The documentary “Best of Enemies” is annoying. In recommending this reflective piece of historical muck, I can’t help but play the Donald Trump card. Donald Trump running for President of the United States makes a mockery of an American cornerstone that deserves to deserve more respect. I don’t think I’m taking political sides with this observation.
Whether people are frustrated, angry, bored, or just hooked on the empty calories of mass media culture, no one actually wants Donald Trump to be our Commander in Chief, our head of state, our face of the nation, right? People do know that any entertainment value (sic) milked from him, any substantive gas found in the vicinity of Trump’s air time is in no way Presidential, right?
The film “Best of Enemies” helps explain the modern historical foundation that led to a joker like Trump shoving into our deck of political cards. It recounts a turning point in the media manipulations playing actual trump cards in the deck (and which will cast out the joker when more keenly managed rounds reign in the game).
“Best of Enemies” documents the face-off on 1968 network TV, and elsewhere, between arch-conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. and arch-liberal Gore Vidal. Both were prominent, established intellectual voices.
Supposedly they were covering the national conventions during the Presidential campaigns. Each disliked the other intensely. They were pasted into a shared forum. Each behaved disrespectfully to the other. Both disrespected civil discourse. Both siphoned integrity and focus from journalism. Both shrouded enlightenment. Both elevated narcissistic distraction.
After one of the ten televised “debates,” Vidal utters an aside to his enemy, Buckley, “Well I guess we gave them their money’s worth tonight.”
ABC television -- in those days the least watched news network -- harvested a huge ratings boost, much to sponsors’ pleasure. The television audience consumed a nascent formula of the high cost of getting your money’s worth. See “Best of Enemies” if you want to experience a high profile milestone in our mucky modern media.