Noam Chomsky

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Of course, everybody says they're for peace. Hitler was for peace. Everybody is for peace. The question is: "What kind of peace?"

Noam Chomsky (born 7 December 1928) is an American professor of linguistics, anarchist, human rights activist, socialist and political analyst.

See also:
The Chomsky Reader (1987)
Necessary Illusions (1989)
Understanding Power (2002)

Also see pages for specific Chomsky books listed at the end of this article.

Quotes 1960s-1980s[edit]

1960s[edit]

  • I would feel no hesitation in saying that it is the responsibility of a decent human being to give assistance to a child who is being attacked by a rabid dog, but I would not intend this to imply that in all imaginable circumstances one must, necessarily, act in accordance with this general responsibility. One can easily concoct imaginary situations in which it would be inadvisable, even immoral to do so [...] [I will not defend] the assumption that it is reprehensible for a powerful nation to invade a weak and tiny neighbor in order to impose on it an "acceptable" government [...] just as I would not take the trouble to justify my belief that one should assist a child being attacked by a rabid dog.
    • New York Review of Books, April 20, 1967 [1]
  • ...I don't feel that they deserve a blanket condemnation at all. There are many things to object to in any society. But take China, modern China; one also finds many things that are really quite admirable. [...] There are even better examples than China. But I do think that China is an important example of a new society in which very interesting positive things happened at the local level, in which a good deal of the collectivization and communization was really based on mass participation and took place after a level of understanding had been reached in the peasantry that led to this next step.
    • Debate with Hannah Arendt et al., in New York, December 15, 1967 [2]
  • "A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior" in Language, 35, No. 1 (1959), 26-58. Summation by Noam Chomsky: Rereading this review after eight years, I find little of substance that I would change if I were to write it today. I am not aware of any theoretical or experimental work that challenges its conclusions; nor, so far as I know, has there been any attempt to meet the criticisms that are raised in the review or to show that they are erroneous or ill-founded.
    • In Leon A. Jakobovits and Murray S. Miron (eds.), Readings in the Psychology of Language [3], 1967
  • I'm of course opposed to terror, any rational person is, but I think that if we're serious about the question of terror and serious about the question of violence we have to recognize that it is a tactical and hence moral matter. Incidentally, tactical issues are basically moral issues. They have to do with human consequences. And if we're interested in, let's say, diminishing the amount of violence in the world, it's at least arguable and sometimes true that a terroristic act does diminish the amount of violence in the world. Hence a person who is opposed to violence will not be opposed to that terroristic act.
  • After the first International Days of Protest in October, 1965, Senator Mansfield criticized the "sense of utter irresponsibility" shown by the demonstrators. He had nothing to say then, nor has he since, about the "sense of utter irresponsibility" shown by Senator Mansfield and others who stand by quietly and vote appropriations as the cities and villages of North Vietnam are demolished, as millions of refugees in the South are driven from their homes by American bombardment. He has nothing to say about the moral standards or the respect for international law of those who have permitted this tragedy. I speak of Senator Mansfield precisely because he is not a breast-beating superpatriot who wants America to rule the world, but is rather an American intellectual in the best sense, a scholarly and reasonable man -- the kind of man who is the terror of our age. Perhaps this is merely a personal reaction, but when I look at what is happening to our country, what I find most terrifying is not Curtis LeMay, with his cheerful suggestion that we bomb everybody back into the stone age, but rather the calm disquisitions of the political scientists on just how much force will be necessary to achieve our ends, or just what form of government will be acceptable to us in Vietnam. What I find terrifying is the detachment and equanimity with which we view and discuss an unbearable tragedy. We all know that if Russia or China were guilty of what we have done in Vietnam, we would be exploding with moral indignation at these monstrous crimes.
    • On Resistance, December 7, 1967 [5]

American Power and the New Mandarins, 1969[edit]

American Power and the New Mandarins, 1969 [6], [7], [8]
  • The war is simply an obscenity, a depraved act by weak and miserable men, including all of us who have allowed it to go on and on with endless fury and destruction - all of us who would have remained silent had stability and order been secured.
  • What can one say about a country where a museum of science in a great city can feature an exhibit in which people fire machine guns from a helicopter at Vietnamese huts, with a light flashing when a hit is scored? What can one say about a country where such an idea can even be considered? You have to weep for this country. [...] To me it seems that what is needed is a kind of denazification.
  • No less insidious is the cry for 'revolution,' at a time when not even the germs of new institutions exist, let alone the moral and political consciousness that could lead to a basic modification of social life. If there will be a 'revolution' in America today, it will no doubt be a move towards some variety of fascism. We must guard against the kind of revolutionary rhetoric that would have had Karl Marx burn down the British Museum because it was merely part of a repressive society. It would be criminal to overlook the serious flaws and inadequacies in our institutions, or to fail to utilize the substantial degree of freedom that most of us enjoy, within the framework of these flawed institutions, to modify them or even replace them by a better social order. One who pays some attention to history will not be surprised if those who cry most loudly that we must smash and destroy are later found among the administrators of some new system of repression.

1970s[edit]

  • The consistent anarchist, then, should be a socialist, but a socialist of a particular sort. He will not only oppose alienated and specialized labor and look forward to the appropriation of capital by the whole body of workers, but he will also insist that this appropriation be direct, not exercised by some elite force acting in the name of the proletariat.
  • The Cold War ideology and the international communist conspiracy function in an important way as essentially a propaganda device to mobilize support at a particular historical moment for this long-time imperial enterprise. In fact, I believe that this is probably the main function of the Cold War: it serves as a useful device for the managers of American society and their counterparts in the Soviet Union to control their own populations and their own respective imperial systems.
    • Talk titled "Government in the Future" at the Poetry Center of the New York YM-YWHA, February 16, 1970 [10]
  • It is the fundamental duty of the citizen to resist and to restrain the violence of the state. Those who choose to disregard this responsibility can justly be accused of complicity in war crimes, which is itself designated as ‘a crime under international law’ in the principles of the Charter of Nuremberg.
  • If we try to keep a sense of balance, the exposures of the past several months are analogous to the discovery that the directors of Murder, Inc. were also cheating on their income tax. Reprehensible, to be sure, but hardly the main point.
    • New York Review of Books, September 20, 1973 [12]
  • Personally I'm in favor of democracy, which means that the central institutions in the society have to be under popular control. Now, under capitalism we can't have democracy by definition. Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think of it in political terms, fascist; that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level -- there's a little bargaining, a little give and take, but the line of authority is perfectly straightforward. Just as I'm opposed to political fascism, I'm opposed to economic fascism. I think that until major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it's pointless to talk about democracy.
    • Business Today, May 1973 [13]
  • ...capitalism is basically a system where everything is for sale, and the more money you have, the more you can get. And, in particular, that's true of freedom. Freedom is one of the commodities that is for sale, and if you are affluent, you can have a lot of it. It shows up in all sorts of ways. It shows up if you get in trouble with the law, let's say, or in any aspect of life it shows up. And for that reason it makes a lot of sense, if you accept capitalist system, to try to accumulate property, not just because you want material welfare, but because that guarantees your freedom, it makes it possible for you to amass that commodity. [...] what you're going to find is that the defense of free institutions will largely be in the hands of those who benefit from them, namely the wealthy, and the powerful. They can purchase that commodity and, therefore, they want those institutions to exist, like free press, and all that.
    • Interview by David Dobereiner, John Hess, Doug Richardson & Tom Woodhull, January 1974 [14]
  • In the American Jewish community, there is little willingness to face the fact that the Palestinian Arabs have suffered a monstrous historical injustice, whatever one may think of the competing claims. Until this is recognized, discussion of the Middle East crisis cannot even begin.
    • Peace in the Middle East? Reflections on Justice and Nationhood, 1974 [15]

Government in the Future, 1970[edit]

Talk titled "Government in the Future" at the Poetry Center of the New York YM-YWHA, February 16, 1970 [16]
  • Unfortunately, you can't vote the rascals out, because you never voted them in, in the first place.
  • Roughly speaking, I think it's accurate to say that a corporate elite of managers and owners governs the economy and the political system as well, at least in very large measure. The people, so-called, do exercise an occasional choice among those who Marx once called "the rival factions and adventurers of the ruling class."

1980s[edit]

  • There are significant strategic interests [in Oceania], and there's a lot of stuff going on that's important. Not just the United States. For example, France is doing some really vicious things there, in fact they're just wiping out islands because they want them for nuclear tests. And when the socialist government in France is asked, "Why to do this?", they say, "Well look, we have to have nuclear tests." Well, if you have to have nuclear tests, why not have them in southern France? [audience laughter] Why have them in some island in the Pacific? Well, the answer to that is clear, after all they're just a bunch of little brown people or something. But you can't say that exactly, especially if you're a socialist, so something else is said.
    • Talk at UC Berkeley on the massacres in Indonesia and East Timor, 1982 [17]
  • In certain intellectual circles in France, the very basis for discussion -- a minimal respect for facts and logic -- has been virtually abandoned.
    • In C. P. Otero (ed.), Language and Politics, October 26, 1981 [18]
  • ...roughly speaking, states are violent to the extent that they have the power to act in the interests of those with domestic power...
    • In C. P. Otero (ed.), Language and Politics, June 13, 1983 [19]
  • Cuba has probably been the target of more international terrorism than the rest of the world combined and, therefore, in the American ideological system it is regarded as the source of international terrorism, exactly as Orwell would have predicted.
  • It goes back to the days when we were defending ourselves against the internal aggression of the Native American population, who we incidentally wiped out in the process. In the post World War II period, we've frequently had to carry out defense against internal aggression, that is against Salvadorans in El Salvador, Greeks in Greece, against Filipinos in the Philippines, against South Vietnamese in South Vietnam, and many other places. And the concept of internal aggression has been repeatedly invoked in this connection, and quite appropriately. It's an interesting concept, it's one that George Orwell would certainly have admired, and it's elaborated in many ways in the internal documentary record.
    • Talk titled "The Lessons of Vietnam", March 31, 1985 [21]
  • The uniformity and obedience of the media, which any dictator would admire, [...]
    • Commonly rephrased as: "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the [U.S.] media."
    • Turning the Tide, 1985
  • Pointing to the massive amounts of propaganda spewed by government and institutions around the world, observers have called our era the age of Orwell. But the fact is that Orwell was a latecomer on the scene. As early as World War I, American historians offered themselves to President Woodrow Wilson to carry out a task they called "historical engineering," by which they meant designing the facts of history so that they would serve state policy. In this instance, the U.S. government wanted to silence opposition to the war. This represents a version of Orwell's 1984, even before Orwell was writing.
    • Propaganda Review, 1987 [22]
  • For those who stubbornly seek freedom around the world, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the propaganda system to which we are subjected and in which all too often we serve as unwilling or unwitting instruments.
    • Propaganda Review, 1987 [23]
  • Israel is an embattled country. They rely very heavily on U.S. support. So they have developed a very sophisticated system of propaganda. They don't call it propaganda. They call it hasbarah. It is the only country I know of in the world that refers to propaganda as explanation. The Ministry of Propaganda is the Ministry of Explanation. The idea being that our position on everything is so obviously correct that if we only explain it to people, they will see that it is right.
    • Interview by Burton Levine in Shmate: A Journal of Progressive Jewish Thought, May 1988 [24]
  • If any of you have ever looked at your FBI file, you discover that intelligence agencies in general are extremely incompetent. That's one of the reasons why there are so many intelligence failures. They just never get anything straight, for all kinds of reasons. Part of it is because of the information they get. The information they get comes from ideological fanatics, typically, who always misunderstand things in their own crazy way. If you look at an FBI file, say, about yourself, where you know what the facts are, you'll see that the information has some kind of relation to the facts, you can figure out what they're talking about, but by the time it works its way through the ideological fanaticism of the intelligence agencies, there's always weird distortion.
    • Q&A with community activists, February 10, 1989
  • During the 1960s, large groups of people who are normally passive and apathetic began to try to enter the political arena to press their demands.… The naive might call that democracy, but that's because they don't understand. The sophisticated understand that that's the crisis of democracy.
    • Manufacturing Consent, lecture at the University of Wisconsin (15 March 1989) [25]
  • Non-violent resistance activities cannot succeed against an enemy that is able freely to use violence. That's pretty obvious. You can't have non-violent resistance against the Nazis in a concentration camp, to take an extreme case...
    • Chronicles of Dissent, December 13, 1989 [26]

Rules And Representations' (1980)[edit]

Chomsky (1980), "Rules And Representations," The Behavorial and Brain Sciences, 3:1-15
  • We take for granted that the organism does not learn to grow arms or to reach puberty... When we turn to the mind and its products, the situation is not qualitatively different from what we find in the case of the body.
    • p.2-3 as cited in: Jerry Fodor (1983) Modularity of Mind: An Essay on Faculty Psychology.. p.4
  • Intrinsic (psychological) structure is rich . . . and diverse.
  • [This view is contrasted with all forms of Empiricism, by which it is] assumed that development is uniform across (cognitive) domains, and that the intrinsic properties of the initial state (of the mind) are homogeneous and undifferentiated - an assumption found across a spectrum reaching from Skinner to Piaget (who differ on much else).
  • We may usefully think of the language faculty, the number faculty, and others as 'mental organs,' analogous to the heart or the visual system or the system of motor coordination and planning. There appears to be no clear demarcation line between physical organs, perceptual and motor systems and cognitive faculties in the respects in question.
    • p.4

Talk at University of California, Berkeley, 1984[edit]

Talk at UC Berkeley on U.S. foreign policy in Central America, May 14, 1984 [27]
  • Now of course, the idealistic slogans are still needed for the media, for a lot of scholarship, for the schools, and so on. But, where the serious people are, the problem is that we have to maintain this disparity, and obviously it's gotta be maintained by force. So none of the idealistic slogans at home. So when you're setting up death squads in El Salvador under the Alliance for Progress, you're not hampered by these idealistic slogans. That's for the masses, for us. Well, given this kind of thinking, it's not too surprising that President Kennedy should say, with regard to El Salvador after supporting a military coup there, that "Governments of the civil-military type of El Salvador are the most effective in containing communist penetration in Latin America." This at the time when he organized the basic framework for the death squads that have been torturing and murdering ever since, and which we attribute to some kind of extreme right-wingers who somehow we can't get under control.
  • We have a big argument here about whether Nicaragua and Cuba are sending arms to El Salvador. Well, I don't know, so far there's no evidence that they are, but that's not really the interesting question. I mean, you gotta watch the way questions are framed by the propaganda system. The way it's framed is, the doves say they're not sending arms, and the hawks say they are sending arms. But the real question, which is being suppressed in all of this, is, "Should they be sending arms?" And the answer is of course, "Yes." [applause] Everybody should be sending arms. You see, that question is not raised, just as if somebody was talking in, say, the Soviet Union, and the question came up: "Should somebody send arms to Afghan rebels?" Well, of course not. You know, that's terrorism or something like that. The point is that it's perfectly legitimate to send arms to people who finally try to use violence in self-defense against a gang of mass murderers installed by a foreign power. Of course it's legitimate to send them arms.
  • On September 1st of last year, the Soviet Union shot down Korean KAL 007, killing 269 people, and the immediate response here was that this proves that the Russians are the most barbaric people since Attila the Hun or something, and therefore we have to step up the attack against Nicaragua, set in MX missiles, put Pershings in West Germany, and increase the military system.… The story was given unbelievable coverage. Not only the story, but the American government interpretation of it, which is roughly what I've just said, was given the kind of coverage that I doubt has ever been given to any story in history.… Right in the middle of all of this furor about the Korean airliner, on November 11th in fact, there was a 100 word item in the New York Times devoted to the interesting fact that UNITA—which is a group that we call "freedom fighters", supported by us and South Africa, in Angola—they took credit for shooting down a civilian Angolan jet, killing 126 people.… Now, under the very confused circumstances of KAL 007, if that was the worst atrocity in human history, well, what about the freedom fighters that we support along with South Africa, who did something much worse?
  • When the state says, "Whip up hysteria against the evil empire," everybody starts yelling, jumping up and down, and screaming about the evil empire… See, if it happened in, say, Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union, we know how they pulled it off. Namely, an order came from the Ministry of Truth, and everybody had to obey it. Now that didn't happen here. Here it happened in the way American propaganda always works: by servility and cowardice and class interest.
  • There have been times, however, when US officials have described what's going on in relatively frank terms; sometimes quite clearly. One put the matter in these words: "The Central American area down to and including the Isthmus of Panama constitutes a legitimate sphere of influence for the United States [...] We do control the destinies of Central America and we do so for the simple reason that the national interest absolutely dictates such a course [...] We must decide whether we shall tolerate the interference of any other power in Central American affairs, or insist upon our own dominant position [...] Until now, Central America has always understood that governments that we recognize and support stay in power, while those we do not recognize and support fall [...] Nicaragua has become a test case, it is difficult to see how we can afford to be defeated." That's fairly familiar. These remarks were made by Under Secretary of State Robert Olds in 1927, and the outside power that he was concerned about was Mexico. [audience laughter] Mexico at that time was a Russian proxy. We were no longer fighting Huns in the Dominican Republic, now we were fighting Russians in Nicaragua, and in particular the Russian proxy Mexico. Mexico was then a proxy of the Bolsheviks, so the Marines had to be sent in, once again, and they established Somoza, and established the National Guard which was the basis for American power throughout the region, and in fact one of the most effective murder-incorporated forces down there for many years. They killed Sandino, he was killed off by stealth couple of years later, the guerilla leader. As President Coolidge sent the Marines in, he made the following declaration: "Mexico is on trial before the world." Mexico is on trial before the world as a proxy of the Soviet Union when we send the Marines into Nicaragua. Now things have changed a little bit, now it's Nicaragua that's threatening Mexico as a Russian proxy... But again there's the same conclusion, you know, kill the spics and the niggers and so on. That follows no matter who's the proxy for who. And all of this is repeated at every moment of history with great seriousness and awe and so on as if it had some meaning, as if it wasn't just some black comedy.
  • Rio de Janeiro, incidentally, is not the poor part of the country, that sort of the rich part of the country. It's not the northeast, where 35 million people or so, nobody knows what happens to them, or cares. But Rio de Janeiro, that's where people are looking, the rich parts. And this journal is a science journal, kinda like Science in the United States. It was studying malnutrition. And here's the figures it had for Rio de Janeiro: infants from 0 to 5 months, severe malnutrition, meaning medically severe, 67%; 5 months to a year, 41%; a year to 5 years, 11%. Now the reason of course for the decline, from 67 to 41 to 11, is that they will die. So that's what happens under the conditions of the economic miracle, like in Guatemala. Now, it's a little wrong to say that the people die. The fact is, they don't die. We kill them, that's what happens. We kill them by carrying out policies, supporting the regimes of the kind that I've described. And by intervening with force and violence to suppress and destroy any attempt, however minimal, even on a speck like Grenada, we've got to stop any attempt to bring some change into this. That's the history of our hemisphere.
  • There's nothing nice that you can say about any of [the Arab countries]. Syria, for example, is one of the most violent terrorist regimes in the world. But it doesn't happen to be aggressive. Maybe it would like to be, but it isn't. For objective reasons. There's virtually no correlation between the internal nature of some country and its commitment to external violence. And I think if you look back over history you'll never find a correlation, back to the Greeks.
  • A lot of the people who call themselves Left I would regard as proto-fascists.
  • Of course, everybody says they're for peace. Hitler was for peace. Everybody is for peace. The question is: "What kind of peace?"

