Chomsky at Home Abroad

Noam Chomsky, world-renowned linguist and fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy, does not get much coverage in the U.S. online media. But overseas, his utterances on war and peace regularly make headlines, for better or for worse.

In London, the Independent gave front-page coverage this week to an excerpt of his new book, "Failed States," as did the Telegraph in Belfast.

In Lebanon, his denunciation of Western intellectuals for "cowardly subservience to U.S. foreign policymakers " also made the home page of the Daily Star of Beirut (subscription). But his subsequent appearance with a senior Hezbollah official provoked a tart response from Michael Young, the Beirut news site's opinion editor. Chomsky's appearance, Young said, shows that the "secular Western left has flatlined." In Israel, YNet news columnist Sever Plocker charged that Chomsky "applauds jihad."

What makes Chomsky newsworthy, at least to overseas editors and opinion makers, is an intellectual style that, as Paul Theodoulou of the Cyprus Mail describes it, subjects "U.S. power at home and abroad to a withering critique, typically buttressed by an awesome number of endnotes."

In his latest book, Chomsky argues that the United States is a failed state.

"Though the concept is recognised to be, according to the journal Foreign Affairs, 'frustratingly imprecise,' some of the primary characteristics of failed states can be identified," Chomsky writes. "One is their inability or unwillingness to protect their citizens from violence and perhaps even destruction. Another is their tendency to regard themselves as beyond the reach of domestic or international law, and hence free to carry out aggression and violence. And if they have democratic forms, they suffer from a serious 'democratic deficit' that deprives their formal democratic institutions of real substance," he said.

Chomsky doesn't have to spell out his allusions to Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Guatanamo and NSA surveillance to make his point.

But throughout the Middle East, his critics find his pronouncements detached from reality. When he expressed opposition to the disarming of Hezbollah, as demanded by some (not all) Lebanese political parties, the Ya Libnan news site suggested he has something yet to learn about Lebanon:

One political observer said the issue of the arms is not 'America versus Hezbollah', the issue of the arms is the Lebanese sovereignty and independence. 'Obviously Chomsky didn't get it this time,' one observer commented. He added 'Chomsky needs to live here for a while to understand what happened during the past 30 years and why most Lebanese are against the Hezbollah arms.'

The Middle East Media Research Institute, a pro-Israeli group, has published excerpts from Chomsky's talk with Lebanese New TV and other news outlets.

Like him or not, you won't find his commentary on many mainstream U.S. news sites.

By Jefferson Morley |  May 31, 2006; 2:20 PM ET  | Category:  Mideast
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Its really too bad that Chomsky is in league with killers and purveyors of hate and racism. Hezbolla is nothing but murderers and wanna-be dictators wrapped in a palestinian flag.

Posted by: Long Beach ,CA | May 31, 2006 02:50 PM

yeah, unlike the United States, which allied itself with Saddam, the Shah, Noriega, Pinochet, Torrijos...et al

Posted by: Dan Weinert | May 31, 2006 02:57 PM

"Like him or not, you won't find his commentary on many mainstream U.S. news sites."
This is one of the very few cases where U.S. news sites excercise good judgement and ignore what should be ignored. To paraphrase Stalin, Chomsky is a useless idiot.

The reason he gets headlines outside the U.S. is because he panders to anti-American bigotry and envy.

Yes, I said "envy," implying that others seek/want what the U.S. has. If you think that isn't true, then why do so many immigrate and so few emigrate?

Posted by: John | May 31, 2006 03:20 PM

What a joke: twice this article mentions that Chomsky doesn't get covered in the US, but no apology is given. That's the real story. Why have most Americans still never heard of perhaps their most famous intellectual? The only time he gets mentioned in the US press is in articles like this one, which mostly just talks about all ways some Israeli website has attacked him. If you want to understand how the media really works, dig through the archives at www.chomsky.info.

Posted by: Den | May 31, 2006 03:28 PM

I believe another characteristic of failed states is their inability or unwillingness to consider openly and publicly what their most eminent dissidents think, and to confront what they say with arguments rather than distortion, slogans, propaganda, abuse, and all else besides the points they make. Sever Plocker's charge that Chomsky "applauds jihad", in Israel's YNet, illustrates this to perfection.

What shows this blindness of the weak to be particularly acute is the defense mechanism called "projection", i.e. constantly claiming that it is others (Chinese, Russian, Vietnamese, Iraqi, Iranian, etc.) who can't confront their own dissidents rationally.

What is interesting about Chomsky, is his outstanding ability to interpret, to criticize, to support his arguments and to document what he says. This has forced him to use endnotes extensively, so his readers can better follow the thread of the arguments and breathe... But those who do not read them will always prefer to point out their "awesome number", just in case we thought they had not noticed.

Posted by: Robert Rose | May 31, 2006 03:44 PM

I can't help but notice the irony here. There seem to be two main points being made:
1) Chomski's intellectual critique of US policy, while popular abroad, is tacitly censored in the US.
2) Chomski is receiving criticism abroad for taking a position against disarming Hezbolla in Lebanon.

But nowhere is there any mention of why Chomski takes this position. So Mr. Morely has committed the very act of censorship which he alludes to in the same piece!

One of Chomski's criticisms of the mainstream media is that it doesn't allow dissenting opinions to be explained. How about showing a bit of chutzpah and letting him state his case.

Posted by: Keats Kirsch | May 31, 2006 03:55 PM

This American aversion to intellectuals/intellectualism (i.e. Bush etal)will be the downfall of America. Why would we be proud to denigrate the workings of the brain? Just look at what has happened to us in 5 short years-half the world think we're stupid since we have a bumbling incoherent president who talks tough but has not accomplished nothing. Bin Laden is running around, Iraq is a mess, New Orleans is a mess, FEMA is a mess, Guantanamo is a mess, rendition, torture, Bush is a mess. Chomsky is entitled to his brilliant observations and if Bush read it, at least for the prose, Bush might be a better speaker.

