Saturday, March 01, 2008

Dennis Perrin deprecates Buckley, too...

Dennis Perrin, a blogger of note, has a similar take as I do on William Buckley. Perrin's post contains two You Tube sections of a debate between Buckley and Noam Chomsky. What I find fascinating is how little information Buckley actually provides, other than a "front page newspaper headline" level of information here and there, and the conventional wisdom one learns at NY and DC cocktail parties.

What one also sees from Buckley in the two You Tube videos are thrusts of shallow syllogisms and arguments based upon freshman, not even sophomore logic classes. Chomsky is constantly trying to bring Buckley back into the real world and to avoid theory. It makes one realize how much Buckley resembles French Marxists like the odious Louis Althusser or the clownish leftist, Jacques Derrida.

At one point, I believe in the second of the two videos, Chomsky explains the situation in North and South Vietnam in the 1955-1959 period, and Buckley is reduced to a debater's trick in telling Chomsky (I paraphrase) "Well, you are starting your historical narrative where it is most advantageous to your point..." Chomsky then reminds Buckley that Buckley chose that time period, and that Chomsky was merely responding. Buckley has no clue, by the way, of what comes before or after that time period in Vietnamese history, and he knows it. It is just a debater's trick.

In the final portion of the second video, Buckley is simply shocked that anyone would think US actions in Guatemala were anything like Soviet actions in Eastern Europe. Anyone who knows anything about US intervention and support of military regimes in Guatemala from the 1950s through the 1990s would not be in the least surprised by such an observation. In fact, a rational observer might even say there were points where the various Guatemalan military regimes were more brutal than the Eastern European military regimes.

Over the years I watched Buckley's show, "Firing Line," I noticed this pattern of Buckley's in not having a ready grasp of factual information, and an increasingly lazy reliance on syllogisms and theoretical arguments based upon logically sounding "conventional wisdom." (Believe it or not, I watched that show almost weekly, and was a fan of the show, particularly when people such as Robert Scheer and Michael Harrington were guests). What is, however, also important to note is that the conversation between Chomsky and Buckley was remarkably civil, and there was at least a back-and-forth that went beyond the now commonplace advertising-style sound bites. This is what we should lament--as well as lamenting the fact that Chomsky does not receive any decent airing on American television (other than C-Span).



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