses in this country, Forster replied: “That of course, Tex, is nothing more than insidious slander . . . And notice how easy he finds it to generalize, Tex, about Jews. Millions of human beings in one group.” The question of course is why does Buckley find it so easy insidiously to slander, in Forster’s phrases, millions of human beings? I know the answer and Buckley, knowing that I knew it at Chicago, terrified that I would discuss it on the air, saw fit to interrupt me with calculated hysterics.

    On March 4, 1944, Mr. and Mrs. Sully Berman bought a house on the green at Sharon. The Bermans were Jews. Now in Sharon, there was a gentleman’s agreement to keep out Jews. Needless to say, the arrival of the Bermans was considered by village gentry to be a betrayal of that agreement, and the town’s wrath was directed not so much at the Bermans as at the real-estate agent who had done such an un-Christian thing as to admit Jews to Sharon. The agent was Mrs. Francis James Meadows Cotter. Her husband was the Episcopal minister at Sharon, the Rector of Christ Church. The Cotters were a well-liked family, and their two daughters were contemporaries and friends of the young Buckleys. Buckley Sr., however, was a most unforgiving man. He complained loudly and bitterly about what Mrs. Cotter had done and, like Henry II, vowed revenge. Shortly thereafter, on Saturday, May 13, Christ Episcopal Church was vandalized. Honey and feathers were poured over the velvet cushions of the pews. Prayer books were defaced. Obscene photographs were inserted in the Bible.

    There was considerable uproar the next morning when the Reverend Cotter and his flock assembled. Who had done it? The high-spirited Buckleys were immediately suspected. Acting on a tip, detectives went to the Buckley house and there found the magazines from which had been torn the nudes, the oatmeal and syrup containers still set out on the kitchen table. Minimal sleuthing revealed which of the young Buckleys had been in town that night. The detectives then confronted the three vandals and got them to sign confessions. The case came to court June 10, and the three (one was in college and two in prep school) were found guilty by a Justice of the Peace and each fined $100 for damaging the church. Buckley Sr. did his best to take further revenge on the Cotters, even going so far as to request the Episcopal Bishop of Connecticut to remove Cotter from Christ Church, but by then the village sentiment was entirely on the side of the Cotters and Buckley Sr. dropped the matter. But he had made his point as far as his family was concerned and therein lies the key to his son’s character. Buckley Jr. has never accepted any view of the world other than his father’s. He is forever the little boy trying to impress Daddy by hating what Daddy hates. To be fair, Buckley Sr.’s prejudices were not much different from those of let us say, Joe Kennedy or Senator Gore, my grandfather, but Joe Kennedy’s sons and Senator Gore’s grandson changed as they made their way in the world, learned charity or at least good sense, but not Bill – he is still the schoolboy debater echoing what he heard in his father’s house, and for this postponed maturity he must suffer the fate of having been irrelevant to his own time, a mere entertainer with a gift for mischief.

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