October 19, 2005

THERE'S A REASON AMERICANS ARE SO ANTI-INTELLECTUAL:

For and against Chomsky: Is the world's top public intellectual a brilliant expositor of linguistics and the US's duplicitous foreign policy? Or a reflexive anti-American, cavalier with his sources? (Robin Blackburn and Oliver Kamm, November 2005, Prospect)

For Chomsky (Robin Blackburn):

Some believe—as Paul Robinson, writing in the New York Times Book Review, once put it—that there is a "Chomsky problem." On the one hand, he is the author of profound, though forbiddingly technical, contributions to linguistics. On the other, his political pronouncements are often "maddeningly simple-minded." [...]

Chomsky's apparently simple political stance is rooted in an anarchism and collectivism which generates its own sense of individuality and complexity. He was drawn to the study of language and syntax by a mentor, Selig Harrison, who also combined libertarianism with linguistics. Chomsky's key idea of an innate, shared linguistic capacity for co-operation and innovation is a positive, rather than purely normative, rebuttal of the Straussian argument that natural human inequality vitiates democracy. [...]

Chomsky openly admits he prefers "pacifist platitudes" to belligerent mendacity. This makes some wrongly charge that he is "passive in the face of evil." But neither apartheid in South Africa, nor Stalinism in Russia, nor military rule in much of Latin America were defeated or dismantled by bombardment and invasion. Chomsky had no difficulty supporting the ultimately successful campaign against apartheid, or for the Indonesian withdrawal from East Timor. He simply opposes putting US soldiers in harm's way—also meaning where they will do harm and acquire a taste for it. [...]

Against Chomsky (Oliver Kamm):

Chomsky's first book on politics, American Power and the New Mandarins (1969) grew from protest against the Vietnam war. But Chomsky went beyond the standard left critique of US imperialism to the belief that "what is needed [in the US] is a kind of denazification." This diagnosis is central to Chomsky's political output. While he does not depict the US as an overtly repressive society—instead, it is a place where "money and power are able to filter out the news fit to print and marginalise dissent"—he does liken America's conduct to that of Nazi Germany. In his newly published Imperial Ambitions, he maintains that "the pretences for the invasion [of Iraq] are no more convincing than Hitler's."

If this is your judgement of the US then it will be difficult to credit that its interventionism might ever serve humanitarian ends. [...]

After 9/11, Chomsky deployed fanciful arithmetic to draw an equivalence between the destruction of the twin towers and the Clinton administration's bombing of Sudan—in which a pharmaceutical factory, wrongly identified as a bomb factory, was destroyed and a nightwatchman killed. When the US-led coalition bombed Afghanistan, Chomsky depicted mass starvation as a conscious choice of US policy, declaring that "plans are being made and programmes 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 particular thought about it." His judgement was offered without evidence.


The delicious end of Chomsky's argument is that since we're the Nazis it would be immoral for us to stop the real Nazis. His is ultimately a preference for actual evil to imagined.

MORE:
The Branding of the World's Top Intellectual: Noam Chomsky (Peter Schweizer, 10/19/05, TCS)

One of the most persistent themes in Chomsky's work has been class warfare. He has frequently lashed out against the "massive use of tax havens to shift the burden to the general population and away from the rich" and criticized the concentration of wealth in "trusts" by the wealthiest one percent. The American tax code is rigged with "complicated devices for ensuring that the poor -- like eighty percent of the population -- pay off the rich."

But trusts can't be all bad. After all, Chomsky, with a net worth north of $2,000,000, decided to create one for himself. A few years back he went to Boston's venerable white-shoe law firm, Palmer and Dodge, and with the help of a tax attorney specializing in "income-tax planning" set up an irrevocable trust to protect his assets from Uncle Sam. He named his tax attorney (every socialist radical needs one!) and a daughter as trustees. To the Diane Chomsky Irrevocable Trust (named for another daughter) he has assigned the copyright of several of his books, including multiple international editions.

Chomsky favors the estate tax and massive income redistribution -- just not the redistribution of his income. No reason to let radical politics get in the way of sound estate planning.

