On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Howard Baker Center presented students with the PBS documentary Best of Enemies alongside East Tennessee Public Television.
Stuart Brotman, Howard Distinguished Endowed Professor of Media Management and Law, UT College of Communication and Information and Journalism & Electronic Media, introduced the film and provided commentary.
Best of Enemies covered the fabled rivalry between liberal, Gore Vidal, and conservative, William F. Buckley, Jr. The documentary gave deep insight regarding the polar differences between the two.
Buckley was a far-right journalist and the creator of the far-right magazine National Review. As well as being a journalist, he was known as an author, political commentator and a television personality.
On the other hand, Vidal was a novelist known for many of his movies, as well as his capabilities as a debater for the left-wing. Additionally, Vidal was known as an early activist for the LGBTQ+ community.
Both men were recruited onto ABC News in 1968 for the democratic convention to spar with words and share their opinions in favor of their respective political parties. Although they were considered to be refined intellectuals, and what America hated most at the time, their debates lead to the skyrocketing ratings of ABC News and their disputes were loved by the public.
“This has always been an anti-intellectual country,” linguist, John McWhorter, said. “These days, anybody who spoke like those two men in public would be seen to be heartless.”
According to those that knew them best, no matter their opposing views, Buckley and Vidal were certainly cut from the same cloth. They were both intelligent men who spoke passionately about what they stood for.
“It’s almost as if they were matter and anti-matter,” Linda Bridges, an editor at National Review and confidant of Buckley’s, said in the documentary. “Sort of parallel lives.”
Best of Enemies heavily emphasized the intense disdain between Buckley and Vidal, but more than that, it explored the 20th century tension between liberalism and conservatism.
“It was really interesting to see these two polar opposite views of politics,” Hailey Motter, a freshman at UT, said. “Especially because I was able to connect it to today’s election.”
For more information on Best of Enemies, visit its IMDB page.
Featured image by Levan Ramishvili, obtained through Creative Commons
Edited by Kaitlin Flippo