Monday, February 16, 2009

The Radical Is Reminded Of A Time When Intellectuals Were Witty And Television Talk Shows Were Smart

Because I have no time to post today; and because the pace of the semester has been ramped up to a new level of insanity this week; and because I think everything has been said about the last post that can possibly be said; and because the best way to stop a comments thread is to put up a new post to distract everyone; and because I am not feeling in the least witty, I would like to re-publish this wonderful 1971 clip from the Dick Cavett Show:



I would like to point out that it is not just the lefties (Cavett and Vidal) who are acute and funny (Mailer, although on the left, I know, was just such an ass I don't know why any of his wives didn't stab him before he got to one of them.) But Midge Decter's intervention reminds me that in 1971 conservatives had razor wits too, not to mention good manners and gender politics, which is why in high school I used to subscribe to what became neo-con publications, so that I could read people like Lionel and Diana Trilling, Decter, Normoan Podhoretz, and Irving Kristol. Oh sure, Decter's "Boys on the Beach" has to be one of the most homophobic essays ever written: I knew that at the time. But damn, it was well-written. And were not conservatives so worth having around for their erudition and wit? Once they were replaced by the lumpenconservatives who just took to thumping people crudely with lies and misrepresentations about culture, God and everything else, politics became a real drag, in my view.

This is brought to you courtesy of the intrepid, vacationing and always witty, Historiann.

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Later: Historiann points out (kindly) that I read her post too fast: the woman in the Dick Cavett clip is Janet Flanner. Oh well. My nostalgia about witty conservatives is still for real. And my corrected misidentification adds an always welcome bisexual twist to the post.

6 comments:

Notorious Ph.D. said...

Goodness gracious: Is Decter wearing gloves?

JackDanielsBlack said...

And what about the droll and inimitable William Buckley? Though both he and Vidal descended into bad manners when they had their televised catfight at the 1968 Democratic National Convention.

dance said...

At both my undergrad and grad schools, I watched the conservative newspapers slowly transform from well-written rational argument to personal attacks. It still depresses me.

historiann said...

I don't think that's Decter--my research on the world-wide non-peer reviewed internets said that it was Janet Flanner. Please let me know if I'm wrong, so that I can correct my post!

Susan said...

Can you believe this was on television? Can you imagine it today?

Oh, and my word is paligal. I'm not sure if it's a kind of paralegal, or just a friendly gal...

Pia said...

There is still smart television. Even smart talk shows.
Not always - but I do want to recommend The Late Show with Craig Fergusson. On good nights he is a bit like the Monty Python version of L'Apostrophe ...