Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Noam Chomsky - What's All the Fuss About?

I've long admired Canada's decision not to participate in the war on Iraq and I've been critical of the American decision to start the war.

Whenever the topic comes up on talk.origins you can count on the resident coterie of kooks bringing up Naom Chomsky. Apparently it's a grave insult to be associated with Chomsky. I don't know whether to be insulted 'cause I'm not familiar with his writings.

Today I accidently stumbled on a link to a speech by Noam Chomsky. Here it is.

Chomsky says lot of things that make a great deal of sense to me. For example, when taking about American policy in the Middle East he says,
If somebody was watchng all of this from outer space they might be led to believe that George Bush was embedded in the White House as an agent of Osama Bin Laden. He's certainly acting that way.
With respect to Us foreign policy, ...
The US declares the sovereign right to use force as it wishes. It's gonna lead even if nobody's following.
I'm not an American but I don't see why I should feel insulted to be on the same side as Chomsky. I know many Americans who aree with what I saw in the video. Am I missing something? Is Chomsky much more evil than he appears in this clip? Is there something I should know? Is he mean to old people, or something?


  1. But Chomsky is a "liberal"! (gasp)

  2. I'd say Chomsky gets the treatment he does just because he's an outlier from a lot of the general media coverage (particularly US media coverage) on several hot button topics--particularly in his readiness to criticize Israel's foreign policy (and the US' perceived hand in the same). Consumers of the US mass media, especially, will find him startling for that reason alone.

    I'd also say, generally speaking, that very outlier status, along with the fact that his criticism is generally pretty perceptive, and the fact that there is just such a monoculture, is what makes him invaluable.

    I don't always agree with him. But he's always worth a hearing. That bleating hatred you're hearing is mostly, for my money, people a bit pissed about having certain assumptions gainsaid.

    He's also a lot less startling if you're used to hearing voices closer to his position. Which is generally the case if you read/watch/listen to a lot of non-US media. On the BBC or the CBC, he essentially blends into the general range of plurality you'll hear.

  3. No offense to Mustafa Mond, but one of the reasons is precisely because Chomsky is not a liberal. He is a "democratic socialist," and quite possibly the public intellectual closest to anarchism/libertarian socialism. His ideas on linguistics are also very controversial, including within the evolutionist community. Dennett spends a good chunk of Darwin's Dangerous Idea arguing that Chomsky is scared of Darwinism. I tend to agree with him as well, but in terms of political theory he occupies a position that's been tabboo in the United States for most of a century.

  4. The main problem I have with Chomsky is that he seems to have a kneejerk reaction against Whites and Jews. I don't entirely disagree with him in his ideas that Western nations (by which I mean the US, Israel, and all the european nations to a lesser extent) do act unjustly, but it seems to be so deeply ingrained in him that I don't think he even looks at situations anymore and simply assumes that Western nations are in the wrong, and then creates some fictional, evil reason why they act that way. It reminds me of someone in the Black power movement - the way he goes off the deep end on these issues. He maintains that the US wants complete control of the world. (I disagree. The US is self-centered, but that doesn't mean it wants complete control. It's just scare tactics on Chomsky's part.) He also downplayed the actions of the Khmer Rouge, no doubt because the US was opposed to the Khmer Rouge, he felt that he had to rush to their defense. He says that the US foreign policy is aimed destroying non-capitalistic societies because it needs to eliminate "the threat of a good example" (i.e. if a communist, socialist, or islamic nation succeeds without a capitalistic economy, other's might follow suit). I think that is not only wrong, but it misunderstands and demonizes US foreign policy. (As I said earlier, I don't agree with US foreign policy, but neither to I invent reasons to make people misunderstand and hate it on the basis of imaginary motives.) Overall, it just seems like Chomsky manufactures reasons to hate the US, and goes about preaching his views to anyone who will listen.

  5. I think that Chomsky is a bit of a demagogue. The biggest problem people have with him is that he is simply much more intelligent, articulate AND able to integrate information coherently than they are. He bruises the ego a bit.

  6. "I think that Chomsky is a bit of a demagogue."

    Hmm, no idea how one could describe him with that noun. He uses the exact
    opposite of prejudices and false claims when presenting his case. Perhaps you meant some other word.

  7. he is exaclty a demagouge.
    he's using his high skills to throw hundred bits of information in one minute and thus impress people into believing his views.

    sometime it seems like his whole perception of the world is "white man bad, others good".