Nowadays it is commonplace for two talking heads to exchange vitriolic rhetoric on television. Hell, that’s basically the premise of modern cable news. But 1968, the televised debates between Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. were revolutionary. Vidal, the famed novelist, and Buckley, founder of the National Review, didn’t care for one another yet their legacies are tied. Their televised feuds raised each of their profiles in the national spotlight. The most famous encounter between the two was when Vidal referred to Buckley as a “crypto-Nazi” as the events surrounding the ’68 Democratic Convention descended into chaos.
In the new documentary Best of Enemies, directors Morgan Neville and Robert Gordon look to explore the relationship between the two ideological titans and their lasting impact on the current public discourse. Best of Enemies opens in theaters on July 31st, 2015.
The official synopsis for Best of Enemies:
In the summer of 1968, television news changed forever. Dead last in the ratings, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other’s political ideologies were dangerous for America. Like rounds in a heavyweight battle, they pummeled out policy and personal insult—their explosive exchanges devolving into vitriolic name-calling. Live and unscripted, they kept viewers riveted. Ratings for ABC News skyrocketed. And a new era in public discourse was born.