Two views of William F. Buckley from the Op-Ed page of today’s New York Times, visible at exactly the same level on the same page of the print edition:
But most of the world — including most of the Jewish diaspora — will have a hard time coming up with a decent justification for opposing a Palestinian campaign for equal rights. Israel’s apologists will be left mimicking the argument that William F. Buckley once made about the Jim Crow South. In 1957, he asked rhetorically whether the white South was entitled to prevail “politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically.” The “sobering answer,” he concluded, was yes, given the white community’s superior civilization.
–Michelle Goldberg, “Is Liberal Zionism Dead?”
Same page, five inches away:
There’s a hierarchy of excellence in every sphere. There’s a huge difference between William F. Buckley and Sean Hannity, between the reporters at this newspaper and a rumor-spreader. Part of this struggle is to maintain those distinctions, not to contribute to their evisceration.
–David Brooks, “The Decline of Anti-Trumpism“
Might as well quote Nietzsche while I’m at it:
257. EVERY elevation of the type “man,” has hitherto been the work of an aristocratic society and so it will always be–a society believing in a long scale of gradations of rank and differences of worth among human beings, and requiring slavery in some form or other….To be sure, one must not resign oneself to any humanitarian illusions about the history of the origin of an aristocratic society (that is to say, of the preliminary condition for the elevation of the type “man”): the truth is hard.
–Friedrich Nietzsche, “What Is Noble?” in Beyond Good and Evil
Yes, I know that’s not what Brooks means a “hierarchy of excellence.” But it’s still kinda funny.
And yes, I know: we can always save William Buckley’s reputation by way of a developmental thesis about his oeuvre: he changed! To his credit, Buckley eventually figured out that black people have rights worth respecting (as did George Wallace). But history isn’t done yet with Sean Hannity, is it? Like Buckley (and Wallace), Hannity, too, might have his Road-to-Damascus conversion to moral decency. To paraphrase Solon: call no man decent until the end is known.
Moral of the story: The American right has been a rotten borough for a very long time. And promises to remain that way for just as long.