Most people have forgotten about the debates between William F Buckley and Gore Vidal. They were riveting television for the intellectual and political classes and turned into entertainment for the masses. They are legendary in the Gay community for Buckley calling Vidal a “queer” on national television in 1968.
Many people see these debates as the beginning of the loss of civility in public political conversations. I see them as the beginning of the end of civility, in general, when two such famously civilized men acted this way in public.
Some would say they were also, to a degree, the precursor to the Alexis/Crystal battles on “Dynasty” some years later. A Cat Fight Supreme….
And it was the beginning of the move towards confrontational, partisan “journalism” that poisons the airwaves today by focusing more on entertainment value and opinions than on presenting facts.
But, I loved Gore Vidal and his writing.
And I can’t wait to see this documentary!
Review From Michael M. Grynbaum in the New York Times:
Before partisan panels, split-screen shoutfests and brash personalities became ubiquitous on cable news, there were two men who despised each other sitting side by side on a drab soundstage, debating politics in prime time during the presidential nominating conventions of 1968. There were Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley Jr.
Literary aristocrats and ideological foes, Vidal and Buckley attracted millions of viewers to what, at the time, was a highly irregular experiment: the spectacle of two brilliant minds slugging it out — once, almost literally — on live television. It was witty, erudite and ultimately vicious, an early intrusion of full-contact punditry into the staid pastures of the evening news.
What transpired would alter both men’s lives — and, as a new documentary argues, help change the course of how the American political media reports the news. “Best of Enemies,” which opens July 31, makes the case that their on-screen feuding opened the floodgates for today’s opinionated, conflict-driven coverage.
And here is the Trailer: