Both America and The American Spectator have lost a friend and an important conservative intellectual: Peter Collier. He quietly passed away a week ago, on November 1, in a hospital in Sacramento, with little fanfare and insufficient public acknowledgment. He was 80 years old and suffered the last several months from leukemia.
The New York Times, to its credit, carried a respectful and gracious obituary, referring to Collier as a “prolific writer who midway into his career made a high-profile ideological shift from left to right, becoming a leading conservative voice as well as a publisher of others.”
He did indeed. The former co-editor of the radical ’60s screed Ramparts magazine, along with his partner David Horowitz, made a major public shift to the political right in the 1980s, leaving the ’60s generation for the Reagan generation. Collier would go on to write many notable articles and books after his shift, as he had before his shift — particularly his histories of families like the Rockefellers, the Kennedys, the Fords. He became founding editor of the excellent conservative publishing house, Encounter Books, which has given us many good books over the last two decades. But above all, it was Peter and David’s move from left to right that fascinated the Left and Right alike. In March 1985, Collier and Horowitz came out as “Lefties for Reagan” — the title of a popular piece they penned together for the Washington Post. They wrote at length about their ideological sojourn in a major book in 1989.
Readers of The American Spectator were no strangers to Peter Collier. Here we offer two pieces from our archives as reminiscences.
The first piece, “Ollie über Alles,” is an April 1992 review by Peter Collier of filmmaker Oliver Stone’s conspiracy flick, JFK. Collier, like other sensible Americans, was no fan of the film or of Oliver Stone. “Fascism has always been the charge implicit in Stone’s work, although until now it has been the word that dare not speak its name,” averred Collier. “In JFK he finally musters the courage. The movie is only superficially about the death of a president. Its real subject is the fascist state we have been living in for the last twenty-eight years.”
The second piece is a review of Peter Collier’s and David Horowitz’s landmark 1989 book explaining why they left the Left. That book, Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the Sixties, was reviewed in our August 1989 issue by George Szamuely, a former editor of the Times Literary Supplement.
We hope readers will enjoy these two throwbacks from our archives — our tribute to the good work of an influential thinker who will be missed.