CBC Digital Archives

Fighting Words: Defending dirt, plus views on women's chastity

The long-running Fighting Words ranked among the most intelligent, provocative and popular shows of its day. It was a panel show with a simple premise: viewers send in controversial quotations and the panellists discuss them. From 1953 to 1962, host Nathan Cohen presided over verbal bombshells and spirited arguments of prominent thinkers, artists and controversialists, including Pierre Trudeau, Irving Layton, Robertson Davies, Norman Mailer, Peter Ustinov and many more. Watch the fireworks as the CBC Digital Archives features 20 of the most lively, fascinating and provocative panels in CBC history.

Novelist Hugh Garner, poets Irving Layton and Earle Birney and Toronto Telegram columnist Frank Tumpane tackle a broad and always controversial topic: what is pornography, and should it be censored? Frank Tumpane himself supplies the ammunition with his argument that "the doughtiest defenders of the right to read cheap smut are the intellectuals who never read it." With four opinionated writers on this 1960 panel, fireworks are guaranteed.

Next, Fighting Words regulars Irving Layton and Frank Tumpane join novelist Hugh Garner and poet Earl Birney for a compelling debate on a Jesuit priest's words: "To defend her chastity, a woman has the right to kill." A lively debate ensues on this 1960 panel discussion on CBC Television's Fighting Words.
• D.H. Lawrence's Lady Chatterley's Lover was twice banned in Canada, in 1930 and 1960. The second ban accompanied the U.S. Postal Service's refusal to ship the book, which it called "filthy and obscene."

• History's first recorded act of censorship occurred in the third century BC when Chinese emperor Shi Tuang Ti decided to control the writing of history in his time by burying 460 Confucian scholars alive and then burning all the books in his kingdom.

Medium: Television
Program: Fighting Words
Broadcast Date: June 19, 1960
Guest(s): Earle Birney, Hugh Garner, Irving Layton, Frank Tumpane
Host: Nathan Cohen
Duration: 27:23

Last updated: March 20, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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