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Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lingua franco: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead, but his ideas now have an orange tint

Once William F. Buckley Jr’s intellectual harem, National Review has done a volte-face and become an assisted living facility for eunuchs.

NR published an entire issue of insults and denunciations of Donald Trump in the primary season; Republican voters responded by taking Iowa Senator Joni Ernst’s online-course in nut-cutting, lined up Buckley's acolytes, and gelded the lot on the way to Cleveland.

It’s a nice turn of events: as Bequer Seguin explains in a fine article in Dissent, American conservatism has jettisoned Buckley’s man-on-horseback, elites-leading-the-masses authoritarianism to don camos, plug in a chaw, and champion the dictatorship of the trailer parks:
Buckley’s manner of speaking reminds us of a time when the right valued rather than vilified intellectual pretension. Today, nothing guarantees a nosedive in popular appeal in the Republican Party more than an elitist vocabulary and an ostentatious way of showing it. Just think of Donald Trump, and Sarah Palin and George W. Bush before him, iconic figures of the post-9/11 U.S. right. Although Trump marks less an ideological break than continuity with postwar American conservatism, as Corey Robin and others have persuasively argued, his appeal to lowbrow, commonsensical, and emotional language contrasts rather dramatically with Buckley’s dispassionate, educated, and cosmopolitan diction. Buckley’s era of snobbish conservatism spanned from the Goldwater 1960s through the Nixon ’70s and the Reagan ’80s. Trump’s age of vulgar rhetoric began in the late 1990s and will continue for the foreseeable future.
But, as Seguin elaborates, and political junkies of a certain age already know, it’s all in the accent. Buckley cast his right wing fantasies as episodes of “Brideshead Revisited”- all Oxbridge accents and  private chapels. But in his heart, he was -through and through- a chauffeur-driven Hispano-Fascist in a Hispano-Suiza:
Buckley founded the National Review in 1955. Two years later, under the title “Letter from Spain,” his first and only signed homily for Francisco Franco’s fascist regime appeared in its pages. In the letter, published on October 26, 1957, he claimed that Franco had done his job and done it well. He had what it took, Buckley wrote, to “wrest Spain from the hands of the visionaries, ideologues, Marxists, and nihilists” and reverse the course of a “regime so grotesque as to do violence to the Spanish soul.” That regime was Spain’s Second Republic, a modern democracy that had elected a left-wing coalition in a landslide election in February 1936. To the delight of Germany and Italy and to the apathy of the United States and England, Franco launched a military coup that summer that did violence to much more than Spanish “souls.” The Spanish Civil War went on to claim the lives of half a million people, and sent more than another half-million into exile. The victory of Franco’s Nationalist troops in April 1939 inaugurated his thirty-six dictatorship... 
Eighteen years in, Franco’s had become a near-model regime for Buckley. “He is not an oppressive dictator,” the 1957 letter continued. “He is only as oppressive as it is necessary to be to maintain total power, and that, it happens, is not very oppressive, for the people, by and large, are content.” After Franco’s death, in 1975, Buckley would double down on this argument in an aside from an article on Pinochet, writing that Franco “believed in just as much repression as was necessary.” For Buckley, the grotesque slaughter that gave birth to the regime and continued well into its first decade—along with the mass imprisonment and executions that were its hallmarks throughout—were an acceptable, even necessary, feature of Franco’s political project. Politics was conditional on how much one could get away with. If the argument seemed sordid, Buckley took care to infuse it with world-historical, even metaphysical, resonance. “He saved the day,” Buckley wrote of Franco, “but he did not, like Cincinnatus, thereupon return to his plow.” 
...He saw the Chilean regime, like Franco’s, as a test case for instituting Catholicism and capitalism through authoritarian means. “Fine-tuning repression is a distinctly unperfected art,” Buckley wrote—an art that Pinochet, like Franco, had mastered. Chile not only enjoyed “public order,” it also boasted an “overwhelming majority of the people” who accepted the Pinochet government. Ends by way of means, legitimacy thanks to repression—these were the cornerstones of Buckley’s support for dictatorial regimes from Franco’s to Pinochet’s.
Buckley scorned the average Hispanic just as comprehensively as Donald Trump does. They are God's maids and gardeners. And Trump, with his “I, alone, can fix this” jabber, assures us all that, elected, he will give us no more repression than necessary.

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