tv History Bookshelf Heather Hendershot Open to Debate CSPAN December 16, 2017 4:00pm-5:11pm EST
which opened in 1966 and featured the review founder in conversation with intellectual adversaries to debate the social and political issues of the day. this was recorded at the hoover institution in washington dc in 2016. it is about an hour and 10 minutes. >> ok. welcome to the hoover institution's washington office. my name is mike frank, and i am the director here. it is a pleasure to be able to introduce our honored guest. heather hendershot is a professor at m.i.t. she is a professor of film and media there and has written a number of books. we met about a year ago at a conference that was put on by the buckley program at yale. i can see at the time she has a real affinity for trying to understand the connections between the communications world and the media world on the one hand and different elements of
the conservative movement on the other, so this is a natural kind of looking at that area. -- natural kind of outgrowth of her previous work looking at that area. heather has watched maybe not watched every single one of 33 years of firing line episodes but pretty close. she is probably the reigning expert now on all things related to firing line. please help me welcome heather hendershot to the podium. [applause] she is probably the reigning sother hendershot: thanks much. it is really great to be here, particularly here at the hoover institution because hoover was so important to the research i did on the book. i was out at stanford where all the papers are, and the preserved all the episodes in the papers and transcripts, i really could not have done it without the hoover institution, so it is great to be here. the first thing that people ask
me about this book is why did you write it? the short, quick answer in part is this guy. book been working on the since 2011, and about a year and a half ago it sort of became more urgent as our level of discourse seemed to be deteriorating and the shouting matches were increasing. it seemed like an important time to be talking about a show that really valued civil discourse , civil debate it with history and people disagreeing with each other. part of the the reason was from that impulse, but the other source of the book is more personal about my intellectual development. the book that i wrote in 2011, what is fair on the air, about broadcast, was about the extremists who emerged in radio and television, mostly local tv,o, but also somewhat on
in the years following barry goldwater's defeat in barry 1964. out iner totally flaked the election. he got $10,000, 10 million votes, but he was really trounced. people had a sense that the conservative movement instead, but the conservative movement blossomed in the wake of that defeat. some of it was sort of on the more legitimate side what buckley is advocating for, but there was a lot of extremism, territorial -- paranoia, spiritual thinking, people that thought the john birch society emergent, that president eisenhower was a conscious, dedicated agent of the communist conspiracy which john birch said, so these folks took to the airwaves and with their conspiratorial, paranoia thinking and civil rights. and buckley at first was appearing on some of their tv
shows. this is him in the early on a 1960's show called fast form which is created by a texas oil billionaire who put a lot of his fortune into anti-communist tv and radio. so buckley was a regular guest on that show, but he figured out pretty quickly that this guy was bad for the movement bad for the , image of conservatism, he, he was an extremist and paranoid and so on. and just to tell you little bit about buckley, he emerged as a national figure 1951 with the publication of god and man known for yale, secretary -- liberal secularism. this made him a minor celebrity, the book etched into the bestseller list at number 14, he became known from this book. but he really became known a few years later, 1965, when he ran for mayor of new york, because if you run for mayor of new
york, you become kind of a natural figure -- national figure, not just a local figure for new york. he ran as a protest candidate on the conservative ticket. he was protesting that john lindsay, was not conservative in any way. and buckley very famously was asked, what would you do, was -- what is the first thing you will do if you are elected? he famously said demand a recount because it just seems so , unlikely. sure enough he has staked a claim for the conservative republicanism. this would limit a really good position to start his own tv show just one year later, because he was articulate in the media. and there was a kind of great coup for his campaign and in the -- campaign in the middle of it all because of a newspaper strike. so that made the radio and tv coverage of the campaign increase dramatically and buckley was great on tv. he was great and smart, so
articulate, he used really long words people did not always understand. he was not afraid to show what he really thought and felt, so here he is with john lindsay. lindsay looks peeved, and buckley is just so bored. lindsay is not very articulate to and smart and -- articulative and smart and interesting, and buckley wrote his own speeches with ear-clang ing syntax. people would say, thank you for being honest and pointing to how much of politics was kind of rigmarole. for example he would decline to go to parades because he was like, we are not going to talk about policy apparatus. that's just image stuff, and he
was really campaigning part-time for mayor. he was writing his magazine and was working at a college. so he was seen as an honestwas y candidate even by people who thought he was much too right-wing and much too conservative for them. so the year after the campaign, he started his television show, from 1966e, which ran until 1999, about 1500 episodes. and i want to show you a clip from that first year with david sunny skies. -- suskind. he was a tv show host who was known as a liberal. he had a show called open and, -- end, and it was called open end because it was open-ended. if the conversation was going well, they would keep talkingfor a few hours to the end of the broadcast way. if it wasn't going well, they cut it off at 30 or 45 minutes it's kind of amazing this was happening at the time. so he was one of the earliest guests and now show you two clips from the show to show you flavor of the program. >> having discussed for i think
