John Ganz returns to discuss William F. Buckley's 1992 book "In Search of Anti-Semitism."
In a 1991, William F. Buckley, Jr. dedicated almost an entire issue of National Review to an essay entitled "In Search of Anti-Semitism." In its pages, Buckley attempted to adjudicate a conflict that was then roiling America's right wing intelligentsia — over whether two of its leading lights, Pat Buchanan and Joseph Sobran, were guilty of antisemitism in their syndicated columns and speeches. (Never one to miss an opportunity to antagonize an enemy or blame the left, Buckley threw in Gore Vidal for good measure.) The article, despite its meandering prose and fuzzy-headed conclusions, sparked an enormous response from NR's readership, some of whom felt Buckley was too hard on Pat and Joe, others who thought he was not hard enough.
The following year, Buckley combined the essay, several of the responses, and a few new thoughts of his own... and sold it as a "book." And thirty-one years later, we read that book — carefully — and recorded a podcast about it with our friend John Ganz, author of the forthcoming book, When the Clock Broke, about the derangement of American politics in the 1990s. (You can pre-order it here. It's sure to be excellent).
Unfortunately for us all, In Search of Anti-Semitism is not a good book; it's hardly a book at all. But it is a fascinating artifact of a fleeting post-Cold War moment in which conservatives furtively faced their own demons — before turning right back around.
For those interested, here is the link mentioned in the episode's introduction for tickets to Dissent's 70th anniversary event later this month.
William F. Buckley Jr., In Search of Anti-Semitism (1992)
John Ganz, "The Year the Clock Broke," The Baffler, Nov 2018
Joshua Muravchik, "Pat Buchanan and the Jews," Commentary, Jan 1991
Matthew Sitman, "There Will Be No Buckley Revival," Commonweal, July 2015
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