Pretenders To The Throne

May 19, 2010

Rush Limbaugh is an author, in the most sluttish sense of that word (that is, its loosest and most non-discriminatory application). So are Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly, and Sean Hannity. They’ve all published (and, to some extent, written) books. “Books” is another loosely and generously applied word, but it’s true all their books share some commonality: they’re double-spaced, published in large font, and don’t include any words requiring a dictionary. These guys know their audience, and it’s not the Harvard political science department. Rush himself has less than a year’s worth of Southeast Missouri State University under his belt.

William F. Buckley, Jr. wrote real books. The single-spaced kind, with no pictures. He graduated from Yale University and published his first, God & Man at Yale, shortly thereafter. It was revolutionary for its time, and he followed up with over 50 more; some political discourse, others spy novels, travel journals, or biographies. He also served briefly in the Central Intelligence Agency, as a field officer in Mexico, and hosted the talk show Firing Line. He wrote a nationally syndicated newspaper column, On The Right, ran for mayor of New York, and founded a magazine, National Review. NR is still a bastion of conservative thought… not just of party line conservatism, but of conservative thought. Through it, he mentored young thinkers like Dinesh D’Souza and Richard Brookhiser.

Rush & co. are noisy, arrogant pretenders to Buckley’s throne. Buckley earned the title Lion of The Right; today’s pundits are hyenas cackling over the lion’s leavings. None enjoy his intellect or joi de vivre; Buckley was playmaker, coach, and commissioner of a game in which the rest are Monday morning quarterbacks. They abstain from play, whereas Buckley launched a movement and defined conservative thought. Limbaugh and the others define only conservative rhetoric, and trust their audience not to spot the difference.

William F. Buckley, Jr.

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Brooks, On Rush & Co.

October 4, 2009

David Brooks is the oft right-leaning, and sometimes actually conservative, journalistic sore thumb which sticks out at the decidedly leftist rag The New York Times.

In his October 2 article, “The Wizard of Beck,” he reaches some of the same conclusions this web log did in a recent post called “Civil Service.” Chief among them: loud-mouthed, red faced “radio jocks” like Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Bill O’Reilly are prolific fonts of sound and fury but, ultimately, signify nothing. They push reactionary positions which are neither realistic nor productive, and which often are hardly conservative at all. In general, they’re long on noise and short on ideas. Perhaps it’s telling that none of these radio pundits has ever held, or even run for, public office. They prefer the comfort of criticism removed from responsibility. As Mr. Brooks puts it:

“It is a story of remarkable volume and utter weakness. It is the story of media mavens who claim to represent a hidden majority but who in fact represent a mere niche — even in the Republican Party. It is a story as old as “The Wizard of Oz,” of grand illusions and small men behind the curtain.”

Which begs two questions. The first is, how long will rational, conservative voters abide these men? The second: has The New York Times been scouring this web log for inspiration?

Sound and (chubby) fury.

Sound and (chubby) fury.

Addendum:

Mr. Limbaugh has responded to the criticism in an e-mail to web log Politico, asking, “How many Americans know who David Brooks is?” Which is a shame, and an insult: Limbaugh’s answer to Brooks’ article isn’t a response to the critical points at all, or even a logical defense. It’s misleading rhetoric, and it implies that not many Americans are literate enough to stay abreast of one of our country’s oldest and most respected, albeit decidedly liberal, news publications.

Limbaugh, in one sentence, managed to illustrate perfectly the potentially fatal schism the GOP faces: the split between David Brooks, Bill Buckley, and the educated, intelligent conservative… and the hateful, obtuse, and ignorant wretch who trusts in Rush. In short, the split between The Wall Street Journal and the Klan’s monthly mailer.