Posted by: M.Stratas | May 31, 2006 03:57 PM

To call Chomsky an intellectual, in any true and meaningful sense of the word, is about as honest as calling the US a failed state. Any students of politics who buy his arguments will be misled, leading at best to embarrassment. Remember, folks, this guy believes that MSM (not his term) was unfairly critical of the Khmer Rouge. I've read his books, I was swayed by him in my early days as a true believer, but no one with an open mind, a thirst for knowledge, and belief in reason can put faith in Chomsky for long. His self described ideology of libertarian socialism (alternately libertarian anarchism) is bankrupt.

Posted by: Scott | May 31, 2006 04:28 PM

John:

"Yes, I said "envy," implying that others seek/want what the U.S. has. If you think that isn't true, then why do so many immigrate and so few emigrate?"

I see this shallow, tired, inane argument for our supposed "clean hands" laid out there time and again. It doesn't stand to any depth of scrutiny however, but what would you expect from someone who dislikes Chomsky?

Few people argue that there are *advantages* to living in the US. Quality of life here is nearly as good as it is in some European countries, for instance.

That is not the point when people are criticizing what we *do* to the rest of the world. The safest and most prosperous place to sit, after all, is in the castle of the lord who is raping and pillaging the countryside outside his walls. Sure, people will flock in over the drawbridge if they are let in. Best to be inside rather than out in the poor villages that are being burned by the Mad King of the castle's amoral lunacy.

Get it? I expect not.

Posted by: B2O | May 31, 2006 04:35 PM

"Just look at what has happened to us in 5 short years-half the world think we're stupid since we have a bumbling incoherent president who talks tough but has not accomplished nothing."

What, just because 47% of our population (as of 2/05) and 85% of our service members in Iraq still think that Saddam Hussein attacked us on 9/11, despite the fact that no rational person aware of the facts believes this notion? Does that make us a stupid, information-phobic country unworthy of the 21st century?

Yes. Actually it does.

Posted by: B2O | May 31, 2006 04:40 PM

Chomsky is irrevelant - who cares what he thinks?

Posted by: Charles Jackson | May 31, 2006 04:45 PM

Chomsky is indeed a brillian man, who has, virtually single handed, made a real science of linguistics. It is a mistake to think analytic ability implies also a sense for rational politics reconciled with moral and practical objectives.

Close reading of Chomsky's writing discloses a lot of hate for his country, for the ethnic background of his parents. and for the world order. Opposition to disarming Hizbullah is for him a golden opportunity to indulge all three of those hates simultaneously.

The Beirut press is mistaken in believing that Chomsky's views are the result of ignorance of the Lebanese scene: it is very doubtful that he has reached his conclusions without tracking the Lebanese press on the subject, so he knows of the misery that Hizbullah has visited on that troubled country. The way he does this is analogous to the act of the dinner guest who passes wind during the dessert course.

The painful truth, counter-PC though it may be, is that Chomsky's political pronouncements are best ignored politely.

Posted by: Stan Goodman | May 31, 2006 04:47 PM

Scott - actually I would agree that Chomsky has gone overboard in his theses plenty of times over the years. But for the 80-90% of the time that he is not only *right on the mark*, but talking about something that most of our lame media/commentary class is far too chicken **** to ever go near, he is worth his weight in gold.

I only wish America had the guts to look in the mirror and see the reality behind the snow white facade we paint for ourselves.

How many of the first 100 people you'll meet on the street today have any idea why Iran dislikes and mistrusts the United States? I would guarantee you that 95-99 of them simply take the MSM's word for it that Iran is a bunch of irrational Islamic nutcases who hate the US because they want more McDonalds in their cities. Or something at an equivalent level of insight. The year 1953 simply does not mean anything to the average American news swallower.

Posted by: B2O | May 31, 2006 04:48 PM

"Chomsky is irrevelant - who cares what he thinks?"

LOL. Only in the braindead United States, my friend. He is the most quoted intellectual in the world, according to several lists. Hence, his relevance towers over more well-known (here) pretenders like Ann Coulter and the like.

Posted by: B2O | May 31, 2006 04:53 PM

"Chomsky is irrevelant - who cares what he thinks?"

Hmmmm. Let's see ...


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
RELEASE NO. 10-06

NOAM CHOMSKY TO LECTURE - April 14, 2006

WEST POINT, N.Y. - Dr. Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, will give a lecture on current "Just War Theory" and the responsibility to protect on Thursday, April 20, 7:45 p.m. in Robinson Auditorium, Thayer Hall, as part of the academy's Distinguished Lecture Series.

Chomsky currently holds the Ferrari P. Ward Chair of Modern Language and Linguistics at MIT. He has received numerous honorary degrees from universities such as Pennsylvania, Georgetown, Cambridge and Harvard. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Science. Additionally, as a member of other professional and learned societies in the United States and abroad, he is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award of the American Psychological Association, Helmholtz Medal, Dorothy Eldridge Peacemaker Award and others.

Approximately 500 cadets currently enrolled in Philosophy 201 will be in attendance. The lecture is open to the public and guests should be seated by 7:30 p.m. Please ensure you have proper identification upon entrance to the academy.
-30-

Posted by: | May 31, 2006 04:56 PM

For those who are curious, the foregoing press release refers to a lecture by Chomsky at West Point in April. As one of the academy's senior staff observed following the lecture, freedom of speech "is one of the things we're here to defend." One should consider this before summarily dismissing him as "irrelevant".
As an anthropologist and social-minded American citizen, I have appreciated Chomsky's political insights for many years, though I don't always agree with him. Sadly, one has to Google him to keep up with his work, but this article at least keeps his embers burning for the MSM readership: thank you, Mr. Morely.

