October 16, 2008

Squabbling Over Scraps

The dust-up between Christopher Buckley and the management of National Review reminds me of the vicious infighting that prevailed in the Party of the Right, and other conservative groups, at Yale in the 80s. Bereft of influence, socially radioactive, completely marginal to campus life, we did what came naturally: turned on each other, convinced that if only we could purge “the freaks” in our midst whom we blamed for our situation, we would rise to prominence and make a difference. Of course, nobody agreed over who were the “freaks” who were giving us a bad name. So the infighting never ended. Soon the group was so small that there weren’t even enough constituents to form proper factions; we were just a group of “friends” and “colleagues” who pretty much hated each other, but had to stick together because everybody else seemed to hate us even more (if that were possible). Things got better after I left; I like to think it wasn’t just BECAUSE I left….

Here’s the key difference: We didn’t deserve our disgrace. While the profs and the institution were fairly tolerant (they could afford to be), students in those days were lockstep intolerant, sniffy and self-righteous twerps when faced with dissent. (I give a more detailed picture of the campus situation, and David Frum’s toxic legacy, here.)

The contemporary Right, having been neoconfiscated, has earned the contempt it’s getting. National Review is headed for a crack-up similar to The American Spectator‘s. Richly deserved. And very, very sad. The next four years of radicalism, expanding government confiscation, and abysmal Court appointments can be laid at the feet of the men in conservative institutions who feathered their nests, confident that they could go right on fooling 51% of the people 25% of the time (every election).  As they say down at the Kappa house: “Whoopsies!”

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