Join 3,496 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Vidal Strikes Back
March 22, 2008 9:59 AM   Subscribe

Gore Vidal Speaks Seriously Ill of the Dead Annoyed with the rose-tinted view of William F. Buckley displayed by some of his obituarists, Vidal slams Buckley, Newsweek, and the media in general. (MeFi Buckley obit thread here).
posted by naoko (61 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
BREAKING: Vidal Socked in Goddamn Face by Fist From Beyond the Grave; Stays Plastered
posted by nasreddin at 10:01 AM on March 22, 2008 [17 favorites]


Ha! Gore Vidal is DA BOMB.
posted by KokuRyu at 10:04 AM on March 22, 2008


Although Buckley was often drunk and out of control, he was always a spontaneous liar on any subject that his dizzy brain might extrude.
Love it!
posted by Turtles all the way down at 10:11 AM on March 22, 2008


Not Mr. Vidal's most elegant production, but anything he writes is a tonic.
posted by digaman at 10:11 AM on March 22, 2008


Vidal plays the matter to the Neocon antimatter. May he live to be 250.
posted by dbiedny at 10:14 AM on March 22, 2008


I take back what I said in the Buckley thread about Vidal being pompous and humorless. Pompous, yes, but he is actually quite funny.

To, Buckley OTOH, I say: sayonara, you sanctimonious sesquipedalian stick in the mud.
posted by psmealey at 10:17 AM on March 22, 2008


Hell hath no fury...
posted by digaman at 10:20 AM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Looks like he didn't stay plastered.
posted by delmoi at 10:22 AM on March 22, 2008


That last line is amazing.
posted by the_bone at 10:23 AM on March 22, 2008


Mee-OW!
posted by ColdChef at 10:23 AM on March 22, 2008


I'm not sure I understand the distinction he's drawing between gentile and genteel, and mocking Newsweek for not understanding. Does anyone understand his point?
posted by dd42 at 10:25 AM on March 22, 2008


Beyond the personal stuff, he has a most salient point:
The unique mess that our republic is in can be, in part, attributed to a corrupt press whose roots are in mendacious news (sic) magazines like Time and Newsweek, aided by tabloids that manufacture fictional stories about actual people. This mingling of opinion and fiction has undone a media never devoted to truth.
Though I'm too young to have seen it all first hand, it appears to me that, as mass media really developed through the 50s and 60s, it was at first run by a fairly elite crowd who believed they deserved to fill the pages and airwaves because they were so much smarter than the rest of us. And many of them were quite smart.

But then all of the smart people died or stopped entering the profession, and only the sense of entitlement remains. I think Vidal is spot on.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:28 AM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Buckley -- whose viperish eyes flash when he thinks he's pwning -- torments an already besotted Jack Kerouac, who wins the match by being more dada than even Buckley himself.
posted by digaman at 10:29 AM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


RIP WFB—in hell.

Oh snap!
posted by the littlest brussels sprout at 10:29 AM on March 22, 2008


Does anyone understand his point?

An insult to Buckley, I thought--as he certainly was never genteel, they surely meant to call him a gentile.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:30 AM on March 22, 2008


meh... I have read stronger pieces by vidal.
this rambling lacks conciseness.
perhaps a good editor might have helped.
posted by krautland at 10:33 AM on March 22, 2008


So, Christian-bashing? Or just a word vaguely reminiscent of genteel?
posted by dd42 at 10:37 AM on March 22, 2008


Noam Chomsky smoking out Buckley
posted by refractal at 10:38 AM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


A word reminiscent of genteel, I thought, as Buckley certainly was gentile (as in, not Jewish). I read it as a sort of weak way to underscore that WFB was not in any way genteel, with a little play on words.
posted by LooseFilter at 10:42 AM on March 22, 2008


So, Christian-bashing? Or just a word vaguely reminiscent of genteel?

