Sunday, October 30, 2005

Revisionism

It's hagiography time at National Review; William F. Buckley, Jr. enters another decade of putrefaction petrifaction, which means the resident hacks at his rag are treating us to a barrage of nauseating encomia.

By now the devotion of wingnuts to Cults of Personality should not surprise. Neither should the wingnut habit of falsification raise any eyebrows, nor yet the wingnut predilection to hypocrisy, a sterling example of which lies in the Buckley pieces.

Wingnuts detest historical revisionism when such enterprises explode the national myths by which they perpetrate or perpetuate their various criminal-ideological enterprises. You know what I'm talking about; you know how they rail against "P.C. history" and all that. Yet they practice historical revisionism "better" than anybody: especially in the sense that wingnut revisionism is about lying, where genuine historical revisionism is about finding truth.

Here's John J. Miller (who looks like "a nearsighted Steve Guttenberg whose head got caught in a trash compactor"):

While Viereck and his liberal pals in academia were diagnosing conservatives as neurotics, Buckley was busy discrediting the John Birch Society and other assorted wackos. This was one of Buckley's most significant accomplishments: running "the forces of the hysterical right" out of the conservative movement. McCarthy does present a problem, of course, but it is wrong to suggest that Buckley and other conservative leaders had anything but a complex relationship with the senator.


And here's the Doughy Pantload:

Buckley employed intellectual ruthlessness and relentless personal charm to keep that which is good about libertarianism, what we'?ve come to call "social conservatism," and what was necessary about anti-Communism in the movement. This meant throwing friends and allies off the bus from time to time. The Randians, the Rothbardian anarchists and isolationists, the Birchers, the anti-Semites, the me-too Republicans: All of these groups in various combinations were purged from the movement and masthead, sometimes painfully, sometimes easily, but always with the ideal of keeping the cause honest and pointed north to the ideal fixed in his compass.


The falsification I want to deal with here is that Buckley threw off the "Decent" Wingnut Train the John Birch Society, surely the most insane American organisation of the last 50 years. Actually, Buckley threw off the train one Robert Welch, the John Birch Society founder and leader. It's an important distinction.

Welch was always a fanatic, a pure batshit nutjob, wishing to fight communism no matter where, no matter what the cost. You know the type: the unhinged ideologue who is quite willing to blow up the world to serve his beliefs. You know, like our modern neoconservatives. Which was hunky fucking dory with Buckley until Welch shifted focus. Welch started as an internationalist/interventionalist anti-communist, wanting to nuke Russia here and invade China there while imprisoning or executing "commies" at home. But then Welch decided that the "commies" at home (which he thought were everywhere: even Eisenhower, in Welch's words, was a Communist dupe) were the more important concern. The result was an implied retreat from batshit internationalism: Welch was more concerned with "tainted" American politicians than in persuing the great anti-commie international cause so dear to Buckley, soon to be manifested in the act of napalming every last Indochinese possible.

Anyone who waffled on the great crusade of killing commies abroad obviously had to be pushed from Buckley's train. So that's what happened to Welch, the paranoid. But the great number of John Birch Society members were absolutely not purged, because their fanaticism was still useful. Miller and Pantload are simply lying, and here is a definitive annihilation of their lies from the book, a golden oldie, Danger On The Right.

After reporting several instances of Buckley continuing to associate with and lend his authority to various causes joined by the John Birch Society, the authors say:

Perhaps Buckley's easy attitude about marching under Rightist banners with Birchers can be explained by the main thrust of his widely read editorial, "The Question of Robert Welch"... The editorial repudiated Welch but declared that the Birch Society included "some of the most morally energetic self-sacrificing and dedicated anti-Communists in America."

Addressing itself to those Birch members, the editorial called on them to reject, "out of love of truth and country, his [Welch's] false counsels." Buckley said that, for Rightists there were "bounds to the dictum" that "anyone on my right is my ally." On moral grounds, he asked, "can one endorse the efforts of a man who, in one's judgement, goes about bearing false witness?" This was all the more true, said Buckley, because Welch insisted that there be no disagreement on the part of his followers with the central Welch thesis -- that the Government of the United States is, and has been, under the operational control of the Communist Party for a number of years. Yet by the time the Committee for the Monroe Doctrine was formed... those identified with the Birch Society who joined the Committee had not, with perhaps a few exceptions, disassociated themselves from the Society nor had they succeeded in ousting Founder Welch. But Buckley's name was linked with theirs. Anyone on his near right was apparently his ally.

