William F. Buckley Threatens to “Smash” Noam Chomsky in the Face (1969)

So much for the Gold­en Age of Civil­i­ty in Amer­i­ca – but at least it was said with a lit­tle smile and the ensu­ing debate had some sub­stance…

Note: A read­er sug­gests in our com­ments that Buck­ley was jok­ing­ly allud­ing here to a pre­vi­ous con­fronta­tion­al moment with Gore Vidal, and it sounds about right. (“I’ll sock you in the god­damn face and you’ll stay plas­tered.”)

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Comments (6)
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  • Jordi says:

    I may be wrong, but I think Buck­ley is jok­ing­ly allud­ing to a pri­or inci­dent dur­ing a tense debate he had with Gore Vidal about the same sub­ject


  • The com­ment above is quite right: Buck­ley toss­es off the “threat” with no provo­ca­tion. It was a ham-hand­ed attempt to make light of his gen­uine rage on live tele­vi­sion at Vidal. Chom­sky, though, does­n’t get the joke and looks dis­turbed. So much for try­ing to be clever once too often.

  • R. Jeffrey Krause says:

    The real mea­sure of all three of these men is that despite the emo­tion­al out­bursts (real or feigned), not one actu­al blow result­ed. The sur­prise and the sub­stance were quick­ly processed. Per­son­al civ­i­liza­tion tri­umphed. If Amer­i­ca and Viet­nam had clashed so suc­cess­ful­ly, we might have arrived at the present rela­tion­ship with­out blood­shed.

  • DZ says:

    It was a very respect­ful debate. They gave each oth­er the time to talk. And of course WBJ is act­ing sleazy — that’s how you get dra­ma and thus prof­its. Besides, it’s via pre­sent­ing oppo­si­tion that Chom­sky gets the oppor­tu­ni­ty to elab­o­rate about his OWN oppos­ing stance. This is the beau­ty of dialec­tics. It’s not about who’s right or wrong, it’s about fig­ur­ing shit out via Dev­il’s Advo­ca­cy. Just ask Pla­to.

    I mean, him say­ing “Smash­ing” Chom­sky in the face reminds me more of boxers/MMA fight­ers who say they’re going to kill the oth­er guy. They nev­er mean it but it’s in their con­tract.

  • Joe says:

    “Gave each oth­er the time to talk”? I count­ed 89 times Buck­ley cut off, talked over or wouldn’t allow Chom­sky to respond or con­tin­ue a com­ment…. We watched com­plet­ed dif­fer­ent debates my friend….

  • kevin says:

    I liked Bill Buck­ley and enjoyed his show even though I hard­ly ever agreed with what he said. Usu­al­ly he had a good debate but Chom­sky absolute­ly dis­man­tled him. He did­n’t have him back for a sec­ond go.

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