You would be surprised, did you know it, to know that Theodore Sturgeon used to write for the National Review. He and William F. Buckley respected each other, and Buckey respected Sturgeon — even though Ted agreed with Buckley politically not very much at all. But Buckley and Sturgeon could be — and were — friends.
Sturgeon used to review books for the National Review, and, very often, these were science fiction books, which Buckley had an appreciation for, and even dabbled in himself. (“Crisis in Space,” 1975 — in which a Soviet astronaut defects during an Apollo/Soyuz mission.) And that was probably a big point of commonality. Sturgeon was writing for the National Review as early as 1964, when Barry Goldwater’s Conscience of a Conservative was the star at the center of the conservative firmament, and it was possible to disagree, to debate, to speculate about the nature of the Constitution and the limits of freedom.
Science fiction was filled with proto-Libertarians, and quasi-conservatives. (Indeed, when the modern Libertarian Party was founded in Westminster, Colorado on John Kerry’s birthday in 1972, it was half Ayn Rand, of course, and half Robert Heinlein.) There didn’t exist the grand divide, the self-righteous, the trafficking in hate that has come to characterize the post-Buckley National Review.
Here’s a little snark to start us off, a mindless Universal Generalization spoken by a bigot, the sad sludge of a septic tank mind, from Wednesday, January 25, 2006, “More On Heinlein” [John Derbyshire]:
Practically all—no, make that all again—sci-fi writers fall flat on their faces when they try to write about sex. Theodore Sturgeon, a brilliant sci-fi writer, did a dire thing about a future world where human beings were all hemaphrodites, everyone having a full set of both male and female kit. I forget the title, and wish I could forget the story too. There were even diagrams. Oy oy oy. If you want to read interesting stories about love & sex, or about human relationships in any form, my advice would be, don’t head for the sci-fi shelves.
Now, this isn’t about the National Review‘s literary stance. Frankly, in referring to the NEW National Review, literacy isn’t the point, or even an ofttimes sort of thing. You might appreciate the casual thuggery of that last sentence, which throws out a spoiler to an entire novel, as casually as Derbyshire undoubtedly tears the wings off of a fly before eating it.
It’s about the HATE. It’s about being so deeply up one’s own ass that one can see one’s own tonsils. It’s about having the power of the pen, and using it to “hurt” anyone and anything that offends or annoys the writer.
It is an old malady, and the hallmark of the tyro: having learned that the megaphone of “being in print” has a kind of power, the infantile and the tenderfoot will instantly attempt to use that power to hurt, to harm, to inflict damage on anyone that the newly minted Tin God feels has transgressed against his/her deity.
And so, the National Review‘s “The Corner” blog has become the antithesis to the civil and civilized magazine that Buckley founded and guided as editor for decades. It has become the post-barbarian Rome, with the Vandals smashing the mosaics to see if there are real swans in there.
Today’s case in point:
Friday, October 12, 2007
Who Else Should Al Gore Share the Prize With? [Iain Murray]
How about that well known peace campaigner Osama Bin Laden, who implicitly endorsed Gore’s stance – and that of the Nobel committee – in his September rant from the cave …
Of course, Hitler maintained that 2 + 2 = 4, which, naturally, by new National Review logick means that all mathematicians are fascists.
I don’t want to — or need to — belabor the point. This kind of mindless hatred has sunk to a pre-human level of cognition, it is the level of debate of the new “Idiocracy,” when sniggering is the national sport, and the only manner in which morons can consider themselves “superior” to their perceived enemies.
But the mindless snarking of Al Gore (comparing him to Osama bin Laden for winning the Nobel Peace Prize? What does one have to be smoking or drinking or both to come up with THAT, and think that it makes anyone other than the author look like a fool?) bespeaks a mind lost in a sea of hate: adrift in an atavistic fury that precludes rationality or even simple thought. Mindless. Thoughtless. Dangerous — if history is any guide.
But this vile Murray character isn’t some solitary aberration. No: he’s the poster boy for National Review aberration. Today’s “The Corner” is a cornucopia of junior high school newspaper backstabbing. To wit:
Friday, October 12, 2007
Edwards Scandal Gathering Momentum [Mark Hemingway]
Last night I went to see John Edwards speak at a junior high auditorium in Ridgeland, SC. It was a pretty standard campaign event (though the Edwards campaign couldn’t accomodate for an interview like they had some other press, they were exceedingly helpful and apologetic and didn’t blush when I said I was from NR.)
Nonetheless, it’s interesting to report that while the national media aren’t biting on the story surrounding Edwards’ alleged affair yet, it definitely is picking up some steam despite Edwards’ denial. Traveling across the state, he was asked about it at every press availibility yesterday … 10/12 03:04 PM
There you go: bottom feeding based on the National Enquirer. Actually this character assassination is one of the nicer things up there today. One would be curious to read their reaction to revelations of the seamy sexual crap that Ronald Reagan was known for in Hollywood. Moral indignation? Of course. Hypocrisy? Goes without saying. Painting with only black and white? Naturally. Here’s more:
Indoctrination at University of Michigan [Michael Rubin]
Juan Cole, who sought to chill academic speech when he requested the FBI investigate a fellow academic who beat him out for a TV commentator gig, now turns his sights on a captive audience, his University of Michigan students. His syllabus for “America and Middle Eastern Wars” requires students to read his polemic, “The lies that led to war.” No counterpoint is assigned. 10/12 03:02 PM
Do I need to point out the intrinsic snarkiness? Or this:
Al Gore and a Nobel Redirection Project [Kathryn Jean Lopez]
On the same wave as Geraghty and Hanson today, Rush Limbaugh just called on Al Gore to hand over this prize to “genuine agents of peace: General Petraus, the U.S. military, and its commander-in-chief.
But we won’t take the case to Court. And, no, Rush did not call Al Gore a phony Army reporter. 10/12 12:16 PM
Great News [John Podhoretz]
Al Gore just won Best Pie at the Kiwanis Club Weekend Fair! 10/12 12:04 PM
So: Should Gore [Ramesh Ponnuru]
Gore and the Czechs [Yuval Levin]
Is there anyone I’ve left out? Oh, we forget the #3 favorite of the new GOP (now Even Hatier!™), Mark “Franken” Steyn:
A meanie writes [Mark Steyn]
I’m out of the country so I’ve only just been alerted to the fact that in The Washington Post E J Dionne has called me a meanie and hypocrite. I’m certainly a meanie, but I don’t quite get the hypocrite thing. I’ve been consistently opposed to swollen middle-class entitlements because in the long run (as in Europe) they kill nations. Michelle Malkin returns to the subject of the Frost family today, and tries to get us to re-focus on the basic question: At which point should the government pick up the tab? Ultimately it’s a reductive notion of liberty to say a free-born citizen can choose his own breakfast cereal and DVD rentals and cable package and, in the case of the Frosts, three premium vehicles, but demand the government take responsibility for all the grown-up stuff …
But, either way, a two-property three-car family does not demonstrate the need for entitlement expansion. 10/12 02:37 PM
He can’t back down, so he continues to attack, to bash the Frost family for having had the temerity to not make as much money as Steyn thinks they should, and for having had catastrophic medical bills.
He continues to kick a child, and is proud of being a “meanie.” Ironically, he’s actually telling the truth. Which is sad, both for Steyn, and for the movement and magazine that his cluelessly misplaced and self-anointed aristocratic demeanor besmirches by his very existence. Steyn seems jealous of Ann Coulter, who obtains more attention for her monstrousness than Steyn can by his. Give him high marks for trying, though. He’s not giving up in the race to Gehenna.
The irony, of course, is that if Mark Steyn walked into a working class bar in Baltimore and mouthed this elitist crap, or talked about the Frost family like this in their own neighborhood bar, he would be taken out back and beaten into a bloody pulp, and no one would say a word.
You see, it’s one thing to be a thousand pound gorilla in print, and another thing to try it in the real world. A world that that the hate-suffused, sick with judgmentalism bigots of the NEW National Review have seldom, if ever lived in.