The Buckley editorial, cutting up Welch while kissing Birchers on both cheeks, shook the American Right, caused anguished comment by the Founder, and was ...interpretated as a conservative manifesto reading the Radicals out of the ...movement. In truth, it was a lot less than that; Buckley had taken a hard line with Welch and a soft line on Birchers.

When the smoke cleared, Welch... had survived the wrath of Buckley's typewriter. Since February, 1962, Buckley and the National Review have resumed saying nice things about the Birchers and some of their activities.


Before the Purge That Was Not A Purge editorial, Buckley had said:

Q. Would you say that the structure of the John Birch Society is totalitarian or fascistic? A. No, I consider it reasonable that a man who founds an ad hoc organization of this character should have as much dominance over its affairs as he considers to be in the best interests of his organization's objective. If members of the John Birch Society do not like the way it is run, they can resign from it... Q. What is the future of the John Birch Society? A. I hope it thrives, provided, of course, it resists such false assumptions as that a man's subjective motives can automatically be deduced from the objective consequences of his acts.


Then,

A week later, when news came of the suspension of Major General Edwin Walker for seeking... to indoctrinate his troops with [John Birch Society] propaganda, the National Review leaped to the defense of Walker.

In June, 1961, as the wave of anger about the Birch Society continued, the National Review testily complained of the denunciations: "Why, it's enough to make one join the John Birch Society."

By 1962, alarmed that the national outcry against the Birch Society might harm the whole Rightist movement in general must have hit home with Buckley, Ergo, his editorial ["The Question of Robert Welch"]:

"Mr. Welch, for all his good intentions, threatens to divert militant conservative action to irrelevance and ineffectuality. There are, as we say, great things that need doing... John Birch chapters can do much to forward these aims, but only as they dissapate the fog of confusion that issues from Mr. Welch's smoking typewriter. Mr Welch has revived in many men the spirit of patriotism, and that same spirit calls now for rejecting, out of love of truth and country, his false counsels."

By 1963, however, when it was clear that the rejection had not taken place, the inevitable zag by the National Review followed the zig. As the so-called "card party" movement -- plugged, promoted, and manned by Birchers across the nation -- sought to stop the retail sale of goods manufactured behind the Iron Curtain, the National Review had some nice things to say[.]

Two months later... Buckley again took the soft line on Birchism:

"I tend to fear not that the pendulum is going too far in the direction of Mr. Welch, but too far in the direction of total nonchalance about the fact that a) conspiracies exist, and b) that they do accomplish great purposes."

By November... Buckley found himself called upon to go even further in his "anti-anti-Birch" position[:]

Buckley said that "...certainly it does not follow that Senator Goldwater has any obligation, in morals or in intellect, to repudiate all those who have associated themselves with Mr. Welch to make common cause against communism and socialism."

Refering to a reported statement by Senator Goldwater that "all the members of the John Birch Society I have met are good people," Buckley said that "a society is not to be judged by the excesses of individual members of it, any more than it must be judged by the excesses of its leaders." (Buckley did not tell his readers how a society should be judged, if not by its leaders and members.)

Buckley concluded with the declaration that he stood by his statement of a year previous: "...that I have nothing against, in fact I have considerable admiration for, the majority of those members of the John Birch Society, whom I have met or corresponded with -- and I judge them as individuals, not as members of the Society. But irrespective of whether one agrees with the general goals of the Society's members, as I emphatically do, genocidal assaults upon the membership of the Society and on candidates who refuse to condemn all members of the Society are unreasonable and undiscrimating."

Buckley has not applied the same nice yardstick to individuals in Leftist or even liberal groups such as the ADA; they are all usually lumped together.


Isn't that "genocidal assaults" line precious?

So, to recapitulate, Buckley did not purge the Birchers. He attacked the Society's leader, and that's it. Buckley is not the idealist man of principle his hagiographers make him out to be; rather, he's the consummate politician who skillfully covered himself and his magazine with the flimsy editorial on Welch. A close reading of Buckley's own words shows that he was not at all against "militant conservative action" as typified by the JBS. They were indeed wackjobs, as history has judged, yet Buckley agreed not only with their aims but with their means. His sole complaint was with regard to Welch's paranoia of communists at the highest levels of the US Government, and Buckley even managed to, uh, welch on that count. Pantload and Miller are, of course, pathological liars: Buckley never read the JBS out of the conservative movement. Judged on the whole, he was one of its grandest enablers.

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