Quotes 1990s[edit]

1990-1994[edit]

Enrique Dussel and Noam Chomsky en Loyola University. Chicago. 1994
  • The sign of a truly totalitarian culture is that important truths simply lack cognitive meaning and are interpretable only at the level of "Fuck You", so they can then elicit a perfectly predictable torrent of abuse in response. We've long ago reached that level.
    • Letter to Alexander Cockburn (1 March 1990), later paraphrased in Deterring Democracy (1992) p. 345
  • Strikingly, no concern was voiced over the glaringly obvious fact that no official reason was ever offered for going to war -- no reason, that is, that could not be instantly refuted by a literate teenager.
    • Z Magazine, May 1991 [29]
  • The crisis began with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait a year ago. There was some fighting, leaving hundreds killed according to Human Rights groups. That hardly qualifies as war. Rather, in terms of crimes against peace and against humanity, it falls roughly into the category of the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus, Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1978, and the U.S. invasion of Panama. In these terms it falls well short of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and cannot remotely be compared with the near-genocidal Indonesian invasion and annexation of East Timor, to mention only two cases of aggression that are still in progress, with continuing atrocities and with the crucial support of those who most passionately professed their outrage over Iraq's aggression. During the subsequent months, Iraq was responsible for terrible crimes in Kuwait, with several thousand killed and many tortured. But that is not war; rather, state terrorism, of the kind familiar among U.S. clients. The second phase of the conflict began with the U.S.-U.K. attack of January 15 (with marginal participation of others). This was slaughter, not war.
    • Z Magazine, August 31, 1991 [30]
  • ...the point of public relations slogans like "Support Our Troops" is that they don't mean anything [...] that's the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody is going to be against and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn't mean anything. But its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something, do you support our policy? And that's the one you're not allowed to talk about.
  • Harold Laswell … explained a couple of years after this in the early 1930s that we should not succumb to what he called democratic dogmatisms about men being the best judges of their own interests.… In what's nowadays called a totalitarian state, military state or something, it's easy. You just hold a bludgeon over their heads, but as societies become more free and democratic you lose that capacity and therefore you have to turn to the techniques of propaganda. The logic is clear—propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state….
  • If you quietly accept and go along no matter what your feelings are, ultimately you internalize what you're saying, because it's too hard to believe one thing and say another. I can see it very strikingly in my own background. Go to any elite university and you are usually speaking to very disciplined people, people who have been selected for obedience. And that makes sense. If you've resisted the temptation to tell the teacher, "You're an asshole," which maybe he or she is, and if you don't say, "That's idiotic," when you get a stupid assignment, you will gradually pass through the required filters. You will end up at a good college and eventually with a good job.
  • Most problems of teaching are not problems of growth but helping cultivate growth. As far as I know, and this is only from personal experience in teaching, I think about ninety percent of the problem in teaching, or maybe ninety-eight percent, is just to help the students get interested. Or what it usually amounts to is to not prevent them from being interested. Typically they come in interested, and the process of education is a way of driving that defect out of their minds. But if children['s] [...] normal interest is maintained or even aroused, they can do all kinds of things in ways we don't understand.
    • Conference titled "Creation & Culture" in Barcelona, Spain, November 25, 1992 [34]
  • If we don't believe in free expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.
  • One might ask why tobacco is legal and marijuana not. A possible answer is suggested by the nature of the crop. Marijuana can be grown almost anywhere, with little difficulty. It might not be easily marketable by major corporations. Tobacco is quite another story.
    • Deterring Democracy, 1992 [36]
  • ...sectors of the doctrinal system serve to divert the unwashed masses and reinforce the basic social values: passivity, submissiveness to authority, the overriding virtue of greed and personal gain, lack of concern for others, fear of real or imagined enemies, etc. The goal is to keep the bewildered herd bewildered. It's unnecessary for them to trouble themselves with what's happening in the world. In fact, it's undesirable -- if they see too much of reality they may set themselves to change it.
    • What Uncle Sam Really Wants, 1993 [37]
  • Naturally, any conqueror is going to play one group against another. For example, I think about 90% of the forces that the British used to control India were Indians. [...] It was true when the American forces conquered the Philippines, killing a couple hundred thousand people. They were being helped by Philippine tribes, exploiting conflicts among local groups. There were plenty who were going to side with the conquerors. But forget the Third World, just take a look at the Nazi conquest of nice, civilized Western Europe, places like Belgium and Holland and France. Who was rounding up the Jews? Local people, often. In France they were rounding them up faster than the Nazis could handle them. The Nazis also used Jews to control Jews. If the United States was conquered by the Russians, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Elliott Abrams and the rest of them would probably be working for the invaders, sending people off to concentration camps. They're the right personality types.
    • Keeping the Rabble in Line, January 14, 1993 (note: Reagan's role was edited to "would be reading their ads on TV") [38]
  • The Tet Offensive in January of 1968 [...] made the war unpopular. American corporate elites decided at that point that it just wasn't worth it, it was too costly, let's pull out. So at that time everybody became an opponent of the war because the orders from on high were that you were supposed to be opposed to it. And after that every single memoirist radically changed their story about what had happened. They all concocted this story that their hero, John F. Kennedy, was really planning to pull out of this unpopular war before he was killed and then Johnson changed it. If you look at the earlier memoirs, not a hint, I mean literally.
  • Reactions to our adversity are not entirely uniform. At the dovish extreme, we find Senator John Kerry, who warns that we should never again fight a war "without committing enough resources to win"; no other flaw is mentioned. And there is President Carter, the noted moral teacher and human rights apostle, who assured us that we owe Vietnam no debt and have no responsibility to render it any assistance because "the destruction was mutual," an observation so uncontroversial as to pass with no reaction. [...] Properly statesmanlike, President Bush announces that "It was a bitter conflict, but Hanoi knows today that we seek only answers without the threat of retribution for the past." Their crimes against us can never be forgotten, but "we can begin writing the last chapter of the Vietnam war" if they dedicate themselves with sufficient zeal to the MIAs. We might even "begin helping the Vietnamese find and identify their own combatants missing in action," [New York Times Asia correspondent] Crossette reports. The adjacent front-page story reports Japan's failure, once again, to "unambiguously" accept the blame "for its wartime aggression."
    • Year 501, 1993 [40]
  • Of course it's extremely easy to say, the heck with it. I'm just going to adapt myself to the structures of power and authority and do the best I can within them. Sure, you can do that. But that's not acting like a decent person. You can walk down the street and be hungry. You see a kid eating an ice cream cone and you notice there's no cop around and you can take the ice cream cone from him because you're bigger and walk away. You can do that. Probably there are people who do. We call them "pathological." On the other hand, if they do it within existing social structures we call them "normal." But it's just as pathological. It's just the pathology of the general society.
  • A good way of finding out who won a war, who lost a war, and what the war was about, is to ask who's cheering and who's depressed after it's over - this can give you interesting answers. So, for example, if you ask that question about the Second World War, you find out that the winners were the Nazis, the German industrialists who had supported Hitler, the Italian Fascists and the war criminals that were sent off to South America - they were all cheering at the end of the war. The losers of the war were the anti-fascist resistance, who were crushed all over the world. Either they were massacred like in Greece or South Korea, or just crushed like in Italy and France. That's the winners and losers. That tells you partly what the war was about. Now let's take the Cold War: Who's cheering and who's depressed? Let's take the East first. The people who are cheering are the former Communist Party bureaucracy who are now the capitalist entrepreneurs, rich beyond their wildest dreams, linked to Western capital, as in the traditional Third World model, and the new Mafia. They won the Cold War. The people of East Europe obviously lost the Cold War; they did succeed in overthrowing Soviet tyranny, which is a gain, but beyond that they've lost - they're in miserable shape and declining further. If you move to the West, who won and who lost? Well, the investors in General Motors certainly won. They now have this new Third World open again to exploitation - and they can use it against their own working classes. On the other hand, the workers in GM certainly didn't win, they lost. They lost the Cold War, because now there's another way to exploit them and oppress them and they're suffering from it.
  • Independent nationalism is unacceptable to the West, no matter where it is, and it has to be driven back into subordination. In the case of Grenada, you can do it in a weekend; in the case of the Soviet Union it may take 70 years. But these are matters of scale, the logic is essentially the same.
  • As for drugs, my impression is that their effect was almost completely negative, simply removing people from meaningful struggle and engagement. Just the other day I was sitting in a radio studio waiting for a satellite arrangement abroad to be set up. The engineers were putting together interviews with Bob Dylan from about 1966-7 or so (judging by the references), and I was listening (I'd never heard him talk before -- if you can call that talking). He sounded as though he was so drugged he was barely coherent, but the message got through clearly enough through the haze. He said over and over that he'd been through all of this protest thing, realized it was nonsense, and that the only thing that was important was to live his own life happily and freely, not to "mess around with other people's lives" by working for civil and human rights, ending war and poverty, etc. He was asked what he thought about the Berkeley "free speech movement" and said that he didn't understand it. He said something like: "I have free speech, I can do what I want, so it has nothing to do with me. Period." If the capitalist PR machine [term used in the question] wanted to invent someone for their purposes, they couldn't have made a better choice.

Interview by Adam Jones, 1990[edit]

Interview by Adam Jones, February 20, 1990 [45]
  • In the United States, the political system is a very marginal affair. There are two parties, so-called, but they're really factions of the same party, the Business Party. Both represent some range of business interests. In fact, they can change their positions 180 degrees, and nobody even notices. In the 1984 election, for example, there was actually an issue, which often there isn't. The issue was Keynesian growth versus fiscal conservatism. The Republicans were the party of Keynesian growth: big spending, deficits, and so on. The Democrats were the party of fiscal conservatism: watch the money supply, worry about the deficits, et cetera. Now, I didn't see a single comment pointing out that the two parties had completely reversed their traditional positions. Traditionally, the Democrats are the party of Keynesian growth, and the Republicans the party of fiscal conservatism. So doesn't it strike you that something must have happened? Well, actually, it makes sense. Both parties are essentially the same party. The only question is how coalitions of investors have shifted around on tactical issues now and then. As they do, the parties shift to opposite positions, within a narrow spectrum.
  • The political policies that are called conservative these days would appall any genuine conservative, if there were one around to be appalled. For example, the central policy of the Reagan Administration - which was supposed to be conservative - was to build up a powerful state. The state grew in power more under Reagan than in any peacetime period, even if you just measure it by state expenditures. The state intervention in the economy vastly increased. That's what the Pentagon system is, in fact; it's the creation of a state-guaranteed market and subsidy system for high-technology production. There was a commitment under the Reagan Administration to protect this more powerful state from the public, which is regarded as the domestic enemy. Take the resort to clandestine operations in foreign policy: that means the creation of a powerful central state immune from public inspection. Or take the increased efforts at censorship and other forms of control. All of these are called "conservatism," but they're the very opposite of conservatism. Whatever the term means, it involves a concern for Enlightenment values of individual rights and freedoms against powerful external authorities such as the state, a dominant Church, and so on. That kind of conservatism no one even remembers anymore.
  • ...Board of Directors have to make certain kinds of decisions, and those decisions are pretty narrowly constrained. They have to be committed to increasing profit share and market share. That means they're going to be forced to try to limit wages, to limit quality, to use advertising in a way that sells goods even if the product is lousy. Who tells them to do this? Nobody. But if they stopped doing it, they'd be out of business. Similarly, if an editorial writer for the New York Times were to start, say, telling the truth about the Panama invasion -- which is almost inconceivable, because to become an editorial writer you'd already have gone through a filtering process which would weed out the non-conformists -- well, the first thing that would happen is you'd start getting a lot of angry phone calls from investors, owners, and other sectors of power. That would probably suffice. If it didn't, you'd simply see the stock start falling. And if they continued with it systematically, the New York Times would be replaced by some other organ. After all, what is the New York Times? It's just a corporation. If investors and advertisers don't want to support it, and the government doesn't want to give it the special privileges and advantages that make it a "newspaper of record," it's out of business.

Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, 1992[edit]

In Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, March 31, 1995 [46]
  • There is a noticeable general difference between the sciences and mathematics on the one hand, and the humanities and social sciences on the other. It's a first approximation, but one that is real. In the former, the factors of integrity tend to dominate more over the factors of ideology. It's not that scientists are more honest people. It's just that nature is a harsh taskmaster. You can lie or distort the story of the French Revolution as long as you like, and nothing will happen. Propose a false theory in chemistry, and it'll be refuted tomorrow.
  • I never criticized United States planners for mistakes in Vietnam. True, they made some mistakes, but my criticism was always aimed at what they aimed to do and largely achieved. The Russians doubtless made mistakes in Afghanistan, but my condemnation of their aggression and atrocities never mentioned those mistakes, which are irrelevant to the matter -- though not for the commissars. Within our ideological system, it is impossible to perceive that anyone might criticize anything but "mistakes" (I suspect that totalitarian Russia was more open in that regard).
  • Nothing should be done to impede people from teaching and doing their research even if at that very moment it was being used to massacre and destroy. [...] the radical students and I wanted to keep the labs on campus, on the principle that what is going to be going on anyway ought to be open and above board, so that people would know what is happening and act accordingly.
    • referring to 1969 [47]

Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 1992[edit]

In Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 1992
  • Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits, in the classic formulation. Now, it has long been understood, very well, that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist, with whatever suffering and injustice that it entails, as long as it is possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited, that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage can. At this stage of history either one of two things is possible. Either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community interests, guided by values of solidarity, sympathy and concern for others, or alternatively there will be no destiny for anyone to control. As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elite should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must -- namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority and remove them from the public arena. The question in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured; they may well be essential to survival.
  • Walter Lippmann ... described what he called “the manufacture of consent” as “a revolution” in “the practice of democracy”... And he said this was useful and necessary because “the common interests” - the general concerns of all people - “elude” the public. The public just isn't up to dealing with them. And they have to be the domain of what he called a "specialized class" ... [Reinhold Niebuhr]'s view was that rationality belongs to the cool observer. But because of the stupidity of the average man, he follows not reason, but faith. And this naive faith requires necessary illusion, and emotionally potent oversimplifications, which are provided by the myth-maker to keep the ordinary person on course. It's not the case, as the naive might think, that indoctrination is inconsistent with democracy. Rather, as this whole line of thinkers observes, it is the essence of democracy. The point is that in a military state or a feudal state or what we would now call a totalitarian state, it doesn't much matter because you've got a bludgeon over their heads and you can control what they do. But when the state loses the bludgeon, when you can't control people by force, and when the voice of the people can be heard you have this problem -- it may make people so curious and so arrogant that they don't have the humility to submit to a civil rule [Clement Walker, 1661], and therefore you have to control what people think. And the standard way to do this is to resort to what in more honest days used to be called propaganda, manufacture of consent, creation of necessary illusion. Various ways of either marginalizing the public or reducing them to apathy in some fashion.
  • States are violent institutions. The government of any country, including ours, represents some sort of domestic power structure, and it's usually violent. States are violent to the extent that they're powerful, that's roughly accurate.
  • If you believe in freedom of speech, you believe in freedom of speech for views you don't like. Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favor of freedom of speech, that means you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise.
  • We're not analyzing the media on Mars or in the eighteenth century or something like that. We're dealing with real human beings who are suffering and dying and being tortured and starving because of policies that we are involved in, we as citizens of democratic societies are directly involved in and are responsible for, and what the media are doing is ensuring that we do not act on our responsibilities, and that the interests of power are served, not the needs of the suffering people, and not even the needs of the American people who would be horrified if they realized the blood that's dripping from their hands because of the way they are allowing themselves to be deluded and manipulated by the system.
  • Going back years, I am absolutely certain that I have taken far more extreme positions on people who deny the Holocaust than you have...Even to enter into the arena of debate on whether the Nazis carried out such atrocities is already to lose one's humanity.

