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The debate was a prize fight.
In one corner stood Alan M. Dershowitz, Harvard professor of Law and defender of our precious individual liberties, bouncing up and down on his tiptoes and booming out in a high-pitched, rapid-fire cadence. In the other stood William F. Buckley, author, columnist, and Yale man, pleading--with raised eyebrows--for a decent and self-governed society in his cool, calm, collected style.
The audience of 800 in a jammed Sander's Theatre seemed to love every minute of it.
If you listen to members of the audience, the outcome was a toss-up, with a slight edge going to Dershowitz, perhaps because of the political persuasions of the audience.
The Harvard- Radcliffe George Washington Society, a group which claims to support good prose, fair debate, and 18th century republican principles, sponsored last night's debate on the limits of freedom of the press.
Dershowitz, who defended Harry Reems, the star of Deep Throat, began his first speech by announcing that the courts had thrown out Reems's case on a legal technicality yesterday afternoon.
Dershowitz then said that today's pornography laws demanded conformity with community standards and argued that this interfered with freedom by involving a third party in what should be left to the discretion of two mutually consenting adults.
The showing of pornography films on an open 50-foot screen in the middle of Harvard Square for all to see should be illegal, Dershowitz said, "but what is viewed or read inside movie theaters, books, magazines, and homes should be none of the courts' business."
"Communities since the beginning of civilization have exercized control over their form of entertainment," Buckley said, adding "this century was the most licentious in history."
Buckley said that "a society can end up hating its institutions if they fail to protect its citizens' sensibilities."
Dershowitz said that many people find Buckley's stands offensive and would want to censor him, adding that he sometimes wanted to censor anti-Semitic publications--"Everybody wants to censor somebody; that's why we can have no censorship."
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