The story of Buckley and the American Right that the Wall Street Journal briefly recounts is one that has often been told, particularly in the pages of NR itself. I’m sorry to say that in my younger days, when NR was all I knew of the Right, I repeated the tale myself. The impression I got at the time was that before Buckley heroically “drained the swamps” there were something like neo-Nazis being tolerated in the American Right. He had purged the American Right of paranoids, conspiracy theorists and various others beyond the pale.
One problem with this has already been noted on the Web (though I must be following too many sites, I can’t find where). Namely, that the Old Right, as Rothbard recalled, was characterized to a great degree by figures that were thoroughly admirable and sane like Nock, Lane and Chodorov. But another, perhaps bigger, problem is that far from purging the American Right of paranoids and persons beyond the pale, it is precisely with such persons that Buckley re-populated the official right. Rothbard described Buckley’s new Right in 1964: “…today’s Right-wing is directed, with passion, dedication, and even fanaticism to one overriding goal, to which all other possible goals are totally subordinate. And that goal is the nuclear annihilation of the Soviet Union. Here is the essence of the new Right, the gauge of the totality of its transformation. As one of its major theoreticians likes to put it: ‘I have a vision, a great vision of the future-a totally devastated Soviet Union.’”
As we have seen, this horrifying vision of mass murder was not just a Cold War thing, but is now again being advocated in regards to the Middle East. These supposedly drained fever swamps have regularly been issuing proclamations of how various recalcitrant cities of the Empire should be “pounded” until they learn their lesson. There was also talk from NR editor Rich Lowry of nuking Mecca. We have also heard wild conspiracy theories from them about connections between sworn enemies (like bin Laden and Saddam and the rulers of Saudi Arabia) that they continue to repeat in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In short, the Wall Street Journal tells the opposite of the truth. Buckley’s legacy is an American Right transformed into a paranoid and hysterical advocate of mass murder.8:10 am on July 3, 2004 Email Stephen W. Carson