William F. Buckley’s Brilliance Remains Uncut

News of a “liberal” price cut on the late William F. Buckley, Jr.’s Manhattan flat in today’s New York Times provides reason enough to remember the iconic author/editor’s brilliance. Who was cooler? Who had more compelling presence on the global stage? And, who, perhaps most memorably, was unafraid to take on others whose views he felt were wrong. Exhibit A: Gore Vidal. Buckley’s take-down-- “stop calling me a Crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the God-damned face—and you’ll stay plastered”—remind of us another, perhaps more Salingeresque, era in public political discourse.

It was just over a year ago thatVanity Fair’s Bob Colacello wrote about Buckley’s memorial service; Henry Kissinger spoke.


At St. Patrick’s the faithful responded to Kissinger’s emotion-choked eulogy with sustained applause. “Bill Buckley inspired a political movement that changed American politics,” the former secretary of state intoned. “He founded the National Review that, for over a generation, has shaped American political discussion; he hosted an influential talk show [Firing Line] for 30 years; he wrote an elegant column. Every year, he authored a beautifully written novel; in what passed for his spare time, he produced several nonfiction works and delivered over 50 lectures annually. He was a passionate skier, an accomplished harpsichordist, and a daring sailor. He wrote as Mozart composed, by inspiration; he never needed a second draft … this noble, gentle, and valiant man who was truly touched by the grace of God.”

Though Buckley’s brother the former senator James Buckley and sister the retired National Review managing editor Priscilla Buckley read from the Bible, Christopher Buckley was the only other eulogist. After quoting Hamlet—“I shall not look upon his like again”—and calling his father “the world’s coolest mentor,” Christopher concluded, “This afternoon I’ll make one last trip up there [to Stamford] to bury him.… I shall place in his coffin his favorite rosary, the TV remote control—private joke—a jar of peanut butter, and my mother’s ashes.”

Peanut Butter. Buckley loved peanut butter, and apparently commissioned his own private batch. What we miss about him is his unabashed confidence in what was right, and whether one agreed with him or not, one had to admit: he never wavered according to trend, he never wavered from the line of argument he felt was the right one for America. This strain of patriotism is worth something, even now. Try to name a public intellectual with his charm and mind. Just try.

​There are two kinds of failure – but only one is honorable

Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
  • At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less
Photo by Alina Grubnyak on Unsplash
Mind & Brain

Do human beings have a magnetic sense? Biologists know other animals do. They think it helps creatures including bees, turtles and birds navigate through the world.

Keep reading Show less

The culprit of increased depression among teens? Smartphones, new research suggests.

A new study, led by psychologist Jean Twenge, points to the screen as the problem.

A teenager eyes her smartphone as people enjoy a warm day on the day of silence, one day prior to the presidential elections, when candidates and political parties are not allowed to voice their political meaning on April 14, 2018 in Kotor, Montenegro. Citizens from Montenegro, the youngest NATO member, will vote for a new president on Sunday 15 2018. (Photo by Pierre Crom/Getty Images)
Surprising Science
  • In a new study, adolescents and young adults are experiencing increased rates of depression and suicide attempts.
  • The data cover the years 2005–2017, tracking perfectly with the introduction of the iPhone and widespread dissemination of smartphones.
  • Interestingly, the highest increase in depressive incidents was among individuals in the top income bracket.
Keep reading Show less

U.S. reacts to New Zealand's gun ban

On Thursday, New Zealand moved to ban an array of semi-automatic guns and firearms components following a mass shooting that killed 50 people.

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Gun control supporters are pointing to the ban as an example of swift, decisive action that the U.S. desperately needs.
  • Others note the inherent differences between the two nations, arguing that it is a good thing that it is relatively hard to pass such legislation in such a short timeframe.
  • The ban will surely shape future conversations about gun control in the U.S.
Keep reading Show less