When I challenged Chomsky about his trust, he suddenly started to sound very bourgeois: "I don't apologize for putting aside money for my children and grandchildren," he wrote in one email. Chomsky offered no explanation for why he condemns others who are equally proud of their provision for their children and who try to protect their assets from Uncle Sam. Although he did say that the tax shelter is okay because he and his family are "trying to help suffering people."

Indeed, Chomsky is rich precisely because he has been such an enormously successful capitalist. Despite the anti-profit rhetoric, like any other corporate capitalist he has turned himself into a brand name.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 19, 2005 8:32 AM
Comments

Looks like I will be learning a little more about saing Noam; my wife just joined our local (nonpartisan) NPR station and as a reward we will recieve a free subscription to The UTNE Reader. Priceless.

Posted by: Jason Johnson at October 19, 2005 9:05 AM

Well, to Noam's credit, he has a non-partisan hatred of the United States, since he was spouting the same drivel when Clinton was in office. The difference being his thoughts about the aspirin factory weren't championed as loudly by others as his thoughts following Sept. 11 (and it would be fun in a perverse way to watch the reaction of that group to Chomsky's first diatribe against Hillary were she to be elected president in 2008).

Posted by: Johh at October 19, 2005 9:12 AM

In Chomsky's case (and all too many others', alas) the essential, all-purpose, transformational formula is:

{[(pathological lying OR relentlessly selective spinning)] AND [(rabid anti-Americanism) OR [(zealous anti-Zionism) OR both] = [impeccably principled socio-political visionary]}

It's wearisome, at best; catastrophic, at worst. But it appears that these sick little puppies and their minions will be around for quite a while.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 19, 2005 9:17 AM

They have a deep-seated psychological need to jsutify their contention that the universe does indeed spin about them, and to cater to that need fanicful daydreams of themselves as the lone hero foiling the nefarious plots of villians of a type rarely scene out of a melodrama are created. For most the occaisional Walter Mitty daydream is sufficient to soothe their unquiet minds, but for a select few the need is so great that they must get agreement from others that they are the grand hero, an Ivanhoe riding hard to rescue (fill in the blank) from the evil clutches of (pick your cliche). To that end they pen screed after tract after pamphlet after treatise after poem after play exposing the corruption and evil that only they, in the noble clarity and purity of their thought, can fully comprehend the danger and bring warning to the helpless masses who, because of their ignorance and willingness to listen and be co-opted by the diabolical powers of (insert timeorn cant here) are being led to their lemming-like doom.

Thus you have the Chomsky, a person of fine intelligence and incredible imagination, coupled with a deep seated psychological neediness to be the center of the limelight, creats fantasy worlds of deviousness villians that only he (with a possible sychophantic sidekick for laughs) can identify and defeat.

Of course I have no actual concrete proof that any of what I just wrote was accurate, but since when has that ever stopped a Noam Mitty, I mean Chomsky?

Posted by: Mikey at October 19, 2005 9:50 AM

Look around a bit,and you will find stuff like this and this that shows that his linguistic theories have a tenuous relation with reality too.

(The original article for the excerpt in the second link has disappeared,which is too bad. I was always under the impression that to be a linguist, one needed to learn and know a variety of languages. Not if you are a Chomskyite. I got the feeling the ol' Noam is going to join Lamarck and Lyskenko someday.)

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at October 19, 2005 11:14 AM

Noam Chomsky - corporate capitalist! Sounds like Ralph Nader, eh?

Posted by: ratbert at October 19, 2005 12:20 PM

In the 1950s Chomsky did some work on formal grammars and established some important results in computer science. For instance he and another fellow demonstrated the equivalence of something called context-free grammars and push-down stack machines (a formalism used by computer programs). You will see references to Chomsky Hierarchies in lecture notes for theoretical CS courses posted all over the internet.

After that he became a political activist, a shande fur die goyim (a scandal in front of the gentiles) and Exhibit A in the case against academic tenure.

