Robert [email protected]
Mr. Bruce, National Review has not been a conservative magazine since the mid-1980s, and perhaps even earlier. William F. Buckley made a conscious decision to direct the magazine into total subservience to neocon ideology, and the result is the vampiric shell that goes under the old name.
The most obvious signpost of this change was the firing of the very articulate, perceptive, and popular Joseph Sobran, at the behest of Buckley’s new neocon allies in the other journals of opinion. This was a very sordid and underhanded move, Sobran being dismissed solely because some of his opinions didn’t please the AIPAC lobby and the Podhoretzes. The second was the quiet blackballing of Pat Buchanan, after he too began to question some of received notions of “centrist” conservatism.
Murray Rothbard claims that this process had an even longer gestation period, going right back to the magazine’s founding in 1955. I’m not sure I agree with that, but it is certainly true that there always was an imperialist, Save-The-World tone in much of NR’s rhetoric during the Cold War. Such rhetoric easily morphed into the neocon nightmare of Mandatory Enlightenment Liberalism and Secularism for Everybody.
But the larger issue is this: Buckley always arrogated to himself the right to police the conservative movement, and to discipline or excommunicate anyone whom he felt was a little too threatening to his personal ideals of aristocratic politesse. Revilo P. Oliver was eased out, the Birchers were declared anathema, James Jackson Kilpatrick was compelled to abjure his segregationist convictions, and even Frank Meyer got flak from Buckley because he once dared to question our national apotheosis of Abraham Lincoln. How many times did the loathsome Harry V. Jaffa appear in NR’s pages, hurling invective against any conservatives who dared question the ideology of equality?
Today, the magazine is a sick joke. I say this as someone who subscribed to NR from 1964 until the early 1990s, and as someone who worked with intense conviction in Buckley’s mayoral campaign of 1965, and in his brother’s senatorial campaign of 1970. There was a time when NR was a real voice for real conservatism.
That time is long, long gone.