Right, I know, he just died so we have to pretend we did not loath him for a least two weeks. But I have the sense that William Buckley would not give me that courtesy, so forget that.
I am reminded that Buckley is often quoted as having said words to these effect:
I would rather be governed by the first 2000 people in the Boston telephone directory than by the 2000 people on the faculty at Harvard University.
What a dummy.
The most recent instance in which I’ve seen the man with my own eyes, and heard him with my own ears, saying this (on TV, not in real life … because he’s dead and all) was moments ago on Meet the Press. Tim was replaying an old MTP tape from October 17th, 1965. In that tape, Buckley says what I quoted above, but he precedes it with the phrase “I’m often quoted as having said.” … so, since he was quoting himself, I suppose we cannot be sure of the exact phrasing, but you get the point.
I heard this quote for the first time in the 1980s when I was at Harvard, and of course I could not leave it alone. Now, what you have to understand is that it is well known that this was not simply a dig on Harvard, but also, a racist remark disparaging of the Irish. “The Boston Phone Book” is a euphemism for the “Hoards of Irish Immigrants and their Spawn.” So, Buckley was saying that he would prefer to have the our society managed by a random selection of subhuman and presumably inebriated Irishmen than the Harvard Liberal Establishment. This is clear.
(I’m reminded of a similar remark made by the intellectual leader of the Minnesota Independence Party, Jesse The Body Ventura, in reference to Saint Paul. Jesse claimed that the streets of Saint Paul were laid out by a gang of drunk Irishmen.)
So, when I heard this back then, I had a look at the first 2000 names in the Boston Phone book that were people (the white pages do include non-humans) to see what I could see. I found two things.
First, there are no Irish people listed in the Boston Phone Book’s first 2000 humans. ‘A’ is a very uncommon name for an Irish person. ‘A,’ however, does begin a lot of other names, like Aaron, Abrams, Abramson, and so on. In other words, Aleph isn’t just a Hebrew letter handy for crossword puzzles. ‘A’ starting a last name was, at least back in the 1980s, commonly correlated with being Jewish in Boston.
Given the moderately disproportionate share of Jews on the Harvard faculty in those days, I could have guessed that there would be a disproportionate share of Harvard Faculty members among those 2000 names. But I checked anyway.
This turns out to be difficult, as I recall, because a lot of people have similar or identical names, especially when many use only a first initial or two. I was unable to establish very many direct connections with total certainty (there were a number of faculty that I knew, and knew where they lived), but I do remember that when I reached 30 matches (in name, not necessarily an exact person match) between the two phone books, at just under 200 listings, I stopped, comfortable with a 10 percent sample and the knowledge that Buckley was a dork.
I should add this, however: When Buckley first made these remarks, back in the 1960s there were probably not quite as many Jews on the Harvard faculty. I suspect the British still had a stronger hold on that particular institution, but I can’t be sure.
Anybody out there have an old phone book collection handy?