IMHO, his influence on linguistics (as opposed to computer science) was baleful. Before Chomsky, linguists had to go to remote villages where there was no running water and spend months learning obscure languages from toothless old women. That was hard work, dirty and dangerous. Furthermore it meant they were out of town during the universities budget planning cycle. Just imagine returning from 18 months in the Amazon only to find that your office had been relocated to the basement.

After Chomsky, they could sit around in air conditioned offices, shag undergraduates, and write papers about non-sense sentences. Thousands of languages face extinction unrecorded, and these guys are too busy to do anything about it.

Chomsky's theories about "deep structures" were simply our old friends, Plato's forms, in new clothes. Unfortunately, he has altered their content so many times that it is hard to know which version to attack. The philosophy of the left (Marx and Rousseau) is explicitly Platonic. The communist paradise that Marx sought to create was described in The Republic. Chomsky's linguistic theories and politics are of a piece.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at October 19, 2005 2:38 PM

I can't believe KB hasn't taken the bait on this yet.

Maybe he's still hungover from celebrating his boy's victory in the "top intellectual" sweepstakes.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 19, 2005 7:40 PM

A few years ago I co-founded a small business in space rented from MIT. It was downstairs from the former location of Chomsky's office. We had regular visits from shady-looking characters asking the way to their hero's office.

He certainly has a brand. Personally, I'd rather be unknown.

Posted by: pj at October 19, 2005 9:24 PM

Jason said:

"Looks like I will be learning a little more about saing Noam"

Hopefully. And if you mean to say "saint" Noam yoou're already off on the wrong foot. This is the same imbecilic things anti-Chomskyites, 99% of whom have never read him always say about those who have.KB

"my wife just joined our local (nonpartisan) NPR station"

Too bad she didn't join a good leftist organization, the center gets pretty boring sometimes.KB

"and as a reward we will recieve a free subscription to The UTNE Reader. Priceless."

Yes, "free" usually means "priceless". Perhaps if you hang out with your wife you'll learn something. Or, perhaps, you were criticizing her for being too conservative to which I would have given you credit.KB
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John(?) said:

"Well, to Noam's credit, he has a non-partisan hatred of the United States"

That's odd. I've read everyone of his books and many of them several times and have never found a line in any of them which even infers a "hatred of the United States". If you believe you've found one would you mind producing it?KB

"since he was spouting the same drivel when Clinton was in office."

Was this the proof? Anyway, if the same dumbass mistakes are being made the same accurate criticisms should be made, and something shuld be done to repair the problem. Some call this learning from mistakes. Others, the totalitarian-minded pseudo-patriots call this "anti-Americanism".KB

"The difference being his thoughts about the aspirin factory weren't championed as loudly by others"

Should have been given that he said nothing even remotely controversial.KB

"as his thoughts following Sept. 11"

What did he say wrong?KB

"(and it would be fun in a perverse way to watch the reaction of that group to Chomsky's first diatribe against Hillary were she to be elected president in 2008)."

Rather than worrying about who said what, his motivation, your projections about what you think he means, etc...why don't you just look at the statments and try and find out if they're factually accurate? Most anti-Chomskyites never even try to do this for several reasons. First of all, they usually haven't read any of his work, a slight oversight when discussing topics, and secondly, those few who actually have, Kamm, Horowitz, DeLong, etc...are usually so far off base from the start that they can't see in inch in front of thier faces. What's really great is to watch them using each others out-of-context statements, mis-interpretations, flat out lies, and everything else simply because of their preconceived notions. I mean, some of them have even called him "anti-American". But what's even worse is that there are a few folks who believe these guys and look up to them. Now that's scary.KB
=================================================
Barry said:

"In Chomsky's case (and all too many others', alas) the essential, all-purpose, transformational formula is:

"{[(pathological lying"

Well, when folks like Horowitz lie pathologically then it's quite appropriate to call them pathological liars. So, this is a non-issue.KB

"OR relentlessly selective spinning)]"

And this is hardly an issue either. Often this and the lying go hand in hand(See Horowitz), though not necessarily. Someone can just be ignorant of his positions, i.e., 98% of self-avowed anti-Chomskyites, or they could just be flat out lying(See Horowitz, again)>KB

"AND [(rabid anti-Americanism)"

Yes, this is the charge anyone gets who isn't an indoctrinated pseudo-patriot.KB

"OR [(zealous anti-Zionism) OR both]"

I know. This is just further proof that they are either totally illiterate, or simple liars, or both.KB

"= [impeccably principled socio-political visionary]}"

This is a little gandiose, though pretty much an accurate assessment.KB

"It's wearisome, at best; catastrophic, at worst."

