By John Ruberry
There are cries on both sides of the political aisle for a return to civility.
When did it go away?
It happened fifty years ago in Chicago during the Democratic National Convention.
The left killed civility.
The documentary Best of Enemies, available on Netflix, centers on ten debates broadcast on ABC during the 1968 Republican and Democratic conventions between left-wing author Gore Vidal and National Review founder William F. Buckley, whose remaking of the conservative movement resulted in the election of Ronald Reagan at president twelve years later.
Buckley and Vidal’s feud went back years earlier and continued until their deaths.. Both men had polished mid-Atlantic accents and were masters of grammar. Debate moderator Howard K. Smith called them “two craftsmen” of language as he introduced the duo at their first debate during the GOP convention in Miami Beach.
There the similarities ended. Buckley was a devout Catholic and Vidal was a hedonist.
Over the course of the debates the rancor metastasized. By the final debate the hatred between the two men–yes, they really despised each other–was evident. When Smith brought up a protest in Chicago’s Grant Park and queried Vidal if it was “a provocative act to try to raise the Vietcong flag in the park in the film we just saw,” name calling followed. Vidal told Buckley that he was a “crypto Nazi” which led the usually genteel Buckley to respond angrily, “Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I’ll sock you in your goddam face, and you’ll stay plastered.” It was very likely the first time “queer” was uttered on television when it referred to homosexuality.
The Chicago Police of course, on live television in front of millions of viewers, including myself, beat many of the protesters with billy clubs in front of the convention headquarters hotel. The chaos ironically helped elect Republican Richard Nixon president. What a report later called a “police riot” of course occurred at the Democrats’ convention and Chicago’s mayor, Richard J. Daley, was one of the most powerful Democrats in America.
The night after the riot, Daley explained on CBS, very late in the evening when few people were watching, that the cops’ tempers were inflamed because they were pelted with bottles and bags filled with feces and urine.
How uncivil is that?
Antifa, the enforcement wing of the leftist movement, utilizes feces and urine attacks at their protests.
A couple of years later in an incident recalled in leftist Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals” guidebook, there was a protest of lawyers inside the Chicago federal court building during the Chicago Seven trial. The Seven were alleged conspirators who were being tried, quite unfairly it turned out, for disrupting the 1968 convention. The courthouse protest was put to bed by a federal judge, William Campbell, which compelled one of the assembled lawyers to shout, “Fck you Campbell!” Alinsky didn’t scold the sole heckler, instead he admonished the other attorneys for not starting a “fck you Campbell” chant.
Antifa loves four-letter word chants. As do many other left-wingers.
Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis was about Alinsky. And a Chicago Alinkskyite organization gave Barack Obama his first political job.
In spite of, or probably because of the insults, the Vidal-Buckley debates were a huge hit for little-watched ABC News. As Best of Enemies points out, CBS’ still relatively new 60 Minutes quickly utilized the format with its Point-Counterpoint segment between a liberal and conservative, which was hilariously parodied on Saturday Night Live. Of course SNL’s writers gave the nasty punchline to Aykroyd’s conservative alter ego, “Jane, you ignorant slut.”
As for the shout-shows on CNN, MSNBC, and Fox, they also can look to the Vidal-Buckley debates for their genesis.
As for Donald Trump, sure he’s a crude man. But he is simply fighting back.
And where were the obscene chants when the Tea Party movement was at its peak? When have Trump supporters tossed urine and feces at their opponents?
John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.