Getting It Wrong: With His Latest Novel, William F. Buckley Continues His Effort to Rewrite History to His Liking, This Time Targeting the John Birch Society. (Conservatism)

By Grigg, William Norman | The New American, March 10, 2003 | Go to article overview

Getting It Wrong: With His Latest Novel, William F. Buckley Continues His Effort to Rewrite History to His Liking, This Time Targeting the John Birch Society. (Conservatism)


Grigg, William Norman, The New American


Sliders, a mid-1990s science fiction TV series, was built on a mildly provocative premise: What if the reality we inhabit branches off into myriad alternative universes? Each would involve a recognizable version of our present world, but as a result of small but critical developments sometime in the past, each alternate reality would differ from the others.

In some cases, the variations were subtle; in others, they were quite dramatic. But in every case the resulting alternate reality shaped up in some way as a caricature of reality as we presently experience it. Getting It Right, William F. Buckley's most recent novel, presents a Sliders-style depiction of the postwar American conservative movement, particularly that involving the John Birch Society (JBS). In this case, the small but critical distortions of history that created the novel's alternate reality resulted from the author's dishonesty, rather than from some kind of random anomaly in the space-time continuum.

Faux History

Buckley weaves authentic historical events and characters into a fictional narrative focusing on two young characters-Woodroe Raynor, who joins the JBS shortly after its 1958 founding; and Leonora Goldstein, who enlists in Ayn Rand's Objectivist movement. The personal experiences of Raynor and Goldstein are meant to illustrate the supposedly dangerous trends within the conservative movement during the late 1950s and early 1960s. The novel's climax depicts the "final renunciation of the John Birch Society under Robert Welch," led by Buckley's National Review magazine.

Buckley clearly intends his little novel to be read as authentic history. Indeed, he enlisted historian Sam Tanenhaus to provide a cover blurb pronouncing Getting It Right "a major contribution to the historiography of postwar American conservatism," particularly the "crisis" triggered by the emergence of "two symmetrical extremist forces depicted vividly here in the characters of Robert Welch and Ayn Rand." According to Tanenhaus, the "unintended interlocking collaboration" between the JBS and Rand-inspired libertarianism "looked for a time as if it might pitch the Right into permanent oblivion; instead the crisis was met and mastered into a mature, nuanced conservative movement."

The true hero of Buckley's novel, accordingly, is Buckley himself, who makes several brief appearances therein.

Getting It Right is the most recent in a series of historical novels by Buckley that began with 1999's The Redhunter, a pseudobiography of Senator Joseph McCarthy. The next year Buckley published Spytime: The Undoing of James Jesus Angleton, and last year brought Nuremberg: The Reckoning. Each of these volumes has added critical details to Buckley's Sliders-style alternate reality.

Although he began his public career defending Senator McCarthy, Buckley used Redhunter to defame the senator and misrepresent the historical facts about his investigations. *

James Angleton, the target in Spytime, headed the CIA's counterintelligence division until he was forced to retire in 1974. Angleton had enraged the Establishment by advocating the views of Soviet KGB defector Anatoliy Golitsyn. After defecting in 1961, Golitsyn warned that the Soviets had insinuated moles into strategic positions in Western intelligence agencies and were engaged in a long-term campaign of "strategic deception" against the West.

In the early 1980s, Golitsyn made a series of uncanny predictions about the advent of Perestroika and subsequent developments in the Soviet Bloc, nearly all of which have come true. The cases of CIA counterintelligence operative Aldrich Ames and FBI counterintelligence agent Robert Hannsen--both of whom were caught spying for the Soviets--further validated Golitsyn's reliability.

In the mid-1970s, Buckley--a "former" CIA operative trained in "deep cover" operations--was approached by Angleton and asked to ghostwrite a book on behalf of Golitsyn.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Getting It Wrong: With His Latest Novel, William F. Buckley Continues His Effort to Rewrite History to His Liking, This Time Targeting the John Birch Society. (Conservatism)
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.