This week I watched the Netlix documentary Best of Enemies. During the 1968 American Presidential campaign, the tradition among the TV networks was wall to wall coverage of both democratic and republican national conventions, where the party presidential candidates are decided. The ABC network was far behind NBC and CBS in market share, popularity and financial resources. As a result, they downgraded their coverage to nightly summaries, but need something else to attract viewers. In the process, they popularised the talking heads left versus right TV panel discussion format that is ubiquitous today.
Every night during both conventions, staunch right wing republican William F. Buckley Jr. sat alongside the extremely liberal and left wing Gore Vidal. The documentary tracks the progress of each TV debate like rounds of a boxing match. The contempt between the two is over-evident but is covered in a veil of intellectual argument and witty remarks, at least for a while, and is fascinating to watch. Unfortunately, the issues and topics discussed so eloquently by Buckly and Vidal fifty years ago in the U.S. are as relevant now as they were then.