Posted by: Michael Moretti | May 31, 2006 05:46 PM

Noam Chomsky may be well regarded overseas and by his true believers here (at least three of my college professors were included in this group), but he is also very much a hypocrite, who seems to have profited (monetarily) quite nicely from his anti-Americanism, case in point...

CLOSET CAPITALIST:

http://www.hooverdigest.org/061/schweizer.html

Posted by: Jack | May 31, 2006 05:49 PM

Chomsky a "dissident"? Please don't cheapen the term. Chomsky dissents from the policies of a a nation that not only doesn't punish dissent, but has a popular culture that often glorifies dissent for its own sake, even (and perhaps especially) if it is as worthless as Chomsky's views. The phrase "speaking truth to power" is nothing more than a bad joke when applied in the context of US politics and policy and then juxtaposed with real dissent in the cause of freedom. Courageous enough to speak out against a nation that willingly tolerates criticism, secure in the knowledge that his words will bring no harm to himself, Chomsky is nothing more than a foil that highlights the values of what remains the planet's best example of Liberal democracy. Chomsky a dissident? No. .

Posted by: RC | May 31, 2006 05:54 PM

C-SPAN streaming video of Dr. Chomsky's lecture at the US Military Academy to West Point cadets a few weeks ago.

http://www.booktv.org/feature/index.asp?segid=7022&schedID=428

Apparently, his ideas are good enough for discussion with West Point students, but not the rest of us. The Q&A session is blistering and direct, after which he received a surprising and prolonged applause...

Search in Google News finds a startling invite from CNN for Dr. Chomsky to "debate" Bill Bennett a few months after 9/11. Mr. Bennett embarrasses himself by asking the tired question of why Chomsky lives in the US after having no response to Chomsky's discussion points.

http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0205/30/ltm.01.html

Posted by: KT | May 31, 2006 06:10 PM

" The year 1953 simply does not mean anything to the average American news swallower."

Does it mean anything to you, Mr Average American News Swallower?

I find that Chomsky is just like the rest of the Main Stream Media. He takes good work then ratchets up the volume a bit for shock value.

America is a 'failed state' is hyperboal that only serves to distract from the truth.

Posted by: Duck | May 31, 2006 06:19 PM

Ever since I read a persuasive piece - with links to some of his writings - about how Chomsky basically turned a blind eye to the Cambodian genocide, because he had been a Khmer Rouge supporter, I have absolutely no use of him. I wish he'd stick to linguistics.

Posted by: John Gaguine | May 31, 2006 07:13 PM

Whether he proves to be right or wrong on any issue, it's very difficult to argue with professor Chomsky. He has a powerful command of facts and can accurately cite statistics, studies, and publication dates to back up his point at any time. Thus, when he does appear in the MSM he always makes the poor reporter look hapless and on the rare occasion when some political tool like Bill Bennett agrees to debate him, they are quickly reduced to ad hominum attacks.

And overall, although far from perfect, I'd happily wager that his track record is very good compared to others who constantly make public pronouncements on the issues of the day. Like shortstops and cornerbacks, Washington politicians and pundits, particularly conservative ones, must have short memories. In many cases, professor Chomsky's criticisms, e.g. denuciations of Saddam, have shown him to be way ahead of the curve.

And like any critic of sacred cows, be they from the press, academia, or the Israel lobby, a good deal of slime is directed his way. The above references regarding his writings on the Khmer Rouge is a good example. Nowhere does he downplay the horrors of the Cambodian genocide. What he does is compare and contrast the way those crimes are reported with how similar, or much worse crimes are not reported when commited by the U.S. or its allies. Thanks to Chomsky, everybody in the world knows. Everybody except us.

Posted by: Chuck | May 31, 2006 08:25 PM

Like him or not, the man's a genius. He's got guts, too. Probably more of each than all the Fox News wackos combined.
It's a pathetic person who can only argue with slander, name calling and vitriol. Chomsky has never stooped as low as most of his critics, here.

Posted by: David Ellis | May 31, 2006 08:47 PM

Once again, Noam Chomsky has hit the nail on the head. To those of us outside the United States who watch as your dim head of state plunges that country from one crisis into another, as its citizens collapse under the weight of their own obesity, as your industry poisons the planet, as the corrupt clique around Bush and Cheney cement their control over your administration, as you build ever more jails to house the people that your society has failed to provide for, it's quite obvious that the U.S. is indeed a failed state.
I see the Iraq war as the final death throe of the once-mighty U.S. empire.

Posted by: Sergio | May 31, 2006 10:52 PM

There's a new study out from Harvard showing how even though you Americans spend twice as much on health care as we Canadians, we are far healthier than you -- with lower rates of everything from diabetes to heart disease, and far better overall access to health care than you have.
All the millions in the world can't solve a problem if that money goes only for health services to those who can afford them.
Another example of how the U.S. is a failed state: blinded by ideology, you have set up a market-based health-care system that drains your pockets and makes you sick.
What a pathetic failure the United States is when it comes to that most basic duty of a state: to provide for the most basic needs of its people.

Posted by: Tony in Canada | May 31, 2006 10:58 PM

this one sure got the US haters riled up.

look, just because you excel on one field doesn't mean you excel in everything you touch, so Chomsky's contributions to linguistics don't mean he's a political whiz. and for censorship - well, the US is doing a pretty poor job of censoring the guy when we debate him freely on this website and he speaks to West Point cadets.

consider this - maybe most Americans aren't swayed by the man because they disagree with him. just a thought.

