“If there’s a new way, I’ll be the first in line.”
— Dave Mustaine, lyrics from “Peace Sells”
For quite a while I’ve been thinking about why it is that we don’t often get to see great political or philosophical debates in the media.
I hadn’t heard of 1968 the debates between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal before today. Knowing that both were very intelligent (well, the choice of word itself is debatable) and rhetorically savvy people, I was naturally excited to see documentary “Best of Enemies”.
I did. And I just felt sad.
What I saw and heard were two very eloquent people with different views going at each other’s personalities rather than debating the issues and trying to find some common ground.
It felt like nothing much had changed during the last 50 years. Was it always like this? Was this the genesis of the kind of dialogue we’re experiencing today?
It might’ve been the point the documentary was trying to make. That this was where it all began. Even though I doubt it, it does at least shine a bright-ass light on the issue.
This isn’t just restricted to the U.S. We’re experiencing the same here in Sweden. I really do not enjoy it.
I’ve had an idea bouncing around in my mind. Whenever debates and/or arguments are being held they should have a box show up whenever a fallacy is used.
Also, everything should be fact checked live and when an error is found this is pointed out and the correct fact should be stated. Both to the audience and to the person who made the claim.
This might seem like shaming, and it could very well be used as such. However, it would also serve as a fantastic device to hold people accountable. Especially when used close enough to the moment it was said that they can’t really claim that it was taken out of context or some other bullshit.
This would also leak into the public conciousness and it would serve us all well in our daily interactions. We could learn how to untangle the mess that is our everyday conversations and start talking about something greater than “he said, she said”.
I also had a chance to see “Steve Jobs: The Man In The Machine”. There was an interesting segment where Jobs was likening the evolution of technology to that of a section of sediment in a mountain.
What he was getting at was that the iPhones, iPads and iMacs we’re using today will be obsolete in less than a decade. However, whatever comes next will build upon those devices. Improve on them. Repurpose them. Reimagine them.
That’s what we need to do with our thinking. There are great lessons we can learn from and build upon if choose to do so. Otherwise we could just keep on having the same discussions we did 50 years ago and get the same results we’ve always gotten.
There was one moment in “Best of Enemies” that I found hopeful. It’s also where I think are today.
During one of the debates Vidal called Buckley a “Crypto-Nazi” and Buckley answered by calling Vidal a “queer”.
In the green room after the debate Vidal made the statement: “Well, I guess we gave them their money’s worth.”
Buckley stormed out without acknowledging Vidal. It almost seemed like he was more angry with himself than Vidal.
I’d like to think he was.
First of all the statement by Vidal was basically that it just made for “good TV”, which is really sad.
Even though Buckley didn’t seem to change his approach much afterwards, just the fact that he for a split second felt that he could’ve done better gives me hope.
I hope in that moment he felt that “good TV” wasn’t all that mattered, that he felt they had a chance at elevating the discussion and failed to do so.
Is it likely this is how he felt? I doubt it. Probably he was disappointed in himself for letting Vidal get to him.
It does however say a great deal about us. We need to ask ourselves if this really is the way in which we want our elected officials, pundits and broadcasters to conduct their discussions?
Now more than ever do people have the power to influence and change the format that’s been spoon fed to us.
We can choose to make it obsolete. We can lay a new, stronger layer of sediment upon it.
The question isn’t: “Will we rise to the occasion?”
The question is: “When will we rise to the occasion?”
Have a kick-ass ₢eative day!