Um, does everything have to be reduced to stuff like this? Vidal was making a minor witty point that while Buckley presented himself as a subtle intellectual, he was just another vulgar goy (non-Jew, for you non-Jews) -- and leveraging the similarity of the two words to make that point.
posted by digaman at 10:42 AM on March 22, 2008


Jesus Christ, how old is Gore Vidal? He's still bitching about Henry Luce and Truman Capote?

How sad a day for the feisty man when he realizes that all his enemies are dead.
posted by Bookhouse at 10:42 AM on March 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


That was tormenting?
posted by the other side at 10:54 AM on March 22, 2008


Vidal was making a minor witty point that while Buckley presented himself as a subtle intellectual, he was just another vulgar goy (non-Jew, for you non-Jews) -- and leveraging the similarity of the two words to make that point.

Uh...yeah, I guess that's pretty witty. Except it's actually just that joke where people go "Generous? You mean JEWnerous!" But less clever.
posted by nasreddin at 10:55 AM on March 22, 2008


(MeFi Buckley obit thread here).

And still open! Why not post this there?
posted by LarryC at 10:55 AM on March 22, 2008


Gentile, as Vidal is using it, is a reference to Buckley's patrician bearing. Newsweek sez Buckley was mannered, Vidal sez, no, he wuz white.
posted by klangklangston at 10:58 AM on March 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


LarryC: Er...now that you mention it (and had I made a quick scroll-down, I would have discovered this myself), someone already did (I honestly didn't even realize threads stayed open that long). My bad.
posted by naoko at 11:06 AM on March 22, 2008


I'm all for unrestrained criticism of persons deserving it.
Fuck the notion that you ought not speak ill of the dead.
Neither should one speak undeserving praise of the living, for that matter.
posted by Busithoth at 11:10 AM on March 22, 2008


Its incredible how otherwise smart, liberal, and skeptical people just flock to someone full of toxic ideas and hate who happens to dress well and speak with a lot of twenty-five cent words. Who says classism and its wannabes are dead?
posted by damn dirty ape at 11:19 AM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm a big fan of Vidal and this screed does not disappoint. The last line is dynamite, "no society so marinated in falsity can long survive in a real world". But it makes me a bit sad to read the essay, because it makes it clear that Vidal now belongs entirely to the past. He sounds like a rambling grandfather going on about what happened in the old days. His time is over, and we are a poorer society for it.
posted by Nelson at 11:21 AM on March 22, 2008


And still open! Why not post this there?

Not only is the obit thread open, but this article IS already there.
posted by Dave Faris at 11:47 AM on March 22, 2008


Not only is the obit thread open, but this article IS already there.
posted by Dave Faris


ouch. I guess I missed it there, then.
posted by Busithoth at 12:35 PM on March 22, 2008


Its incredible how otherwise smart, liberal, and skeptical people just flock to someone full of toxic ideas and hate who happens to dress well and speak with a lot of twenty-five cent words.

Who? Buckley, or Vidal?
posted by namespan at 12:39 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Also, what's going on here:

As my editor friend knew that I seldom read the wilder attacks on me, he deconstructs Newsweek’s obituary of Buckley:

Parenthetically, I should note that, back in 1968, ABC TV had asked me and Buckley to “debate” each other at the Democratic and Republican conventions.

His editor friend deconstructs the obituary how? It seems like there's something missing, either that or Mr. Vidal is having some point-of-view difficulties.

When we were in Chicago during the Republican convention, the Chicago police decided it would be fun to attack the young co-ed demonstrators in Grant Park, not far from our studio. It was one of the worst displays of police brutality I’ve ever seen, and so I said on air; he liked what the police had done; in no time, the whole country was as shocked as I, but not Buckley. On air he was hissing like a cobra against the young people in Grant Park because, he said, they were egging on the Viet Cong to kill American Marines. They were not, of course.