Posted by: CE | June 1, 2006 02:31 PM

Monolithic CE: "US haters"? -- Which US? Which US is respected? Which US is abhorred? "Anti-americanism"? -- Anti which Americans? Pro which Americans?

"Consider this - maybe most Americans aren't swayed by the man because they disagree with him. Just a thought." Consider this: maybe most Americans aren't swayed by the man because they do not have a clue what the man thinks, given they do not even know Noam Chomsky exists. Just a thought.

Posted by: Robert Rose, Canada | June 1, 2006 03:01 PM

Robert, by haters I was referring to the folks who jump aboard these forums to vent at the US. like the guy who posted a rant about supposed US failings in health care on a thread about US foreign policy.

as for your apparent notion that Chomsky could persuade Americans that their nation is a failed state and in general the greatest source of evil in the world, if only they knew about him and read his stuff - well, you can believe that if you like. but it's a stretch, to be generous.

Posted by: CE | June 1, 2006 04:32 PM

Why so many Canucks in this forum...and why are they taking so much offense at any criticism of Chomsky?

Posted by: Just Wondering | June 1, 2006 05:12 PM

"Consider this: maybe most Americans aren't swayed by the man because they do not have a clue what the man thinks, given they do not even know Noam Chomsky exists. Just a thought."

Sure we do. His books are readily available here in the U.S., and the left-wing press and talk radio crowd routinely celebrate him. Most Americans view him as (and I'm searching for a polite way to put it) completely out of touch with reality.

Posted by: | June 1, 2006 05:20 PM

"What a pathetic failure the United States is when it comes to that most basic duty of a state: to provide for the most basic needs of its people."

So stay in Canada. Just don't be offended by my choice to stay in Canada (and to ignore academics such as Chomsky who spout over-intellectualized left-wing drivel).

Posted by: | June 1, 2006 05:23 PM

"What a pathetic failure the United States is when it comes to that most basic duty of a state: to provide for the most basic needs of its people."

So stay in Canada. Just don't be offended by my choice to stay in the U.S. (and to ignore academics such as Chomsky who spout over-intellectualized left-wing drivel).

Posted by: | June 1, 2006 05:24 PM

"Why so many Canucks in this forum...?" (Just Wondering...).

Because your country is under siege!...

If you wish to read more comments from Americans, I suggest you read the comments to the articles that appear daily in the Toronto Globe and Mail...

As for "taking so much offense at any criticism of Chomsky", the "offense" is precisely at Chomsky (or any man or woman, for that matter) being vilified, instead of his views being presented fairly, discussed, and criticized.

But Professor Noam Chomsky can take care of himself.

Posted by: Robert Rose, Canada | June 1, 2006 05:41 PM

"But Professor Noam Chomsky can take care of himself."

Robert: Indeed, Chomsky has taken care of himself, very well indeed...

CLOSET CAPITALIST:

http://www.hooverdigest.org/061/schweizer.html

Posted by: Just Wondering | June 1, 2006 07:01 PM

As an outside observer of America's repeated acts of deceit and terrorism I can safely say the reason most of America thinks Chomsky is "out of touch with reality" is because they've been indoctrinated against any form of free thinking, free thinking in a realistic sense, free thinking is ok provided you agree with those in control

Posted by: David Hanlon | June 1, 2006 07:11 PM

"As an outside observer of America's repeated acts of deceit and terrorism ..."

I'm honestly not sure who's more ignorant at this point - Americans who obtain their primetime news from CNN, MSNBC and the big three networks, or "outside observers" with hackneyed views of the United States, such as David Hanlon. David - Please return to watching your Lars Von Trier films.

Posted by: Inside Observer | June 1, 2006 07:19 PM

David, come visit us. seriously. the dollar's down so it will be affordable for you, most likely, and you can travel from sea to shining sea and actually talk to some Americans and see what they think. it's a big country, and I bet you might even find one or two folks out of the 290 million or so who aren't brainwashed by - well, whoever it is you think is brainwashing them.

Posted by: CE | June 1, 2006 08:39 PM

There are Americans who haven't been brainwashed but they're a rather small and inconsequential minority. Yours is an ignorant, ill-educated, politically illiterate country forcefed a diet of biased, jingoistic propaganda masquerading as journalism. That you would elect a man of the likes as George W. Bush to your presidency is just further evidence of that.

Posted by: Sven | June 2, 2006 01:44 AM

Ah, Sven. Is the sun not shining in Sweden today? Is the what compels you to trasfer your smarmy European angst and melodrama to our shores?

Posted by: Ignorant, Jingoistic American | June 2, 2006 05:07 PM

I wouldn't bother trying to engage Sven in any sort of dialogue. I've tried it before. He's not interested in dialogue. Rather, he appears to have some sort of obsessive disorder regarding America and, to satisfy the compulsions that go along with such disorders, must continually spew bile on this site. He should seek clinical help.

Posted by: LWP | June 2, 2006 06:58 PM

Dali Lama = Peace, Chomsky = Truth

Posted by: Michael | June 2, 2006 09:01 PM

If you agree that poverty and violence are perpetrated by a system based on obscene greed- read Chomsky.

Posted by: Michael | June 2, 2006 09:08 PM

Chomsky knows that free speech is effectively controlled in the USA by the concentration of TV/radio stations in the hands of a few corporations. Of course, they support the status quo and the only remaining source of somewhat free information is the internet. Chomsky takes on the "true believers" who want to pretend the USA really abides by some kind of democratic ideology, an idealogy that continues to pump the US armed forces full of kids ready to die for Exxon. Idealogy died long ago to money and power my friends, yet they want to believe in fairy tales. It's hard for them to stomach the truth Noam.

