Gore Vidal has died. He was 86 years-old and the cause of death was pneumonia.
In the next few days many words will be written about Vidal. He was the kind of bigger-than-life figure that polarized, provoked, angered and inspired his friends and foes alike.
Long before it became obvious to many of us that the USA was entering a kind of collective dark night of the soul, Vidal was vocal in his condemnation of the erosion of freedom in America, denouncing the imperialism that thrived under the political leadership of puppets controlled by the military industrial complex and giant corporations. But his cynicism regarding America’s future was balanced by a deep love for the revolutionary values this country was built on. He feared that we were losing our identity and freedom to the machinations of authoritarianism and greed.
The corporate grip on opinion in the United States is one of the wonders of the Western world. No First World country has ever managed to eliminate so entirely from its media all objectivity - much less dissent.
In this historic television debate with William F. Buckley during the 1968 Democratic National Convention, Vidal is absolutely right on in his criticism of the Chicago Police Department’s violent response to the the anti-war demonstrations taking place outside the International Amphitheatre where the convention was taking place. Described accurately as a “police riot,” the victims of the gestapo-like tactics of the cops included innocent bystanders, journalists (including Dan Rather) and even the Democratic presidential nominee Hubert Humphrey who was overcome by tear gas in his hotel room.
Vidal calls Buckley a “crypto-Nazi” and Buckley responds by calling Mr. Vidal a “queer.” For a moment, the battle between the two men is a perfect distillation of what is occurring outside on the streets of Chicago.