If that's documentable, it's enough to put the idea of Buckley to bed for me. If you're really such a bright example of intellectualism for your ideology of choice, you shouldn't have to bear false witness against your neighbor to make your points (not to mention the problem with the idea that, hey, police brutality is a-OK if it's people who said something you don't like). But how do I know Vidal's correct?
posted by namespan at 12:45 PM on March 22, 2008


Not only is the obit thread open, but this article IS already there.

Yes, thank you, I already pointed this out myself just above you.

If mods want to delete, I completely understand.
posted by naoko at 12:55 PM on March 22, 2008


was one of these guys ever on "mary hartman mary hartman"? right before her breakdown, maybe...
posted by stubby phillips at 1:22 PM on March 22, 2008


WTF, people. I just wanted to read some snarky comments about WFB and instead I get a Wikipedia Talk: page. I did not think such rigorous standards of arrangement and categorization applied to MeFi.
posted by cupcakeninja at 1:35 PM on March 22, 2008


Metafilter: WTF, people. I just wanted to read some snarky comments.
posted by GrammarMoses at 1:49 PM on March 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


Vidal. I hate most his books but I love his moxie. And when the man is right he is so gloriously right.
posted by tkchrist at 2:02 PM on March 22, 2008


How sad a day for the feisty man when he realizes that all his enemies are dead.

The other night Dick Cheney appeared on my TV set gloating, with that charming trademark rictus of his, that even if the war is vastly unpopular with the people who might (or might not, Diebold only knows) have elected him Vice President that one time in 2004, he really doesn't give a shit. If you took the trouble of actually reading Vidal instead of cracking jokes about him based on shameless untruths, you'd have seen that Vidal is also consistently unkind towards Cheney, Bush, and the rest of the gang that has cost America several trillion dollars, and her face. Only, this piece is about a dead guy; hence, Vidal is talking about the dead in an essay about the dead.

This fact is not that hard to grasp, even for the happy consumers -- such as yourself -- of the media Vidal so precisely describes.

An important point that should not be missed is that Vidal accuses Newsweek of putting Buckley's son in charge of writing -- or rewriting -- the old man's obit. If Vidal's remark is even remotely true, it is actually quite appalling in terms of journalistic ethics and practice on Newsweek's part -- but then, years and years of rewriting RNC copy into political "news" stories must have seriously conditioned the "liberal media" by now. And you can't really blame Pavlov's dog for salivating all over himself every time his Republican masters blow that whistle, I suppose.

What people keep forgetting about Buckley -- surprisingly, I have to say, for a media that prides itself of politely coating their bullshit with a sheen layer of shiny politically correct manners -- is the spinning of Buckley's obvious, unrepentant bigotry. That funny alleged Libertarian, as of 1986, in a bizarrely kinky op-ed in the "liberal" NYT seriously asked the government to pass a law to brand the HIV positive's asses. A crazily hateful idea that makes the unconfirmed report of his alleged private donation to someone who wanted to suck a boy's cock, frankly, irrelevant.

Because one does not want to speak ill of the dead, obviously, I'll be silent here on WFB's cheerful support of segregation on the basis of black people's genetic inferiority -- something that, seriously, should have limited his political and editorial role to KKK rallies and John Birch Society picnics.
posted by matteo at 4:08 PM on March 22, 2008 [15 favorites]


Hoo hoo hoo!

I can't wait to see what Buckley has to say about Vidal when HE dies!
posted by mazola at 4:33 PM on March 22, 2008


Metafilter: WTF, people. I just wanted to read some snarky comments.

Indeed. I'm sure the FARK folks would be pleased with how well they've managed to lower the level of discourse.

Metafilter: It's not news, it's links on a blue background!
posted by FormlessOne at 5:15 PM on March 22, 2008


the distinction he's drawing between gentile and genteel

I think that was just a jab by the unnamed editor who sent the piece to Vidal -- and the editor does probably mean crass. Vidal merely puts the word in scare quotes to emphasize Newsweek's focus on his outer mien, as if it excuses his politics.
posted by dhartung at 5:23 PM on March 22, 2008


This fact is not that hard to grasp, even for the happy consumers -- such as yourself -- of the media Vidal so precisely describes.

