I didn’t take as much grief as I expected to for writing “Memo to Patrick Ruffini: We Don’t Need William F. Buckley Back.”
Of course, mostly that’s because I’m a, well, fringe person myself and hardly anybody noticed or cared.
However, I’m particularly pleased with this bit:
People toss about the phrase “Buckley purged the movement of the Birchers” the way others mindlessly repeat truisms like “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” — without realizing that, in both instances, they are simply repeating a marketing slogan as received wisdom.
And now at PJ, Adam Graham inadvertently elaborates:
First is the issue of practicality. Mr. Buckley detailed his experience with the John Birch Society in an article for Commentary in 2008. Of his excoriation of John Birch Society founder Robert Welch, Buckley wrote of conservatives who gathered in Palm Beach to plan a coordinated response to Welch’s kookiness: “The wound we Palm Beach plotters delivered to the John Birch Society proved fatal over time.”
One has to define “fatal” and “over time” quite loosely to say that his attack on the John Birch Society succeeded.
In 1983 (twenty-one years after Buckley’s article), Congressman Lawrence McDonald (D-GA) became president of the John Birch Society. That a member of Congress was not only a member but the president of the organization suggests Buckley wasn’t nearly as successful as he thought. Indeed, the John Birch Society exists to this day.
True, it’s not as socially acceptable to be a member of the John Birch Society, but several Birch-like groups have come and gone over the years. The goal of purging all things perceived to be nutty is as impractical now as it was forty-seven years ago, if not more so in the age of the Internet.
In other words, folks left and right need to be very careful when uttering truisms: “Kitty Genovese died because her neighbors didn’t care…” “DDT is lethal…” “Women only earn X% of what men do…”
Again and again, these truisms prove to be untrue, but only after they’ve caused decades’ worth of harm.
Unexamined received wisdom can operate like an undetected tumor.
Question everything you think you know. It’s not only something we should be telling leftists to do, either.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about adoptingn our “enemies'” tactics, a la Saul Alinsky. I have mixed feelings about that, but not this:
Purges are for the other guys, not us.