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Firing Line debate (PBS, 9-11 p.m.): ``Resolved: Political correctness is a menace and a bore.''

The minute I read this resolution, I felt they'd have more trouble proving political correctness is not a menace than they would that it's not a bore. Either way, it's not the conclusions reached but how they're arrived at that makes these special debates worth watching. Even a typically cliche-ridden subject like PC fails to smother the intellectual panache and rhetorical fun this format is famous for.

``Firing Line'' host William F. Buckley Jr. captains the supporting team, all of whom tackle the topic with wicked glee. Captain of the opposing team is the articulate Mark Green, newly named public advocate of New York City. The debate is held at the University of Pennsylvania, where an issue of free speech vs. harrassment erupted not long ago.

Like NAFTA or legalizing certain drugs - the latter an issue recently resurrected by the surgeon general - PC makes for strange bedfellows. Siding with Buckley, for instance, is Ira Glasser, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union. So a kind of half-baked apologia for such ideologically treasonous alliances is tucked with a wink into the introductory remarks of certain panelists.

Each debater takes a fascinatingly different approach. Glasser, well-versed and practical, offers a brilliant metaphor of censorship as poison gas, a temptingly potent weapon but likely, sooner or later, to drift back over your own forces. Green, on the other side, has a slightly bemused look and a jaunty, appealing, streetwise manner suitable, I suppose, for a New York City public advocate.

No matter how you feel - now or after viewing the debate - there's no denying that here is a haven of literate discourse appearing like magic on a medium whose public affairs forums tend to be full of buzz-words and low-brow exchanges.

Please check local listings for these programs.

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