Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Is Firing Line the New Sex? (with apologies to Mary Eberstadt)

Since its publication in Policy Review last year, Mary Eberstadt's exploration of the effects of unlimited sex and food on advanced nations, "Is Food the New Sex?" has been a perennial favorite on the web. In a shameless effort to transmit that success to our blog, I posit here that Eberstadt's observations about food also apply to William F. Buckley's Firing Line television series. After all, with more than one hundred Firing Line programs available on Amazon.com, additional titles available directly from the Hoover Archives, and just about any transcript available through the Hoover website, Firing Line fans now enjoy a previously unimagined level of abundance. As Eberstadt observes with food and sex, the dramatic expansion in access to Firing Line is due to technology, in this case the Internet, digital copying, and DVD on demand.

Where Eberstadt takes us to the kitchens of Betty and Jennifer, I suggest visiting their living rooms. Thirty years ago, Betty's living room was equipped with only a television to enjoy live broadcasts of Firing Line. No matter how much Betty loved the show, she was limited by the television schedule but was accustomed its enforced scarcity.

Betty's thirty-year-old granddaughter Jennifer pays far more attention to Firing Line and feels far more strongly about it than Betty ever did. Even though Firing Line ended in 1999, Jennifer can watch any title from her library of Firing Line DVDs at any time, and she even proselytizes; on occasion she'll rack up her current favorite episode when friends visit, and when gifts are exchanged a DVD featuring Malcolm Muggeridge is sure to be inside Jennifer's colorful wrapping. She argues the merits of the Allen Ginsberg show with her liberal coworkers and consistently asserts the moral authority epitomized in "Is It Possible to Be a Good Governor?" Jennifer's annual holiday tradition includes viewing "How Does One Find Faith?" Clearly, where Betty felt opinions about Firing Line were a matter of individual taste, Jennifer is certain that her opinions about Firing Line are not only politically correct but also morally correct: she feels that others ought to be as devoted to Firing Line as she is.

Deep down, there has been a revolution in how we now think about Firing Line--changes that allow Firing Line to become a way of life. Over breakfast you can watch program clips on You Tube; sneak a peek at the studio shots on Hoover's Firing Line slideshow when you're at work; during lunch, screen a show on DVD for your coworkers. When you ask someone a tough question, deliver it with your best impression of Buckley's winning smile. En route home on the train, read a PDF transcript and memorize Buckley's best lines to share at your next party. After dinner watch another DVD and then write a review of it on Amazon.com--be sure to match Buckley's elevated discourse and set a higher standard for the social Internet! Before you go to bed, peruse the list of Firing Line's 1,504 programs, send us a request for the next title you'd like to watch, and fall asleep dreaming of it.

1 comment:

  1. You might have described my life in the last paragraph (not entirely). You're definitely right about the abundance. I wish they weren't so expensive off amazon. Thanks for all the great work at Hoover.