Unclench.
posted by Bookhouse at 5:23 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'd like to have drinks and a pie fight with BOTH of them.
Maybe someday I will.
posted by Dizzy at 5:52 PM on March 22, 2008


The Chomsky vs Buckley interview is worth linking again. I wasn't aware of this guy before, but he quite clearly has no journalistic integrity. Go vidal. The printed media in many western countries is suffering a slow decline of standards. Many would like to blame the internet, but I think the reason people flock to it for news is precisely what Vidal is on about in the article.
posted by Dillonlikescookies at 6:45 PM on March 22, 2008


This shocked me.

Gore Vidal is alive?
posted by raider at 9:15 PM on March 22, 2008


Vidal is also consistently unkind towards Cheney, Bush, and the rest of the gang that has cost America several trillion dollars, and her face.

For what it's worth, so was Buckley.
posted by Dave Faris at 9:35 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


Did anyone other than me think this is a horrifically bad piece of writing? Every other sentence seems to contain a non-sequitur; ideas don't seem to follow from each other; tangents abound. Examples:

I can recall that day in the 1930s when a “news” (sic) magazine appeared in Washington, D.C.; it was called Newsweek: meant to be a counterbalance to Time Magazine’s uncontrollable malice.

What uncontrollable malice? This seems to come from nowhere and be unexplained for a long while. The sentence is jarring and confusing.

Unknown to them and everyone else who might read that publication, my views on many matters do not conform to the tired hacks who’ve taken over Newsweek, a magazine that has convinced itself that Bobby Kennedy Sr. was a great liberal.

"do not conform to the tired hacks" -- huh?? And how does this relate to Newsweek's views of Bobby Kennedy Sr.?

Now, to Newsweek’s obituary of this late dishonorable American in which my editor-friend assures me that his brain-dead son Christopher had a hand: “Buckley bridled at bullies.”

Have you read a more awkward sentence recently?
posted by shivohum at 11:19 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'll be silent here on WFB's cheerful support of segregation on the basis of black people's genetic inferiority -- something that, seriously, should have limited his political and editorial role to KKK rallies and John Birch Society picnics.

Thanks for mentioning this. Buckley never recanted these views to the last. Stating that the very idea of an NAACP, was racist on its face, and saying that he opposed the CRA of 1963 and 1964 on the basis that southern blacks "weren't ready for it". That only the educated should be able to vote or participate in our democracy was not his idea, mind you, it was a Jeffersonian Ideal.

How you can oppose the Civil Rights Act, any form of affirmative action, and funding for public education and be incredulous when you are called a racist is beyond me. Buckley gave an elegant voice to some incredibly hateful ideas.

I don't believe that it should be poor form to speak ill of such a person after he has passed.
posted by psmealey at 1:37 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Interestingly both Buckley and Vidal always struck me as similar in that both seemed completely assured of their own importance and brilliance.
Er, put that in the present tense for Vidal I suppose.
posted by batgrlHG at 2:24 AM on March 23, 2008


"What uncontrollable malice? This seems to come from nowhere and be unexplained for a long while. The sentence is jarring and confusing."

Uh, Time was well-known as a conservative, even reactionary, magazine for much of its early life. Vidal is assuming a historical knowledge.
posted by klangklangston at 9:54 AM on March 23, 2008


Did anyone other than me think this is a horrifically bad piece of writing?