the first time in television history, people are interested to found he who founded the program open end dedicated precisely to the proposition committed viewers to listen to as many as three hours at a stretch to these ideologues for many remain through communication with their reviews and ideas, for which we are very grateful. suskind is a staunch liberal .n every context if there was a mr. eleanor roosevelt, he would unquestionably win it. there is nothing as a prevailing bias. so we're at the point and you're most welcome to give us your preliminary views. >> why think it was unwelcome to how you introduce me. [laughter] >> i want to say it was somewhat rude. i hope on the occasion we were having a television program you
would abandon your additional tension and get back. it is congenital and compulsive. i have always known about the generosity. so whathendershot: fueled this disagreement? he has such a short fuse, and buckley has not always a long fuse, but it is a charming meeting of people who clearly can't really stand each other. and i will just show you one more clip from that same episode. >> not here to deny that by and surfaces,new television, the schools, universities, or liberal dominated. >> if you use it in any perjury, of course i do. i think if you talk about our country in the last 40 years, the liberal trust in our legislation, churches, schools,
communications media, there is nothing sinister or evil of progress. heather hendershot: he is expressing the dominant line at the time. it points to how lunatic it would have seemed to have a public conservative talkshow in people think this is a liberal 1966. country, what are you talking about? so it's kind of amazing. in addition to political guests, buckley also had cultural figures, artistic figures, box -- bach specialist. he was devoted to bach and what have people to discuss bach and so on. i wanted to show you a clip from the episode with norman mailer to give you a sense of what he did outside the strictly political discussion. of course this publicity -- this conversation is not apolitical. mailer has just published armies of the night and shortly after he appeared on the show he won
the pulitzer prize, and it was about the march on the pentagon. and the opening is buckley reading aloud from i believe time magazine, their coverage of mailer at this event. [video clip] >> after more [indiscernible] support robert lowell got annoyed and asked to speak louder. it won't do any good. by the time the action got to the pentagon, mailer was perky enough to get himself arrested by two marshals. please let me describe the coffee mugs. >> [indiscernible] [speaking simultaneously] [laughter] >> you were talking about maturation. >> [indiscernible] >> is the influence, the continuing correspondence. really amenable to the
work. they told them i was engaging in a scandal. what was i doing, acting like a monkey, throwing goblets. that is what you get. the concession i made that night was about maturation. spiritual physical, difference between [indiscernible] >> i can see you are a student of the subject. >> i am glad you can keep up with it. let's try to refocus the discussion. time magazine observed -- heather hendershot: maybe the person last time -- the last time maturation was used, i am sure all of you are very sophisticated, but it means [indiscernible] >> it is a very sophisticated discussion about [indiscernible]
really charming kind of debate between people with very different worldviews, but people who enjoyed this kind of sparring match of talking about their ideas on the show. buckley also had the spokespeople, the various radical social movements throughout the 1960's and 1970's. quite notably he had black power folks on the show, milton henry. i am not sure anyone can see, but he is wearing this giant ankh, and he had two security guards behind him in fatigues who never moved throughout the whole thing. they were unarmed, but they usually are. they did not have guns on the show, and buckley never acknowledges they are there. he never even makes eye contact. he talks to henry. what is radical and the appearance of black power on the show is the coverage of black power elsewhere was mostly sensationalist soundbites, this kind of thing.
actually conveyed to the networks in the 1970's that they really should not cover black power anymore. that they should just ignore it. he encouraged them not to cover vietnam as well, but they did not take that advice. they did minimize the coverage of black power. so if you wanted to learn about black power, you subscribed to one of their newsletters or that kind of thing. the firing line was a good place to learn about it, whether or not you thought it was a terrible idea, you can hear the ideas expressed unedited on the show. that was remarkable. he also had -- here is eldridge cleaver on the show. -- cover the women's liberation movement on the program. he had betty friedan was kind of -- on early on. she was not a good speaker and was not very articulate. she was not invited back for 18 years. she was the main voice of liberal feminism. also greer who had published the
female eunuch and was much more radical than friedan. let me show you a clip from that encounter from the early 1970's. [video clip] >> the pentagon appears like a contradiction in my book. are you to make he and she words equal in estimation, or are you to scream out she and forever incapable of being equal to the grammatically? a dramatic thing. >> you could be antifeminist putting that into the program. early man, usually referred to as early humans, which means you can use this. >> but not only that, what it means is the latitude will be concealed by a form of primitive censorship. the actual usage might change.
