The latest in a series of snarky exchanges between The Economist and National Review magazine is hinted at today in a post on the latter's group blog, The Corner, but as before, NR is relying on most people not having a subscription to The Economist to see what the offending remark is.
The article is an assessment of William F. Buckley, who was present at the creation of the Vast Rightwing Conspiracy. It's perhaps best read as a sly commentary on the current state of conservatism and not its apparent subject of conservatism as Buckley found it 40 years ago:
Yet, more than anybody else, it was Mr Buckley who rescued conservatism from obscurity and ignominy. When he founded the National Review in 1955, Eisenhower's Republican Party was as adamantly middle-of-the-road as it was middle-brow. As for right-wing activists, most were certifiable: convinced that Eisenhower was an agent of communism (the John Birchers), that Barry Goldwater was a pinko (the Conservative Society of America), that the Jews were the roots of all evil (the Liberty League), and, often, all of the above.
Mr Buckley steered conservatism out of Crackpot Alley, driving out most of the obvious lunatics and building a creed on three solid pillars—support for free markets, traditional values, and anti-communism.
Whereas it's now a movement devoted to arguing about what the meaning of 'torture' is and seemingly oblivious to the basic principle that when the government borrows money, it has to be paid back.
But anyway, the offending remark comes in the context of this generation's VRC pundits:
The problem is that they are all much of a muchness: bit-players in a pundit industry that can't tell the difference between political debate and a Punch and Judy show. And such knockabout stuff has a way of debasing anyone who takes part in it. For instance, Jonah Goldberg is a bright young right-winger who writes for the National Review with the same wry wit as Mr Buckley. But Amazon.com informs us that his forthcoming book, “Liberal Fascism”, argues that “liberals, from Woodrow Wilson to FDR to Hillary Clinton, have advocated policies and principles remarkably similar to those of Hitler's National Socialism.”
By "wry wit" they presumably mean things like Goldberg's post making fun of the people stuck at the New Orleans Superdome while Dubya cleared brush in Texas. But yes, there really is such a book.
UPDATE: Further developments in the case of Jonah's book and the feud with The Economist. Goldberg claims that (a) the book is not the caricature that its Amazon promo makes it out to be, and (b) those meanies at The Economist were nice to him in person but now trash the book in print:
I've chosen not to engage a debate about a book I have not finished based upon a description I did not write months before the book even comes out ....
I will say one thing in response to the Economist's Lexington piece, which was written by Adrian Wooldridge. He's taken a some cheap shots at National Review (or his magazine has under his direction) ever since Ramesh panned his book in NR ... Indeed, he seemed a very nice and intelligent fellow and we had a nice chat. And that's the funny thing. During that chat I explained to him in broad brushstrokes what my book was about and he was very flattering about it and even offered a suggestion or two about contemporary examples I might use to bolster my thesis.
So my question is, did he think it was a contemptible project then and gamely offered some help with it anyway? Or does he merely say he thinks so now in print so he can once again take cheap shots at National Review, this time via me?
He sounds ... hurt! Incidentally, despite the book not being in print yet, Amazon has already matched it based on purchases to, inter alia:
Mommy Knows Worst : Highlights from the Golden Age of Bad Parenting Advice by James Lileks
America Alone: Our Country's Future as a Lone Warrior by Mark Steyn