Thursday, January 12, 2017

More Wasting Time on the Internet--William Buckley and Firing Line

I have a love/hate relationship with William Buckley and Firing Line.

I suspect most people of similar temperate to myself are the same way.

On the one hand, the liberal in me finds Buckley's politics despicable.

On the other hand, the history geek in me absolutely drools over all the famous names that Buckley got to appear on his show.  It's like a who's who of the 1960s and 70s.

And the fact that many of these episodes are now available on Youtube creates this wonderful archive that is now available at our fingertips.  (I've said it before, but the information revolution created by the Internet is a wonderful thing.  20 years ago it would have been unthinkable to have all these historical videos simply available to just put on in the background anytime you want.)

I also kind of appreciate what Buckley is trying to--he's not trying to argue  with his guests, he's just trying to probe them to figure out exactly what the logic of their position is.

But that being it just me, or does Buckley's mind go on weird tangents sometimes.  He gets caught up on these superficial distinctions and often will spend a lot of time arguing with his guests about semantics or meaningless minutia.

Anyway, for whatever it's worth, here are a few videos I've found interesting recently.

Firing Line - The Question of Rhodesia (1974)

Ian Smith is a despicable character (he was profiled in The Decline and Fall of the British Empire: 1781-1997 by Piers Brendon) , but Buckley does a good job of just trying to explore his mindset without debating him.

Firing Line - Radical Chic (1970)

Despite the fact that Tom Wolfe was mocking the left with Radical Chic, I absolutely loved that book when I was in my college days just because of all the vivid period detail in Wolfe's prose.  It's a book that should be read for the descriptions and literary talents, but with a skeptical eye towards the political polemic.

Firing Line - How Does It Go with the Black Movement (1973)--The one with Huey P. Newton

It's frustrating that Huey P. Newton and Buckley spend most of their time talking past each other, and not really understanding the points that the other is making.
But since most of Firing Line's archives are available online, and many other news shows from the era aren't on Youtube yet, at the moment this represents the most extended interview with Huey P. Newton I can find.

Firing Line - The Hippies (1968)--with Jack Kerouac

I was a big Jack Kerouac fan back when I was 18.  (18 is the suitable age to be a big Jack Kerouac fan).
Through some of the biographies of Kerouac that I managed to skim at the time, I picked up that
 1) he could be a real jerk in person, and
2) he got conservative as he got older, and really hated the New Left in the 60s.

This video perfectly illustrates both points.

Noam Chomsky and Buckley (1969)

Okay, I know I've linked to this video before.  Several times. (here, here and here).
But since I'm listing Firing Line videos here, it would be a crime not to include it in my list.
Once again, Buckley is completely missing Chomsky's points, so it's not the ideal conversation.
But it is, to my knowledge, the only extended footage of Chomsky on TV from the 1960s currently available on Youtube.  So it's worth watching.

And actually, while I'm bringing back videos I've already linked to, here's:

Christopher Hitchens and William F Buckley Jr on Firing Line (1984)

I linked to this before back in 2014.  It's classic Hitchens before Hitchens went conservative.  Hitchens makes a number of good points.

And there are tons more of these videos, but this is just what I've been watching recently.  If I come across any more, I'll link them here again.


Darrell Reimer said...

Oh man - I could not watch the duration of the "Hippie" show. Painful to see Jack like that. He was probably on a low bender, and waiting for the show to end so he could get comatose. He died a year later, didn't he?

Joel Swagman said...

I'll admit (with some shame) that I had to double check this on wikipedia. But yes, apparently he did die in 1969.

Kerouac was definitely a real jerk in that episode, wasn't he? But I read somewhere that he could be like that.
Back when I was 18 I skimmed several biographies of Kerouac at the school library (never read any of them cover to cover, but I would peruse them). I remember a scene from one of them--Kerouac was being a real drunken jerk at a hotel he was staying at, and one of the hotel clerks said to him, "I love your books, but I hate you."

I have the feeling I might have said the same thing to Kerouac if I had ever met him.