Ever since the blogosphere began, its existence and effects on the way we live – or, to be specific, the way we choose our leaders and decide our policies – has been the subject of raging debate. How informative are today’s blogs? How much do they advance the debate? How different would things be without them? Do they have a future?
Strangely enough, we have stumbled upon an answer – courtesy of Reid Buckley.
Buckley is not happy with conservatism – as he sees it - and decided to left everyone know about it (the version I saw came courtesy of the Free Lance-Star). Quite unintentionally, the piece is a perfect example of what happens to someone who does not pay attention to the blogosphere – on top of other mistakes that should really embarrass a Buckley.
Buckley tips his hand almost immediately in his first lament at the state of the right:
This is what I fear establishment thinking among conservatives is becoming. Dull. Derivative. Predictable. Lacking in zip and sting and mordancy–in the agenbite of inwit.
Well, the blogosphere specializes in “zip and sting,” so if that was his worry, than reassurance was just a few keystrokes away!
Of course, if this were the only thing Buckley was missing from the blogosphere, he probably wouldn’t have wasted so much ink. So we must go on to his first glaring policy error:
For 40 years, smug, snide right-wingers have made merry mocking Greenpeace fanatics and ecological doomsayers without learning a blessed thing about the precariousness of the ecology and the effect of human action (not to speak of avarice) on it, as when we promiscuously exfoliate the rain forests or condemn yet one more green acre on the southeastern shore of New Jersey to the desolation of heedless urban development.
We conservatives are so self-satisfied that we have incapacitated ourselves from peering beneath the wild exaggerations of scruffy environmentalist kooks to the gathering of real dangers. The climate is most probably changing, and the human impact on it should be studied.
So Buckley has fallen, head over heels, for the ol’ climate change “consensus,” which exists just about everywhere except where it’s supposed to exist – among climatologists and meteorologists. Had Buckley simply taken the time to look over Watts Up With That, he would have seen dedicated experts in the field – seeking only the truth that unbiased data can provide – demolishing the “consensus.” What Anthony Watts has found (satellite failures compromising sea ice data, temperature sensors affected by local heat pockets, and Dr. James Hansen’s former boss declaring himself a skeptic) has completely reshaped the debate on “climate change” – for those who have seen it. Clearly, Buckley hasn’t.
Buckley then falls head-over-heels into his Greenpeace-like nonsense with a rant that would make his brother (William F.) spin in his grave:
Have you flown recently from Newport News to Boston at 25,000 feet on a clear day and gazed down upon the horror of American civilization? What man hath wrought! What we have done to this beautiful land? Dear God, forgive us! But when last did you hear a conservative oppose a new mall because it is ugly, accustoming thousands of human beings to dehumanizing blows against the aesthetic sense until it is benumbed?
The good, the true, and the beautiful are inseparably joined. One cannot damage one without doing harm to the others.
Such lines will find great currency in America today – except for those with any knowledge of its history. In fact, I myself was immediately drawn to Daniel Walker Howe’s What God Hath Wrought (which I foolishly passed up for a horribly-written biography of General George Thomas). Howe wrote of a period of profound, dramatic, and, for many, frightening change: the period from 1815 to 1848. Only someone with little or no knowledge of the Industrial Revolution or the Gilded Age would be so aghast at the rise of the suburbs.
It reminds me of a local discussion we had in Spotsylvania on building design standards, in which some of the planning staff praised commercial buildings based on “historical” Queen Anne architecture. The staff apparently had no idea that at its height, Queen Anne was considered one of the most garish and ostentatious styles in the history of architecture. The reaction against it lasted for decades. Yet now, merely because it is old, it is wonderful.
Edmund Burke never had such a simplistic view of conservative thought. No one did. It was exactly this sort of silliness that led Whittaker Chambers to utter the famous phrase that I cite on the masthead, and led me name this blog as I have.
Yet it is in his final few paragraphs the Buckley makes abundantly clear just how far the world has passed him by. Again, a few trips in the blogosphere can easily cure him of this. For example, check out his comments on the events of the last few months:
Republicans have submitted to the takeover of the economy by the federal government, a foray into the corporate state from which we may never recover. Yet to my knowledge no conservative voice has articulated the ringing indictment that such highhanded action merits, and the American people have submitted meekly.
No conservative voice? Doesn’t Leslie Carbone count? What about Jim Bowden? Norm Leahy? There were plenty of voices screaming bloody murder about the Treasury Department’s foray into, well, everything. As for the American people, it should be noted that John McCain actually led Barack Obama until Lehman Brothers went under. From that point, McCain was swept up in the very panic Buckley laments, and the American people abandoned him.
Finally, Buckley reveals his complete ignorance of the current political landscape with this drivel:
Yet no conservative voice was raised to bring up first principles by showing why Social Security, et al. are inimical to the rationale for republican government and must be phased out or subjected to radical reform. Many conservative voices have written scathingly about the financial woes of the present Social Security administration, but to my knowledge none has yet proposed that Republicans abandon the New Deal-era concept all together.
Has Buckley not heard of Amity Shlaes? Has Michael Barone eluded his eye for this long? Only if he (Buckley) has been exclusively getting his news from dead trees and the boob tube.
In short, Buckley’s pining for the past (and not a realistic past either) has left him completely blinded to the actual present. The year 2009 is the first in eighty years in which the elite is not in consensus about the New Deal and/or the wisdom of government intervention in the economy (Herbert Hoover’s actual role as an interventionist is finally getting attention). The Republican Party, bereft of power but liberated from the Bush Administration, has rediscovered its limited government roots with surprising speed.
Yet Reid Buckley can’t see any of it. He is the archetype of an analog conservative in a digital age.