Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Man of Yale Meets God*

This, from Buckley, is in print today. I doubt it's the last -- the man is said to have died at his desk. It tells of the Goldwater campaign and its advisers trying to figure out how to handle the powerful, crackpot conservative John Birch Society, and its founder, Robert Welch, who recently had declared "President Eisenhower had been a secret agent of the Communists."

I volunteered to go further. Unless Welch himself disowned his operative fallacy, National Review would oppose any support for the society.

"How would you define the Birch fallacy?" Jay Hall asked.

"The fallacy," I said, "is the assumption that you can infer subjective intention from objective consequence: we lost China to the Communists, therefore the President of the United States and the Secretary of State wished China to go to the Communists."

"I like that," Goldwater said.

What would Russell Kirk do? He was straightforward. "Me? I'll just say, if anybody gets around to asking me, that the guy is loony and should be put away."

"Put away in Alaska?" I asked, mock-seriously. The wisecrack traced to Robert Welch's expressed conviction, a year or so earlier, that the state of Alaska was being prepared to house anyone who doubted his doctrine that fluoridated water was a Communist-backed plot to weaken the minds of the American public.

Thr New York Times obit, which had to be corrected in print because it was written so long ago parts of it were outdated. Hugh Kenner is quoted!

Some of his earliest columns. If you don't think the modern conservative voice owes something to his style -- writing, I mean, not the famous sesquipedalian speaking voice -- read here.

*Headline suggested by patron at the coffee shop where I stop in the afternoon.