Wait'll you're 82. The sharpest razors dull over time. But I'm glad he's still with us and grateful when he writes.
posted by Superfrankenstein at 11:21 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


All I can say is that I've never watched a recording of William F. Buckley that didn't rouse a strong desire to punch him right in the nose. I've never been a great fan of Gore Vidal, either, but, you know, lesser of two.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:34 PM on March 23, 2008


You don't suppose both could have been equally odious? I've read a little Vidal, and I get the impression that he's pretty much a pompous, egotistical bastard who always had to be the smartest guy in the room ... hence his run-ins and hatred for Bill Buckley.
posted by Dave Faris at 7:08 PM on March 23, 2008


Noam Chomsky is a computer!
posted by Shakeer at 8:17 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


The story Buckley's son relates makes me suspect, even more, that Buckley was a closet case.
posted by Grimgrin at 11:48 PM on March 23, 2008


I love that Vidal calls Buckley a queen! So, so true.
posted by serazin at 12:13 AM on March 24, 2008


Anyone who has spent 2 seconds looking at video of Bill Buckley would suspect that he was homosexual. Is there something wrong with that? He came from an upbringing and a society where maybe that wasn't such an acceptable thing. You should pity him rather than deride him for it.
posted by Dave Faris at 3:58 AM on March 24, 2008


I should pity him for acting like a hysterical queen, or for coming from a homophobic society? I don't pity him for either! He worshiped the sort of social structure that nurtures homophobia and I love me some hysterical queens!

But the beauty of queer Vidal pointing out the utter queeniness of homophobic Buckley was the highlight of that article for me. Vidal is essentially saying, "I know queers, and WFB (who called me a queer on national TV) is the picture of one!"
posted by serazin at 8:06 AM on March 24, 2008


“I'm all for unrestrained criticism of persons deserving it.
Fuck the notion that you ought not speak ill of the dead.”

Ever seen the Triads go at it during those funerals? Ever wonder wtf is the deal with all the deep rooted hatred in the middle east? Yeah, speaking ill of the dead. Really pisses off the living relations.
Now, once your past the eulogy and burial and all that, sure, the gloves can come off. But y’know, I’ll pull over to the side and doff my hat for any funeral that passes by. It’s basic decency. But also respect for the living and their feelings.
You want to keep the hate nice n’ think and stirred up? Crash the funeral. Show disrespect. Malign someone while their relations still have tears in wet their eyes, congratulations, you now have made an eternal completely unreasoning enemy.
Want to put it to bed? Let the mourners have their peace. And, a bit later, you can again discuss the merits/flaws, whatever of the person in question.
This thread here isn’t speaking ill of the dead. He’s in the ground.
I think Vidal waited a decent enough time to put this out and that speaks well of him in that regard.


“I love that Vidal calls Buckley a queen! So, so true.”
Probably be better to call him a hypocrite then. I mean why is the worst insult calling someone something that you yourself are? On top of which he bitches about WFB going on about not having any evidence for something meanwhile he does it himself?
Fair criticism is fair criticism, but acrimony often gets in the way of realistic appraisals. His observation of the media is less venomous and as a result more accurate, and certainly more scathing for it’s veracity than any passionate anger he could display.


All this stuff aside - Capote was a hell of a writer. In Cold Blood is excellent work. Dunno if it’s in the ‘Proust’ class. But c’mon, you can’t compare all lesser writers to a greater writer as some kind of criticism. (Hey, Proust was no Goethe). So Capote had an ego, so maybe he said stuff he couldn’t back up, so did Wilde. Just because someone is an asshole or not doesn’t make their writing any better or worse.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:39 PM on March 24, 2008


I should pity him for acting like a hysterical queen, or for coming from a homophobic society?

Sorry. I deleted a thought in my comment and made it unclear. You should pity him if he was closetted and for whatever reason, couldn't be what God made him. It might explain some of his nastiness in regards to AIDs patients (back in the 80's, when most everyone irrationally thought that it was a plague that would devastate all of society instead of just 10 or 20 percent of it. Not forgiving him his ignorance, but it's easy to look back now and be baffled at how anyone could think those sorts of things.)
posted by Dave Faris at 1:02 PM on March 24, 2008


« Older Nanocannons and picomortars!...  |  Norway's breath-taking Aurland... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments