Noam Chomsky vs. William F. Buckley, 1969

Is there such a thing as the benign use of international force? It’s a question that Noam Chomsky and William F. Buckley, leading thinkers from the left and right, took up in 1969. And, of course, the whole question of Vietnam loomed in the background. As you’ll see below (and in Part 2 here) the debate is remarkably civil. And when Buckley threatens to punch Chomsky in the face, it’s said much more lovingly than when he offered to do the same to Gore Vidal in 1968.

As an interesting aside, when Buckley died earlier this year, Chomsky revisited the 1969 debate and Buckley’s legacy and essentially saw him looking a lot better than his conservative heirs — although I’m not sure that Chomsky was really passing along a deeply felt compliment here.



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  • Gwgregg

    Having just seen the video (and amazed I hadn’t encountered it before now), I was taken aback.

    Buckley comes across as a quintessential forensics champion who is dealt a bad hand. He continually tries to derail and pick holes in Chomsky’s points, even sadly using a bit of condescension and smarmy ad hominem to do so. Chomsky, on the other hand, comes across as incredibly knowledgeable about a very complex subject, unflappable and able to back up his points with multiple factual reinforcements.

    I have always admired Buckley as an apologist and debater, but he is so clearly outmatched here it’s a little embarrassing to see one of my forensic heroes stumbling like that. Chomsky seems very able to support his arguments and must get the nod here.

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  • Nikos

    Apart from his logical inconsistencies, this guy (Buckley), has been caught with his pants down concerning Greek history…He is not even deserving a serious answer. One of the easiest debates for Chomsky, I guess.

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