1995-1999[edit]

  • Ricardo's "science" was founded on the principle that capital is more or less immobile and labor highly mobile. We are enjoined today to worship the consequences of Ricardo's science, despite the fact that the assumptions on which they are based have been reversed: capital is highly mobile, and labor virtually immobile -- libertarian conservatives lead the way in rejecting Adam Smith's principle that "free circulation of labor" is a cornerstone of free trade, in keeping with their contempt for markets (except for the weak).
    • Z Magazine, February 1995 [48]
  • [The "liberal media"] love to be denounced from the right, and the right loves to denounce them, because that makes them look like courageous defenders of freedom and independence while, in fact, they are imposing all of the presuppositions of the propaganda system.
    • Interview by Ira Shorr, February 11, 1996 [49]
  • I don't say you're self-censoring - I'm sure you believe everything you're saying; but what I'm saying is, if you believed something different, you wouldn't be sitting where you're sitting.
  • Reform is a word you always ought to watch out for. Like, when Mao started the Cultural Revolution it wasn't called a reform. Reform is a change that you're supposed to like. So as soon as you hear the word reform you can reach for your wallet and see who's lifting it. [...] Subsidy is another interesting word, kind of like reform. It's a subsidy if public funds are used for public purposes. That's called a subsidy. It's not called a subsidy when it goes to private wealth. That's reform or something.
  • "Tough love" is just the right phrase: love for the rich and privileged, tough for everyone else.
    • Powers and Prospects, 1996 [52]
  • There are no conservatives in the United States. The United States does not have a conservative tradition. The people who call themselves conservatives, like the Heritage Foundation or Gingrich, are believers in -- are radical statists. They believe in a powerful state, but a welfare state for the rich.
    • Interview by Ira Shorr, February 11, 1996 [53]
  • The question of whether a computer is playing chess, or doing long division, or translating Chinese, is like the question of whether robots can murder or airplanes can fly -- or people; after all, the "flight" of the Olympic long jump champion is only an order of magnitude short of that of the chicken champion (so I'm told). These are questions of decision, not fact; decision as to whether to adopt a certain metaphoric extension of common usage.
    • Powers and Prospects, 1996 [54]
  • If Hitler had been a crook... We're very fortunate in the United States, we've never had a charismatic leader who weren't a gangster. Every one of them was a thug, or a robber, or something. Which is fine, then they don't cause a lot of trouble. If you get one who's honest, like Hitler, then you're in trouble - they just want power.
  • A lot of sophistication has been developed about the utilization of machines for complex purposes, and it doesn't make sense not to use it if you can think of a good question to ask. Playing chess is about the dumbest question you can ask. But, if you want, maybe can make money that way, or something. In fact, what's going on with the chess is about as interesting as the fact that a front-end loader can lift more than an Olympics champion, weight lifter, or something. Probably so, but, you know, these are just not serious questions.
  • As the most powerful state, the U.S. makes its own laws, using force and conducting economic warfare at will. It also threatens sanctions against countries that do not abide by its conveniently flexible notions of "free trade." In one important case, Washington has employed such threats with great effectiveness (and GATT approval) to force open Asian markets for U.S. tobacco exports and advertising, aimed primarily at the growing markets of women and children. The U.S. Agriculture Department has provided grants to tobacco firms to promote smoking overseas. Asian countries have attempted to conduct educational anti-smoking campaigns, but they are overwhelmed by the miracles of the market, reinforced by U.S. state power through the sanctions threat. Philip Morris, with an advertising and promotion budget of close to $9 billion in 1992, became China's largest advertiser. The effect of Reaganite sanction threats was to increase advertising and promotion of cigarette smoking (particularly U.S. brands) quite sharply in Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea, along with the use of these lethal substances. In South Korea, for example, the rate of growth in smoking more than tripled when markets for U.S. lethal drugs were opened in 1988. The Bush Administration extended the threats to Thailand, at exactly the same time that the "war on drugs" was declared; the media were kind enough to overlook the coincidence, even suppressing the outraged denunciations by the very conservative Surgeon-General. Oxford University epidemiologist Richard Peto estimates that among Chinese children under 20 today, 50 million will die of cigarette-related diseases, an achievement that ranks high even by 20th century standards.
    • In Tony Evans (ed.), Human Rights Fifty Years on: A Reappraisal, 1997 [56]
The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations.
  • The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations.
    • Z Magazine, May 1998 [57]
  • No individual gets up and says, I'm going to take this because I want it. He'd say, I'm going to take it because it really belongs to me and it would be better for everyone if I had it. It's true of children fighting over toys. And it's true of governments going to war. Nobody is ever involved in an aggressive war; it's always a defensive war -- on both sides.
    • Interview by Tor Wennerberg, November 1998 [58]
  • The U.S. has always insisted on its right to use force, whatever international law requires, and whatever international institutions decide.… The U.S., of course, is not alone in these practices. Other states commonly act in much the same way, if not constrained by external or internal forces.
  • If you look into the history of what is called the CIA, which means the US White House, its secret wars, clandestine warfare, the trail of drug production just follows. It started in France after the Second World War when the United States was essentially trying to reinstitute the traditional social order, to rehabilitate Fascist collaborators, wipe out the Resistance and destroy the unions and so on. The first thing they did was reconstitute the Mafia, as strikebreakers or for other such useful services. And the Mafia doesn't do it for fun, so there was a tradeoff: Essentially, they allowed them to reinstitute the heroin production system, which had been destroyed by the Fascists. The Fascists tended to run a pretty tight ship; they didn't want any competition, so they wiped out the Mafia. But the US reconstituted it, first in southern Italy, and then in southern France with the Corsican Mafia. That's where the famous French Connection comes from. That was the main heroin center for many years. Then US terrorist activities shifted over to Southeast Asia. If you want to carry out terrorist activities, you need local people to do it for you, and you also need secret money to pay for it, clandestine hidden money. Well, if you need to hire thugs and murderers with secret money, there aren't many options. One of them is the drug connection. The so-called Golden Triangle around Burma, Laos and Thailand became a big drug producing area with the help of the United States, as part of the secret wars against those populations.
  • The "corporatization of America" during the past century has been an attack on democracy—and on markets, part of the shift from something resembling "capitalism" to the highly administered markets of the modern state/corporate era. A current variant is called "minimizing the state," that is, transferring decision-making power from the public arena to somewhere else: "to the people" in the rhetoric of power; to private tyrannies, in the real world.
    • Profit Over People (1999)
  • Because they don't teach the truth about the world, schools have to rely on beating students over the head with propaganda about democracy. If schools were, in reality, democratic, there would be no need to bombard students with platitudes about democracy. They would simply act and behave democratically, and we know this does not happen. The more there is a need to talk about the ideals of democracy, the less democratic the system usually is.
    • Chomsky on Miseducation, 1999 [61]
  • For example, take Suharto's Indonesia, which is a brutal, murderous state. I think Canada was supporting it all the way through, because it was making money out of the situation. And we can go around the world. Canada strongly supported the US invasion of South Vietnam, the whole of Indochina. In fact Canada became the per capita largest war exporter, trying to make as much money as it could from the murder of people in Indochina. In fact, I'd suggest that you look back at the comment by a well known and respected Canadian diplomat, I think his name was John Hughes, some years ago, who defined what he called the Canadian idea, namely "we uphold our principles but we find a way around them". Well, that's pretty accurate. And Canada is not unique in this respect, maybe a little more hypocritical.
  • Every year thousands of people, mostly children and poor farmers, are killed in the Plain of Jars in Northern Laos, the scene of the heaviest bombing of civilian targets in history it appears, and arguably the most cruel: Washington's furious assault on a poor peasant society had little to do with its wars in the region. The worst period was from 1968, when Washington was compelled to undertake negotiations (under popular and business pressure), ending the regular bombardment of North Vietnam. Kissinger-Nixon then decided to shift the planes to bombardment of Laos and Cambodia. The deaths are from "bombies," tiny anti-personnel weapons, far worse than land-mines: they are designed specifically to kill and maim, and have no effect on trucks, buildings, etc. The Plain was saturated with hundreds of millions of these criminal devices, which have a failure-to-explode rate of 20%-30% according to the manufacturer, Honeywell. The numbers suggest either remarkably poor quality control or a rational policy of murdering civilians by delayed action. These were only a fraction of the technology deployed, including advanced missiles to penetrate caves where families sought shelter. Current annual casualties from "bombies" are estimated from hundreds a year to "an annual nationwide casualty rate of 20,000," more than half of them deaths, according to the veteran Asia reporter Barry Wain of the Wall Street Journal -- in its Asia edition. A conservative estimate, then, is that the crisis this year is approximately comparable to Kosovo, though deaths are far more highly concentrated among children -- over half, according to analyses reported by the Mennonite Central Committee, which has been working there since 1977 to alleviate the continuing atrocities. There have been efforts to publicize and deal with the humanitarian catastrophe. A British-based Mine Advisory Group (MAG) is trying to remove the lethal objects, but the US is "conspicuously missing from the handful of Western organizations that have followed MAG," the British press reports, though it has finally agreed to train some Laotian civilians. The British press also reports, with some anger, the allegation of MAG specialists that the US refuses to provide them with "render harmless procedures" that would make their work "a lot quicker and a lot safer." These remain a state secret, as does the whole affair in the United States. The Bangkok press reports a very similar situation in Cambodia, particularly the Eastern region where US bombardment from early 1969 was most intense.
    • ZNet, March 1999 [63]
  • Let me just put the whole thing in a kind of mundane level. Like, suppose you walk out in the street, this evening, and you see a crime being committed, you know, somebody is robbing someone else. Well, you have three choices. One choice is to try to stop it, maybe you call 911 or something. Another choice is to do nothing. A third choice is to pick up an assault rifle and kill 'em both, and kill a bystander at the same time. Well, suppose you do that, and somebody says, "Well, you know, why did you do that?" And you say, "Look, I couldn't stand by and do nothing." I mean, is that a response? If you can think of nothing that wouldn't do harm, then do nothing. And the same is true, magnified, in international affairs. Apart from the fact that there were things that could have been done.
  • The United States is not going in there to save the oppressed. If we wanted to save the oppressed we could have supported the nonviolent movement instead of selling them out at Dayton. Any kind of turbulence in the Balkans is a threat to the interests of rich, privileged, powerful people. Therefore, any turbulence in the Balkans is called a crisis. The same circumstances would not be a crisis were they to occur in Sierra Leone, or Central America, or even Turkey. But in Europe, the heartland of American economic interests, any threat in the Balkans has the possibility of spilling over.
  • If the principle is, "Let's not get lethal substances out to the public", the first one you'd go after is tobacco. The next one you'd go after is alcohol. Way down the list you'd get to cocaine, and sort of invisibly low you'd get to marijuana.
    • Dialogue with trade unionists, February 2, 1999 [66]
  • Very commonly substances are criminalized because they're associated with what's called the dangerous classes, you know, poor people, or working people.… Actually, the peak of marijuana use was as I said, in the seventies, but that was rich kids, so you don't throw them in jail. And then it got seriously criminalized, you know, you really throw people in jail for it, when it was poor people.
    • Dialogue with trade unionists, February 2, 1999 [67]

Class Warfare, 1995[edit]

Noam Chomsky, David Barsamian (1996) Class Warfare: Interviews with David Barsamian. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press. (Excerpted on chomsky.info)
  • The criticisms were so tepid they were embarrassing. Almost nobody, including me, dared to criticize the U.S. attack on South Vietnam. That's like talking Hittite. Nobody even understood the words.
  • Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production. That was its primary purpose. And don't think people didn't know it. They knew it and they fought against it. There was a lot of resistance to mass education for exactly that reason. It was also understood by the elites. Emerson once said something about how we're educating them to keep them from our throats. If you don't educate them, what we call "education," they're going to take control -- "they" being what Alexander Hamilton called the "great beast," namely the people. The anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious. And for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow.
  • I compared some passages of articles of [Robert McNamara] in the late 1960s, speeches, on management and the necessity of management, how a well-managed society controlled from above was the ultimate in freedom. The reason is if you have really good management and everything's under control and people are told what to do, under those conditions, he said, man can maximize his potential. I just compared that with standard Leninist views on vanguard parties, which are about the same. About the only difference is that McNamara brought God in, and I suppose Lenin didn't bring God in. He brought Marx in.

Education and Democracy, 1995[edit]

Talk titled "Education and Democracy" at Michigan State University, March 28, 1995
  • Thomas Jefferson, the leading Enlightenment figure in the United States, along with Benjamin Franklin, who took exactly the same view, argued that dependence will lead to "subservience and venality", and will "suffocate[s] the germs of virtue". And remember, by dependence he meant wage labor, which was considered an abomination under classical liberal principles.
  • Newt Gingrich … quite demonstrably is the leading welfare freak in the country.… His own district in Cobb County Georgia gets more federal subsidies than any suburban county in the country, outside of the federal system itself.
  • By comparative standards, the country is undertaxed. And it's also regressively taxed, the tax burden falls mostly on the poor. What we need is a progressive tax system, of, incidentally, the kind that Jefferson advocated. You know, traditional libertarians, like Jefferson, advocated sharply progressive taxes, because they wanted a system of relative equality, knowing that that's a prerequisite for democracy. Jefferson specifically advocated it. We don't have it anymore, it's sort of there in legislation but it's gone. What we need is different social policies. And social policies which ought to be funded by the people who are going to benefit from it, that's the general public. So we'd be a lot better off if we were higher taxed, and it was used for proper purposes. And we know what those are. I mean, for example, for women taking care of children. You know, it makes sense to pay them for that work, they're doing important work for the society. [applause] And they should be paid for it, but that requires tax payments. And the same is true about protection of the environment.

Z Magazine, July 1995[edit]

Z Magazine, July 1995
  • Yet to enter approved memory is the "finale" described in the official Air Force history, a 1000-plane raid on civilian targets organized by General "Hap" Arnold to celebrate the war's end, five days after Nagasaki. According to survivors, leaflets were dropped among the bombs announcing the surrender.
  • The doves are pleased that [Robert McNamara] finally concedes that "our blundering efforts to do good" turned into a "dangerous mistake," as Anthony Lewis put the matter long after corporate America had determined that the game was not worth the candle. As the doves had by then come to recognize, although we had pursued aims that were "noble" and "motivated by the loftiest intentions," they were nevertheless "illusory" and it ended up as a "failed crusade" (Stanley Karnow). McNamara has now "paid his debt," Theodore Draper writes in the New York Review, finally recognizing that "The Vietnam War peculiarly demanded a hardheaded assessment of what it was worth in the national interest of the United States," just as the invasion of Afghanistan "peculiarly demanded" such an assessment in the Kremlin. Draper is outraged by the "vitriolic and protracted campaign" against McNamara by the New York Times. "The case against McNamara largely hinges on the premise that he did not express his doubts" about "whether American troops should continue to die" early on, but the Times did not either (though Draper did, he proudly reminds us). Could there be another question?

The Common Good (1998)[edit]

Noam Chomsky (1988) The Common Good. Odonian Press (Experts at thirdworldtraveler.com)
  • Property rights are not like other rights, contrary to what Madison and a lot of modern political theory says. If I have the right to free speech, it doesn't interfere with your right to free speech. But if I have property, that interferes with your right to have that property, you don't have it, I have it. So the right to property is very different from the right to freedom of speech. This is often put very misleadingly about rights of property; property has no right. But if we just make sense out of this, maybe there is a right to property, one could debate that, but it's very different from other rights.
  • The most extreme types, like Murray Rothbard, are at least honest. They'd like to eliminate highway taxes because they force you to pay for a road you may never drive on. As an alternative, they suggest that if you and I want to get somewhere, we should build a road there and charge people tolls on it. Just try generalizing that. Such a society couldn't survive, and even if it could, it would be so full of terror and hate that any human being would prefer to live in hell.
  • The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.

