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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