In The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp, a traditional 1943 film that traces, in slightly allegorical fashion, half a century’s advancement in England’s national character, the starlet Deborah Kerr plays a series of roles that represent altering incarnations of the perfect British woman. Were a similar technicolor love to represent America’s nationwide character over the previous 7 years, the right would be represented by a series of characters all named L. Brent Bozell.
In our movie’s dramatic climax, L. Brent Bozell IV (” Zeeker” to his good friends) is displayed in a red baseball cap and blue sweatshirt lettered “ Hershey Christian Academy” (with which, that institution ensures us, Zeeker is not associated) amidst a mad crowd shouting “treason!” inside a deserted Senate chamber. The National Evaluation brand of motion conservatism, launched 76 years earlier under the joint stewardship of Zeeker’s namesake grandad and his great-uncle William F. Buckley, Jr. with the admonition to stand “athwart history, shouting Stop,” now dissolves into violent insurrection as an FBI representative charges Zeeker with disorderly conduct. Fade to black, roll credits.
But maybe we need to start at the beginning.
The founding L. Brent Bozell, in his time, really passed the much less pretentious name Leo B. Bozell (1886-1946). Leo began as a paper press reporter in Wichita, Kansas, increased to become city editor of The Omaha News, and in 1921 cofounded Bozell & Jacobs, an advertising agency that represented Nebraska Power, Mutual of Omaha, and Boys Town, with a fellow newspaperman. It was Leo and his partner, Morris Jacobs, who advised Daddy Edward J. Flanagan to call his shelter “Boys Town” and after that encouraged MGM to make a movie about the place. Bozell & Jacobs also branded Boys Town with the motto, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother,” a phrase so ageless that in 1969 the Hollies would turn it into a struck tune
When Leo Bozell passed away at 59, he was a rich man and a pillar of Omaha’s company neighborhood. His advertising agency had workplaces in Omaha, Indianapolis, Dallas, Houston, and Shreveport. Bozell’s New York City Times obituary described him as past president of the Omaha Chamber of Commerce, a lieutenant colonel in the Nebraska State Guard, a leader of Community Chest and Red Cross campaigns, and a vestryman of St. Barnabas Episcopal Church. That’s basically what it suggested to be an American conservative throughout the very first half of the twentieth century. Still, Leo and his wife were Democrats and remained so after Franklin Roosevelt became president.
L. Brent Bozell, Jr. (1926-1997) grew up in higher comfort than his dad. Where Leo had attended the University of Kansas in Lawrence, his boy, who passed “Brent,” went to a Jesuit prep school in Omaha, where he won a $4,000 scholarship for a speech that called Roosevelt’s New Deal “totalitarian.” After a The second world war detour into the Merchant Marine, Brent registered at Yale, signed up with the debate group, became best friends with William F. Buckley, transformed to Catholicism, and gathered bachelor’s and law degrees. Falling, with Buckley, under the impact of the conservative political researcher Willmoore Kendall, Brent became president of the Yale Political Union as a self-declared conservative and quit his vestigial commitment to world federalism. The list below year, he wed Buckley’s sis Patricia. (I’m indebted for these information to the 2014 bio Surviving On Fire: The Life of L. Brent Bozell, Jr. by Daniel Kelly.)
In 1954, Brent and Buckley published a book titled McCarthy and His Enemies that concluded a “case-by-case breakdown” of McCarthy’s accusations “plainly renders a verdict extremely favorable”— a judgment that even then was so plainly incorrect that it could just have been reached by 2 exceptionally intense young men in love with disputation. Brent then recommended to his conservative publisher, Henry Regnery, that he follow up with a book proposing that the U.S. start a war with the Soviet Union, which had actually established a nuclear