But Some of My Best Friends …

Someone, 20 years ago, suggested a discreet tattoo the site [sic, or pun] of which would alert the prospective partner to the danger of proceeding as had been planned. But the author of the idea was treated as though he had been schooled in Buchenwald, and the idea was not widely considered, but maybe it is up now for reconsideration.

— from “Killers at Large: AIDS Carriers and Their Victims” by William F. Buckley Jr., National Review Online, Feb. 19, 2005


  1. book/daddy says

    Bravo, Jeff, I was thinking the same thing yesterday while hearing and reading all of the eulogies for the generous, erudite, entertaining, pioneering William Buckley, especially Sam Tanenhaus’ defense of Buckley on NRP. Tanenhaus pointed out that, yes, Buckley initially opposed the civil rights movement, partly out of his ‘old South’ background (his father was from Texas, his mother from New Orleans) and partly from Buckley’s opposition to top-down “statist” solutions imposed on people by the government. But Buckley changed, Tanenhaus said, when he came to see civil rights as an expansion of the civil liberties that Buckley, as a libertarian, cherished.
    This has become conservative doctrine — how to distinguish Buckley’s smart conservative thinking (which led to Reagan) from the hate-filled, stick-in-mud, small-minded conservatism of Robert Taft. OK. So why the complete lack of reference in any eulogy I could find to Buckley’s famous exchange with Gore Vidal in the ’60s? Buckley may well have been the first person to call someone a “queer” on national television, and he meant it as a slur. Buckley did just get called a “crypto-Nazi” by Vidal (who later corrected it to “crypto-fascist”) and this was during the 1968 Democratic convention riot, so tensions were running high. Given the circumstances, a blurted insult could perhaps be understood.
    But can the argument be made that Buckley eventually came to recognize, once again, his own prejudice as prejudice and see civil rights extend to gays?
    No, precisely for the reason you cite. Almost exactly 20 years later, Buckley suggested tattooing people with HIV — and didn’t see any echo of the Holocaust until people angrily objected to his proposal. Even his later recounting of the incident (which you quote) indicates he thought the anger was undeserved and the proposal well worth “reconsidering.”
    Crypto-fascist, indeed.