05/15/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

High Profile Media Feuds: Are They Back?

What happened to the days when an enemy was an enemy, till death do they part? When was the last time anyone said anything coming close to the eruption of Norman Mailer at the 1986 World PEN Congress, when in response to a letter signed by several prominent writers protesting his inviting Secretary of State George Schultz to deliver opening remarks, he snarled, "I didn't bring the secretary of state here to be pussy-whipped by you." Or the time when William F. Buckley said to Gore Vidal on national television, "Now listen, you queer, stop calling me a crypto-Nazi or I'll sock you in your goddamn face and you'll stay plastered." True, writer Jonathan Franzen did recently call New York Times' lead book critic, Michiko Kakatuni, "the stupidest person in New York," but somehow it didn't have the same pizzaz.

Of course it's not just in the realm of literature and sports that people have long known that cultivating enemies is a way, albeit a risky one, of making one's name and becoming known--the idea being that any association, even negative, with someone more powerful and famous is ultimately beneficial. And there is that old saw, no publicity is bad publicity. But now more people seem to be thinking, "Wait--there is such a thing as bad publicity." For example, it's hard to see which of the antoganists benefited from recent high profile feuds between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump, Rupert Murdoch and Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. and Diane Sawyer and Katie Couric.

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