Because that’s what craven snivelers like Steyn do: they write pretending that they’re Conan The Barbarian, when, in fact, they’re Norbert The Librarian: pocket protector, wing tips,taped-together-glasses, eczema and all. (An utter lack of self-awareness certainly helps).
Or, as we used to call them: Two-fisted typists. The world of writing is filled with such self-delusion, but seldom have we seen so much loathing, hatred, cynicism and sheer incivility in print. “The Corner” should be decleared a strategic repository for same, if same were in any wise ‘strategic’ or served any national need.
Still, I can’t imagine that this was what William F. Buckley had in mind for his magazine when he founded it in 1955. One wonders how these yawping barbarians took over the magazine: at gunpoint? At knifepoint? There was a civility in the old National Review that allowed Sturgeon and Buckley to be friends, to be friendly antagonists, and for Sturgeon to find a welcome readership for his criticism, even though it was known that Sturgeon wasn’t “ideologically pure” by National Review standards.
But Buckley’s magazine had some qualities that today’s incubus version does not: civility, playfulness, a sense of humor, lively debate and intellectual confidence. When you are CONFIDENT about what you believe, you need not make yourself taller exclusively by the tactic of cutting off everyone’s heads around you. You can hold your own in a debate without recourse to the gutter; you can actually debate.
Look: the reason that we’ve come to this pretty pass is that DEBATE CEASED IN 1986, when Rush went on the air. Incapable and incompetent to hold his ground in a fair debate, his radio show and then his emulators and then the entire Republican Party removed themselves from the arena of debate, and only held mock and sham debates, as phony, choreographed and rigged as TeeVee Wrestling.
And, in this psychotic delusion of “debate” they always win, they create straw men and knock them down, thinking themselves “El Cid.” They tilt at cardboard windmills and fancy themselves Lancelot. They put on newspaper hat(e)s and brandish wooden swords, all the while thinking themselves modern Parsifals, triumphantly holding up the hard-won “Holy Grail” — which, on closer examination, turns out to be a Slurpee™ cup scavenged from a dumpster.
But when you live in a hermetically sealed room filled with sycophants yes-men and yes-women (called, not-coincidentally “Dittoheads”), you never have a chance to perceive how ridiculous, how monstrous, how sad and pathetic, neurotic, flaccid and profane you have become. You merely continue (obsessively/compulsively) blogging for “The Corner”:
How to Win a Nobel Peace Prize [Iain Murray]
And never stop to consider the tradition (something that ‘conservatives’ are supposed to venerate) that you’re dragging through the mud, slagging by your very actions, and sliming by your very presence. Whatever respectability that the National Review once had is belied by its current hebephrenic scriveners. One is tempted to use the term “maggots” except that maggots deserve to be held in higher regard.
Certainly the OLD National Review, had any American won the Nobel Peace Prize, would have been — at a minimum — gracious. The NEW NR, by contrast, is maximally boorish — which elegantly encapsulates its current approach and staff.
As the Wikipedia article on Buckley notes, “His writing style is characterized by use of uncommon words.” Whereas the new National Review is characterized by the use of all-too-common slurs.
Emphasis on “common.”
Snarkoleptic Update: The latest NRO jackass to fall victim to fits of screeching snarkolepsy is Stephen F. Hayward, who, as he froths at the mouth (and the thesaurus) stands boldly in the future and predicts: “In 20 years Gore or his climate alarmist successors will be lucky to appear on cable access TV, and Gore’s Peace Prize will take its place alongside Le Duc Tho’s 1973 award as a Nobel embarrassment.” (Er … conveniently forgetting Henry Kissinger? Gee, I wonder who’s Kissinger now?)
Right. A convenient sense of history, like the sudden defense of Vietnam as a “good” war that we got out of “too soon”? I have a feeling that in 20-years, the Climate Deniers will be viewed as not merely dinosaurs, but as an archetypal illustration of the Greek concept of “hubris.”
Weave on, Arachne. Long may you snark.