Posted by: | June 3, 2006 10:52 AM

Professor Chomsky spends more time with bloody dictators like Castro than the time he spends with average American citizens who will die for our freedom.

His hypocritical life-style speaks for himself. He enjoys his right to say whatever garbage he has to say, but sides with those who do not allow the same to their citizens (even if it is garbage).

If those people could speak their mind freely, Professor Chomsky will never be their reference for anything (maybe for some linguistics issues with the possibility that they will try to omit his name).

Posted by: Benevolente | June 3, 2006 12:12 PM

Hey, I don't know about capitalism being all about greed; or the U.S. trampling on the liberties of its citizens and others. All I know is that Chomsky earns WAY more than I do from his lectures, book deals, investments, etc. If that's evil capitalism at work, then please send some of that my way.

Posted by: Alex | June 3, 2006 02:51 PM

Alex:
You can read Chomsky's book free on line.

No profit in that.

Posted by: Michael | June 3, 2006 08:35 PM

It's amazing that anyone who attacks Chomsky never talk about the actual points that he brings up because they cannot discredit him by any other means than by calling him names. Chomsky is a scientist in the true sense of the word and this world needsd more people like him.

Posted by: | June 4, 2006 03:39 AM

It's amazing that anyone who attacks Chomsky never talk about the actual points that he brings up because they cannot discredit him by any other means than by calling him names. Chomsky is a scientist in the true sense of the word and this world needsd more people like him.

Posted by: William | June 4, 2006 03:41 AM

Just a few truths to remember:

Chomsky lectures to young Americans (like the cadets of West Point) more often than to Cubans or Lebanese.

Noam Chomsky makes no more money than any other writer/lecturer with so large a following.

The vast majority of people in America have never heard of Noam Chomsky and do not know who he is or what he thinks.

He is, in fact, the most popular American intellectual on the world stage, whether you judge by readership or influence.

If we can agree that these points are beyond dispute, we can get down to the dirty business of debating American governance. If not, I encourage someone to post reliable evidence to the contrary.

The comment I'd like to offer is that it is enlightening to try and find a comparable figure in America:

One who is invited to speak at the same diversity of both distinguished and infamous events.

One who enjoys the same amount of readership among world leaders, writers and thinkers.

One who has produced such a large body or work concerning American politics.

I'd like to request suggestions for an equally influential American writer/thinker (perhaps one you agree with, if you don't agree with Chomsky).

Then, if there is such a person, we can ask if the average American knows who he or she is, and why.

If not, should the average American know of these people? and who's responsiblity would it be to inform them? Their own, or someone elses?

I think these questions might make for a more engaging debate than the ad hominem attacks that seem to consume a lot of type on this page.

Posted by: Jim | June 4, 2006 04:59 AM

To follow up on Jim's post:
Could someone who's anti-Chomsky please tell us on what points he's wrong?

Posted by: cake | June 4, 2006 08:49 AM

Follow up on the last two comments: could also those who oppose Noam Chomsky (his real name) have the guts -- or decency -- to identify themselves by their own name (their real name), instead of hiding behind a pseudonym, behind their computer screen?

Posted by: Robert Rose, Canada | June 4, 2006 03:12 PM

Follow up to the last two comments. Could those who disagree with Noam Chomsky (his real name) have the guts -- or the decency -- to use their real name when they post, instead of hiding behing a pseudonym... behind their computer screen?

Posted by: Robert Rose | June 4, 2006 03:30 PM

Ah, Robert my friend. Given our previous exchanges, I'm not at all surprised to see you post on a thread about Chomsky.

I'm not quite sure what you mean by those who "oppose" Chomsky. I'll let others speak for themselves, but I don't "oppose" the man. My reactions to him run from favorable to indifferent to irritated.

Favorable because he does say some important things about certain defects in US domestic and foreign policy.

Irritated, though, he often says things in irresponsible ways. Which is to say, he appears to generally provide his detailed criticisms of the US without acknowledging the other side of the story, thereby fanning the flames of a whole lot of childish anti-Americanism (see, e.g., the comments of obsessives like Tony and Sven on this thread and elsewhere).

What's the other side of the story? That while the US does indeed suffer from its share of failures, it's far from being a "failed state". (I detailed the relevant facts in our previous exchange, so I won't bore you with them again.)

When push comes to shove, Chomsky himself will implicitly acknowledge that his stated analysis is one-sided. See the transcript (on his web site) to his debate with William Bennett when he--CHOMSKY--said he considers the US to be "the greatest country in the world".

I don't know by what measure Chomsky was making his assessment when he made that statement. By some measures I would disagree with him, by others I would agree.

I do know, though, that those who love Chomsky and disdain the US, and love to cite Chomsky when they justify their disdain for the US, would be existentially crushed to know that their intellectual hero ("the world's most influential intellectual") is, at heart, a true believer in the very thing they so despise.

I also know that Chomsky's analysis would have more credibility if he more often acknowledged what he appears to believe. By not doing so, he likely leads (purposely or not) a lot of anti-American obsessives down a false path.

Posted by: LWP | June 4, 2006 11:22 PM

In response to LWP's comments:

It seems to me that a basic problem with any kind of discussion is a lack of willingness to define precisely what it is we are actually talking about. LWP writes about:"(Chomsky's) detailed criticism of the U.S." Yet, the majority of Chomsky's writings are very clearly defined as criticising U.S. government policy.
My point is, The "U.S." is such a complex thing that for anyone to suggest that Chomsky is "anti-U.S." when he is so clearly anti-bad U.S. policy is to equate the entirety of the U.S. (its people places and culture, and all the rest) with the policies of its government.
Start thinking like that, and it becomes easy to invade other countries or fly planes into offices.

