CBC Digital Archives

Fighting Words: Is espionage a necessary evil?

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.

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In a month fraught with Cold War tension, the Fighting Words panel debates the idea that "espionage is an unpleasant necessity." Philosophy professor Max Black, newspaper editor Michael Barkway, political and religious philosopher George Grant and Front Page Challenge panellist Toby Robins have a go at the concepts of spying, war and morality in this 1960 program.
• On May 1, 1960, three weeks before this broadcast, an American U-2 spy plane was shot down while taking surveillance photos in Soviet airspace. U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower refused to apologize to the Russians for the spy flight, prompting Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev to walk out of a U.S.-Soviet summit later that month.

• Panellist Toby Robins once worked with a world-famous spy: she had a role in the 1981 James Bond movie For Your Eyes Only.

Medium: Television
Program: Fighting Words
Broadcast Date: May 22, 1960
Guest(s): Michael Barkway, Max Black, George Grant, Toby Robins
Host: Nathan Cohen
Duration: 12:46

Last updated: October 15, 2013

Page consulted on May 26, 2014

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