". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Best of Enemies (2015)

The film, Best of Enemies (2015), documents and puts into historical context the importance of the Gore Vidal - William Buckley feud via the televised debates of 1968.

One of these two men considered 'feline' a term of opprobrium.  One did not.
Part of the argument made by Buckley's friends and family (they think he's a political warrior hero, while Vidal is beneath contempt) is that Buckley founded in The National Review the 'philosophical' foundation and the platform from which to launch the extremism -- though they see the extremism to be those others over there, not themselves --  are presently experiencing. They believe, or at least believe Buckley believed, that his philosophy and his movement were necessary in order to take back the country from the sewer FDR, the Reds and the Civil Rights Movement had made of it.

He liked cats.  Dogs, too.

This viewer's viewpoint differs with theirs.

Moreover this viewer, with caveats for the historical untruths that Vidal preferred or perhaps wasn't even self-aware of holding, continues to admire Vidal's attempts to write American history as fiction in his series of novels collectively known as Narratives of Empire, from the era of Burr, Hamilton and Jefferson through WWII. In all of them he always included the the primary role played in political and historical events by media, from the newspapers and anonymously funded broadsides of Jefferson's day, to radio, movies and television in the later books.

Almost everyone, however, involved with this documentary, does agree that the Vidal-Buckley ABC debates at the 1968 nominating conventions (R-Miami; D-Chicago) opened the floodgates to celebrity names fighting on television, hosts saying the most provocative of incitements to actions of violence, and calling it 'news.'  However, some others think that it had already begun with Buckley himself and his "Firing Line."

Bonus -- views of Vidal's spectacular cliff side Ravello home on the Amalfi coast of Italy

Recommended for anyone with the least bit of interest in media and U.S. history. Just watching the scenes of the Chicago cops going off on helpless, unarmed people -- coupled with the mentions of Buckley's sense that the very idea of a Civil Rights Movement was appalling and beyond the pale -- shows just how much where we are now was already there, ready to explode through all the media and politics.

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