Thursday, December 4, 2008

Fake hate, real stupidity

Predictable: Another campus "hate" hoax, with a black student posting a bogus "racially offensive" message on a student Web forum, prompting the ritual recriminations by students and faculty, until finally the hoax is admitted, and defended as "satire." (Via Volokh & Instapundit.) This very much reminds me of the anti-Muslim "satire" at GWU last year.

Liberals possess Complete Moral Authority, which means that however vicious, unfair, obnoxious, dishonest, or coercive their tactics, their good intentions can never be questioned. Conversely, no matter how courteous, honorable and erudite a conservative may be, he will inevitably and routinely be accused of bad faith. One recalls the reviewer of William F. Buckley's classic God & Man at Yale who said the book had "the glow and appeal of a fiery cross on a hillside at night."

At some point, any conservative who aims to accomplish anything must learn to accept such attacks as evidence of success. If you were accomplishing nothing, they wouldn't bother to call you names and impugn your motives.

UPDATE: In seeking that particular criticism of Buckley's first book, I turned up an online version of his introduction to the 25th anniversary edition of God & Man at Yale. Buckley quotes a two-sentence formulation from the book that drove his critics into paroxysms of fury:
I believe that the duel between Christianity and atheism is the most important in the world. I further believe that the struggle between individualism and collectivism is the same struggle reproduced on another level.
Those two sentences were eagerly embraced by Christian conservatives -- indeed, Buckley might well be said to have been a founder of the "Religious Right" long before that term came into common usage -- but were bitterly assailed by liberals.

What Buckley's critics did not realize was that this passage had been crucially amended by Buckley's mentor and editor, Professor Willmoore Kendall. Yet Buckley did not disown or repudiate that striking parallelism because, he says, he was "not unamused by the sputtering outrage of its critics."

This, you see, was the original genius of Buckley -- his unabashed joy in offending the sensibilities of liberals and driving them into "sputtering outrage." What liberals always count on in debate is their moral superiority (wholly imagined as it is) which they expect will cause the conservative to slink away in shame. Buckley, however, was made of sterner stuff. He saw the fury of the liberal attack on that two-sentence passage as evidence that he must be onto something. The indignation with which liberals denied a nexus between the religious and the political, he realized, meant that he had touched them in a tender place. He therefore vigorously defended the most unpopular part of his book -- even though the precise wording was not originally his own.

I call attention to this not merely because it is an important lesson in conservative discourse, but because it is such a contrast to the method of many of the latter-day Buckley wannabes. David Brooks, who professes to admire Buckley, would rather sneer at conservative "populists" than to lay down a withering fire on a vulnerable salient of the liberal position. And Buckley, it will be recalled, once co-authored a stout defense of Joe McCarthy, a thoroughgoing populist.

Buckley was a fighter, a man who did not hesitate to identify liberalism as the enemy, and who attacked it with all his might. Go and do thou likewise!

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