it is like saying ms. when in fact they are married. it does not change the character of their marriage. >> the nomenclature is preposterous. >> i think it is such a trivial aspect of the real struggle, because we put so much attention -- i think it is part of the general movement to cut off the struggle for existence and turn it into something -- heather hendershot: so it is really interesting because actually these people agree about the nonsense the way liberal feminism wants to change language. they both agreed it is a bad idea. buckley thinks that it is not euphonious. it is so jarring. euphonious, oh my god. he said, it doesn't change the structural relationship of marriage. if you still call yourself ms., and so he thought she was
lunatic trying to take on the family and so on and so forth. but they agreed about this one issue in language. after she was on the show he wrote a thank you note as he always did to his guests and said, god damn it, you are good. he enjoyed it, but she did not want to come back on the show. but it was a wonderful show, and they had debated in the cambridge student union the week before, and she had won that by a resounding agreement from the cambridge students. now buckley also had of course antifeminist on the show. the equal rights amendment came up a lot, and the antifeminist activists. and he also had margaret thatcher on the show twice. and this -- i want to show you a clip from the q and a. she was not there to talk about women's liberation.
she was not there to talk about gender issues at all. this was one of the comment you guys on the panel and brought it up. so this is their exchange. >> i am wondering in your own case, your reputation when you were cabinet member with mr. houston of the administration, margaret thatcher, milks thatcher because of the objection to the free milk program, with that and your ideological stand, did that help you overcome some of the stereotypical objections they might raise to a woman holding office? >> no. would you be surprised that at home on the whole, they just look at the person and not necessarily say [indiscernible] >> you are a man. you are limited. [laughter] >> no. [speaking simultaneously] [indiscernible]
>> the interesting thing for me is the berlin government has not talked about the free milk in spite of all the propaganda. as i regard these questions very trivial. if you don't mind my saying so. >> if you don't like what i'm doing. heather hendershot: he takes it, but you can sense the sweat on his upper lips. he is told off by margaret thatcher. it is great because thatcher is saying this, gender is a non-issue in the u.k. it is not relevant, and buckley says that is poppycock, nonsense. if you are so qualified, why aren't there more women in office? he really pushes back. another episode -- he did a few episodes with clare boothe luce but this one episode i will show you two clips from, she asked to be on the show to talk about feminism. they were old friends, and he
could not disagree with having her on the show, so he did. and he gave her this long, very positive introduction, and he concluded the introduction by saying, i should like to begin by asking if you find the way people introduce you on television talk shows to be condescending. and here is what she said. >> thank you for that warm introduction. thatill be pleased to know in the entire introduction, which is struggling to say the least, there was only one masculine foot down. is a high rebel achievement for a man in introducing a woman. inability toher
hold her tongue. had you been speaking of a man who spoke out and made enemies for himself in the process, whether he was speaking out ,tupidly or rightly, wrongly -- heuld have said, he is is made the envy of what he says. he is overly candid. i could use many phrases. but the phrase pulled her tongue -- hold her tong is a phrase menus about women and children. man's desire,f highly successful through the
centuries, to master women. heather hendershot: so that is the beginning of the show. then at the end of the show, he cuts to the q and a session. he said to her, the notion that women are superior -- inferior to men is an original sin of which i am not guilty. it has never occurred to me that they are -- yet i would not want to see the behind the wheel of every mack truck. but i think you would find that insulting, or would you? he says, what do you think? this is her response. >> i am much too fond of you to tell you what i really think. [laughter] [speaking simultaneously] >> i think you are one of the most charming and subtle and sophisticated hosts. [laughter] heather hendershot: so i love that. it is so kind of flirty and
bashful. he said, i would never say thehing publicly, and over favorite lunch, you could imagine her telling him privately. i is -- it is a wonderful moment of friendly disagreement between these two. so now that i have shown you about -- a bit of the show, i will read to you from the book, from the introduction, than from the chapter on the civil rights and black power movement to give you a sense of the flavor of the book, and that is about 20 minutes. then we will open up to q&a. wasalthough the program undeniably his for 33 years, firing line was not buckley's idea to begin with. this is not altogether surprising. it is hard to imagine a tv star less interested in tv than buckley. inwon an emmy or firing line
1969, and it was the longest running public affairs show with a single host in history, but buckley remains a tv outsider. it would be unfair to describe buckley as a knob. he did write a fun novel about an -- elvis presley after all, and if you fail to consider how anyone could consider nick jagger a good singer -- he could not be worse than any fourth person in the telephone directory -- he did at least to the beatles during his weekly sessions with his personal trainer. this was a masochistic choice as he could not stand the beatles. in 1970 he consented to be interviewed by "playboy", and this made him practically hit. then he appeared in the lappin, saying -- left -- laugh in. he said i did the interview with playboy to communicate with my son, and he agreed to laugh in
because he was offered to fly on an airplane with two right wing s. one cast member queried, mr. buckley, i have noticed when ever you appear on television, you were always seated. does this mean you cannot think on your feet? buckley candidly responded it is very hard to stand up carrying the weight of what i know. ask his opinion about nudity in entertainment he tersely replied it is excessive. asked whose image would be more harmed about his appearance on show's,, his or the he said it would make them more respectable and me less so and those are to be not desired. he remained a good sport while remaining the face of conservatism. it is doubtless he ever watched a full episode of laugh in.
on a 1989 firing episode, the greatest anti-conservative rebuff. you don't did karl marx. all you need is archie bunker. he is despicable, but in doing in a way. and one dinner party with no some -- nelson rockefeller because he was at home watching all in the family. thatey once acknowledged anybody who wants to speculate to understand what is going on has to watch tv. the most bookish man i ever knew, whittaker chambers, watched television uninterruptedly from 7:00 to 11:00 in his life. he also noted he was too busy to watch tv himself. he had no idea who jabba the hutt was. he admitted to never watching professional football, and during his run for new york city he was stumped by a reference to mickey mantle. he was neither unaware of the importance of maskell turner --
nor deeply plugged into it. he was a devoted yachtsman and harpsichordist. the tv world of expository team songs from the sherwood schwartz school of music -- ♪ here is a story of a lung -- young lady bringing up three very lovely girls ♪ would rather have the brandenburg concertos for his theme song. although he occasionally settled down to watch an old movie on tv, he was in love with the power to click from show to show. his family thought not only a jar of peanut butter in his casket but also a remote control. individual programs were fleeting interest to the founder and editor of the most important conservative journal of opinions , a man who took vacations with the reagans at claudette colbert's beach house, thought peanut butter and bacon sandwich could be improved with rothschild and go to italy to
write a book. taking separate -- , it wouldhigh culture be on if buckley had originated the idea of hosting a tv show, even a political one. in 1989, a book on firing line said the show was pitched in 1965 by a young entrepreneur. he was agreeable to the notion but deferred production until 1966 to complete his somali run for mayor of new york. it was only his posthumous book on ronald reagan that buckley publicly revealed that firing line was the brainchild of conservative businessman tom o'neil. o'neill's company rko produced and syndicated the show from 1966 to 1961 -- 1971. they left behind though for pbs. originally was imagine of 13 episodes but ultimately ran for 1500 episodes . to understand how impressive these numbers are for a weekly
show, consider a very successful program is usually seven seasons for a total of 154 episodes. there were 635 in the long-running gunsmoke and 456 of law and order. buckley claimed from the beginning with some pride that his ratings were eggs and u.s., exiguous.s -- he would never turn down labors of love. buckley, the supreme free-market capitalist, observed the enterprises in life simply are not made to generate profit, but they need to be patronized because they do vital work. advocate -- i lost was not -- firing line the only unprofitable type of public affairs talk show --
there was also david susskind's open end and the long-running meet the press. firing line was the only specifically conservative example of such programming. firing line was unique as it was conservative with its public affairs. it did mirror the aesthetic of other public affairs shows, and buckley described it, my television program firing line was modestly designed. no production value, explained one horrified tv executive. it was to say the least not a good-looking show. the carpeted dais was drab, the lightning never varied, and many never dresseds properly. the exceptions, the black power spokesmen, feminists, anti-feminists with their hairdos, but only occasional visual relief. one could count on distraction
mannerisms, his almost british accent, his inclination to dirt his tongue out -- dart his tongue out like a lizard. of visuallement interest on firing line i have ever been able to detect is whether mr. buckley would someday part his hair with his tongue. but it really did not matter. viewers give for the words and ideas and perhaps in the show premiered in 1966, the novelty of a right-wing conservative explaining his position. whether you watch as a liberal or conservative viewer, you would find both offended and challenged. in 1964 richard hofstetter said right wing political thinking was paranoia and status anxiety. whether you thought his politics were abhorrent, he was walking, talking proof of this insufficiency. as if to drive the point home, one of the earliest guests was
very cold water. to many americans, the landslide defeat confirmed david sunny skies'-- susskind's comments. buckley was determined to show the world that conservative is a was live and well, -- conservatism was alive and well. and that paranoia conservancy -- conspiracy theories should not be taken as cynic doping but it conservative moment. -- movement. he used a claim for goldwater and by extension take the claim for what seemed a pipe dream, the possibility of a thriving conservative movement perched as a conspiracy theorist. these were the folks who seem to have a stranglehold on american conservatism when firing line began in 1966. buckley would have to forge a new image for conservatism virtually from scratch. that is how the introduction concludes, and i will skip ahead
to see more into the show. looking at civil rights and black power. in his first 10 years on the air, firing line focused on the civil rights and black power movement. as a right-wing conservative, he was concerned about the kinds of systemic of people called for by both approaches to the problem of american racism. but it would be much too simple to reduce his approach to one of an -- unalloyed resistance. he did not oppose the end of racial dissemination, black empowerment, the integrated schools, or the preferential treatment of blacks in hiring decisions, but he did oppose those federal government intervention in these issues. it was one thing to suspect convictions in his columns that said quite another to deal with him and dialogue as advocates and -- for black right found. is what makes firing line so unique. on paper for example, buckley might team comfortably aligned
with strom thurmond on almost every issue, whereas in person he quickly became apparent he was in conversation about racial issues with conservatives and liberals that many of the subtleties of his tradition were revealed. black power and civil rights leaders took advantage of buckley's program as a venue to air their positions. one does get a subtle sense of the black radicals most of those to buckley thought they were using his program to air ideas in full only from soundbite culture that pervaded the rest of the media. elsewhere their comments would be edited. on firing line they had to put up with the right -- right wing white guy asking questions, but they could ask anything. usually they only saw the light of day in underground newspapers and newsletters cranked out by hand on machines. machines.aph there was more self-restraint here.
a large blustery man with a perpetually untucked shirt gave red flag guests a stern lecture before they appeared on the show. blue language was off-limits. he irked allie ginsburg by permitting -- for getting dirty words that she said he would have to censor his thought patterns. thought that eldridge cleaver. would cancel ftc his payments for appearing on the show. if there was any guest who did not need coaching how not to incur the wrath of the ftc, it was james farmer, who was a very picture of decorum. in, where does the civil rights movement go in 1966, buckley made some boilerplate libertarian arguments about parents having the right to send their children to any school they wanted. he complained people cap discovering new rights, and argued james baldwin was all wet
. baldwin was judged pessimistic about what could be a conflict in america. of other man kind of figure dignity as he defended baldwin but also said he tried to tampa down each new cigarette he lit. in his entrancing baritone, james earl jones like, he talked about northern niekro ghettos very important. the fact of the matter is most of our victories have spoken to the south and not the north. a 17-year-old dropout could not care less if his second cousin in mississippi can buy a hotdog. what about the cockroaches? buckley, why don't they killed those rats? is there a law? i have got rats, and i put traps all over the place. i have never been able to get rid of them. farmer, in harlem you kill one rat, two more come back to carry his carcass away.
buckley, why doesn't that happen in other cities? why don't they do away with a heart -- harlem garbage. farmer, when you have an entire family, it is the duty to remove the garbage. suggestingam not demunicipalizing the garbage collection. farmer: you are in charge of that? buckley, yes. everyone laughs, and the tension notased, but buckley will let go of this. there is nothing special about the ghetto garbage problem. buckley suggested he would be melodramatic about wraps with his children. when theymoments discuss the nature of the goals of the civil rights movement, but their discussion of this rat problem in the ghetto is the most memorable part of the show because buckley is so earnest yet very incapable of commenting daily crises by those living in urban squalor.
if the rat problem was worse in harlem, it was implausible. knew it was on the show in 1973, the black panthers were struggling. exile inas still in nigeria. several leaders had been killed, and the fbi had infiltrated the organization and planted seeds of dissension. and then there was a murder charge escape. on firing line newton was all smiles as he explained a policy. buckley was flummoxed. he said i am attempting to pin down a point and losing track. it may be one difficult the best difficulty is your incoherence. people don't understand what you are talking about. i don't understand what you are closeg about and i am a listener.
newton talks in a steady stream of propaganda rarely coming up for air. buckley performed a firing line version close listener. of throwing in the towel. he put down his clipboard, signaling he realized the futility of attempting to tame his guest. but the viewers would not see this as incoherent as buckley found it. it was a really perfectly affable revolutionary. found theirradicals doubts confirmed by his performance. a liberal firing line viewer in cambridge, massachusetts wrote, i thought huey newton made a ass out oft was an himself without help from you. power movement was spiraling, and this is one of the final firing line to address the topic. later episodes in the 1970's centered on central politics and the civil rights movement. remarkably many years later he would acknowledge a change of thinking regarding federalism
and voting rights. in 2004 he told time, i thought we could evolve from jim crow. i was wrong. federal intervention was necessary. the antiracism, pro state advocate had, around, but almost everyone had in theory. the twilight years, jesse was maintained the south should have been left alone with its race problem. buckley maintained thoughts on federal intervention but had not gone liberal where race was concerned. it is interesting discussing racism, black power, and the various strategies from proving a lot of american blacks had reached its apogee in the 1960's. the topic of race was less sensational. in 1998 buckley had an interesting encounter with the aclu director. he quickly twisted -- he twisted show up on years to his show.
the aclu is full of baloney, he said. it was a bit of a set up, but he finally consented to appear. the director doug into the review arcade and -- archive and set it on the show. buckner describes this as a respectable and said this was known. then glasser was at dinner at the buckley residents and his wife asked, why are you so hard on my son on television? glassner said, he said so many terrible things. you have to do something about that in private. she did not. it was a friendly dinner party banter. and the manector got along smashingly. glasser took basically to -- buckley to his first baseball game. he insisted they take the subway and to nathan's on coney island. this time they took the limo. buckley like to glasser, not despite the fact on several
occasions he backed them onto a butter on firing line precisely because of it. the price of advocating no holds barred tv debate was sometimes you would lose, and your opponent would prove decisively you had at one point really been full of baloney. [applause] heather hendershot: cannot take some questions? begin? to first of all, this is the best idea i have had in a long time. [speaking simultaneously] heather hendershot: thank you for coming. >> every single word, every single word, i loved every moment of this. i cannot wait to finish the book, which will be this weekend. ok, you have seen the recent documentary -- best of enemies.
what did you think of it, and particularly, the -- in the documentary it said he knew it buckley would not prepare for the debate such as it was. is that true? and what was his preparation for the shows? i was raised on the show, so what was his preparation on the show? that will be one question. the other question is i have been told, don't know that english is not buckley's first language. it is actually spanish. is that true, and what is the source of that kind of cut glass attrition -- heather hendershot: that is a lovely way to put it. first of all best of enemies, it .s a terrific documentary
the last five minutes it says some things which are overreaching about the beginning of fox news and civil debate -- i don't think that is spot on, but it is good. they know that buckley did not repair for his first encounter with gore vidal. they were having a discussion at the democratic convention in 1968 and paid them both handsomely to be on the show. before they were on, he asked buckley, when you do commentary? he said ok. is there anyone you would not want to appear with? he said anyone but gore vidal. but that is a thing. they had several encounters on television, and the first is buckley did under prepare an vidal was over -- scripted the hell out of this thing. by the time they had their second discussion buckley was more prepared than he lost his temper and was forever kind of mortified by that that he was uncivil and used cuss words on
television. time. prepare the second so the question about show preparation, he had a researcher at national review office, agatha schmidt for some years. and a few other people came in and out. i have seen the holders of research material. they would photocopy newspaper magazine articles, give background and so on, get them all in front of him, and he was very dizzy. he would be reading material on the way to the show, reading box -- books written by the people on the show. he ran -- he read a book at the barbershop. he cannot take a break, he was so busy reading. he would prepare on the fly and do the show and type the next editorial comment for a typing table in his letter on the back. he was very well-prepared for the shows, and you would see one
of the charming things is the way people have their around and alone -- yellow legal pads and kleenex and glass of water and the cigarettes. there is no clutter. no production value, poorly designed. you see him during an interview, and like, what is next? figuring it out. in answer to your second question, it is through his first language had been spanish. he nanny was spanish, so learned spanish first, then english, then french, and thought he was good in french but apparently awkward and weird. maybe it had a spanish accent. i don't know. he was homeschooled in the early years of his life, and they had a townhouse with all the kids -- i can remember, eight or 10 -- can't number eight or 10 kids. they would rose from floor to floor -- rove from floor to
floor, spanish, then like math and science. britishwas sent to a boarding school. the mother was enduring a difficult pregnancy. he picked up a british accent that never totally went away, then there was connecticut thrown in there. i don't think he has much spanish inflection at all, but it is kind of amazing for a hodgepodge of language background. had a similar voice. it was not quite as distinctive and weird, but there is that subtle almost all of british inflection underneath it. people thought it was put on. he was interviewed 60 minutes before reagan was sworn in, they said, why do you talk like that? why do you use such big words? he said that is how i talk. i talked to my dog that way. sometimes you need the right words, and very precise words are the way to go. >> [indiscernible]
heather hendershot: sure. your book is excellent. i really enjoyed it. one of the things you say in the conclusion is that you think -- you said about this as i heard on your interviews promoting the book, there really is a void in the contemporary media landscape, and there could be a revival for firing line. , honestt cable news intellectual combat. i think my question is, given that buckley really helped sort of mainstream and make the conservative movement palatable to the left, not just by taking on liberals taking on liberal radicals as you point on -- he helped people see conservatives were not radicals themselves in contrast. that answered a real need in the conservative movement of the 1960's or 1970's.
in the american conservative 2016, it faces different challenges. then the conservative moment then. if there was a reprisal of firing line, what service put it play? i appreciate i am not asking you as a conservative, but what could it do for a modern conservative movement in terms of credibility? in fact given the trump era, there is a lot it could do. heather hendershot: i have agree -- i agree. things are not as they were in the 1960's, but we have a resurgence of extremism, right wing rhetoric and talk, the birth of -- birthers and so on. these extremists are like weeds in the garden. buckley pulled them out, here they are again. it is a constant battle in the conservative movement to deal with the fringe right, and of
course on the liberal side there are fringe left-wing people. there is management on both sides you could say. i would hope there would be a space for this discussion today, and you know, we are in a ni che era where there is television for everyone. there is house flipping, subdividedand such a marketplace of interest. the thought that there is not niche, it is unthinkable that there is not one for conservative talk shows. what i say in the book that you reference, this could be on hbo which has a reference -- reputation for quality. it is where the show was shot for many years, wherereference,o which has a it would not be interrupted by advertisements. you just sit down and talk. it may be high in the sky, but
it is useful to imagine what it could be. what it could mean for the conservative movement, it is harder to speculate about. i think it is too soon to tell what will happen next for the conservative movement and the republican party. they are at a crossroads now. willie third-party emerge? is there a sense the party has been directed, or is that not the answer? i don't have a crystal ball to predict that, but if it were a venue where people disagreed to talk to their ideas without shouting at each other and say, this kind of nonsense we see on fox news and also msnbc, all this overproduced spectacle of shouting, it would have to be helpful. i cannot say, you know, in a direct cause effect way it would affect the movement. it would not. tv is not that powerful, but it
is helpful. does that answer your question a little bit? >> yes. >> the beginning of this show came on the heel of the vatican ii. any leaders from [indiscernible] heather hendershot: you know, he stuck to liberal religious figures because he wanted to debunk some of their ideas. he was concerned about political involvement of the church. and of course he was not thrilled about vatican ii. this was someone who found mass written in latin for 30 or 40 years -- he could have his own private service in latin. so he had on reverend coffin, sloan -- i am dropping the name, from jail -- yale to be talking
about souls and activities. that was interesting. yearsere were over the catholics number of in agreement with him except for malcolm muggeridge, but they would have theological discussions about interfaith and so on and so forth. one thing that is interesting in this relationship to the , he voiced aht kind of respect for what they were doing politically, but i it is a hypothesis, i think it is correct that he did not get that kind of faith practice. he did not get the loud, you compare tou could catholicism with the direct religion into politics one way, so on and so forth. he thought things pushing
forward, but he had a few of those people on the show. at a moment when they were really impacting the conservative movement. theknow in the 1980's into 1990's, did not care for pat robinson. he did in theory, knew him outside of the media sphere, where he was not having people on the show. and one of the interesting shows comes ongary falwell and speaks moderately about how he wants a liberal, pluralistic society where everyone can express their opinions including fundamentalist christians. he said i read on your literature, and you seem very moderate here. you are very different from how you convey yourself to your constituents. acknowledging your mass audience, but we know you are a radical guy. buckley said he would not acknowledge it. thing that is interesting is how he once these political players on, but when it comes to
the christian right, he says, their ideas are ok, but he does not welcome them. but you want to look at the engagement with ideas of big catholicism, the best way to look at is the malcolm muggeridge episode. one of his favorite episodes was an episode with malcolm muggeridge that they shortened to a half hour and ran every christmas for years. his other favorite was the panama canal debate, two-hour debate with ronald reagan, he was on the other side from ronald reagan. and the other favorite episode was the one that was a bbc interview that was sent in and replayed on the show and had a conversation afterwards. >> i have been very much looking forward to reading the book. i am a huge fan. in russia there is not a sense to make a proper firing line like society. had to come here.
theuestion is related to making of the leader of conservative movement into actually. what was sohink -- special about buckley that helped him garner the cloud of the sort of overreaching super natural transcendent figure that would sort the weeds out, that birchded cast aside the society and would always be there in terms of overlooking the movement? as far as i see now, there is not a single person on the right with whom everybody on the right within five or seven minutes.
i think that was different a few years ago. heather hendershot: i would not want to overstate everybody agreed with buckley, but he was very popular. there were always some people on the far right were like, this guy, he went to yale. that populist side, but you are right, he achieved this consensus among the movement. it is hard to say how that happened with the magic formula. he was unique. it is not likely will have another buckley who was that erudite and funny. he had a fine-tuned sense of the conversation would turn very serious, and is not like he would only turn a joke, but he had a humorous side that we have to keep our sense of humor, and that is what keeps us human and talking to the other side and so on. that is something that seems quite lacking today. first episodes he
has groucho marx on. he is very funny except when he talks about humor. he does not do any of groucho's jokes. it is a terrible show, but appealing in its awfulness. like the worst availability -- movie you have ever seen. but i am not sure how he did it. i think humor was a key part of it. also being in a mass media era. i was saying before about this stratification of the culture. it is hard to imagine one figure emerging as a key voice on television, everyone else looks up your we have hundreds of channels. splash iner to make a the media in certain ways unless you are extreme and loud and paranoid, whatever. those kind of things that are leading grabbers. yeah.