I agree. These anti-Chomsky idiots with their "anti-American" charges do get old. What's catastrophic is what these folks intellect says about the de-evolution of humans in general.KB

"But it appears that these sick little puppies and their minions will be around for quite a while."

Yes, they probably will, if they don't kill off everyone else in the world implementing the "preventive war" doctrine.KB

Part 1

Posted by: KB at October 20, 2005 12:34 AM

Ah, he doesn't disappoint.

Here to defend the indefensible, that great lover of all things American, Professor Chomsky.

Posted by: Jim in Chicago at October 20, 2005 1:21 AM

Actually KB didn't even defend his Master. Just ranted and raved. But that's to be expected, I wouldn't be too happy either if I found out I had been conned. Hey KB, I hope you kept the receipts for your Chomsky books on audiotape.

Posted by: andrew at October 20, 2005 1:57 AM

Mikey said:

"They have a deep-seated psychological need to jsutify their contention that the universe does indeed spin about them"

I know, they do. These anti-Chomskyan buffoons really do have some deep-seated need to justify their contention that the U.S. has never done anything wrong, and actually interpret criticism as somehow equating hatred, or something equally as nonsensical. And given the depraved "greed is good" philosophy preached by many on the right, you know, the neo-conartists, it's quite obvious that they are the ones who believe the world should spin around them.KB

"and to cater to that need fanicful daydreams of themselves as the lone hero foiling the nefarious plots of villians"

Yes, this is true. And they actually somehow perceive Chomsky as the villian. That's what's remarkable.KB

"of a type rarely scene out of a melodrama are created."

And do they create melodrama. WMDs, terrorists everywhere, probably communists, of course, UFOs and big foot.KB

"For most the occaisional Walter Mitty daydream is sufficient to soothe their unquiet minds"

I guess shouting that someone is "anti-American" does soothe their minds somehow. It kind of makes them feel as though they actually care about their country because they're in denial that it does anything wrong.KB

"but for a select few the need is so great that they must get agreement from others that they are the grand hero"

And that's why the anti-Chomskyite cult stick together like stink on, well, them.KB

"an Ivanhoe riding hard to rescue (fill in the blank) from the evil clutches of (pick your cliche)."

Right again. These idiots actually believe that keeping folks from reading Chomsky is going to somehow help them, or somehow improve the country by ignoring the MANY factual observations he makes about U.S. wrongdoing, as he should do, as an American citizen in a democracy. Of course, that's assuming that you believe in democracy, or that people should have the right to say when they believe their government, i.e., their hired help, is doing somethng wrong using their money. It's quite easy for these folks to recognize it as agreat thing when folks from other countries are speaking out against their own country's crimes, but a little more difficult when it comes to their own. Of course, for these totalitarian-minded folks speaking out against depraved government policy equates to treason, just as those dissidents in the Soviet Union were though of by the commissars.KB

"To that end they pen screed after tract after pamphlet after treatise after poem after play exposing the corruption and evil that only they, in the noble clarity and purity of their thought"

Anyway, that these anti-Chomskyite folks actually do think that the left believes that they themselves only they understand in the noble clarity and purity of their thought. It hardly takes and nobility or clarity to say that supporting murdering dictators is bad, and that to cease doing so is probably good.KB

"can fully comprehend the danger and bring warning to the helpless masses who, because of their ignorance and willingness to listen and be co-opted by the diabolical powers of (insert timeorn cant here) are being led to their lemming-like doom."