Posted by: Cake | June 5, 2006 11:13 AM

Does criticizing the things the US does wrong and holding the "greatest nation in the world" to a higher standard of conduct constitute anti-Americanism? Does it make one disloyal to cry out in rage and pain when one's own country is dishonorable and manipulative? Does one become a traitor by questioning and criticizing?

No, no, no. The answer is no. You see, people who love the US, as Chomsky does, can still be pained by its deep flaws and its failure to live up to its own standards. If we are the greatest nation in the world, we should act like it. When we fail to do so, we should be called on it. Our extremely high moral standards and our privileged position as the most powerful nation on the earth demands more of us than it does of others. As John McCain said, it's not about who they are, it's about who we are.

Mindless patriotism and jingoism should not be an American value. It is completely wrong to label Americans who criticize thier country as "mindless anti-American obsessives." There may be some few of those, but the majority of Chomsky's admirers love freedom, democracy, and social justice. Slandering them with the brush of disloyalty and namecalling won't change that nor invalidate their critiques.

Posted by: Brian S. | June 5, 2006 11:56 AM

I have read with interest the discussion of Noam Chomsky on this forum. Anyone with time to re-read this will note that with the exception of a reference to Chomsky's writings about Cambodia [AFTER THE CATACLYSM -- co-written with Edward S. Herman] there was not ONE SINGLE effort made to counter ONE SINGLE assertion or interpretation that Chomsky has ever made.

Instead we are advised to check a web site to see how high an income Chomsky has (the relevance of which escapes me!).

I have personally known Noam Chomsky since 1979 when I arranged for him to speak at my college on "Foreign Policy in the 1980s." I arranged for him to debate former Ambassador William Sullivan and they had quite a set to --- I also arranged for a complete transcript of the entire debate to be made.

After the debate, many students (and not a few faculty and administrators) were angry at Chomsky's "stridency" in asserting that [among other things] the US policy in Latin America in the 1970s had been in support of regimes who practiced torture.

I wrote a letter to the student newspaper in which I invited anyone on campus to peruse the transcript of the talk and identify any FACT, ARGUMENT or INTERPRETATION with which they disagreed. I promised that Professor Chomsky would respond to any and all arguments with his references.

NOT ONE PERSON RESONDED -- despite the fact that in the discussion a week after Chomsky's debate with Sullivan, there were many complaints about him.

This has been the typical response to Chomsky.

The idea that "the American people" have thought about Chomsky's ideas and found them wanting is absolutely ludicrous.

As someone mentioned, the VAST MAJORITY of Americans do not even know he exists.

Yet, my experience was that when I left Canada a couple of years ago having bought a book by Chomsky at the University bookstore, the Canadian baggage inspector in Saskatoon, Sask. Canada saw the book and said, "Oh, Chomsky ..."

The most important thing to understand about Noam CHomsky is that he believes that being an American citizen is an extremely privileged situation. One lives in the richest country in the history of the world with tremendous opportunities to exercise personal freedom. One can, indeed, find out virtually everything you want to find out by reading a variety of sources (he regularly reads the foreign press -- his knowledge of Israel is so vast because he regularly reads the Hebrew language press which does not have the unanimity that the US press has about the conflict between the Israeli government and the Palestinians -- but he also reads the European press). He believes that because there is no totalitarian repression in the US, citizens who KNOW what's going on have a RESPONSIBILITY to work to change policies.

HE HAS BEEN DOING THAT SINCE THE MID-1960s AND HAS in my opinion played an extremely positive role in helping those of us trying to change our government's policies by providing us with evidence, argument, and a GREAT PERSONAL EXAMPLE.

And in person he's unbelievably generous with his time and his advice.

His help for individuals writing books and/or articles about this or that issue is LEGENDARY. In my own case, I wrote one book about economics in 1996 and gave him a first draft -- Within a handful of days he had typed 18 single spaced pages of commentary with references to things I ought to read to follow up. Mind you, I was not one of his students and there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING I could do to help him. I do not own a television station or newspaper and my one success in bringing him to my school had occurred 16 years before I asked him to read my manuscript.

There are probably hundreds of individuals both here and abroad for whom he has been equally generous.

I urge anyone who is merely watching this "debate" in the blogosphere to READ SOMETHING THAT HE WROTE AND READ ALL THE FOOTNOTES.

AND -- if you find something in the text or the footnotes that doesn't "work" send him an e-mail.

Mike Meeropol
Professor of Economics
Western New England College
Springfield, MASS

Posted by: Michael Meeropol | June 5, 2006 03:31 PM

I thought I made it clear in my earlier post that I do not "oppose" Chomsky, and it's not my intention to "slander" him (as Brian suggests).

Indeed, I quite explicitly said my reactions to Chomsky run from FAVORABLE to irritated. He does say necessary things. It's fundamentally important for a healthy democracy to have gadflies and dissenters, in particular those (like Chomsky) who are very often right in their criticisms.

He is not, though, infallible.

Professor Meeropol asks if anyone can "counter" even a single Chomsky assertion. I'll counter two, and they're limited just to the assertions he makes in the links to this thread.

1. In the excerpt to his book re-printed in the Belfast Telgraph, Chomsky asserts that Argentina had "to pay almost $1 TRILLION [my emphasis] to rid itself of the IMF forever."

As an economics professor, surely Meeropol can confirm that Argentina has never owed anything close to $1 trillion to the IMF. I'd be flabbergasted if the IMF itself has ever had anything close to $1 trillion in total assets. Argentina's annual GDP is less than $200 billion. What Argentina actually owed the IMF was closer to $10 billion.

2. In his interview with the writer for the Cyprus Mail, referring to the Bush Admin's largely incompetent efforts in occupied Iraq, Chomsky says "Iraq must be one of the worst military catastrophes in history."

