I just wanted to highlight a conversation I had about Vidal on Truthdig, because it exemplifies an issue I’ve had in most discussions of Vidal online over the past day. I posted the following comment:
Your obit seems a little too glowing. Gore Vidal on the rape of a 13-year-old girl: “I really don’t give a fuck. Look, am I going to sit and weep every time a young hooker feels as though she’s been taken advantage of?”
Also, I fail to see the comedy in Myra Breckinridge [sic]. I just see another story all-too-full with incorrect assumptions about transsexuality positioning trans* women as creeps and rapists. Meh.
Within just a short period of time, on a fairly explicitly progressive website, this comment had quickly been downvoted to the bottom of the page. I don’t particularly care about that (actually, I was kind of proud), but I think people who downvoted my comment need to spend more time paying attention to the good things they’ve said about Vidal. The original article, and comments below, praise Vidal frequently as harsh and uncompromising, someone who wasn’t afraid to brutally eviscerate the character flaws of others at every opportunity, even after death in obituaries.
People who truly admire this quality of Vidal would do better to emulate him, and not, in some absurd respect for the dead, avoid criticizing his flaws. We cannot remember him for so frequently pushing back against power and against class-based power gradients without also recalling the ways in which he perpetuated those structures against others.
Or, as one of the positive responses (receiving the second most downvotes) to my comment put it:
Why does this get downvotes? If it’s OK for Vidal to address the slimy, mucky side of public intellectuals, why isn’t it OK to point out his own selfish privilege and misogyny?
I love Vidal and much of what he wrote, but he often wasn’t nice to women and treated them like shit.
Is it really so hard to balance moral ambiguity?