And given that the masses have been time and time again co-opted into believing that 2+2=3, as in the "Iraq is a threat to America" farce, it would be quite easy to assume that they, too, would be willing to jump off the cliff when ordered to by the commander-in-chief. That's why Chomsky threatens them so. He actually says that you don't have to jump. Says you should question the order to jump. Look at the past instances where folks were ordered to jump, or the folks the U.S. supported who actually pushed them off when they didn't jump. And many other dangerous things.KB

"Thus you have the Chomsky, a person of fine intelligence and incredible imagination, coupled with a deep seated psychological neediness to be the center of the limelight"

Yes, and everyone who's the least bit familiar with Chomsky knows just how much he loves that limelight. He probably wakes up every morning wondering which Louis Vuitton suit he's going to wear and which makeup.KB

"creats fantasy worlds of deviousness villians"

He creates nothing. He simply says that action X was bad and should be stopped. It's really not that compicated. You weed out the bad aspects and leave the good. This way things get better. The alcoholic denying their drinking problem approach in the hopes that it will disappear nevr works.KB

"that only he (with a possible sychophantic sidekick for laughs) can identify and defeat."

Yes, you've made it quite obvious that you know his works well. Here, let's get this out of the way now so that I won't have to deal with probably everyone on here. Have you ever read even ONE of his books? If not, don't be ashamed to admit it. 98% of anti-Chomskyites have never read more than a paragraph or two of which they have the expected kneejerk aversion to, of which they then think they can guess the rest, but are almost always wrong. My advice would be to actually study the topic first, as with most subjects. Learn what he thinks first hand instead of 45th hand from folks who have also never read him. And then make your own, more informed arguments. Is this relly asking too much? That just the thought of reading Chomsky actually causes an a aversion reaction should be a cause for concern.KB

"Of course I have no actual concrete proof that any of what I just wrote was accurate"

Well, I'll give you credit for this admission. This is already about 30 steps ahead of the typical anti-Chomskyan.KB

"but since when has that ever stopped a Noam Mitty, I mean Chomsky?"

Yeah, it's going to take more than a few name-calling pseudo-patriotic indoctrinated buffoons screaming anti-American with not a sentence of proof to make him give up his honest analysis and commentary. You should try though. He'd be the first person to say so, too. Read him. Learn what he actually thinks, as opposed to the preconceived notions expressed by the few here. And challenge what he's said. No ones against that.KB

Posted by: KB at October 20, 2005 2:28 AM

Yawn. This is all rather wearisome; but necessary, it seems.

Oliver Kamm has painstakingly documented Chomsky's virtuosic deviousness here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

And here's a blog by a former believer, turned heretic. I guess he finally had had enough. Or grew up. Or both. Yawn.

Posted by: Barry Meislin at October 20, 2005 4:35 AM

It hardly takes and nobility or clarity to say that supporting murdering dictators is bad, and that to cease doing so is probably good.KB

So I guess you agree that removing Saddam from power was a good idea. Good on you. We finally agree on something.

Posted by: Mike Morley at October 20, 2005 6:50 AM

One need no more read Chomsky to know it's nonsense than read Wiccan texts.

Posted by: oj at October 20, 2005 7:38 AM

Ah, thank you, K.B. Your sincere attention to my extended joke has done more to prove that I was closer to the mark than I had even dared dream.

Thank you, again. And I am sure that Professor Chomsky is also thankful for your yeoman service as his great defender. Or sycophantic sidekick.

Posted by: Mikey at October 20, 2005 9:23 AM

It's good to see that KB uses the same tiresome arguments no matter what the blog, and that he refuses to discuss the topic of the thread, but would rather attack the comments of other posters. I must admit, I'm a little disappointed in that I was hoping to watch KB try to defend Chomsky's greedy capitalistic ways, or denounce them, which would be more honest.

