“now listen you queer!”: the origins of contemporary political punditry

I just watched Best of Enemies, a great film about the rivalry between William Buckley and Gore Vidal that was most famously captured in this scene:

A subsequent exchange of words in high brow magazines then led to an exchange of lawsuits. I’ve been fascinated by this video since I first came across it. However until watching Best of Enemies, I hadn’t realised how central the debates that led to this scene was to the emergence of contemporary political punditry.

ABC television had instituted this format as they attempted to assert themselves against better established rivals, lacking both the standards and budgets of other networks. These debates, as well as their repetition for the later Democratic convention, were a huge success in ratings terms and laid the ground for a slide into the superficial and polemical which characterises so much of contemporary coverage of politics.

Categories: Mediated Matters

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