Sovereignty and World Order, 1999[edit]

Talk titled "Sovereignty and World Order" at Kansas State University, September 20, 1999
  • I should say that when people talk about capitalism it's a bit of a joke. There's no such thing. No country, no business class, has ever been willing to subject itself to the free market, free market discipline. Free markets are for others. Like, the Third World is the Third World because they had free markets rammed down their throat. Meanwhile, the enlightened states, England, the United States, others, resorted to massive state intervention to protect private power, and still do. That's right up to the present. I mean, the Reagan administration for example was the most protectionist in post-war American history. Virtually the entire dynamic economy in the United States is based crucially on state initiative and intervention: computers, the internet, telecommunication, automation, pharmaceutical, you just name it. Run through it, and you find massive ripoffs of the public, meaning, a system in which under one guise or another the public pays the costs and takes the risks, and profit is privatized. That's very remote from a free market. Free market is like what India had to suffer for a couple hundred years, and most of the rest of the Third World.
  • ...the incompetence of intelligence agencies is legendary.… Just take Vietnam.… In the late 1940s, the United States was kind of unclear about which side to support.… In the case of Indochina, for whatever reason, they decided at one point to support France in it's reconquest of Indochina. Well, at that point, essentially orders went to the U.S. intelligence communities, CIA and others, to demonstrate … that Ho Chi Minh and the Viet Minh were agents of either the Russians or the Chinese.… They couldn't do it. They couldn't find anything.… The conclusion in the State Department was, "OK, this proves that they're agents of the international communist conspiracy. Ho Chi Minh is such a loyal slave of"—pick it, Mao or Stalin—"that he doesn't even need orders."
  • Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982 with the intention of destroying secular Palestinian nationalism.… OK, they did destroy the secular PLO and instead what they got was an Islamic fundamentalist movement that they couldn't control, that drove them out of most of Lebanon. What did they do next? They did exactly the same thing in the West Bank.
  • In Somalia, we know exactly what they had to gain because they told us. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell, described this as the best public relations operation of the Pentagon that he could imagine. His picture, which I think is plausible, is that there was a problem about raising the Pentagon budget, and they needed something that would be, look like a kind of a cakewalk, which would give a lot of prestige to the Pentagon. Somalia looked easy. Let's look back at the background. For years, the United States had supported a really brutal dictator, who had just devastated the country, and was finally kicked out. After he's kicked out, it was 1990, the country sank into total chaos and disaster, with starvation and warfare and all kind of horrible misery. The United States refused to, certainly to pay reparations, but even to look. By the middle of 1992, it was beginning to ease. The fighting was dying down, food supplies were beginning to get in, the Red Cross was getting in, roughly 80% of their supplies they said. There was a harvest on the way. It looked like it was finally sort of settling down. At that point, all of a sudden, George Bush announced that he had been watching these heartbreaking pictures on television, on Thanksgiving, and we had to do something, we had to send in humanitarian aid. The Marines landed, in a landing which was so comical, that even the media couldn't keep a straight face. Take a look at the reports of the landing of the Marines, it must've been the first week of December 1992. They had planned a night, there was nothing that was going on, but they planned a night landing, so you could show off all the fancy new night vision equipment and so on. Of course they had called the television stations, because what's the point of a PR operation for the Pentagon if there's no one to look for it. So the television stations were all there, with their bright lights and that sort of thing, and as the Marines were coming ashore they were blinded by the television light. So they had to send people out to get the cameramen to turn off the lights, so they could land with their fancy new equipment. As I say, even the media could not keep a straight face on this one, and they reported it pretty accurately. Also reported the PR aspect. Well the idea was, you could get some nice shots of Marine colonels handing out peanut butter sandwiches to starving refugees, and that'd all look great. And so it looked for a couple of weeks, until things started to get unpleasant. As things started to get unpleasant, the United States responded with what's called the Powell Doctrine. The United States has an unusual military doctrine, it's one of the reasons why the U.S. is generally disqualified from peace keeping operations that involve civilians, again, this has to do with sovereignty. U.S. military doctrine is that U.S. soldiers are not permitted to come under any threat. That's not true for other countries. So countries like, say, Canada, the Fiji Islands, Pakistan, Norway, their soldiers are coming under threat all the time. The peace keepers in southern Lebanon for example, are being attacked by Israeli soldiers all the time, and have suffered plenty of casualties, and they don't like it. But U.S. soldiers are not permitted to come under any threat, so when Somali teenagers started shaking fists at them, and more, they came back with massive fire power, and that led to a massacre. According to the U.S., I don't know the actual numbers, but according to U.S. government, about 7 to 10 thousand Somali civilians were killed before this was over. There's a close analysis of all of this by Alex de Waal, who's one of the world's leading specialists on African famine and relief, altogether academic specialist. His estimate is that the number of people saved by the intervention and the number killed by the intervention was approximately in the same ballpark. That's Somalia. That's what's given as a stellar example of the humanitarian intervention.

Quotes 2000s[edit]

2000[edit]

  • Actually, on humanitarian intervention in general, I guess my view is not unlike the view that was attributed to Gandhi, accurately or not, when he was supposedly asked what he thought about western civilization. He is supposed to have said that he thought it would be a good idea. Similarly, humanitarian intervention would be a good idea, in principle. [...] can we expect that with the existing power structure, distribution of power in the world, there will be humanitarian intervention? There is nothing new about the question, of course. The idea of humanitarian intervention goes back to the days of the Concert of Europe a century ago - in the 19th Century there was lots of talk about civilizing missions and interventions that would do good things. The US intervened in the Philippines to "uplift and christianize" the backward people, killing a couple of hundred thousand of them and destroying the place. The same thing happened in Haiti, the same thing happened with other countries. We cannot disregard the historical record and talk about an ideal world. It makes sense to work towards a better world, but it doesn't make any sense to have illusions about what the real world is.
  • Remember, every business firm, like even a mom and pop grocery store, is a market imperfection. A firm is defined in economic theory as a market imperfection introduced to deal with transaction costs. And the sort of theory is that the imperfections, the firms, are kinda like little islands in a free market sea. But the problem with that is that the sea doesn't remotely resemble a free market, and the islands are bigger than the sea; so that raises some questions about the picture. But these market imperfections, like a firm, or a transnational corporation, or a strategic alliance among them, this is a form of administering interchanges. And there's a real question about whether we want to accept that. Why, for example, should the international socioeconomic system, or for that matter our own society, be in the hands of unaccountable private tyrannies? That's a decision, it's not a law of nature.
  • The most important victory, in fact, was in Indonesia. In 1965 there was a military coup, which instantly carried out a Rwanda-style slaughter, and it's not an exaggeration. Rwanda-style slaughter, which wiped out the only mass-based political organization, killed mostly landless peasants, and instituted a brutal and murderous regime. There was total euphoria in the United States. So happy, they couldn't contain it. When you read the press, it was just ecstatic. It's kind of suppressed now because it doesn't look pretty in retrospect, but it was understood. Years later, McGeorge Bundy, who was the national security advisor, recognized that, he said, and I think he's right, the U.S. should have stopped the war in Vietnam in 1965, because we basically won. By 1965 South Vietnam was largely destroyed, most of the rest was going to quickly be destroyed, and we had saved the major prize, Indonesia. The rot wasn't going to spread to Indonesia after this delightful Rwanda-style slaughter.
    • Teach-in on the 25th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War, in New York, April 2000 [70]
  • Stability means we run it. There are countries that are very stable. Cuba is stable, but that’s not called stability.
    • Interview by Hugh Gusterson, November 2000 [71]
  • The Oslo agreements did represent a shift in U.S.-Israeli policy. Both states had by then come to recognize that it is a mistake to use the Israel Defense Forces to run the territories. It is much wiser to resort to the traditional colonial pattern of relying on local clients to control the subject population, in the manner of the British in India, South Africa under apartheid, the U.S. in Central America, and other classic cases. That is the assigned role of the Palestinian Authority, which like its predecessors, has to follow a delicate path: it must maintain some credibility among the population, while serving as a second oppressor, both militarily and economically, in coordination with the primary power centers that retain ultimate control. The long-term goal of the Oslo process was described accurately by Shlomo Ben-Ami shortly before he joined the Barak government: it is to establish a condition of permanent neo-colonialist dependency. The mechanisms have been spelled out explicitly in the successive interim agreements; and more important, implemented on the ground.
  • Let's go back to our point of departure: the contested issues of freedom and rights, hence sovereignty, insofar as it's to be valued. Do they inhere in persons of flesh and blood or … in abstract constructions like corporations, or capital, or states? In the past century the idea that such entities have special rights, over and above persons, has been strongly advocated. The most prominent examples are Bolshevism, fascism, and private corporatism…. Two of these systems have collapsed. The third is alive and flourishing under the banner TINA—There Is No Alternative to the emerging system of state corporate mercantilism disguised with various mantras like globalization and free trade.
    • Rogue States (2000)

2001[edit]

  • The Ottoman Empire was an ugly affair, but they had the right idea. The rulers in Turkey were fortunately so corrupt that they left people alone pretty much -- were mostly interested in robbing them -- and they left them alone to run their own affairs, and their own regions and their own communities with a lot of local self determination.
  • Take the Kyoto Protocol. Destruction of the environment is not only rational; it's exactly what you're taught to do in college. If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators, each acting as an individual to maximize his own wealth in the market. The market is regarded as democratic because everybody has a vote. Of course, some have more votes than others because your votes depend on the number of dollars you have, but everybody participates and therefore it's called democratic. Well, suppose that we believe what we are taught. It follows that if there are dollars to be made, you destroy the environment. The reason is elementary. The people who are going to be harmed by this are your grandchildren, and they don't have any votes in the market. Their interests are worth zero. Anybody that pays attention to their grandchildren's interests is being irrational, because what you're supposed to do is maximize your own interests, measured by wealth, right now. Nothing else matters. So destroying the environment and militarizing outer space are rational policies, but within a framework of institutional lunacy. If you accept the institutional lunacy, then the policies are rational.
    • Interview by Yifat Susskind, August 2001 [74]
  • The September 11 attacks were major atrocities. In terms of number of victims they do not reach the level of many others, for example, Clinton's bombing of the Sudan with no credible pretext, destroying half its pharmaceutical supplies and probably killing tens of thousands of people (no one knows, because the US blocked an inquiry at the UN and no one cares to pursue it). Not to speak of much worse cases, which easily come to mind. But that this was a horrendous crime is not in doubt. The primary victims, as usual, were working people: janitors, secretaries, firemen, etc. It is likely to prove to be a crushing blow to Palestinians and other poor and oppressed people. It is also likely to lead to harsh security controls, with many possible ramifications for undermining civil liberties and internal freedom.
    • A Quick Reaction, September 12, 2001 [75]
  • I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled.
    • Interview by Svetlana Vukovic & Svetlana Lukic on Radio B92, Belgrade, Serbia, September 19, 2001 [76]
  • Right after September 11, the U.S. Trade Representative, Robert Zoellick, said the first thing that had to be done to combat terrorism was to pass fast-track. Now that should really make Osama bin Laden tremble in his boots - that the President has Kremlin-style authority to sign economic agreements.
    • Interview by V. K. Ramachandran in Frontline, November 11, 2001 [77]
  • It is only in folk tales, children's stories, and the journals of intellectual opinion that power is used wisely and well to destroy evil. The real world teaches very different lessons, and it takes willful and dedicated ignorance to fail to perceive them.
    • Talk titled "The World After September 11th", AFSC Conference at Tufts University, Massachusetts, December 8, 2001 [78]
  • Nothing can justify crimes such as those of September 11, but we can think of the United States as an "innocent victim" only if we adopt the convenient path of ignoring the record of its actions and those of its allies, which are, after all, hardly a secret.
  • Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism.

The New War Against Terror, 2001[edit]

Talk titled "The New War Against Terror" at MIT, October 18, 2001 [81]
  • The list of the states that have joined the coalition against terror is quite impressive. They have a characteristic in common. They are certainly among the leading terrorist states in the world. And they happen to be led by the world champion.
  • It was a historic event. Not unfortunately because of its scale. Unpleasant to think about, but in terms of the scale it’s not that unusual. I did say it’s the worst, probably the worst instant human toll of any crime. And that may be true. But there are terrorist crimes with effects a bit more drawn out that are more extreme, unfortunately. Nevertheless, it’s a historic event because there was a change. The change was the direction in which the guns were pointing. That’s new. Radically new.
  • What will happen we don’t know, but plans are being made and programs implemented on the assumption that they may lead to the death of several million people in the next couple of weeks. Very casually, with no comment, no particular thought about it, that’s just kind of normal, here, and in a good part of Europe.

2002[edit]

  • We cannot say much about human affairs with any confidence, but sometimes it is possible. We can, for example, be fairly confident that either there will be a world without war, or there won't be a world -- at least, a world inhabited by creatures other than bacteria and beetles, with some scattering of others.
    • Talk titled "A World Without War" at the 2nd World Social Forum, in Porto Alegre, Brazil, January 31, 2002 [82]
  • Moral equivalence is a term of propaganda that was invented to try to prevent us from looking at the acts for which we are responsible. [...] There is no such notion. There are many different dimensions and criteria. For example, there's no moral equivalence between the bombing of the World Trade Center and the destruction of Nicaragua or of El Salvador, of Guatemala. The latter were far worse, by any criterion. So there's no moral equivalence.
  • Remember, the U.S. is a powerful state, it's not like Libya. If Libya wants to carry out terrorist acts, they hire Carlos the Jackal or something. The United States hires terrorist states.
  • [Israel's military occupation is] in gross violation of international law and has been from the outset. And that much, at least, is fully recognized, even by the United States, which has overwhelming and, as I said, unilateral responsibility for these crimes. So George Bush No. 1, when he was the U.N. ambassador, back in 1971, he officially reiterated Washington's condemnation of Israel's actions in the occupied territories. He happened to be referring specifically to occupied Jerusalem. In his words, actions in violation of the provisions of international law governing the obligations of an occupying power, namely Israel. He criticized Israel's failure "to acknowledge its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as its actions which are contrary to the letter and spirit of this Convention." [...] However, by that time, late 1971, a divergence was developing, between official policy and practice. The fact of the matter is that by then, by late 1971, the United States was already providing the means to implement the violations that Ambassador Bush deplored. [...] on December 5th [2001], there had been an important international conference, called in Switzerland, on the 4th Geneva Convention. Switzerland is the state that's responsible for monitoring and controlling the implementation of them. The European Union all attended, even Britain, which is virtually a U.S. attack dog these days. They attended. A hundred and fourteen countries all together, the parties to the Geneva Convention. They had an official declaration, which condemned the settlements in the occupied territories as illegal, urged Israel to end its breaches of the Geneva Convention, some "grave breaches," including willful killing, torture, unlawful deportation, unlawful depriving of the rights of fair and regular trial, extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that's a serious term, that means serious war crimes. The United States is one of the high contracting parties to the Geneva Convention, therefore it is obligated, by its domestic law and highest commitments, to prosecute the perpetrators of grave breaches of the conventions. That includes its own leaders. Until the United States prosecutes its own leaders, it is guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that means war crimes. And it's worth remembering the context. It is not any old convention. These are the conventions established to criminalize the practices of the Nazis, right after the Second World War. What was the U.S. reaction to the meeting in Geneva? The U.S. boycotted the meeting [..] and that has the usual consequence, it means the meeting is null and void, silence in the media.
  • Prophet just means intellectual. They were people giving geopolitical analysis, moral lessons, that sort of thing. We call them intellectuals today. There were the people we honor as prophets, there were the people we condemn as false prophets. But if you look at the biblical record, at the time, it was the other way around. The flatterers of the Court of King Ahab were the ones who were honored. The ones we call prophets were driven into the desert and imprisoned.
    • Interview by Harry Kreisler, March 22, 2002 [86]
  • [Q: do you think the Palestinian suicide bombers are freedom fighters or terrorists?] They're terrorists - they're both, actually. They're trying to fight for freedom, but doing it in a totally unacceptable immoral way. Of course they're terrorists. And there's been Palestinian terrorism all the way through. I have always opposed it, I oppose it now. But it's very small as compared with the US-backed Israeli terrorism. Quite typically, violence reflects the means of violence. It's not unusual. State terror is almost always much more extreme than retail terror, and this is no exception.
  • The Americans didn't even think about the outcome of the bombing, because the Sudanese were so far below contempt as to be not worth thinking about. Suppose I walk down the sidewalk in Cambridge and, without a second thought, step on an ant. That would mean that I regard the ant as beneath contempt, and that's morally worse than if I purposely killed that ant.
  • I choose to live in what I think is the greatest country in the world, which is committing horrendous terrorist acts and should stop.
  • September 11 shocked many Americans into an awareness that they had better pay much closer attention to what the US government does in the world and how it is perceived. Many issues have been opened for discussion that were not on the agenda before. That's all to the good. It is also the merest sanity, if we hope to reduce the likelihood of future atrocities. It may be comforting to pretend that our enemies "hate our freedoms," as President Bush stated, but it is hardly wise to ignore the real world, which conveys different lessons. The president is not the first to ask: "Why do they hate us?" In a staff discussion 44 years ago, President Eisenhower described "the campaign of hatred against us [in the Arab world], not by the governments but by the people". His National Security Council outlined the basic reasons: the US supports corrupt and oppressive governments and is "opposing political or economic progress" because of its interest in controlling the oil resources of the region.
    • The Guardian, September 9, 2002 [90]
  • [Q: isn't there a certain calculus that someone who is sitting in the shoes of a Condoleezza Rice can make, that they're responsible for the best outcome for American citizens, and there's an upside of going into Iraq which is we get one of the greatest material possessions in world's history, and there're downsides which are: we upset the international community, and maybe there's more terrorism. Couldn't you envision a calculus where they say, sure, that's the reason, and it's a good reason, let's do it. What's the flaw in the calculus?] Oh, I think that's exactly their calculus. But then we ought to just be honest and say, "Look, we're a bunch of Nazis." So fine, let's just drop all the discussion, we save a lot of trees, we can throw out the newspapers and most of the scholarly literature, and just come out, state it straight, and tell the truth: we'll do whatever we want because we think we're going to gain by it. And incidentally, it's not American citizens who'll gain. They don't gain by this. It's narrow sectors of domestic power that the administration is serving with quite unusual dedication...
  • Before there were any suicide bombers, it was also reported by the same sources that Saddam Hussein was giving $10,000 to the families of anyone who was killed by Israeli atrocities, and there were plenty of them. Well, should he've been doing that? So let's take the first month of the current intifada. I'm just relying now on IDF sources. What they say is, that in the first few days of the intifada, the Israeli army fired a million bullets. One of the high military officers said 'that means one bullet for every child'. Within the first month of the intifada, they killed about 70 people. Using U.S. helicopters, and in fact Clinton shipped new helicopters to Israel as soon as they started using them against civilians. That's just the first month. And it goes on, no suicide bombers. At the time, it was reported that Saddam Hussein was giving $10,000 to every family. Well, is that supporting terror? It seems to me, sending helicopters to Israel when they're using them to attack apartment complexes, that's supporting terror.
  • Armies usually aren’t interested in wars. They like preparation for war. But they have an understandable reluctance to fight a war. So I think if you look at, at least the history that I know, it’s usually the civilian leadership who is pushing the military to do something. It was the case in the early days of the Vietnam War.
    • Interview by Hugh Gusterson, November 2000 [93]
  • ...another thing you sometimes find in non-literate cultures is development of the most extraordinary linguistic systems: often there's tremendous sophistication about language, and people play all sorts of games with language. So there are puberty rites where people who go through the same initiation period develop their own language that's usually some modification of the actual language, but with quite complex mental operations differentiating it -- then that's theirs for the rest of their lives, and not other people's. And what all these things look like is that people just want to use their intelligence somehow, and if you don't have a lot of technology and so on, you do other things. Well, in our society, we have things that you might use your intelligence on, like politics, but people really can't get involved in them in a very serious way -- so what they do is they put their minds into other things, such as sports. You're trained to be obedient; you don't have an interesting job; there's no work around for you that's creative; in the cultural environment you're a passive observer of usually pretty tawdry stuff; political and social life are out of your range, they're in the hands of the rich folks. So what's left? Well, one thing that's left is sports -- so you put a lot of the intelligence and the thought and the self-confidence into that. And I suppose that's also one of the basic functions it serves in the society in general: it occupies the population, and keeps them from trying to get involved with things that really matter.
    • In Understanding Power, 2002

Talk at the University of Houston, 2002[edit]

Talk at the University of Houston, Texas, October 18, 2002 [94]
  • We certainly shouldn't trust to deal with [Saddam Hussein] anyone who supported him through his worst crimes, that's insane.
  • There's one white powder which is by far the most lethal known. It's called sugar. If you look at the history of imperialism, a lot of it has to do with that. A lot of the imperial conquest, say in the Caribbean, set up a kind of a network... The Caribbean back in the 18th century was a soft drug producer: sugar, rum, tobacco, chocolate. And in order to do it, they had to enslave Africans, and it was done largely to pacify working people in England who were being driven into awful circumstances by the early industrial revolution. That's why so many wars took place around the Caribbean.
  • Take any country that has laws against hate crimes, inspiring hatred and genocide and so on. The first thing they would do is ban the Old Testament. There's nothing like it in the literary canon that exalts genocide, to that extent. And it's not a joke either. Like where I live, New England, the people who liberated it from the native scourge were religious fundamentalist lunatics, who came waving the holy book, declaring themselves to be the children of Israel who are killing the Amalekites, like God told them.

2003[edit]

Noam Chomsky, 2003
  • [Q: when do you think is it right to intervene in the affairs of another nation?] I think there are conditions under which that would be possible. One basic condition is that nonviolent -- you mean violent intervention? -- that nonviolent means have been exhausted. That's one condition. A second condition is that the people of the country in which you're intervening support the intervention. Under those conditions -- and you can think of others -- intervention would be justified. However, we don't ever apply those conditions.
  • To gain control over this resource, and have probably military bases there, is a tremendous achievement for world control. You read counter-arguments to this, and they're worth looking at. So it's argued that it can't be true, because the costs of reconstruction are going to be greater than the profits that will be made. Well, maybe that's true, maybe it isn't, but it's totally irrelevant. And the reason is because the costs of reconstruction are going to be paid by the taxpayer, by you, and the profits are going to go right into the pockets of the energy corporations. So yeah, it doesn't matter how they balance out, it's just another taxpayer subsidy to the rich.
  • [Q: do you believe that a nation should suffer a detrimental cost in order to compensate for wrongs committed by the governors of that nations, or by segments of that nation in the past?] Suppose you're living under a dictatorship, and the dictators carry out some horrendous acts. So you're living in Stalinist Russia, let's say, and Stalin carries out horrible crimes. Are the people of Russia responsible for those crimes? Well, to only a very limited extent, because living under a brutal, harsh, terrorist regime, there isn't very much they can do about it. There's something they can do, and to the extent that you can do something, you're responsible for what happens. Suppose you're living in a free, democratic society, with lots of privilege, enormous, incomparable freedoms, and the government carries out violent, brutal acts. Are you responsible for it? Yeah, a lot more responsible, because there's a lot that you can do about it. If you share responsibility in criminal acts, you are liable for the consequences.
  • In September [2002] the government announced the national security strategy. That is not completely without precedent, but it is quite new as a formulation of state policy. What is stated is that we are tearing the entire system of the international law to shreds, the end of UN charter, and that we are going to carry out an aggressive war - which we will call "preventive" - and at any time we choose, and that we will rule the world by force. In addition, we will assure that there is never any challenge to our domination because we are so overwhelmingly powerful in military force that we will simply crush any potential challenge. That caused shudders around the world, including the foreign policy elite at home which was appalled by this. It is not that things like that haven't been heard in the past. Of course they had, but it had never been formulated as an official national policy. I suspect you will have to go back to Hitler to find an analogy to that. Now, when you propose new norms in the international behavior and new policies you have to illustrate it, you have to get people to understand that you mean it. Also you have to have what a Harvard historian called an "exemplary war", a war of example, which shows that we really mean what we say. And we have to choose the right target. The target has to have several properties. First it has to be completely defenseless. No one would attack anybody who might be able to defend themselves, that would be not prudent. Iraq meets that perfectly... And secondly, it has to be important. So there will be no point invading Burundi, for example. It has to be a country worthwhile controlling, owning, and Iraq has that property too.
  • Somebody's paying the corporations that destroyed Iraq and the corporations that are rebuilding it. They're getting paid by the American taxpayer in both cases. So we pay them to destroy the country, and then we pay them to rebuild it.
  • The US and Israel have demanded further that Palestinians not only recognize Israel's rights as a state in the international system, but that they also recognize Israel's abstract "right to exist," a concept that has no place in international law or diplomacy, and a right claimed by no one. In effect, the US and Israel are demanding that Palestinians not only recognize Israel in the normal fashion of interstate relations, but also formally accept the legitimacy of their expulsion from their own land. They cannot be expected to accept that, just as Mexico does not grant the US the "right to exist" on half of Mexico's territory, gained by conquest.
  • After September 11th I had tons of interviews everywhere, except the United States of course, and often it was national radio and TV. A couple of times it turned out to be Irish television and BBC back to back, and the difference in reaction was startling. If I said this much on Irish TV, OK, discussion over, everyone understands what I'm talking about. You try to say it on BBC, you have to go on for like about an hour to explain to them what you mean. The Irish sea is a chasm, and it just depends who's been holding the whip for 800 years and who's been under it for 800 years.
    • In Noam Chomsky - Rebel Without a Pause, 2003 [102]
  • Let us turn now to the most elementary principle of just war theory, universality. Those who cannot accept this principle should have the decency to keep silent about matters of right and wrong, or just war. If we can rise to this level, some obvious questions arise: for example, have Cuba and Nicaragua been entitled to set off bombs in Washington, New York, and Miami in self-defense against ongoing terrorist attack? Particularly so when the perpetrators are well known and act with complete impunity, sometimes in brazen defiance of the highest international authorities, so that the cases are far clearer than Afghanistan? If not, why not?
    • Hegemony or Survival, 2003

2004[edit]

Noam Chomsky, 2004
  • The whole question of recognizing the right of a state to exist was invented solely for Israel. People, on the other hand, have a right to exist. So the people who live on the land - Israelis and Palestinians - have a right to live in security and peace.
  • Even if [9/11 conspiracy theories] were true, which is extremely unlikely, who cares? It doesn't have any significance. It's a little bit like the huge energy that's put out on trying to figure out who killed John F. Kennedy. Who knows? And who cares? Plenty of people get killed all the time, why does it matter that one of them happened to be John F. Kennedy? If there was some reason to believe that there was a high level conspiracy, it might be interesting. But the evidence against that is just overwhelming. And after that, if it happened to be a jealous husband, or the mafia, or someone else, what difference does it make? It's just taking energy away from serious issues onto ones that don't matter. And I think the same is true here; it's my personal opinion.
  • On May 27, the New York Times published one of the most incredible sentences I’ve ever seen. They ran an article about the Nixon-Kissinger interchanges. Kissinger fought very hard through the courts to try to prevent it, but the courts permitted it. You read through it, and you see the following statement embedded in it. Nixon at one point informs Kissinger, his right-hand Eichmann, that he wanted bombing of Cambodia. And Kissinger loyally transmits the order to the Pentagon to carry out "a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. Anything that flies on anything that moves." That is the most explicit call for what we call genocide when other people do it that I’ve ever seen in the historical record. Right at this moment there is a prosecution of Milošević going on in the international tribunal, and the prosecutors are kind of hampered because they can’t find direct orders, or a direct connection even, linking Milošević to any atrocities on the ground. Suppose they found a statement like this. Suppose a document came out from Milošević saying, "Reduce Kosovo to rubble. Anything that flies on anything that moves." They would be overjoyed. The trial would be over. He would be sent away for multiple life sentences - if it was a U.S. trial, immediately the electric chair.

Interview by Wallace Shawn, 2004[edit]

Interview by Wallace Shawn, October 19, 2004 [106]
  • I mean, what's the elections? You know, two guys, same background, wealth, political influence, went to the same elite university, joined the same secret society where you're trained to be a ruler - they both can run because they're financed by the same corporate institutions. At the Democratic Convention, Barack Obama said, 'only in this country, only in America, could someone like me appear here.' Well, in some other countries, people much poorer than him would not only talk at the convention - they'd be elected president. Take Lula. The president of Brazil is a guy with a peasant background, a union organizer, never went to school, he's the president of the second-biggest country in the hemisphere. Only in America? I mean, there they actually have elections where you can choose somebody from your own ranks. With different policies. That's inconceivable in the United States.
  • Clinton, Kennedy, they all carried out mass murder, but they didn't think that that was what they were doing - nor does Bush. You know, they were defending justice and democracy from greater evils. And in fact I think you'd find it hard to discover a mass murderer in history who didn't think that.
  • You can find things in the traditional religions which are very benign and decent and wonderful and so on, but I mean, the Bible is probably the most genocidal book in the literary canon. The God of the Bible - not only did He order His chosen people to carry out literal genocide - I mean, wipe out every Amalekite to the last man, woman, child, and, you know, donkey and so on, because hundreds of years ago they got in your way when you were trying to cross the desert - not only did He do things like that, but, after all, the God of the Bible was ready to destroy every living creature on earth because some humans irritated Him. That's the story of Noah. I mean, that's beyond genocide - you don't know how to describe this creature. Somebody offended Him, and He was going to destroy every living being on earth? And then He was talked into allowing two of each species to stay alive - that's supposed to be gentle and wonderful.

Interview by Bill Maher, 2004[edit]

Interview by Bill Maher on HBO, November 10, 2004 [107]
  • The invasion of Iraq was simply a war crime. Straight-out war crime.
  • I think that the polls taken in Baghdad explain it very well, they seem to understand. The United States invaded Iraq to gain control of one of the major sources of the world’s energy, right in the heart of the world’s energy producing regions. To create, if they can, a dependent client state. To have permanent military bases. And to gain what’s called “critical leverage” - I’m quoting Zbigniew Brzezinski - to gain critical leverage over rivals, the European and Asian economies. It’s been understood since the Second World War, that if you have your hand on that spigot, the main source of the world’s energy, you have what early planners called “veto power” over others. Iraq is also the last part of the world where there are vast, untapped, easily accessible energy resources. And you can be sure that they want the profits from that to go primarily to U.S.-based multinationals and back to the U.S. Treasury, not to rivals. There are plenty of reasons for invading Iraq.

25th Anniversary of Coalition for Peace Action, 2004[edit]

25th Anniversary of Coalition for Peace Action in Princeton, New Jersey, November 14, 2004 [108]
  • It’s certainly true that the world is better off without Saddam Hussein, and also without the people who supported him through his worst atrocities, and are now telling us about them.
  • I was very much involved in the resistance movement in the 1960's. In fact, I was just barely -- the only reason I missed a long jail sentence is because the Tet Offensive came along and the trials were called off.
  • In my view, if there's going to be an army, I think it ought to be a citizens' army. Now, here I do agree with some people, the top brass, they don't want a citizens' army. They want a mercenary army, what we call a volunteer army. A mercenary army of the disadvantaged. And in fact, in the Vietnam War, the U.S. military realized, they had made a very bad mistake. I mean, for the first time I think ever in the history of European imperialism, including us, they had used a citizens' army to fight a vicious, brutal, colonial war, and civilians just cannot do that kind of a thing. For that, you need the French Foreign Legion, the Gurkhas or something like that. Every predecessor has used mercenaries, often drawn from the country that they're attacking, like England ran India with Indian mercenaries. You take them from one place and send them to kill people in the other place. That's the standard way to run imperial wars. They're just too brutal and violent and murderous. Civilians are not going to be able to do it for very long. What happened was, the army started falling apart. One of the reasons that the army was withdrawn was because the top military wanted it out of there. They were afraid they were not going to have an army anymore. Soldiers were fragging officers. The whole thing was falling apart. They were on drugs. And that's why I think that they're not going to have a draft. That's why I'm in favor of it. If there's going to be an army that will fight brutal, colonial wars... it ought to be a citizens' army so that the attitudes of the society are reflected in the military.

Talk at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, 2004[edit]

Talk at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, New York. November 16, 2004 [109]
  • [Q: can you conceive of any form in which you might support American military action taken, like the President's justification, in anticipation of an imminent and dangerous threat?] Why don't you generalize it, and say, can you conceive of any action which any state might take? Sure, you can imagine such things. Let's say you're in Iran right now. [audience laughter] It's under attack by the world's superpower, with embargoes... It's surrounded by states either occupied by its superpower enemy, or having nuclear weapons. Little way down the road is the regional superpower, which has hundreds of nuclear weapons, and other WMDs, and is essentially an offshore US military base. And has a bigger and more advanced air force than any NATO power, outside the United States. And in the past year has been supplied by the global superpower with 100 advanced jet bombers, openly advertised as able to fly to Iran and back to bomb it. And also provided with what the Hebrew press calls special weaponry, nobody knows what that means, but if you're an Iranian intelligence analyst you're going to give a worst case analysis, of course. And has actually been publicly provided with smart bombs, and deep penetration weapons... They have a terrific justification for anticipatory self defense, better than any other case I can think of. But would I approve of their bombing Israel, or carrying out terrorist acts in Washington? No, even though they have a pretty strong case, better than anything I can think of here. Just as the Japanese had a much better case than any that I can think of here, but I don't approve of Pearl Harbor. So yeah, we can conceive of cases, and in fact some of them are right in front of our eyes, but none of us approve of them. None of us. So if we don't approve of them in real cases, why discuss hypothetical cases that don't exist? We can do that in some philosophy seminar, but in the real world there're real cases that ought to concern us.
  • The big debate in Washington is totally pointless. And the media, about whether Bush downgraded terror in order to invade Iraq. There's nothing to debate. He invaded Iraq. That proves beyond doubt that he downgraded the threat of terror in favor of invading Iraq. They anticipated, and their own intelligence agencies told them, and everyone else did too, that invasion of Iraq was likely to increase the threat of terror. It's not a high priority, so they invaded Iraq because that's much higher priority.

2005[edit]

  • ...evidence-based approach, the U.S. negotiators argued, is interference with free markets, because corporations must have the right to deceive. [...] The claim itself is kind of amusing, I mean, even if you believe the free market rhetoric for a moment. The main purpose of advertising is to undermine markets. If you go to graduate school and you take a course in economics, you learn that markets are systems in which informed consumers make rational choices. That's what's so wonderful about it. But that's the last thing that the state corporate system wants. It is spending huge sums to prevent that, which brings us back to the viability of American democracy. For many years, elections here, election campaigns, have been run by the public relations industry and each time it's with increasing sophistication. And quite naturally, the industry uses the same technique to sell candidates that it uses to sell toothpaste or lifestyle drugs. The point is to undermine markets by projecting imagery to delude and suppressing information, and similarly, to undermine democracy by the same method, projecting imagery to delude and suppressing information. The candidates are trained, carefully trained, to project a certain image. Intellectuals like to make fun of George Bush's use of phrases like “misunderestimate,” and so on, but my strong suspicion is that he's trained to do that. He's carefully trained to efface the fact that he's a spoiled frat boy from Yale, and to look like a Texas roughneck kind of ordinary guy just like you, just waiting to get back to the ranch that they created for him...
    • 25th anniversary of the International Relations Center in Santa Fe, New Mexico, January 26, 2005 [110]
  • ...I think the basic question you ask is a good one: if we were to withdraw our own beating people over the heads with clubs, would it necessarily follow that somebody else would take that role, or are there other alternatives? Well yeah, there are other alternatives. For example, the alternatives that are favored by the overwhelming majority of the population of the United States. I mentioned one piece of it: let the UN function. The UN isn't perfect, a lot of things wrong with it, just like the Universal Declaration of Human Rights isn't perfect... But one step would be to pay some respect to the "decent opinion of mankind", to quote the famous author, and let international institutions function so as to reduce the likelihood that anybody will use force...
    • Talk titled "The Idea of Universality in Linguistics and Human Rights" at MIT, March 15, 2005 [111]
  • If there was anyone who actually fit the category of conservative, if there was such a category of people, they would have a very easy way to deal with the fact that 60% of the children under 2 [in Nicaragua] are suffering probable brain damage. Namely, by paying their debts. Simple conservative principle. But that's beyond unthinkable. Compassionate conservatives might want to go beyond that, if they existed. But they're much more interested in making political capital over the fact that a woman in a vegetative state shouldn't be allowed to die in dignity.
  • The dominant propaganda systems have appropriated the term "globalization" to refer to the specific version of international economic integration that they favor, which privileges the rights of investors and lenders, those of people being incidental. In accord with this usage, those who favor a different form of international integration, which privileges the rights of human beings, become "anti-globalist." This is simply vulgar propaganda, like the term "anti-Soviet" used by the most disgusting commissars to refer to dissidents. It is not only vulgar, but idiotic. Take the World Social Forum, called "anti-globalization" in the propaganda system -- which happens to include the media, the educated classes, etc., with rare exceptions. The WSF is a paradigm example of globalization. It is a gathering of huge numbers of people from all over the world, from just about every corner of life one can think of, apart from the extremely narrow, highly privileged elites who meet at the competing World Economic Forum, and are called "pro-globalization" by the propaganda system. An observer watching this farce from Mars would collapse in hysterical laughter at the antics of the educated classes.
    • Interview by Sniježana Matejčić, June 2005 [113]
  • There's basically two principles that define the Bush Administration policies: stuff the pockets of your rich friends with dollars, and increase your control over the world. Almost everything follows from that. If you happen to blow up the world, well, you know, it's somebody else's business. Stuff happens, as Rumsfeld said.
    • Interview by Geov Parrish, December 23, 2005 [114]
  • The Grand Inquisitor explains that you have to create mysteries because otherwise the common people will be able to understand things. They have to be subordinated so you have to make things look mysterious and complicated. That's the test of the intellectual. It's also good for them: then you're an important person, talking big words which nobody can understand. Sometimes it gets kind of comical, say in post-modern discourse. Especially around Paris, it has become a comic strip, I mean it's all gibberish. But it's very inflated, a lot of television cameras, a lot of posturing. They try to decode it and see what is the actual meaning behind it, things that you could explain to an eight-year old child. There's nothing there. But these are the ways in which contemporary intellectuals, including those on the Left, create great careers for themselves, power for themselves, marginalize people, intimidate people and so on.
    • In Chomsky on Anarchism, 2005

Interview by Doug Henwood, 2004[edit]

Interview by Doug Henwood on WBAI, February 10, 2005 [115]
  • The crucial question for us is not whether they have a theocratic government. I'd personally prefer not, but I can think of a lot of places where I'd prefer not, like here. But, the question is whether the US will agree to let Iraq alone. That means to make it very clean and explicit, both in word and in action, that the US will withdraw, set a timetable for it, will not influence what goes on in Iraq, will not leave military bases, will let the country go off on its own. I think we also ought to pay massive reparations, but I'll stop short of that. Those are the crucial issues. It's not up to Rumsfeld what kind of government they have, it's up to him to get out.
  • I think murdering Iraqi union leaders is criminal, for example. And a lot of what the insurgents have done is criminal. But, you know, you rank the priorities. Our priority is to stop major war crimes, like Fallujah for example. So yeah, what the resistance is doing, one can also criticize, harshly in fact. But in any kind of ranking, even if we're on Mars, and certainly if we're in the United States, what is vastly more important is our own crimes, which are much worse, and they're ours.

Interview by Steve Scher on KUOW, 2004[edit]

    • Interview by Steve Scher on KUOW, in Seattle, Washington, April 20, 2005 [116]
  • Say, take Rachel Corrie, local young woman, she was extremely courageous. She's a martyr for peace and justice. We happened to kill her too, even if we don't like to admit it. She was killed by U.S. sent equipment, which is Caterpillar...
    [Q: you draw that line right back to you and me sitting here?] Absolutely, we're responsible for it. I mean, we didn't drive the bulldozer, but why is it there? What's it doing? Who provides the military, economic, and diplomatic support for destroying the occupied territories?
  • The Bush Administration do have moral values. Their moral values are very explicit: shine the boots of the rich and the powerful, kick everybody else in the face, and let your grandchildren pay for it. That simple principle predicts almost everything that's happening.

Illegal but Legitimate: A Dubious Doctrine for the Times, 2004[edit]

Talk titled "Illegal but Legitimate: A Dubious Doctrine for the Times" at the University of Washington, April 20, 2005 [117]
  • ...the argument is that by bombing at a time when most of the atrocities were attributed to the KLA guerrillas, with the anticipation that the bombing would lead to far worse atrocities, NATO was preventing atrocities. The fact that this is the strongest argument that can be contrived by serious analysts, and I stress serious because there's plenty of nonsense, that tells us a good deal about the decision to bomb, particularly when we recall that there apparently were diplomatic options.
  • After the invasion, there was sophisticated massive looting of the installations that were constructed in the 1980s - that includes high-precision equipment capable of making parts for nuclear and chemical weapons and missiles, and also toxins for biological weapons. Prior to the US-British invasion, these sites had been monitored by UN inspectors, but they were quickly kicked out of the country and have not been back since, while the occupation forces left the sites unguarded, and very sophisticated looting operations took place. Where this huge massive equipment has gone no one knows, and it's uncomfortable to guess. The ironies are almost inexpressible. The US and Britain invaded to prevent the use of WMDs that did not exist, and they succeeded in providing the terrorists that they had mobilized with the means to develop WMDs that the US and Britain had provided to Saddam Hussein.

2006[edit]

Chile, 2006
  • It should have been the easiest invasion in history, and the incompetence and arrogance of the Pentagon planners turned it into a total catastrophe. So yes, it hasn't worked out the way they wanted, but that has nothing to do with their plans. It would be like saying that Hitler didn't intend to conquer the world because he failed. They actually succeeded in creating an insurgency, which didn't exist, there was no basis for it and no outside support. In fact, the U.S. and Britain were compelled to allow elections. The elections in Iraq are a triumph of mass popular nonviolent resistance. Washington and London tried in every way they could to evade elections. You go back through 2003, there was one after another scheme proposed, to try to avoid elections. But they couldn't do it, there were mass demonstrations, partially led by Ayatollah Sistani. Finally they had to back down, and allow elections. Now they're trying in every way to subvert them.
  • "Jesus himself, and most of the message of the Gospels, is a message of service to the poor, a critique of the rich and the powerful, and a pacifist doctrine. And it remained that way, that’s what Christianity was up... until Constantine. :Constantine shifted it so the cross, which was the symbol of persecution of somebody working for the poor, was put on the shield of the Roman Empire. It became the symbol for violence and oppression, and that’s pretty much what the church has been until the present.
In fact, it’s quite striking in recent years, elements of the church, in particular the Latin American bishops, but not only them, tried to go back to the Gospels."
  • We might add now that we do have an authoritative account of why the United States bombed Serbia in 1999. It comes from Strobe Talbott, now the director of the Brookings Institution, but in 1999 he was in charge of the State Department-Pentagon team that supervised the diplomacy in the affair. He wrote the introduction to a recent book by his Director of Communications, John Norris, which presents the position of the Clinton administration at the time of the bombing. Norris writes that "it was Yugoslavia's resistance to the broader trends of political and economic reform - not the plight of Kosovar Albanians - that best explains NATO's war". In brief, they were resisting absorption into the U.S. dominated international socioeconomic system. Talbott adds that thanks to John Norris, anyone interested in the war in Kosovo "will know ... how events looked and felt at the time to those of us who were involved" in the war, actually directing it. This authoritative explanation will come as no surprise at all to students of international affairs who are more interested in fact than rhetoric. And it will also come as no surprise, to those familiar with intellectual life, that the attack continues to be hailed as a grand achievement of humanitarian intervention, despite massive Western documentation to the contrary, and now an explicit denial at the highest level; which will change nothing, it's not the way intellectual life works.
  • Personally I'm very much opposed to Hamas' policies in almost every respect. However, we should recognize that the policies of Hamas are more forthcoming and more conducive to a peaceful settlement than those of the United States or Israel... So, for example, Hamas has called for a long-term indefinite truce on the international border. There is a long-standing international consensus that goes back over thirty years that there should be a two-state political settlement on the international border, the pre-June 1967 border, with minor and mutual modifications. That's the official phrase. Hamas is willing to accept that as a long-term truce. The United States and Israel are unwilling even to consider it... The demand on Hamas by the United States and the European Union and Israel [...] is first that they recognize the State of Israel. Actually, that they recognize its right to exist. Well, Israel and the U.S. certainly don't recognize the right of Palestine to exist, nor recognize any state of Palestine. In fact, they have been acting consistently to undermine any such possibility. The second condition is that Hamas must renounce violence. Israel and the United States certainly do not renounce violence. The third condition is that Hamas accept international agreements. The United States and Israel reject international agreements. So, though the policies of Hamas are, again in my view, unacceptable, they happen to be closer to the international consensus on a political peaceful settlement than those of their antagonists, and it's a reflection of the power of the imperial states - the United States and Europe - that they are able to shift the framework, so that the problem appears to be Hamas' policies, and not the more extreme policies of the United States and Israel... And we must remember that in their case it's not just policies. It's not words - it's actions.
  • Virtually all informed observers agree that a fair and equitable resolution of the plight of the Palestinians would considerably weaken the anger and hatred of Israel and the US in the Arab and Muslim worlds – and far beyond, as international polls reveal. Such an agreement is surely within reach, if the US and Israel depart from their long-standing rejectionism.
  • In order to make it look dramatic, they staged what was ridiculed by some Israeli commentators, correctly, they staged a national trauma... There was a huge media extravaganza, you know, pictures of a little Jewish boy try to hold back the soldiers destroying his house... And a lot of the settlers were allowed in, so there could be a pretense of violence, though there wasn't any... The withdrawal could have been done perfectly quietly. All that was necessary was for Israel to announce that on August 1st the army will withdraw. And immediately the settlers, who had been subsidized to go there in the first place, and to stay there, would get on to the trucks that are provided for them and move over to the West Bank where they can move into new subsidized settlements. But if you did that way, there wouldn't have been any national trauma, any justification for saying, "never can we give up another 1 mm² of land". What made all of this even more ridiculous was that it was a repetition of what was described in Haaretz as "Operation National Truama 1982". After Israel finally agreed to Sadat's 1971 offer, they had to evacuate northeastern Sinai, and there was another staged trauma, which again was ridiculed by Israel commentators. By a miracle, none of the settlers who were resisting needed a Band-Aid, while Palestinians were being killed all over the place.
    • Talk titled "The Current Crisis in the Middle East" at MIT, September 21, 2006 [122]
  • ...as a number the specialists have pointed out, Bush is Osama bin Laden's best ally... [9/11] was bitterly condemned by the jihadi movement around the world. The leading figures, the radical clerics and others, were denouncing it. Well, there was an opportunity to make some moves towards the Muslim world, and in fact even the radical Islamic extremist elements of the Muslim world, and undermine support for Al-Qaeda. What Bush did was the opposite: resorted to violence, particularly in Iraq, which simply mobilized support for Osama bin Laden. That's the way to deal with terrorism if you want to escalate it.
  • The Report calls for direct talks for Palestinians who "accept Israel's right to exist" (an absurd demand) but does not restrict Israelis to those who accept the right of a Palestinian state to exist, which would, for example, exclude Israel's Prime Minister Olmert, who received a rousing ovation in Congress when he declared that Israel's historic right to the land from Jordan to the sea is beyond question.
    • Interview by Kaveh L. Afrasiabi, December 26, 2006 [124]

Discussion with Robert Trivers, 2006[edit]

Discussion with Robert Trivers, September 6, 2006 [125]
  • Nobody doubts that the Russians committed aggression, that Saddam Hussein committed aggression. We attribute to them rational goals, maybe they wanted to control the energy of the Middle East or something. With regard to ourselves, it's impossible... We just cannot adopt towards ourselves the same sane attitudes that we adopt easily, in fact reflexively, when others commit crimes... And if anyone says it, educated people, liberal intellectuals, are infuriated. Because it suggests that we could do something that's not noble. We can make mistakes, that's easy. You can criticize mistakes. You can criticize low-level crimes, like Abu-Ghraib, you can criticize that. You can criticize My Lai. But not the educated, civilized people, the kind of people we have dinner with, see at concerts, sitting in air-conditioned offices planning mass-murder. So that's beyond criticism. On the other hand, if it's half-crazed G.I.s in the field, uneducated, don't know who's going to shoot at them next, you can blame them, you can say how awful they are. You can criticize Lynndie England, disadvantaged young woman, very different from us. But how about the guys who organized and planned it? No.
  • The threat of China is not military. The threat of China is they can't be intimidated... Europe you can intimidate. When the US tries to get people to stop investing in Iran, European companies pull out, China disregards it. You look at history and understand why — they've been around for 4,000 years, they have contempt for the barbarians, they just don't give a damn. OK, you scream, we'll go ahead and take over a big piece of Saudi or Iranian oil. And that's the threat, you can't intimidate them — it's driving people in Washington berserk. But, you know, of all the major powers, they've been the least aggressive militarily.

2007-09[edit]

  • China is the center of the Asian energy security grid, which includes the Central Asian states and Russia. India is also hovering around the edge, South Korea is involved, and Iran is an associate member of some kind. If the Middle East oil resources around the Gulf, which are the main ones in the world, if they link up to the Asian grid, the United States is really a second-rate power. A lot is at stake in not withdrawing from Iraq.
  • "Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories", August 2007, ISBN: 978-1-59451-307-7. Review by Chomsky: Even those who are familiar with the grim reality of the occupied territories will quickly be drawn into a world they had barely imagined by these vivid, searingly honest, intensely acute portrayals.
    • In "Witness in Palestine" by Anna Baltzer [127], 2007
  • Mass non-violent protest is predicated on the humanity of the oppressor. Quite often it doesn't work. Sometimes it does, in unexpected ways. But judgements about that would have to be based on intimate knowledge of the society and its various strands.
    • 'Resonant and unwavering', Interview with Stuart Alan Becker, Bangkok Post [128] [129]
  • "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics", October 2008, ISBN: 978-1-59451-631-3. Review by Noam Chomsky: That the Obama phenomenon is of considerable significance in American social and political history should hardly be in doubt. But what exactly is it, and where might it lead? This lucid and penetrating book situates it firmly within the ‘corporate-dominated and militaristic U.S. elections system and political culture,’ explores in depth its substantive content and its limits, and draws valuable lessons about how these might be transcended in the unending struggle to achieve a more just and free society and a peaceful world. It is a very welcome contribution in complex and troubled times.
    • In "Barack Obama and the Future of American Politics" by Paul Street [130], 2008

Quotes 2010s[edit]

Noam Chomsky, Toronto 2011.

2010[edit]

  • We're supposed to worship Adam Smith but you're not supposed to read him. That's too dangerous. He's a dangerous radical.
  • It is not that I am not a fan of American exceptionalism. That is like saying I am not a fan of the moon being made out of green cheese—it does not exist. Powerful states have quite typically considered themselves to be exceptionally magnificent, and the United States is no exception to that. The basis for it ["it" meaning American exceptionalism] is not very substantial to put it politely. The problems with American foreign policy are rooted in its central nature, which we know about or can know about if we want to.
  • Dayan's correct assumption was that the boss in Washington might object formally, but with a wink, and would continue to provide the decisive military, economic and diplomatic support for the criminal endeavors. The criminality has been underscored by repeated Security Council resolutions, more recently by the International Court of Justice, with the basic agreement of U.S. Justice Thomas Buergenthal in a separate declaration. Israel's actions also violate U.N. Security Council resolutions concerning Jerusalem. But everything is fine as long as Washington winks.
    • Article The Charade of Israeli-Palestinian Talks for Truthout newsletter, December 6, 2010 [133]
  • "There is a history of Christianity: the first three centuries of Christianity; it was a radical pacifist religion, which is why it was persecuted, it was the religion of the poor and the suffering, and Jesus was the symbol of the poor and the suffering, [that's where's the crossroads]...
In the fourth century, it was taken over by the Roman Empire; emperor Constantine, he turned the church into the religion of the persecutors..."

2011[edit]

  • Sometimes when I'm having a boring interview on the telephone, and I'm trying to think about something else because the questions are too boring, and I start looking around the room where I work, you know, full of books piled up to the sky, all different kinds of topics. I start calculating how many centuries would I have to live reading twenty-four hours a day every day of the week to make a dent in what I'd like to learn about things, it's pretty depressing.[...] You know, we have little bits of understanding, glimpses, a little bit of light here and there, but there's a tremendous amount of darkness, which is a challenge. I think life would be pretty boring if we understood everything. It's better if we don't understand anything... and know that we don't, that's the important part.
    • Interview in Cardiff, Wales, UK on March 11, 2011 [134]
  • "I don’t even know what an atheist is. When people ask me if I’m an atheist, I have to ask them what they mean. What is it that I’m supposed to not believe in? Until you can answer that question I can’t tell you whether I’m an atheist, and the question doesn’t arise. [...] I don’t see how one can be an agnostic when one doesn’t know what it is that one is supposed to believe in, or reject.
    • Science in the Dock, (2011)[1]
  • Science talks about very simple things, and asks hard questions about them. As soon as things become too complex, science can't deal with them... But it's a complicated matter: Science studies what's at the edge of understanding, and what's at the edge of understanding is usually fairly simple. And it rarely reaches human affairs. Human affairs are way too complicated. In fact even understanding insects is an extremely complicated problem in the sciences. So the actual sciences tell us virtually nothing about human affairs.
    • Science in the Dock, Discussion with Noam Chomsky, Lawrence Krauss & Sean M. Carroll (2011)[2]
  • [ZEIT Campus: Political engagement like yours is rare among scholars. Are you sometimes furious at the “servants of power” as you say or at professor colleagues who only concentrate on their academic work?] Chomsky: I consider it immoral to be a supporter of a power system. However that does not mean that I am furious at anyone. Scholars per se do not have deeper political insights than other persons and are not morally superior to others. But they are obligated to help politicians seek and find the truth.
    • Noam Chomsky interviewed by Zeit Campus[3]
  • [ZEIT Campus: You often say you are an anarchist. What do you mean by that?] Chomsky: Students should challenge authorities and join a long anarchist tradition. [ZEIT Campus: “Challenge authorities” – a liberal or a moderate leftist could accept that invitation.] Chomsky: As soon as one identifies, challenges and overcomes illegitimate power, he or she is an anarchist. Most people are anarchists. What they call themselves doesn’t matter to me. [ZEIT Campus: Who or what must challenge today’s student generation?] Chomsky: This world is full of suffering, distress, violence and catastrophes. Students must decide: does something concern you or not? I say: look around, analyze the problems, ask yourself what you can do and set out on the work!
    • Noam Chomsky interviewed by Zeit Campus[4]

2013[edit]

  • Obama's now conducting the world's greatest international terrorist campaign – the drones and special forces campaign. It's also a terror-generating campaign. The common understanding at the highest level [is] that these actions generate potential terrorists. I'll quote General Stanley McChrystal, Petraeus' predecessor. He says that "for every innocent person you kill", and there are plenty of them, "you create ten new enemies".
    • Speech at DW Global Media Forum, Bonn, Germany [135], 2013
  • I mentioned the Magna Carta. That’s the foundations of modern law. We will soon be commemorating the 800th anniversary. We won’t be celebrating it – more likely interring what little is left of its bones after the flesh has been picked off by Bush and Obama and their colleagues in Europe.
    • Speech at DW Global Media Forum, Bonn, Germany [136], 2013

Quotes about Noam Chomsky[edit]

We now hear a lot about how the left has been discredited, the hopelessness of utopian thinking, the futility of activist struggle, but little about the libertarian options that Chomsky and others have so consistently presented. ~ Robert Barsky
Quotes are arranged alphabetical per author

A-D[edit]

  • Chomsky's morally impassioned and powerfully argued denunciation of American aggression in Vietnam and throughout the world is the most moving political document I have read since the death of Leon Trotsky. It is inspiring to see a brilliant scientist risk his prestige, his access to lucrative government grants, and his reputation for Olympian objectivity by taking a clearcut, no-holds-barred, adversary position on the burning moral-political issue of the day, and by castigating the complacent mythology of "specialized expertise" under which many academic intellectuals shrug off the crimes committed by their government, only provided they are not naked enough (e.g., the Dominican intervention) to defy the most accomplished casuistry.
  • He defended Faurrison. He championed the Khmer Rouge. His condemnations of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are one hundred percent one-sided, based on the (obviously) false notion that the Arab nations and the Palestinian people have been trying to arrange a peace with Israel for decades. He viewed the rescue mission undertaken in Kosovo as nothing more than the extension of imperial power. He accuses the United States of perpetrating a holocaust in Afghanistan and thinks that the mistaken attack on the pharmaceutical factory in Somalia [sic] was as bad if not worse than the attack on the Twin Towers. One could go on, but it all adds up to, I fear, the mirror image of the ignorant jingoism of Bennett, Krauthammer, Kelly, Will, etc. And I find it amazing that intelligent people take it seriously.
  • The best thing about Chomsky is that he raises the blood pressure anti-Lefties far more than he deserves. Still, Chomsky's about as challenging as Mr. Rogers. "Hi kids, won't you be my Culturally Sensitive Leftie Neighbor? Good, today kids, we're gonna talk about the evil things America has done in Nicaragua. Can you say Nee-karrrrooah-ooah?" In a word, Chomsky is why the Left stumbled through the 90s righteously gumming its enemies rather than raptor-gutting them.
  • What we hear in Europe or elsewhere in the world, despite CNN and my son watches CNN every morning, is President Bush saying that the United States is the greatest country on earth, almost every day. And Noam Chomsky saying, the United States is the worst country on earth. And we don't hear a great deal of all those liberal internationalists, critical voices in between. Whether this is the job of an officially funded public diplomacy or of other forms of media, I don't know, but it does seem to me terribly important that the voices of those other Americans should be heard across the world.
  • Unlike many leftists of his generation, Chomsky never flirted with movements or organizations that were later revealed to be totalitarian, oppressive, exclusionary, antirevolutionary, or elitist. Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, and Maoism offered to many of Chomsky's disillusioned contemporaries an alternative to what they saw as blatantly exclusionary American-style capitalism. When reports about what had actually occurred in the former Soviet Union and China began to filter through, many felt betrayed. We now hear a lot about how the left has been discredited, the hopelessness of utopian thinking, the futility of activist struggle, but little about the libertarian options that Chomsky and others have so consistently presented. The type of dismay that has permeated contemporary intellectual circles has not touched Chomsky. He has very little to regret. His work, in fact, contains some of the most accurate analyses of this century. And yet, most of his criticisms of American policy, past and present, are seldom mentioned in the mainstream press or by the instructors and professors who teach history or politics. Political science departments rarely use his material on Vietnam, the Cold War, Central America, or Israel.
  • Reading Failed States, I had an epiphany: that by applying a Chomskian analysis to his own writing, you discover exactly the same subtle textual biases, evasions and elisions of meaning as used by those he calls 'the doctrinal managers' of the 'powerful elites'. The mighty Chomsky, the world's greatest public intellectual, is prone to playing fast and loose. It is important to recognise this fact because the Chomskian analysis has become the defining dissident voice of the blogosphere and a certain kind of far-left academia.
  • In any case, Chomsky's problem is not that he's anti-War -- this "war" is getting sillier by the minute - the problem is that he's an idiot.
  • He would have us believe that Israel’s occupation and harsh actions against the Palestinians, its invasions and undeclared 20-year war on Lebanon, and its arming of murderous regimes in Central America and Africa during the Cold War, has been done as a client state in the service of US interests. In Chomsky’s worldview, that absolves Israel of responsibility and has become standard Chomsky doctrine.
  • How did we ever get to be an empire? The writings of Noam Chomsky -- America's most useful citizen, in my opinion -- are the best answer to that question.
  • Noam Chomsky's idea that Bill Clinton's missile strike on a pharmaceutical plant in Sudan was worse than "9/11" is plain silly.
  • Reading Chomsky is like standing in a wind tunnel. With relentless logic, Chomsky bids us to listen closely to what our leaders tell us--and to discern what they are leaving out. The answers become clear enough, he says. The catch is they won't be the ones we want to hear. [...] Chomsky, as he often does, has a voice problem. He is shrill and sarcastic--chiefly because he's angry with what he sees as rampant American hypocrisy. [...] If there is anything new about our age, it is that the questions Chomsky raises will eventually have to be answered. Agree with him or not, we lose out by not listening.
  • And when I did reality checks against the idiotic, immoral, anti-American, vicious things he says, I find him a moral wasteland, and a fool. And I'll defend that with anybody, and I'll get out the books and the sources and the documentation...
  • Representatives of the governments of the world, good morning to all of you. First of all, I would like to invite you, very respectfully, to those who have not read this book, to read it. Noam Chomsky, one of the most prestigious American and world intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, and this is one of his most recent books, 'Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States.' It's an excellent book to help us understand what has been happening in the world throughout the 20th century, and what's happening now, and the greatest threat looming over our planet.
  • PUH-LEEAAZE! Chomsky did not write that Faurisson was a Nazi sympathizer whose right to free speech needed to be defended on Voltairean principles. Chomsky wrote that Faurisson seemed to be "a relatively apolitical liberal" who was being smeared by zionists who--for ideological reasons--did not like his "findings." Herman then repeats the lie by claiming that Faurisson's critics were "unable to provide any credible evidence of anti-Semitism or neo-Naziism." Feh!
  • ...if the Palestinians accept the solution that professor Chomsky finds unacceptable, will he use his enormous resources as the most influential intellectual in the world today to turn the Palestinians against this peace proposal, or will he lend his great prestige to urging the Palestinians, and his academic supporters all over the world, to accept a pragmatic compromise solution. Professor Chomsky, a lot turns on you. You're a very important and influential person, and therefore you'd understand your power, and use it in the interests of peace.
  • Chomsky once told a group of people that he himself was "agnostic" on whether the Holocaust occurred. When professor Robert Nozick, who was part of the group, confronted Chomsky with this outrageous statement following a debate at Harvard Medical School, Chomsky shoved Nozick, saying, "How dare you quote an off-the-record remark I made to a small group at Princeton." He did not deny making the statement.
  • Western liberalism has a tendency to change the subject when confronted with the true nature of regimes opposed by the US, even to give them the benefit of the doubt: look at Noam Chomsky's effective support for the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. It is a form of intellectual decadence that won't look good on the historical record.
  • In terms of his 40 year now campaign in favor of Chairman Mao, Pol Pot, Slobodan Milošević, Osama bin Laden most lately, he is, as I say, thus an apologist for terror and tyranny, without rival. [...] Most people, including, by the way, his fellow travelers, like Robert Fisk, can say that America, even Robert Fisk in fact, that America, like all countries, has its moral highs and lows. America, I believe, has more moral highs than most. But he cannot see that. There's always a moral equivalence drawn between the worst tyrants in history and American presidents, even when American presidents have waged wars, just wars, to end tyranny.

E-H[edit]

  • Chomsky's truly great contribution to the struggle for human freedom is that he has taken what we have been persuaded to believe is an insane idea, a product only of individual neurosis - the idea that society is not free and quite possibly not even sane - and shown it to be empirically, demonstrably true; he has provided the vital support for the individual to be able to declare him - and herself - sane against the insanity of society, despite a million voices declaring that it is the occasional doubter who is mad.
  • There's a humbling insight into the US pretension of occupying the moral high ground in Chomsky's work. Part of what he's saying is true. Objectively viewed, the United States isn't the victim but in many contexts, including its response to terrorism, the perpetrator. [But he's] so preoccupied with the evils of US imperialism that it completely occupies all the political and moral space, and therefore it's not possible for him to acknowledge that even without intending to do so, some US military interventions may actually have a beneficial effect.
  • Noam Chomsky, the Dr. No of the hate-America crowd, is accused (by his own fans, of all people) of playing a little too fast and a little too loose with the facts in his latest screed, "Failed States." Peter Beaumont, foreign affairs editor for the London Guardian, writes that he wants to agree with Dr. No but can't find many reasons to in this latest book.
  • Regarding his personal character traits the most outstanding is that he is absolutely faithful, which is something very few people possess... Professor Chomsky will never betray you, never, it is impossible.
  • Noam Chomsky, one of America's greatest philosophers and linguists...
  • ...the problem lies in Chomsky's description of Serb atrocities as "quite real" and "often ghastly". "Quite real ' is a cop-out for very real. Atrocities "sharply escalated" after Nato's bombardment, he says, but does not explain what these were: mass executions, rape, torture. The index refers to "atrocities" in Africa, Columbia, East Timor and Turkey without the appearance of "Serbia".
  • Chomsky blasts the United States for having supported [post WWII] internal movements to liberate Eastern Europe from Soviet totalitarianism. "These operations included a 'secret army' under U.S.-Nazi auspices that sought to provide agents and military supplies to armies that had been established by and which were still operating inside the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe through the early 1950s." This U.S.-Nazi army is so "secret" that only Chomsky knows of it, and he has thus far kept the documentation of it to himself, lest his secret get out.
  • It's hard to imagine any American reading this book and not seeing his country in a new, and deeply troubling, light.
  • Sneering critics like Noam Chomsky, who condemn the executioners of thousands only in passing, would not hesitate to honour the vengeful feelings of Palestinians subjected to Israeli occupation. They have no standing.
  • No observation will cause one to be ejected from acceptable mainstream company more immediately than pointing out that what the U.S. Government is doing is "terrorism" by definition. Ask Noam Chomsky about that, if you can find him. That's because using Terrorist threats (or civilian-destroying violence) for political gain, or to keep a population in fear, is something that only other people do -- but never the United States -- even when it's as plain as day (as it is here) that the U.S. Government is doing exactly that.
  • The radicals moved their support, in a peculiar way, to the successor of the USSR too, Putin's Russia. The genocidal war of Russia in Chechnya - far worse than the war in Iraq, immeasurably worse than the light conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians - is met with silence. The radicals supported the Russian side - Serbia - in the civil war in Yugoslavia, opposed the American intervention in the war that stopped the genocide, and the radical guru Noam Chomsky even denied that a massacre in Srebrenica took place. When this inconvenient fact was published - not the first or last time that Chomsky loses touch with reality - he initiated a media campaign, that managed to get the Guardian to retract the piece. On the same occasion, the Guardian removed an angry letter of a survivor of a Serbian concentration camp. By the way, the interview with Chomsky revolved around Chomsky's defense of the right of a Holocaust denier to free speech. It turns out that the survivors of the massacre that Chomsky supported have no right to free speech.
  • [Noam Chomsky has] become the guru of the new anti-capitalist and Third World movements. They take his views very uncritically; it's part of the Seattle mood - whatever America does is wrong. He confronts orthodoxy but he's becoming a big simplifier. What he can't see is Third World and other regimes that are oppressive and not controlled by America.
  • For all the propaganda of al Jazeera, the wounded pride of the Arab Street, or the vitriol of the Western Left, years from now the truth will remain that our soldiers did not come to plunder or colonize, but were willing to die for others’ freedom when few others would. Neither Michael Moore nor Noam Chomsky can change that, because it is not opinion, but truth...
  • If all you know of his work is the smears, then his new book Hopes and Prospects will be a revelation. In his rather dry understated way, he excavates the reality behind the babbling Babel of 24/7 corporate news, and places long-buried truths on the table for us to examine. Every one is sourced to the leading academic journals, the best experts, the sharpest medical advice -- yet each one is a shock if you rely on news brought to you by corporations and corrupt right-wing billionaires.
  • Chomsky might object that to knowingly place the life of a child in jeopardy is unacceptable in any case, but clearly this is not a principle we can follow. The makers of roller coasters know, for instance, that despite rigorous safety precautions, sometime, somewhere, a child will be killed by one of their contraptions. Makers of automobiles know this as well. So do makers of hockey sticks, baseball bats, plastic bags, swimming pools, chain-link fences, or nearly anything else that could conceivably contribute to the death of a child. There is a reason we do not refer to the inevitable deaths of children on our ski slopes as "skiing atrocities." But you would not know this from reading Chomsky. For him, intentions do not seem to matter. Body count is all.
  • Chomsky just has not entered deeply into what he is talking about and he is not greatly interested in anything except digging out material for anti-American invective.
  • Noam Chomsky is America’s greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect.
  • [Chomsky's work was] subjected to an ongoing and intense scrutiny for any literal errors or bases of vulnerability, a scrutiny from which establishment experts are entirely free. This search was perhaps more intense in the United States and among its allies in the late 1970s and early 1980s, with a growing body of hard-liners anxious to overcome the Vietnam syndrome, revitalize the arms race, strengthen support for Israel's rejectionism and policy of force and involve the United States in more aggressive actions towards the Soviet bloc and Third World. [...] The Cambodia and Faurisson disputes imposed a serious personal cost on Chomsky. He put up a diligent defence against the attacks and charges against him, answering virtually every letter and written criticism that came to his attention. He wrote many hundreds of letters to correspondents and editors on these topics, along with numerous articles, and answered many phone enquiries and queries in interviews. The intellectual and moral drain was severe. It is an astonishing fact, however, that he was able to weather these storms with his energies, morale, sense of humour and vigour and integrity of his political writings virtually intact.
  • I tell you who opened up my eyes up a whole bunch, is a guy named Noam Chomsky...pours information into your head; it is interesting, fascinating and documented. He is the eigth most quoted man in history - we're talking Socrates, Shakespeare, and this guy packs a wallop.
  • It’s a very vulgar, arithmetical, pragmatic way of arguing anyway. If you do that, then get the facts and figures wrong, well then you’re really fucked. You’re fucked twice.
  • Chomsky proceeds on the almost unthinkably subversive assumption that the United States should be judged by the same standards that it preaches (often at gunpoint) to other nations— he is nearly the only person now writing who assumes a single standard of international morality not for rhetorical effect, but as a matter of habitual, practically instinctual conviction.
  • The Americans' very conviction that their goals are good blinds them to the consequences of their acts. To focus on intentions is to prolong a futile clash of inflamed self-righteousness; to focus on behavior and results could get us somewhere. I detect in Professor Chomsky's approach, in his uncomplicated attribution of evil objectives to his foes, in his fondness for abstract principles, in his moral impatience, the mirror image of the very features that both he and I dislike in American foreign policy. To me sanity does not consist of replying to a crusade with an anti-crusade. As scholars and as citizens, we must require and provide discriminating and disciplined reasoning on behalf of our values.
  • In fact, Chomsky’s influence is best understood not as that of an intellectual figure, but as the leader of a secular religious cult - as the ayatollah of anti-American hate.
  • The three paragraphs of Mr. Chomsky to which I have referred constitute less than five percent of his article. I do not know if the level of veracity which he achieves in them is typical of the entire piece. If these paragraphs are representative, however, the article as a whole should contain, by conservative extrapolation, approximately 94 other serious distortions and misstatements of fact.

I-L[edit]

  • Marxist intellectuals can and do convince themselves to subordinate mind and ethics to a larger goal or distant cause that frequently slips out of sight. Anarchist intellectuals are less susceptible to this logic. To use the language of historical materialism, it is no accident that currently an anarchist, Noam Chomsky, is the most energetic critic of intellectuals apologizing for American foreign policy.
  • [Bush Administration neoconservatives are] the ones who broke nearly every precedent of foreign policy in the post-Cold-War world. They're the ones who chose preventative war over international law. That's what I view as destructive, not Noam Chomsky pointing it out.
  • The Left's spiritual leader, Noam Chomsky, went to Hezbollah – a murderous, extremist, nationalistic organization by its own leaders' account – and saluted. The fascism of the Left, like that of the Right, does not believe in the possibility of the righteousness of anyone else. They claim that there is only one truth. We have known this since the days when in front of the "Sun of the Nations" who murdered millions, people stood and said that the revolution there is also ours.
  • Like Noam Chomsky and very few others, he [Said] managed not only to reshape his own field of scholarly endeavor, but to transcend it, influencing other fields and disciplines, and going well beyond the narrow boundaries of the American academy to become a true public intellectual, and a passionate voice for humanistic values and justice in an imperfect world.
  • As I read your remarks about how Kosovo reverses the usual left/right roles on intervention, I found myself wondering what Noam Chomsky--who epitomized the left-wing view that all bad things are the result of Western intervention--is saying now. Well, I couldn't find anything about the current crisis, but thanks to the miracle of search engine technology I did find some remarks about Bosnia, which are pathetic but revealing: First he tries to blame it all on the Western Right, then suddenly gets all judicious and practical.
  • What he does in linguistics is exactly what he campaigns against in politics. He feeds off people. He doesn't allow anyone to disagree with him.
  • In a recent British magazine poll, MIT linguistics professor Noam Chomsky was named the world's top public intellectual. Can you imagine being named that? That'd be wonderful, yes. Absolutely. And if I was the world's top public intellectual, you folks could all kiss my ass.

M-P[edit]

  • I don't pretend to think I'm as smart as Noam Chomsky, but I'm smart enough to ask him questions.
  • Chomsky’s triumphalistic rhetoric is inversely proportional to the actual empirical results that he can point to.
  • The major international campaign orchestrated against Chomsky on completely false pretexts was only part - though perhaps a crucial part - of the ambitious campaign launched in the late 70s with the hope of reconstructing the ideology of power and domination which had been partially exposed during the Indochina war. The magnitude of the insane attack against Chomsky, which aimed at silencing him and robbing him of his moral stature and his prestige and influence, is of course one more tribute to the impact of his writings and his actions - not for nothing he was the only one singled out.
  • Indeed, it is not an exaggeration to say that the terrorists who planned and executed the attacks of September 11 were merely expressing in more refined form the same anti-Americanism that has been a staple of the American university for three decades. The ravings of Osama bin Laden and those of, for instance, MIT professor Noam Chomsky, are interchangeable.
  • Chomsky's hatred of the United States is pathological -- stemming from some bilious problem with father figures that is too fetid to explore.
  • Noam Chomsky, who is an inexhaustible fount of anticommunist caricatures, offers this comment about Leninism: "Western and also Third World intellectuals were attracted to the Bolshevik counterrevolution because Leninism is, after all, a doctrine that says that the radical intelligentsia have a right to take state power and to run their countries by force, and that is an idea which is rather appealing to intellectuals." Here Chomsky fashions an image of power-hungry Leninists, villains seeking not the revolutionary means to fight injustice but power for power's sake. When it comes to Red-bashing, some of the best and brightest on the Left sound not much better than the worst on the Right. [...] According to Noam Chomsky, communism "was a monstrosity," and "the collapse of tyranny" in Eastern Europe and Russia is "an occasion for rejoicing for anyone who values freedom and human dignity." I treasure freedom and human dignity yet find no occasion for rejoicing. The postcommunist societies do not represent a net gain for such values. If anything, the breakup of the communist states has brought a colossal victory for global capitalism and imperialism, with its correlative increase in human misery, and a historic setback for revolutionary liberation struggles everywhere.
  • The most striking fact is how consistently people with anything at all to say about language feel the need to strike some attitude for or against Chomsky's ideas. It's a big problem.
  • He embraces no ideology, and supports no revolution. His critics charge he is wedded to a simplistic view of the world, based on imaginary conspiracies, and yet, as the essayist Brian Morton wrote recently, 'many Americans are no longer convinced that our Government has the right to destroy any country it wants to, and Chomsky deserves much of the credit.'
  • Chomsky revived ideas that really had been kind of dormant since the Enlightenment of what is a human like and how does that tie in to our political arrangements, and the way we conceptualize humans in the broadest sense.
  • Noam Chomsky is the leading critical voice against the criminal regime now running the United States, a regime which is in fact a dangerous monster out of control. But he will not be bullied. He will not be intimidated. He is a fearless, formidable, totally independent voice. He does something which is really quite simple but highly unusual. He tells the truth.
  • I want Noam Chomsky to be taught at universities about as much as I want Hitler's writing or Stalin's writing. These are wild and extremist ideas that I believe have no place in a university.
  • Interestingly, not every person in the democratic West is overjoyed at seeing Syrian fascism at last challenged. Noam Chomsky, the MIT inventor of now-discredited theories of linguistics, is determined to defend and perpetuate Syrian colonization of Lebanon, no matter how many Lebanese lives it costs. His reason? He insists Syrian occupation of Lebanon is necessary as a way to prevent those evil Israelis from doing horrid deeds in Lebanon, like attempting to protect their citizens from terrorist attacks launched out of Lebanon.
  • ...the self-indulgent and auto-congratulatory Noam Chomsky, arguably one of the most virulent anti-Semitic Jews you can hope to encounter. His endless diatribes on what he wants you to believe to be the horrible treatment of the Palestinian people at the hands of the cold-hearted Israeli oppressors are unparalleled in literary hyperbole. Unfortunately, he doesn’t offer one shred of evidence to back this up. He invites you to join him, the consummate Jewish intellect, in collective snobbery by simply accepting (because you are so frightfully well-educated as he is) that what he says is so. I have yet to see one single person stand up and ask, “Dr. Chomsky, what is the evidence for this?” Should this take place, hopefully there will be a paramedic team standing by to resuscitate him.
  • Chomsky is an irresistible example of the quality problem that besets the market for academic public intellectuals.
  • For Chomsky, the world is divided into oppressor and oppressed. America, the prime oppressor, can do no right, while the sins of those categorized as oppressed receive scant mention. Because he deems American foreign policy inherently violent and expansionist, he is unconcerned with the motives behind particular policies, or the ethics of particular individuals in government. And since he considers the United States the leading terrorist state, little distinguishes American air strikes in Serbia undertaken at night with high-precision weaponry from World Trade Center attacks timed to maximize the number of office workers who have just sat down with their morning coffee.

Q-T[edit]

  • Those who challenge the 'Right to Lie', as Chomsky describes it, can expect to be met with vilification and distortion. Such vilification campaigns succeed by making the accusation against the critics the topic of debate. By forcing critics into an endless defence of their position, the propaganda system distracts attention from the substantive issues.
  • Noam Chomsky: He's really an interventionist - and also completely clueless.
  • Just imagine, he says, the policies that such an Iraq would be likely to pursue: "The Shiite population in the south, where most of Iraq's oil is, would have a predominant influence. They would prefer friendly relations with Shiite Iran." He wrote those words in January 2006. A year and a half later, the United States tolerates a sovereign, more or less democratic Iraq whose Shiite government is friendly toward Iran. If Bush is pursuing imperialism in Baghdad, it is of a very curious sort.
  • A similar denial is evident in the rhetoric of Noam Chomsky; prodded for commentary on the war, he recites a litany of past American wrongdoing as if that somehow banishes the question of how soon Saddam Hussein will have nuclear weapons and what he will do with them when he gets them.
  • [Noam Chomsky is] so far out on the lunatic fringe that even the sensible things he has to say are lost.
  • Here's a man who says that Washington is incurably sinful but offers no, there's no complexity, no problem, no moral dilemmas in the book. Everything really that those in power do is seen as essentially and necessarily wrong, while public opinion is deemed to be faultless.
  • Judged in terms of the power, range, novelty and influence of his thought, Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive today. He is also a disturbingly divided intellectual. On the one hand there is a large body of revolutionary and highly technical linguistic scholarship, much of it too difficult for anyone but the professional linguist or philosopher; on the other, an equally substantial body of political writings, accessible to any literate person but often maddeningly simple-minded. The 'Chomsky problem' is to explain how these two fit together.
  • [ Hegemony or Survival describes] a world in which, chronology be damned, 9/11 seems like an understandable response, if not justifiable one, to our attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • Even a quarter of the evidence he had compiled would have been enough to convince me. I used to wonder why he needed to do so much work. But now I understand that the magnitude and intensity of Chomsky's work is a barometer of the magnitude, scope, and relentlessness of the propaganda machine that he's up against. He's like the wood-borer who lives inside the third rack of my bookshelf. Day and night, I hear his jaws crunching through the wood, grinding it to a fine dust. It's as though he disagrees with the literature and wants to destroy the very structure on which it rests.
  • Israeli musician, a pro-Palestinian activist at London University, says that burning of synagogues is "a rational act" in opposition to Israel. What is that? Radical-Leftism or neo-Nazism? Is it Noam Chomsky for advanced readers or Julius Streicher for dummies? But the precise correlation between anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism is of marginal importance.
  • [Noam Chomsky] seems to feel licensed to forget or distort the truth whenever it suits his polemical convenience. He begins as a preacher to the world and ends as an intellectual crook.
  • Chomsky says America is a warring country seeking to build an empire, not a liberator trying to achieve peace, freedom, and democracy.
  • Chomsky pointed out after 9/11 that the US has also committed atrocities, some quite recently. His critics reply that this was in poor taste. Whether there is a grain (or a bushel) of truth in these criticisms, you’ll have to decide for yourself. I’m too much of a partisan to pronounce. But even if you decide to toss out 25 percent or 50 percent or 75 percent of Chomsky’s charges against American foreign policy, that still leaves quite a tidy pile of unnecessary suffering that the United States is responsible for. And it’s your country.
  • It is tempting to follow a policy of malign neglect toward Chomsky's latest screed. But ignoring the book may foster the false impression that Chomsky's revelations are somehow too explosive to be challenged in a major newspaper. A far wiser course is to point out the inconsistent arguments and shrill assertions that are Chomsky's contribution to the public debate. [...] It would be unfortunate if Chomsky's momentary popularity overshadows infinitely more reasoned critiques of Bush administration policies. There are serious questions that should be weighed as America girds for final war against Saddam Hussein and dispatches military advisers to nations like the Philippines. Chomsky and his camp followers do not have a monopoly on dissent. The best response to the frenzied e-mailed dispatches from this left-wing crank remains public disclosure and ridicule.
  • I think that I offended many people when I decimated the postures and the lies of Noam Chomsky in an article I wrote called "Poisoning the Well in Academe." That wasn't a conservative screed on my part. That was a liberal's devotion to the truth, and the exposure of a liar, a person who assaults the mind by putting in false evidence.
  • I'm not a pacifist. And I am not one of those people, like Noam Chomsky, with whom I have agreed on some points, I don't agree on this point, who believes that all uses of American imperial power are by definition wrong. I suppose in fact I might be called, in a certain stretch, a liberal imperialist. I believe there are times when great powers can intervene to prevent atrocities, and should.
  • I don't have as complete and overall philosophy as he does. I agree with some of the things he says. I've seen things that he said that I didn't agree with. But certainly what he says about the engineering of consent seems valid. Recently Chomsky gave a speech about what it means to oppose terrorism which I was very impressed by, because he essentially said that we should put an end to terrorism, and that includes the terrorism against the US but also the terrorism committed by the US... and I agree.
  • People are wasting time on dissident relics like Noam Chomsky. Professor Chomsky is a pretty good dissident: he's persistent, he means what he says, and he's certainly very courageous, but this is the 21st century, and Stallman is a bigger deal. Lawrence Lessig is a bigger deal.
  • Neither Chomsky nor Church would make my top ten list. No, I don’t actually have such a list, but my feeling is that their impact has been more on what is taught than what is done. Part of my unease is that I’m uncertain to what extent ‘Computer Science’ is a science. I feel more comfortable comparing what my colleagues and I do with the activities of architects and engineers than with mathematicians, physicists, or biologists. There are things in software that feel more as if they have been discovered than invented, but most of what [passes] for computer science is purely man-made.
  • There are some views­, people who support the Soviet Union, as Chomsky did for so long, who’ve supported tyranny in all sorts of places, like Chomsky has done, who have lied consistently, as Chomsky has done, who do not deserve fundamental respect in this sense. [...] And he is making millions around the world preaching anti-American-

U-Z[edit]

  • One of our great voices for some time now for peace in the world is Noam Chomsky. I've never seen his name in the 'New York Times' in any context other than linguistics of which he's a professor at MIT.
  • It's a real shame that only Mr. Chomsky's tedious harangues against America get any attention. His body of work deserves more serious treatment. The interesting yet overlooked aspects of his political philosophy cannot easily fit into the left-right dichotomy. What makes Mr. Chomsky unique is that his criticism of the capitalist economic order takes its point of departure from the classical liberal thinkers of the Enlightenment. His heroes are not Lenin and Marx but Adam Smith and Wilhelm von Humboldt. He argues that the free market envisaged by these thinkers has never materialized in the world and that what we have gotten instead is a collusion of the state with private interests. Moreover he has repeatedly stressed that the attacks on democracy and the market by the big multinationals go hand in hand. The rich, he claims, echoing Adam Smith, are too keen to preach the benefits of market discipline to the poor while they reserve for themselves the right to be bailed out by the state whenever the going gets rough. As he puts it: "The free market is socialism for the rich. Markets for the poor and state protection for the rich." He has spoken positively about the work of Peruvian liberal economist Hernando De Soto who sees the problem of poverty in the Third World as being related to the fact that the poor usually lack clearly defined property rights.
  • When Noam Chomsky was merely the most original, arresting, and widely talked-about linguistic theorist in America, he was never referred to as a leading American intellectual. That came only after he expressed his outrage over American involvement in the war in Vietnam, about which he knew nothing, since he read The Nation instead of Parade. It was the outrage that gained him entry into that “charming aristocracy,” to borrow the words of Catulle Mendès. Or as Marshall McLuhan once put it, “Moral indignation is a standard strategy for endowing the idiot with dignity.”
  • He seems both wholly cynical about the purposes of those in power, and wholly unforgiving. Those who direct American policy - and, by implication, those who direct the policy of any state - are allowed no regrets, no morals, no feelings, and when they change their policies they appear to do so for entirely Machiavellian reasons. Chomsky has little interest in the question of 'good in bad' - of how there can be good behaviour in the context of bad policies - and seems to deny the complexity of human affairs...
  • His focus, almost exclusively, has been on U.S. foreign policy, a narrowness that would exert a conservative influence even for a radical thinker. If urging increased involvement in politics goes against the potentially subversive tide toward less and less involvement, Chomsky's emphasis on statecraft itself gravitates toward acceptance of states. And completely ignoring key areas (such as nature and women, to mention only two), makes him less relevant still.

References[edit]

  1. 2. Chomsky.info (March 1, 2006). Retrieved on August 16, 2011.
  2. 2. Chomsky.info (March 1, 2006). Retrieved on August 16, 2011.
  3. "Students Should Become Anarchists" (June 14, 2011). Retrieved on July 18, 2013.
  4. "Students Should Become Anarchists" (June 14, 2011). Retrieved on July 18, 2013.

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