Posted by: sharon at October 20, 2005 11:14 AM

Sharon crawls from the sewer to say:

"It's good to see that KB uses the same tiresome arguments no matter what the blog"

It's good to see that Sharon never responds to any of these "tiresome arguments" with anything more than calling them "tiresome arguments". One would think that if they were so old and worn out that there would be little trouble in pointing out their weaknesses. Sharon never has. Not once. But then again, she has never read even one book by the subject in question, Chomsky. Of course, this automatically qualifies her as an anti-Chomskyite. Had she read even one book she would actually know something about the topic first hand and this would, in turn, disqualify her from the anti-Chomskyan cult.KB

"and that he refuses to discuss the topic of the thread"

Oh, and Sharon is also known as the Projection Queen for those of yo who don't know her. She's also a pathological liar and a racist whose most recent example was to refer to Europoeans as "stinky Europeans". She's also spent the better part of a year trying NOT to deal with topics and this is well documented.KB

"but would rather attack the comments of other posters."

You call someone "stinky European" and I will attack your racist ass, yes. Don't make racist comments and you don't have to worry about it.KB

"I must admit, I'm a little disappointed in that I was hoping to watch KB try to defend Chomsky's greedy capitalistic ways"

There's nothing to defend at all. There's nothing contradictory about what his position has ever been either. If you think you see a contradiction it simply means that you know even less about him than I already know you do, idiot. Read any Chomsky lately? By the way, if you wish NOT to read Chomsky for yourself and wish to simply depend on others who also don't know how to read, see the guys examples above who referred folks to Oliver Kamm. Also, you can see Horowitz, DeLong, Carnell, Widshuttle, and a few other illiterate and embarrassing pseudo-scholars.KB

"or denounce them"

You call Chomsky a black Catholic opera singer based on your vast and superior knowledge of him and I will denounce you as an idiot. Actually, this isn't really denouncing as much as an objectively verifiable fact.KB

"which would be more honest."

Oh, I denounce you and attack you both. Come on, give me credit. And you deserve more, so shut up and be happy that I'm talking it easy on your racist ass.KB

CALLING ALL ANTI-CHOMKYITE BUFFOONS! IS THERE A ONE OF YOU WHO HAS EVER READ CHOMSKY FOR YOURSELF? IF SO, PLEASE LET ME KNOW. AND LET ME KNOW WHICH BOOKS YOU'VE SUPPOSEDLY READ SO THAT I CAN TEST YOUR COMPREHENTION. IT'S PREFERABLE IF YOU'VE READ AT LEAST TEN OR SO, SO THAT YOU MAY EVEN BEGIN TO HAVE A BASIC UNDERSTANDING OF THE SUBJECT OF THE CONVERSATION.

Now, what's really interesting is to watch the indoctrinated anti-Chomskyites call folks like me, who simply insist that one should know a little bit abut the topic before blurting out the first pseudo-patriotic kneejerk reaction which comes to mind. Andrew, for instance. Andrew can make a completely false statement, which is common among anti-Chomskyites, and when I say that his statement is false, this is supposed to somehow indicate that I worship the man, or even like him at all. THIS, is the typical response of an indoctrinated totalitarian-minded commissar. I have rarely, if ever, said one line about thinking Chomsky was correct about anything. What I HAVE done however is to say when a false position has been attributed to him based on my knowledge of the subject. Anyway, this is interpreted in the predictable way by the typical buffoons, many of which are right here on this blog, or even own it. You'd think that something as basic as reading about a topic before trying to argue about it would be a given. I mean, it IS among leftists and the educated.KB

Posted by: kb at October 30, 2005 10:34 PM

Oh, and Mike, I think that not putting the dictators into office in the first place is better than removing them when they aren't performing their duties. Remember? Your ilk was supporting Saddam when the left was being called "anti-American" for saying that he was a murdering dictator. Remember? This is when he was gassing his own people with U.S. support. Remember? Oh, and perhaps you were unaware, Chomsky was supporting anti-Saddam democratic resistance when it was illegal to do so in the U.S. So, you're in less than zero position to preach to the left about your pseudo-morality. The U.S. has no business doing a damn thing in Iraq precisely for this reason. Just because we helped create the monster hardly gives us the right to remove him, which, historically speaking, has usually lead to having them replaced with another, more obedient puppet. Sometimes we're even hypocritical enough to call them democracies, too. Ever read a book?KB

Posted by: kb at October 30, 2005 10:41 PM
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