Iraq was a mistake, but Chomsky's characterization is, at best, hyperbole.

Surely Chomsky's aware of some other little "military catastrophes" that dwarf the Iraq conflict, like the 30 Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, and those little conflicts last century called WWI and WWII.

In WWII its estimated that almost 50 MILLION people were killed (civilians and military), including several hundred thousand Americans. Annual US military spending reached almost 40% of GDP during WWII.

Estimates are that about 100,000 Iraqis have been killed in the Iraq conflict, and about 2,000 Americans. Annual US military spending is currently about 4% of GDP.

Even Korea and Vietnam were much larger conflicts than Iraq. 36,000 Americans were killed in Korea and annual military spending was about 15% of GDP. 58,000 Americans were killed in Vietnam and annual military spending reached about 11% of GDP.

Chomsky's right that the Iraq invasion was likely a mistake, and that it's caused a lot of tragedy, and that there's no easy way out. But to assert that it's a "military catastrophe" of the highest historical order is just nonsense.

In reality, if the US needs to keep troops in Iraq for another 10 years to maintain some stability, it could do so and the human and economic costs would still be signficantly less than MANY other wars we've been involved in.

The particular point is that Chomsky is not immune to mistake and exaggeration. As I said, though, in my opinion his biggest mistake is how one-sided his focus and analysis is.

Brian says above that if the US is, as Chomsky says, the "greatest country in the world", it has greater responsibilities than other countries and should hold itself to higher standards. I quite agree.

The same is true of Chomsky, though. If he is, as some allege, the world's most influential intellectual, along with that power come commensurate responsibilities.

Primary among those responsibilities is the duty to present the truth, and not just part of the truth. When pushed in the Bennett debate Chomsky acknowledged that, in his opinion, the US is "the greatest country in the world".

I'm certainly not familiar with all of his writings and speeches, but what I have seen would lead a reasonable reader--not aware of his response to Bennett--to conclude that Chomsky thinks the US is the far from "the greatest country in the world". Rather, a reasonable reader would conclude that Chomsky believes the US to be a--perhaps "the"--primary source of misery in the world. (For example, read the book excerpt in the Belfast Telgraph, where he offers some praise for the governments of Cuba, Venezuela and China, but has nothing good to say about the States.)

If that "reasonable" reader also happens to be someone already pre-disposed to virulent anti-Americanism--which is an increasingly large number of people in the world--doesn't Chomsky also have a duty to CONTEXTUALIZE his writings and point out that, though he has specific (and very often valid) criticisms of American policies, he also finds a great deal of good in America and its role in the world.

If he doesn't do that, and it appears to me that he doesn't (unless pushed by someone like Bennett), doesn't he ("the world's most influential intellectual") provide intellectual cover (purposely or not) to virulent (and often violent) anti-Americanism?

Though Chomsky has made a great living pointing out that America has sometimes used its incredible power in irresponsible ways, it appears to me that Chomsky is guilty of a similar crime.

If those of you who are more familiar with Chomsky than I am can direct me to his writings (if any exist) where he actually provides a more balanced perspective on US policy (where he demonstrates why he thinks the US is the greatest country in the world), I'm happy to take a look at it and to reconsider my opinion.

Posted by: LWP | June 5, 2006 07:01 PM

Having been interested in Chomsky's work since the mid-sixties, I am fascinated by this website, which I discovered by accident only a few days ago. I remember Chomsky saying that, in his early days of political activism, it was difficult to assemble half a dozen people in someone's living room. Now, purportedly, he is the most-quoted intellectual alive. That should tell you something. Chomsky has always encouraged people not to take his word for it, but to investigate for themselves. I have tried to do this, though my mind is certainly not as developed as his. The man's memory and capacity for argumentation are simply astounding. I understand that many are persuaded by facile politicians, talk show hosts, and so on. But folks, Chomsky will be recorded in history as a major influence on the political thought of our era, like it or not, long after the pundits have been forgotten. --Robert Faist

Posted by: robert faist | June 6, 2006 05:53 AM

LWP wrote: "Surely Chomsky's aware of some other little "military catastrophes" that dwarf the Iraq conflict, like the 30 Years War, the Napoleonic Wars, and those little conflicts last century called WWI and WWII."

Although it is rather futile debating the validity of subjective judgments such as this one, it is worth pointing out that Chomsky's characterization of the Iraq conflict as a "military catastrophe" refers specifically to the failure of the U.S. Administration to successfully prosecute what should have been a fairly uncomplicated operation, given the state of Iraq.

Chomsky points out that Iraq was "being barely held together by Scotch-Tape at the point of the invasion, and Britain and the United States pretty much knew that, so they were willing to invade. It should've been a cheap, easy invasion. It's almost inconceivable that they didn't succeed. I mean here they were invading a country that's completely defenseless with no external support for any resistance - not like the partisans in Europe who had external support. ... I don't think there have been - indeed it's hard to imagine - any more favourable conditions for what should have been probably the easiest military occupation in history. But the US and Britain succeeded in turning it into a major military catastrophe - a social and military catastrophe. This may be the worst military catastrophe in history" (http://www.chomsky.info/interviews/200507--.htm).

LWP (also) wrote: "If he is, as some allege, the world's most influential intellectual, along with that power come commensurate responsibilities. Primary among those responsibilities is the duty to present the truth, and not just part of the truth."

This argument is nonsense and goes to the heart of why Chomsky doesn't make it onto the MSM: he doesn't flag-wave enough. As a citizen of the U.S., he believes he has a moral responsibility to try to prevent or mitigate the wrongs for which the government he elected is responsible. He believes his contributions have the power to save innocent lives. The responsibility to "demonstrate why he thinks the US is the greatest country in the world" pales in comparison, as it should. If you want that kind of drivel, turn on any tv channel.

