The Politics of William Buckley

Joseph Epstein, Dissent, Fall 1972.


William F. Buckley, Jr.—author and editor, lecturer and columnist, one-time mayoral candidate for New York City, and leading publicist for the body of thought that goes by the name of conservatism in America—is an intellectual of a very special kind. He is a celebrity intellectual. The celebrity intellectual is a creation of fairly recent times—a creation, specifically, of the television talk shows, of the interview as a staple of magazine publishing, and above all of the national concern with stylishness as a value esteemed for itself. While the celebrity intellectual is ostensibly celebrated for his intellectual accomplishments, the fact is that his celebrity has very little to do with his intellectuality—with the quality of his mind or the power of his ideas—but derives from his ability to perform well for the media, which after all are the only agency in America that confers celebrity.

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