Socking a queer in the goddamned face: William Buckley and nostalgia

This is old news, but when Gore Vidal died, I learned that William F. Buckley once said to Vidal, “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddamned face and you’ll stay plastered.”

Now why the hell didn’t I learn that when Buckley died? Well, of course it’s because of our extremely harmful taboo on speaking ill of the dead, but the contrast is striking all the same. When Buckley died, it seemed that all anyone could talk about is how much worse today’s conservative commenators are in comparison.

Yet can anyone seriously imagine Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity threatening to “sock” a “queer” in the “goddamned face”? Even on Fox News it would mean their jobs for sure. Probably their careers could continue after a fashion on satellite radio, the way Glenn Beck’s did, but I suspect even that would be a bit rough. Even if most of their potential listening base wouldn’t be turned off by such a threat, I suspect enough of a percentage would be to hurt their bottom line.

Based on that, not only do I suspect that America’s conservative commentator’s haven’t gotten any worse, they’ve gotten marginally less vile. This is much the same as the situation with Rick Santorum’s imaginary gay friends. For whatever reason, there’s a powerful temptation to believe things were better in the good old days, but empirical reality consistently refutes this.

  • Ace of Sevens

    Time Wise just write an article arguing that Buckley really was less of a bigot than modern Republicans, at least to black people.

    • reneerp

      Anyone who’s seen the Baldwin-Buckley debate would not call him particularly good about black people.

  • DaveL

    Yet can anyone seriously imagine Bill O’Reilly or Sean Hannity threatening to “sock” a “queer” in the “goddamned face”?

    Yes, especially O’Reilly. Of course, Fox would ensure that part never aired. Hell, I wouldn’t be surprised to see O’Reilly threaten a to “sock” a “small child” in the “goddamned face.”

    • Ace of Sevens

      TO be fair, he would only do this if the committed a major offense such as continuing to talk when he’s trying to interrupt.

    • Aliasalpha

      He’s probably just try to brush the complaints aside, saying something like ‘fist goes in, teeth come out, you can’t explain that’

  • Jed

    I doubt today’s commentators are any less vile than they used to be. They’re just better at hiding what they really think.

  • piegasm

    I don’t think it’s the commentators who deserve the credit; it’s society in general. People were more tolerant of bigotry back then plus there was no internet. Everyone and their dog wouldn’t have known about it 10 seconds after it happened like they would today.

    • ashleybell

      I agree. Plus EVERYONE knows who Glen Beck and Hannity and O’Reilly are. Back in the day right wing commentors didn’t have anywhere near the influence and general presence they do now. They HAD to tone it down because more people were listening. They are just as vile now as then. They simply have no choice but to rein it in.

  • sailor1031

    It intrigued me, when I first came to the US, that W F Buckley was considered a “conservative intellectual” simply because he often used the word ‘oxymoron’ – although he didn’t actually know how to pronounce it. These past years the mantel fell on Gingrich, who is now what passes for an intellectual in republican circles. So yeah it’s definitely getting worse, or not as the case may be.

    • sailor1031

      Oh, Oh – Freudian slip! Mantle not mantel

  • vinnyjh57

    If O’Reilly or Hannity were accused of being pro-Nazi, I think they could get away with threatening to punch someone in the face. Also recall that in the 1960′s, “queer” could still be used to mean “weird” or “odd” in a general sense. Although Buckley no doubt intended it to mean “homosexual,” which was a common connotation (if not the most common connotation), he would have had more wiggle room than someone who threatened to “punch a queer” today.

    • vinnyjh57

      I would also note that Buckley was a consistent critic of some of the most reactionary elements on the right of his day like the John Birch Society whereas today’s conservative commentators pander shamelessly to the worst elements in the Tea Party.

  • davidjanes

    Based on that, not only do I suspect that America’s conservative commentator’s haven’t gotten any worse, they’ve gotten marginally less vile.

    Extrapolating from a sample size of one? Really?

  • Marcus Ranum

    I saw that video ages ago and all I could think was that Buckley’s mannerisms were a parody of British upper-class mannerisms, as interpreted by someone really crude. He was, of course, someone who would hardly have been admitted into the establishment; a typical boot-licker.

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