It looks like Time magazine has dispensed with the quaint custom of showing at least a little respect for the recently deceased. This story by Richard Corliss begins a long sneer in the direction of William F. Buckley, Jr. starting with its very title, "William F. Buckley: Mandarin of Right-Wing TV." From that low point, Corliss continues his descent into his ill-mannered septic tank as he blames Buckley for inspiring what Corliss describes as "partisan political harangue as infotainment" following an appearance on the Jack Paar show in 1962:
Few viewers realized that those two evenings 46 years ago would birth a durable TV genre: the partisan political harangue as infotainment. The Left, in Vidal's image, never took hold, but Buckley soon set up shop at PBS, of all places, hosting the primordial political chat show Firing Line. From that, and from Buckley's blithe, castrating wit, a horde of right-wing radio spielers and Fox News ideologues, not to mention the Manichean shouters on The McLaughlin Report and many a Sunday panel show.
Corliss continues his attack on Buckley by suggesting that he was a trickster whose goal was to win a debate at all costs:
His manner suggested that he was 100% right — right as in correct — and all who opposed him were fools or brigands. It's an old debater's trick, and he was the master debater. Like another '60s icon, Vince Lombardi, he believed that winning was the only thing. Your rival is not to be charmed so much as crushed.
How about the trick of attacking an opponent when he is no longer alive to answer back, Corliss? The poison pen Time writer continues his attack upon the recently deceased by suggesting that Buckley inspired the right to win in the battle of ideas with mere showmanship:
For a while, the tactic didn't win Buckley many adherents. But it worked in the long run. As the conservative movement took hold, thanks in large part to his biweekly magazine National Review, conservatives began to speak out more forcefully, belligerently, confidently. By the '80s they had most of the smarties, while liberals still wallowed in position-paper platitudes. What had the right learned from Buckley? The importance of showmanship.
Corliss, when not kicking dirt into Buckley's grave, takes a few potshots at other conservatives such as by mischaracterizing Rush Limbaugh as some mere loudmouthed redneck:
None, though, had Buckley's strangely seductive, amusingly upper-class persona. In tone and aplomb, he was Leslie Howard to Rush Limbaugh's Larry the Cable Guy, a caviar-and-truffles type to Sean Hannity's Lunchpail Joe. In that sense, Buckley was a throwback even before the 1960s, to a breed of would-be royalists stranded in the tight-lipped New World. The anglophilia of this well-off son of Irish immigrants made him an anachronistic figure of fun when he ran for Mayor of New York City — the voters preferred earthy sorts like Ed Koch to Buckley's Edward VIII airs — and a pleasant anachronism in his later career as conservative elder statesman, his orotundity drowned out by the noise of the Limbaughs.
Corliss concludes with a parting "right-wing" shot at Buckley:
But that only proved Buckley's importance as a political and cultural innovator. His ear-catching right-wing eloquence would never have gone out of style if he hadn't been successful in creating it.
One can't help but wonder if William F. Buckley is somewhere out there, reading the Corliss hit piece with bemusement. An impish grin on his face and a twinkle in his eyes as he prepares to deliver a devasting Buckleyan riposte with his "ear-catching right-wing eloquence."
UPDATE: In addition to his juvenile sneering at William F. Buckley, Jr., Richard Corliss is as lacking in facts as he is in decent manners. Neither of Buckley's parents were Irish immigrants. Both were born in America. His mother was not only not an Irish immigrant but was of Swiss-German descent. Buckely did not run against Ed Koch for mayor in 1965. In fact, Koch didn't run for mayor of New York until 1977.