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Buckley Debates Mailer in Chicago

Sept. 24, 1962 - In what was billed as a political debate between a conservative and a “hipster,” William F. Buckley Jr. (pictured) and Norman Mailer met before a crowd of 3,600 at Chicago’s Medinah Temple last night to discuss the subject: “What Is the Real Nature of the Right Wing in America?” Mr. Buckley is the editor of The National Review, a conservative journal. Mr. Mailer is the author of the best-selling war novel “The Naked and the Dead” (1948) and several other works. In 1955, he co-founded with three others The Village Voice, an arts and politics-oriented weekly newspaper distributed in Greenwich Village. The gate receipts of tonight’s debate, promoted by John Golden, Chicago theatrical producer, totaled about $8,000. “Are you prepared to say that it is distinctly the right wing that wants to win the cold war?” asked Buckley from his podium to the right of the moderator on the stage. “No,” said Mailer, “it is the right wing that wishes to blow up the earth.” “Why?” asked Buckley. “Because you think it is better to be dead than Red,” Mailer replied. Buckley called Mailer ignorant; Mailer returned the compliment. The lively debate, attended by youthful Chicago intellectuals as well as some sporting figures, seemed like a preliminary bout to the heavyweight fight scheduled in Chicago Tuesday between the champion, Floyd Patterson, and Sonny Liston.

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