Ed Driscoll

The More Things Change

In the mid 1990s, a popular destination on the nascent World Wide Web was a quiz asking “Did Al Gore say it? Or was it the Unabomber?” Its successor is now online: Professor or hobo — you make the call!

Also on the Web, and free for members of Amazon Prime, is this 1966 edition of William F. Buckley’s Firing Line, with his guest, David Susskind. Hosting his own talk show, surrounded by his fellow liberals, Susskind could be a charming man — a 1970 edition of his show, with guests including Mel Brooks, David Steinberg and George Segal debating the topic of “How to be a Jewish Son” is an hour of absolute blackout comedy. But having to defend his worldview with Buckley, Susskind comes across as coarse, brittle and hectoring. (And Buckley returns the favor with acid wit, remarking, “Mr. Susskind is a staunch liberal. If there were a contest for the title Mr. Eleanor Roosevelt, he would unquestionably win it” — a reminder of how Buckley’s show earned its name, in contradistinction to WFB’s much more courtly later reputation.)

But what’s really fascinating are how the same topics we explore today in the Blogosphere were current in 1966 as well, and were batted back by Susskind with the same circular logic the left uses today: No, there’s no bias in the media at all. But if there is, it’s only because we don’t want to appeal to you troglodytic  conservatives. No, there’s no indoctrination in college, none at all. But if there is, it’s only to prevent students from becoming like you cretinous reactionaries. And hey, was the half-Jewish small government admiring Barry Goldwater a total National Socialist, or what?

Though one thing has changed: Susskind intimates to Buckley that conservatism was a spent force after Goldwater was defeated in ’64. Today’s GOP? Doing remarkably well on a national level, despite the failure of its (infinitely more moderate) presidential candidate last year.