Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Week: Sam Fragoso- 'How The Riveting Vidal v. Buckley Debates Paved The Way For an Era of Idiotic TV Punditry'

Source:The Week- William F. Buckley debating Gore Vidal on ABC News, at the 1968 Republican National Convention, in Miami Florida.
"This summer, the silver screen has been dominated by microscopic superheroes, prodigious dinosaurs, sexually uninhibited trainwrecks, and gyrating strippers — you know, the usual summertime fare. But the most entertaining film released this summer revolves around something different: a pair of loquacious, Anglo-Saxon intellectuals who wanted nothing more than to extinguish one another on public television.

Directed with precision and panache by journalists-turned-documentarians Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon, Best of Enemies begins in the spring of 1968 with a failing network desperate for viewership. With nothing to lose, ABC — dubbed the "budget car rental of television news” by New York's Frank Rich — settled on an unconventional approach to the Republican and Democratic conventions. The plan? Put William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal, two ideologically opposed scholars, in front of a live an audience to do what they do best: debate.

Hailed as the "St. Paul of the conservative movement," Buckley (founder of National Review) served as the voice of the right. Conversely, Vidal, an esteemed author and consummate provocateur, represented the left. As Best of Enemies meticulously documents, this mercenary ploy for higher ratings led to riveting television. For 10 debates, Buckley and Vidal engaged in vigorous, often pointed dialogue about the problems plaguing America, from the Vietnam War to the marginalization of the poor. But the real draw, some might argue, was that these conversations often dovetailed into vindictive ad-hominem attacks. The heated tête-à-têtes weren't just about Richard Nixon, or the overreach of the federal government, or any other hotly contested issue. They were about personal domination. Vidal and Buckley didn't simply want to outsmart each other; they wanted to pummel the other into submission." 

You can read the rest of Sam Frasgoso's piece at The Week

"In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult—their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed. And a new era in public discourse was born."  

Source:Movie Clips- William F. Buckley debating Gore Vidal on ABC News, at the 1968 Republican National Convention, in Miami Florida.

From Movie Clips 

I think people need to be careful when they compare with Bill Buckley-Gore Vidal debates with modern partisan talk TV where the host of some so-called news talk show has a clear political slant and simply brings on guests to back up what they are already saying. And when they do bring on an alternative point of view, they cut the person off every time the guest contradicts the host. 

Buckley-Vidal, is not Bill O’Reilly, or Rachel Maddow. Buckley-Vidal, is also not the old CNN Crossfire either where you would have 2-4 all talking at the same time and not knowing what someone else on that show said during the whole debate. Because they were too busy spilling hot air out of the big fat mouth.

The Buckley-Vidal debates, were between two men who hated each other and yet respected each other enough to hear what the other said and actually think about what they said before they tried responding to them. These debates were sort of like the Kennedy-Nixon debates of 1960 where the two leading presidential nominees, were at the top of their game and knew exactly what they thought and wanted to do and what their opponents knew as well. And actually listened to each other.

The only placed that would put on a Buckley-Vidal debate, or that type of talk and debating show, would be PBS, or C-SPAN because the rest of the country when they get home from work, are only interested in mindless entertainment, like so-called realty TV and the other tabloid shows, for the most part. And if they’re going to watch something that presents itself as news, it has to be entertaining. Because if it isn’t, they fall asleep on the couch from watching it, because getting something out of a real news show, or news magazine, or documentary, requires actual thinking. And not thinking about which jail their current favorite celebrity is currently being held at.

The Buckley-Vidal debates, weren’t supposed to be that. They were brought on by ABC News, Bill Buckley and Gore Vidal to offer opposite points of view from the other about the 1968 Republican and Democratic national conventions. 

I guess ABC News, was small, or cheap, that they couldn’t afford a research staff because if they did their homework they would’ve known that Buckley and Vidal hated each other. ABC News’s lead news anchor Howard K. Smith, was supposed to moderate their discussion, but he acted more like a U.S. Senate presiding officer, (sorry for the Congressional joke) than a moderator. Because Buckley and Vidal did all the talking. But it made for every entertaining as well as intelligent TV. 

You can also see this post at FreeState Now, on Blogger.

1 comment:

  1. You can also see this post at FreeState Now: on Blogger.


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John F. Kennedy Liberal Democrat

John F. Kennedy Liberal Democrat
Source: U.S. Senator John F. Kennedy in 1960