Gore Vidal’s body isn’t even cold yet, but the Weekly Standard’s Andrew Ferguson has penned a scathing take-down — not just of Vidal — but also of the fawning press who adored him. As Ferguson writes,
The man must have felt bulletproof. With implausible romances like Lincoln and Burr he filled more readers’ heads with more historical crapola than anyone since Parson Weems. (“So powerful as to compel awe,” said Harold Bloom of Vidal’s make-believe histories.) He thought the Bilderbergers and members of the Bohemian Grove controlled world finance. (“He is a treasure of state,” said R.W.B. Lewis.) He befriended Timothy McVeigh and spoke warmly of him. (“Vidal did not lightly suffer fools,” said the obit writer in the New York Times.) He dished out anti-Semitism in a dozen different venues with imperturbable serenity. (“Both by temperament and by birth he was an aristocrat,” said the Times.) He called William F. Buckley a crypto-Nazi. (“Vidal was known for his . . . scathing wit,” said Diane Sawyer on ABC.) He wanted to try Henry Kissinger for war crimes and suggested that John McCain had invented tales of his torture at the hands of the Vietnamese. (“A savvy analyst and glorious gadfly on the national conscience,” said the L.A. Times.) He was paid nearly a million dollars, adjusted for inflation, to collaborate with the pornographer Bob Guccione on Caligula, the most expensive stroke film ever made. (“An astonishingly versatile man of letters” —the Post again.)
In the days when a few elites controlled the media — when there were just a few TV channels and a couple papers “of record” — I suppose it was easier to force-feed the hoi polloi this bunk — assuring them that they just didn’t understand the sophisticated Vidal.
Looking back on his career, though, there is little doubt that Vidal was, on the merits, overrated. What is more, he held opinions that — were you or I to espouse them publicly — would result in our being promptly written-off as kooks (and certainly not celebrated).
But it was a different time. And that was just Gore being Gore.