>> [indiscernible] >> party play that part with buckley? [indiscernible] heather: with someone like the president-elect you mean? thank you for referencing that specific moment where buckley responded to current events but he always liked to look at the bigger picture. unlike the news media cycle where you have to respond to what happened that day, on the could talk about the future of the conservative party. where do we go from here? where do conservatives go?
so, i hypothesize in the book that if he were around this moment, he would have an episode like what is up with outsider political candidates? he had titles like that. they would discuss how did this person come from out of the blue . they would have a conceptual discussion about what was going on. president elect trump specifically, people ask me all the time what would he have thought about this guy? we don't have to speculate. he wrote an article in 29 or about trump.
the article was called something like attack of the demagogues. trump and takes down describes him as a narcissist. he was offended by the notion -- buckley was so proper. that this person would run for office without qualifications -- so i think he would have been proud of the sense that national review took throughout the election. they were one of the first to come out against trump. sam came up with a yosemite caricature of trump. at the same time, the magazine people whoor supported trump. the official line of the magazine did not agree with him. there was ever a ban on one
ideological perspective. i think he would have been pleased with how the magazine negotiated in the days leading up to the election. morei am seeing now is kind of a pragmatism and what i am reading with national review. what is he going to do, and they are not -- they are speculating about polling. they are wondering what will happen with a ram. >> quick follow-up question. one with respect to ratings, which you reference. the other with respect to funding, which we know about the early stages of funding, but as a long-running show on pbs, how involved was ugly in the -- was y and how did ratings not
matter when he was on pbs. heather: he says they were always poor. they were up and down when he was being syndicated. the ratings were up and down in part because they were -- it was a clunky system. they were scheduling him poorly. people who loved the show were watching it every day at 8:00 and then send -- suddenly they moved it to sunday morning. buckley wrote them a letter saying what are you doing. nowust one and am me and .ou moved it to sunday morning he had to flee the syndication market to pbs.
relevantgs were less there. they were not selling advertising time on pbs urine reallyng that is interesting is he was a huge voice of the free market and he had to move from the free market. would you expect the catholic church to make money? his point was that you could be in a not for profit endeavor and it was worthy. once he was on pbs, he did about as well as the other public affair shows on ebs. pbs never showed their ratings, but they would sporadically ielson and then send numbers out to producers. he was doing ok.
he was on the low end. the highest numbers on pbs work sesame street. they have masterpiece theatre and british imports that were popular. to buckley's chagrin, monty python did very well on pbs. they did much better than firing line. pbs was thrilled. they had no young viewers except for sesame street. -- it was beneath him to consider that it was a good tv show. he must have been so should grand when margaret thatcher parodied the dead parrot address. although, he might not even have gotten it.
the deadaking fun of parrots get and he probably didn't know what she was doing. when the reagan administration defunded pbs -- and nixon tried to defunded. pbs, whatn defunded is great is to read the letters that buckley sent out to people raising money. joy, reagan defunded pbs and now i need you to pay for it. a lot of capitalists were like yes, here is some money. the only foundation and other funded the show over the years. downs onme ups and pbs, but basically there was never a doubt that he would get the money he needed once it was defunded in the 80's. it soldiered on.
last question. yes. in your preparation and research for the book, you must have read some of his books. did you have any favorites among those that you thought really got to him? where you felt like he was really had his powers. heather: i think it is "cruising fun one.hat's a i think it is ok, but cruising speed is a really fun and interesting read. it was at the peak of his power and renowned and so one. he was dealing with political issues and giving a sense of his lifestyle.
it is not so heavy-handed as some of the later books. .e talks about personality he went to a gay bar with truman capote. you are like wait, what? that is probably the one i would recommend. good? [applause] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] on history bookshelf, here from the country's best-known history writers of the past decade every saturday at 4:00 p.m. eastern. you can watch any program at any time when you visit our website.
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he became a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist after the war. he is the author of "fearful odds: a memoir of vietnam and its aftermath" his remarks at the society of the cincinnati in washington dc are about five minutes. thank you for coming out on this almost went to reignite. i am emily parsons. i am delighted to welcome you to the headquarters of the society and its american revolution institute. it promotes knowledge and information. the filling the aim of the continental army officers who founded the society in 1783. to achieve this goal, the institute supports advanced these, provides resources to teachers and students, advocates for battlefield preservation, and