The Radical Is Reminded Of A Time When Intellectuals Were Witty And Television Talk Shows Were Smart

February 16, 2009, 3:27 pm

Because I have no time to post today; and because the pace of the semester has been ramped up to a new level of insanity this week; and because I think everything has been said about the last post that can possibly be said; and because the best way to stop a comments thread is to put up a new post to distract everyone; and because I am not feeling in the least witty, I would like to re-publish this wonderful 1971 clip from the Dick Cavett Show:

I would like to point out that it is not just the lefties (Cavett and Vidal) who are acute and funny (Mailer, although on the left, I know, was just such an ass I don’t know why any of his wives didn’t stab him before he got to one of them.) But Midge Decter’s intervention reminds me that in 1971 conservatives had razor wits too, not to mention good manners and gender politics, which is why in high school I used to subscribe to what became neo-con publications, so that I could read people like Lionel and Diana Trilling, Decter, Normoan Podhoretz, and Irving Kristol. Oh sure, Decter’s “Boys on the Beach” has to be one of the most homophobic essays ever written: I knew that at the time. But damn, it was well-written. And were not conservatives so worth having around for their erudition and wit? Once they were replaced by the lumpenconservatives who just took to thumping people crudely with lies and misrepresentations about culture, God and everything else, politics became a real drag, in my view.

This is brought to you courtesy of the intrepid, vacationing and always witty, Historiann.


Later: Historiann points out (kindly) that I read her post too fast: the woman in the Dick Cavett clip is Janet Flanner. Oh well. My nostalgia about witty conservatives is still for real. And my corrected misidentification adds an always welcome bisexual twist to the post.

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