Posted by: paul burry | June 6, 2006 07:38 PM

Oh, I see Paul, it's perfectly reasonable (and, I agree that it is) for Chomsky and his followers to complain about the US MSM failing in its duty to provide more complete coverage of US actions (thereby falsely confirming the jingoistic beliefs of a lot of Americans), but if I point out that Chomsky, "the world's most influential intellectual", does the same thing but in reverse fashion (thereby falsely confirming the beliefs of a lot of America-haters), that's just "nonsense". Where, exactly, is the logic in your assessment?

Here's some more nonsense.

Chomsky: "It should've been a cheap, easy invasion. It's almost inconceivable that they didn't succeed."

Of course, it was a cheap and easy invasion, and they did succeed very quickly. It's the occupation that's been the problem.

More nonsense.

Chomsky: "I don't think there have been - indeed it's hard to imagine - any more favourable conditions for what should have been probably the easiest military occupation in history."

I find that (mis)assessment astonishing. That's the same thing the neo-cons believed, and it's the very reason the US was not properly prepared for the occupation.

More nonsense.

Chomsky: "I mean here they were invading a country that's completely defenseless with no external support for any resistance - not like the partisans in Europe who had external support."

No external support? Is he kidding? Yes the French Resistance (and others) had external support. So do the Iraqi insurgents.

Chomsky's intelligent, articulate, passionate, and an important part of necessary dialogue. As I said, though, he (like all of us) is not immune to mistakes and, quite apparently, to exaggeration.

Posted by: LWP | June 6, 2006 09:25 PM

LWP, what do you mean when you write that Chomsky "does the same thing but in reverse fashion?" The press is an institution with a public responsibility to challenge sources of official power and honestly investigate and report events, not a cheerleading squad unquestioningly chanting the pronouncements of the dear leader. Chomsky is an individual who acts on his own understanding of his moral responsibility to attempt to influence the actions of the state over which his efforts ought to have the most influence: that of which he is a free, democratic citizen. These efforts are not aided by merely parroting what is any case already shouted from every rooftop: how great America is! Chomsky is not bound by any duty to give equal airing to both "good" and "bad." The "world's most influential intellectual" is not an official title with a set of responsibilities that Chomsky has sworn to fulfill. Not "the same thing" at all.

Far from "falsely confirming the beliefs of a lot of America-haters," Chomsky is morally courageous enough to take responsibility for the wrongs for which he, as a citizen of a democratically elected government, is culpable. He is also willing to entertain the unthinkable thought: that to the extent that the crimes of terrorists are connected to legitimate grievances, addressing those legitimate grievances ought to form part of the response of anyone serious about stopping such crimes. The MSM's jingoist flag-waving and unflinching allegiance to the dear leader is what "confirm[s] the beliefs of a lot of America-haters." Killing massive numbers of innocent civilians is what "confirm[s] the beliefs of a lot of America-haters." To continue to believe that "they hate us because we're so free" is to bury one's head in the sand. Anyone seriously interested in reducing the threat of terrorism should have been able to predict that invading Iraq would have the exact opposite effect. Transmitting such unconventional ideas to a public bombarded by Fox-News caliber propaganda is an immense challenge, and accounts for Chomsky's failure to satisfy the prescribed flag-waving fervor and for the perception that he is an "America-hater."

As for Chomsky's "astonishing (mis)assessment," note that what his comments address are the "favorable conditions" present in pre-invasion Iraq, meaning that massive incompetence (including that of the "neo-cons" to which you refer) was required to botch it up so thoroughly. Also, remember that the "external support" for the Iraqi insurgents did not exist until after the US invasion, which produced precisely those conditions that the war was intended to address: a link between Iraq and al Qaeda and a training ground for extremists.

Posted by: paul burry | June 7, 2006 01:30 AM

" The year 1953 simply does not mean anything to the average American news swallower."

Does it mean anything to you, Mr Average American News Swallower?

I find that Chomsky is just like the rest of the Main Stream Media. He takes good work then ratchets up the volume a bit for shock value.

America is a 'failed state' is hyperboal that only serves to distract from the truth.

Posted by: Duck | May 31, 2006 06:19 PM

it's the year when the democratic government of Iran under Mussaddeq was toppled by a CIA coup and replaced by the Shah Reza Bahlavi and his Henchmens,the Savak. Thousands of Iranians were killed and tortured at the hand of those thugs.
Next time someone tells you "they hate our Freedome", think twice.

Posted by: Mario | June 9, 2006 02:33 AM

I find it really funny that many of Chomsky's critics (a man profound and unparalled in his brilliance of the English language) akin to the late Professor of English at Columnbia, Dr. Edward Said, have been attacked feriously by the pro-Israeli Jewish henchman.

Esp. since after the latest, racist Israeli onslaught on the entire nation of Lebanon (a democratic, pro-Western, sovereign) killing over 400 civilians (including 8 Canadians, 4 U.N. observers, and countless women and children) for the sake of 2, T-W-O Israeli soldiers (not civilians); the Jewish Zionists have gone on their rampage of their own.

They don't care the great intellectual capacity or the persona of the persona making an argument, as long as Israel is criticized all gloves comes out and character assassinations are to be used. In that regard, Dr. Walt and Mearsheimer of Harvard and UC, are no different. And neither is Dr. Chomsky.

Its really too bad Americans are being duped into the kind of reflexive ideology of pro-Israeli support emanating from the Jewish zealots... The claim of being the perpetual victim is the underlying paranoia.

Posted by: Abe Foxman | July 30, 2006 02:33 AM

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