Friday, December 10, 2004

Column David Brudnoy, RIP

David Brudnoy, RIP

Tibor R. Machan

Boston, Mass., will never be the same. David Brudnoy, its most
intelligent and high spirited talk show personality, who broadcast from
WBZ-AM, died of skin cancer, at age 64, on December 9th, after a career
in various branches of journalism and media work.

I have a very special spot in my heart for David, who was the first one
to review my very first book, The Pseudo Science of B. F. Skinner, just
after it appeared in 1974, in the pages of National Review, where he was
an editor at the time. We became friends shortly thereafter, sometimes
linking up at one or another of the many libertarian-conservative

David was a loyal champion of human liberty all his life, moving
gradually from attempting to educate Republicans and conservatives about
how they ought to be more principled in their defense of the FoundersÂ?
vision, to eventually embracing the libertarian alternative outright. He
taught several courses at the John F. Kennedy School of Government and
indeed he was kind enough to invite me to lecture in one of his classes on
the nature of human rights when I was still teaching back in Fredonia, New
York. (Incidentally, such an invitation did a young professorÂ?s career a
world of good, given how the academy is mired in the nearly blind worship
of prestige!)

It was after I gave this lecture to a bunch of top of the line Harvard
students that I figured out the main difference between my students back
in Fredonia and those at CambridgeÂ?self-confidence. None at Harvard began
a question to me, following my presentation, with Â?This may be a stupid
question.Â? They all Â?knewÂ? their questions had merit, whereas my students,
who asked questions of equal substance, always tended to apologize.

Later, when David became the host of his own radio programÂ?in addition to
being a reviewer on, I believe, BostonÂ?s PBS television stationÂ?he made
absolutely no bones about his devotion to human liberty. Despite being in
the center of modern liberal, welfare statist academic (as well as public)
opinion, David pulled no punches but championed free minds and free
markets on the air whenever he could.

So when I began to get some more of my work published in books, David
immediately took the opportunity to have me on his program and the two of
us went at discussing the fallacies of statism. His audience was vastÂ?in
the end reaching 38 states and Eastern CanadaÂ?and he and his guests would
receive calls from every nook and cranny of the country. It was a delight
to sit across from him in the studio and interact with a pretty formidable
radio audience comprised of both severe critics and enthusiastic
supporters of the free society.

David had a style about him that was both firm and gracious, so those
with whom he disagreed seemed very rarely to get mad at him even though he
shut some of them off once they proved to be insufferably thickheaded. He
was openly gay from I cannot remember what year and suffered from AIDS
without, however, succumbing to the illness even after a couple of very
close calls. As a gay man, libertarian, and highly cultured individual he
was also a cosmopolitan and someone who believed that individual liberty
is for everyone, including for homophobes who would not extend the same
civilized attitude toward him.

Although David grew up close to the budding conservative movement led by
William F. Buckley, Jr., he wasnÂ?t bitter about how so many millions of
supposedly pro-American conservatives betrayed their loyalty to the
FounderÂ?s vision by urging homophobic laws and regulations or the war on
drugs everywhere. David detested, mostly philosophically, such
duplicitousness, yet dealt with those exhibiting it most cordially. (It
must have been agonizing for his adversaries to be treated so decently,
when they often lashed out at him with open venom.)

David BrudnoyÂ?s memoirs, Life Is Not A Rehearsal (Bantam, 1997), is a
wonderful, racy and cheerful account of his adventuresome life. It conveys
how one can fare well even in a world in which all too many people wish
one ill.

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