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Norman Mailer Thought Muhammad Ali Was Unfairly Treated
Norman Mailer Thought Muhammad Ali
Was Unfairly Treated

by Billy Ingram

Dick Cavett & Norman MailerPulitzer price winning author Norman Mailer was one of those pompous so-called intellectuals seen frequently on television railing against one societal ill or another. Here the writer is joined on The Dick Cavett Show by Muhammad Ali who had gone on before him.

In the NY Times obit of Mailer in 2007, Charles McGrath stated, "Mr. Mailer belonged to the old literary school that regarded novel writing as a heroic enterprise undertaken by heroic characters with egos to match. He was the most transparently ambitious writer of his era, seeing himself in competition not just with his contemporaries but with the likes of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky."

"Muhammad Ali has stated some unpleasant but irrefutable, from my point of view, facts," Mailer says of Ali's observations on race in America in the previous segment. "The white race has had more success at murder than the other races." When Cavett begs off on praising or blaming an entire race Mailer replies, "Well, my favorite notion is that the Devil is the most beautiful creature God ever created. So people that believe in whites being beautiful are troubled if they take that notion into account."

See what I mean when I say 'so-called intellectual'? He makes a great point - he believes, as Malcolm X stated, that the white man is the devil, his prerogative - but takes way to long way to get there!

I would think Cavett got what Mailer was referring to but chose to be blithe about it, replying with, "The Devil has not been motioned on this show so far, in this series, so I'm glad to have you bring him up." Watch how Cavett reacts when Mailer suggests that the talk show host might himself be the Devil. Cavett was perhaps the quickest wit in TV talk show history.

Muhammad Ali, Dick Cavett, Norman MailerMailer then turned to speak to Ali in a most confusing manner before he got to the point. "I think you got the worst shake of anyone in athletics in the history of this country. And I'm prepared to say why. And I think that when America gave you that bad shake they hurt themselves far more than they hurt you and they hurt you plenty. But they hurt themselves more."

Mailer believed that the fighter was let down by the nation when he refused to fight in the Vietnam War. Cool, confident Muhammad Ali replied, "I'm sorry I'd just like to say one thing, that I shouldn't have to say, is that I'm not hurt at all." Ali continued, "No, when you're not dependent on nobody and not relying on them for nothing, they can't disappoint you. So I'm not relying on these people you're talking about nor was I dependent on them nor was their God my God."

Ali then elaborates on his views about religion and rejection before Mailer shifts the convo to Kierkegaard and philosophy because, of course.

This is a fascinating segment from the May 25th 1970 episode of The Dick Cavett Show:


 

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