Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal

Directed By; Robert Gordon • Morgan Neville

Media Ranch • Tremolo Productions 2015

Upon watching Best of Enemies: Buckley vs. Vidal the overt message was clear. That the faultlines of chasm between the public present day were formed in 1968 on ABC News’ coverage of William F Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal’s debates at both the Republican and Democratic Conventions. Between the 11 times the two went head to head, the societal techtonic shifts of ideological war had been put into motion.

While neither were politicians, their debates represented ground-zero for our modern-day societal hysteria that has not only affected the general public, but now also lends itself to the political sphere as well. This clash of the titans of mutual antipathy between a then new and burgeoning neo-conservative ideology and a Bohemian and unconventional one is brilliant in it’s appeal. Both parties were equally strong in their own rights and, while both parties make great points, you ultimately see the debates descend into seething hate and disgust. In patrician accents their tongues become sharp enough to cut while Vietnam protests and riots were happening around the ampitheatre of the DC in Chicago.

At one point Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” to which Buckley snaps —- “Listen to me you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in the goddamn face and you’ll stay plastered.” The film is a well edited piece of history with intermittent interviews from historians and relatives. This piece is highly recommended from the standpoint of understanding the origins of American punditry in all of its horrendous glory. ABC’s utilitarian approach to hyperbole became cemented in the media through the viewership of Goldwater Republicans and indignant hippies. Nothing has changed much and I don’t know whether that’s sad or hilarious. Suffice to say, this documentary can be watched multiple times in succession and it stands as a blueprint for American division for the sake of Nielsen ratings.


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