I know we should know better by now…

…but what the flying fish is Sullivan thinking with this quasi-eulogy of Pat Buchanan’s career?

“Hounding” really? “Not a propagandist”?

One does not need to be an orthodox “propagandist” to have repellent views and be sacked for them. Buchanan has regularly expressed disgustingly retrograde views that he attempts to cloak with a veneer of “intellectual honesty”. Of course in this case we must stretch the concept of “intellectual” and “honesty” into meanings that even Orwell’s characters in 1984 would find ridiculous. There’s nothing intellectual nor honest about using bad history, bad numbers and myopic reactionary rhetoric.

Repellent views are repellent views. You can be honest in expressing them, but that doesn’t make you any less repellent. Just because you use big words and quasi-logical ways of calling black people inferior, or Hitler misunderstood doesn’t make you sane or reasonable. It just makes you a more effective demagogue.

MSNBC was right in terminating him. The tragedy was that he was allowed a platform to speak for so long. That he was given a job for so long and tolerated despite his crankery is not a sign of open-mindedness on MSNBC, but rather the power of Washington establishment figures to gain privileged access to media outlets. For once this has been corrected.

In the future, perhaps MSNBC can bring on someone like our esteemed Jason Kuznicki or James Hanley to debate weaknesses in liberal viewpoints. Or even the very tame Joe Scarborough who retains his job at the network.

Andrew, we understand that he is your friend personally. It’s hard to admit you’re friends with a reactionary neo-fascist. But that doesn’t mean you should go around claiming some sort of McCarthyite censorship. The man is a loon, he has no place in the national discourse, and cable “news” is a more rational place for it.

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15 thoughts on “I know we should know better by now…

  1. I”ve never quite understood it, but a lot people seem to feel some positive regard for earnestly expressed, deeply held yet morally corrupt views. Somehow being strident overwhelms the content of the views. And then somehow being pragmatic or willing to compromise is a sign of lack of belief or weakness.

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    • I think this is the general tendency to equate deeply held views with sincerity and honesty. As in if you’re inflexible, you’re “honest”. If you’re pragmatic or flexible in your beliefs, there’s something unreliable about you as a human being.

      And yes, the tags are there as a deliberately courting of a Moore award…
      Not that i think this’ll get one.

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  2. Sullivan’s post is a great example of a couple of his serious blind spots and weaknesses as a pundit.

    One is that he simply doesn’t consider rank bigotry and bad reasoning as disqualifying attributes for jobs in mass media, and doesn’t seem to understand that many people prefer otherwise. Witness his ongoing admiration for Charles Murray and Marty Peretz and bafflement at the criticism he gets for defending them.

    The second is that he often can’t differentiate between those who challenge conventional wisdom with new truths versus those who are just plain offensively wrong, and assumes anyone who causes controversy deserves the benefit of the doubt.

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  3. I thought he was occasionally smart about day-to-day politics, especially on the Republican side.  It was kind of a Juan Williams situation, where the offending views were expressed in other fora (perhaps pursuant to an explicit understanding to that effect).  I’m not going to defend MSNBC’s decision to pursue and maintain such an arrangement for so long (he does have views expressed elsewhere that are legitimately indefensible), but to some extent I  understand why they continued to find his analysis valuable, and weren’t inclined to terminate their relationship with him based on his full public record away from their air.  That said, I support the decision to do so nevertheless.

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  4. Omigod.   I’m about to step up to defend Pat Buchanan…

    Why are we all so ready to step up and declare that certain ideas are beyond the pale, and should not be expressed.   Pat Buchanan is exactly a rare bird:  the attitudes he expresses are held by millions.  I, for one, would rather hear them, and see them engaged with.   I agree he’s a little goofy on race, but if you ever read his books, his views turn out to be quite a bit more nuanced and resonant than you suspect.    And there are some real ideas to be engaged with on the nature of culture and solidarity that get manifested in some ugly ways when he talks about race.;

    I look at the eliminationist sentiment expressed within the conservative movement with respect to liberalism, and I see that as the most dangerous strain of that movement.    And something similar is happening here, I think.

    He is one of the founders of American Conservative magazine, which actually has some of the most interesting and engaging cultural and political analysis you’ll find from the Right, right now.   And having him on MSNBC, and engage with its liberal hosts, was one thing that distinguished it from Fox News (which has followed a policy of presenting only weak-tea liberals like Juan Williams and Evan Bayh, or unpleasant loons, as representatives of the left).   You may not like most of what Buchanan has to say–I certainly don’t–but he is an articulate spokesman for his views, and has generally engaged civilly.

    Just declaring him as “beyond the pale,” “racist,” and “fascist” and wishing he would simply go away is doing a disservice to both conservatism and liberalism.   Because, if you listen to him, he is actually none of those things.  He represents the conservatism of a bygone era, and nothing he says now could not be said openly in the early 60s.   But he is considerably less ideological, and more open to engagement than the ideologues–the Grover Norquists, the Tom Delays, and Katherine Lopezes–that are more representative of movement conservatism.

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    •  I agree he’s a little goofy on race …

      I’m sorry, I was all set to take your arguments seriously, since you made them so well and very articulately, but then I saw this sentence. GOOFY?  If this is the only way you can think of to describe Buchanan’s view on race, I’m afraid I can’t really take the rest of your arguments seriously.

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      • I mean, even if we want to stay clear of the word racist because oh-that-will-shut-down-conversation-and-you’re-a-bad,bad-person-for-calling-Buchanan-a-racist, GOOFY ain’t the right word. Batshit crazy at the very least.

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  5. I haven’t read any of Buchanan’s books. I’ve only seen him on t.v. a few times and disagreed with almost all of what he said, which was reactionary. In a nutshell, though, how has he employed quasi-logical ways of calling black people inferior?

    I’m interested in this question more generally, in terms of how errors made by reactionary pundits like Buchanan might be repeated by other writers/scholars, including those who are actually trying to do rigorous, unprejudiced sociological analysis. Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

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  6. Repellent views are repellent views. You can be honest in expressing them, but that doesn’t make you any less repellent.

    I agree.  I can imagine some Weimar-era philistine chuckling, “Oh that Hitler.  You may not agree with him, but at least you know where he stands!”

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  7. Pat Buchanan and Westbrook Pegler had a lot in common and Buchanan was fond of quoting him.   Seems he’s met the same fate as Pegler.   A little backgrounder I wrote a longlong time ago.

    Edit: the nut graf:

    Pegler is not a stuffed crocodile: words live on like land mines, waiting to detonate under the feet of the hapless traveler off the trodden path. That old scamp Pat Buchanan knew who he was quoting, and the younger scamp Scully knew better than to cite the original source.

    But we must not be surprised, for Pat Buchanan was an able slime peddler, all on his own. Nobody could shovel the merde like Mr. Inside, and Scully obviously admires that tapeworm Buchanan. In time, future little Conservatives will grow up big and strong: nourished on the pithy epithets of Mr. Inside. I give you one such, for your edification, from the same book from whence the Pegler quote was pulled, Pat Buchanan’s autobiography, Right from the Beginning.

    “There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The ‘negroes’ of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, bars, movie houses, playgrounds and churches; and we had ours.”

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