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« Treating domestic terror | Main | The strange world of Michael Meacher »

September 06, 2003


Jackie D

My attitude to Chomsky used to be similar to my attitude to many sports teams or bands: that is to say, that he wasn't nearly as stupid and annoying as his disciples.

I was wrong.

Richmond Holdren

Excellent post, Oliver.

However, you might have informed your readers that this sort of thing is really nothing new. Chomsky gave a similarly vile speech at an anti-war rally in Hanoi on April 13, 1970 (it was later broadcast over Radio Hanoi). The entire speech is transcribed and cited at the following URL:

In it he praised a book by the North Vietnamese Communist leader Le Duan and said that:

"The people of Vietnam will win, they must win, because your cause is the cause of humanity as it moves forward toward liberty and justice, toward the socialist society in which free, creative men control their own destiny".

Presumably, this is demonstrated by the humanitarian disaster that occurred after the fall of Saigon, with executions, Stalinist re-education camps, hundreds of thousands of refugees and a tyranny which still continues today with the persecution of dissidents like Pham Hong Son.

Then there was his similar approach towards the regimes of the Khmer Rouge and Sandinistas. These apologetics voiced over Castro's propaganda station are quite damning, but certainly no more so than his record otherwise.

Tim Newman

As he is a linguist, I'm not sure why Chomsky uses the word "practically" in the following sentence:

"Kennedy invaded Cuba and then launched Operation Mongoose leading right to the missile crisis which practically destroyed the world."

What he means is that the missile crisis came close to destroying the world. But from a practical point of view, and with regards to destroying the world, the missile crisis never happended. The world was no more destroyed after the crisis as it was before.

I know you don't allow even mild profanities in your comments section, but you have no idea how difficult it is for me to refrain from using them when talking about Chomsky.

Dan Goss

Assume for a moment that you've been persuaded, to the seat of your well-intentioned soul, that ubiquitous government coercion is the only legitimate means of securing human dignity and social justice.

In that case any state (no matter how repressive or corrupt this or that egalitarian experiment may be) which shares your socialist premise is vastly preferable to any nonsocialist alternative.

Particularly stubborn alternatives, like the United States, therefore demand unrelenting opposition in every arena.

Even when such a fundamentally regressive, nonsocialist state manages to do something apparently "right", its motives must be discredited--for the greater good.

Just as the apparent "wrongs" of failed socialist states must be zealously defended in the name of that same greater good.


The above is the only motivation I've found to explain the rabidly anti-individualist and reflexively anti-American assumptions of so many otherwise intelligent people--like Chomsky.

It's the only motivation I've found, for instance, to explain why the behavior of the US during the Cold War is routinely condemned by socialists without any reference whatsoever to the behavior of the Soviet Union.

Those opposed to socialism, I'm not thrilled to admit, have often demonstrated a similar tolerance for repressive regimes judged preferable to some socialist alternative.

Chomsky's passionate commitment to a global socialist future has made him willfully blind to any fact or argument he suspects might impede its realization.

I now view such blindness as a warning.

As a stark reminder that no matter how passionate I may be about my own "philosophically liberal" perspective, I cannot afford to close my mind to plausible alternatives, even (shiver) gleefully socialist alternatives.

For willful blindness inevitably leads to intellectual stagnation. To shame.

And, finally, to the sad specter of Noam Chomsky.

Jimmy Doyle


May I point out to your readers the availability of your reviews of many of Chomsky's political works on

George Peery

"...the competent authorities have better things to do with their time."

Exactly. I'm surprised Oliver would devote his attention to this insufferable jerk.


"I'm surprised Oliver would devote his attention to this insufferable jerk"
Well somebody should, Chomsky may be repulsive but he is astonishingly influential, according to one survey which was quoted by NRO's Jay Nordlinger a few months ago, Chomsky is the 7th most cited intellectual of all time.
I would also suggest that David Horowitz's article "The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky" is worth reading if you want to read more about Chomsky.


You probably know this, but New Criterion has a piece, "The hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky," at

Steve de Wijze


Thank you for your excellent post on Chomsky. I very much look forward to your long review of Chomsky's entire political output. It is desperately needed. Many of the students I teach at the University of Manchester think of Chomsky as the definitive voice on a range of political topics. As you point out, his work is poisonous propoganda, shoddy reasoning, and downright mendacious rubbish, to say the least. Norm Geras first introduced me to your blog which I think is compulsory reading for all.

Best wishes,

Steve de Wijze



I agree with much of what is said here about Chomsky. And you'd think he of all people should identify with Cuban dissidents. Or maybe it's an uncomfortable thought for him to contrast their treatment with the free speech he enjoys.

However I would like to think that those who make these criticisms are not simply reactionary pro-Americans - in the same sense that Chomsky could be described as a reactionary anti-American.

So don't you undermine your critique when you defend the Bay of Pigs invasion? To say "look how Castro turned out" is pretty weak.


The Bay of Pigs invasion is only indefensible because it failed. They should have sent a much more overwhelming force to rid Cuba of Castro.

Charles Stewart

Oliver: I look forward very much to reading your overview of Chomsky's political works (have you really read all of it? Not just the books?). Chomsky's reputation as an intellectual totalitarian is deserved as much in his work on linguistics as it is in politics, and an understanding of how he came to be the figure he is in linguistics maybe is valuable in understanding his political work. I recommend Randy Harris' really excellent book "The Linguistics Wars", reviewed at the linguist list:

Charles Stewart

Postscript to my messaage above: more on the link between Chomsky's work in linguistics and in politics. Robert Barsky has written a star-struck biography of Noam Chomsky that has attracted generally negative reviews by the knowledgable. Two in particular are worth reading:
Randy Harris (again), a PDF document:
and John Goldsmith:


I can't claim to be an expert on the matter, but isn't the truth about the Bay of Pigs invasion that it was no more and no less than an attempt to prevent a leftist government replacing Batista's pliant dictatorship a la Chile 1973? Castro seems to have been popular at this stage (indeed I don't know if he isn't still, despite his oppression and, indeed, brutality) or at any rate more popular than Batista.

I repeat, if Chomsky's critics (among whom I count myself) want to be taken seriously, they ought to take America's actual crimes seriously.



Does that book deal very much with the theoretical substance of the dispute or is it mostly just about the personalities involved and that kind of thing? I ask because I've just recently discovered Lakoff and I'm very interested in learning more about the trajectory of his ideas (and the dispute with Chomsky in that connection), but I don't want to read a glorified gossip novel.


Charles Stewart

spacetoast: Both, but the book has been criticised for not covering the Bloomfeldians deeply enough (that is, the people Chomsky and his disciples displaced in mainstream Anglo-Saxon linguistics), and for not treating the ongoing impact on modern research threads in depth. I don't think these are serious defects, since he does tackle both.


"I know of only one long informed critique of Chomsky in a weighty or academic journal, and that was more than 20 years ago (by Stephen Morris in Harvard International Review – not online to my knowledge)."

God bless google:


"My impression is that the Nagasaki bomb was basically an experiment.... Somebody ought to check this out, I'm not certain."

if this is only rhetoric, and has no historical basis, then can you explain to me why hiroshima and nagasaki were some of the (if not the only) major japanese cities to escape bombing?

The answer is simple, the United States government wanted to see what effect their new bomb would have on humans, houses, schools, factories, etc, etc, etc. Shortly after the bombs were dropped, other planes flew over to take photos of the devistated cities.

Why did this simple fact escape your article? could it be that everybody who wishes to prove a point makes "heroic assumptions, tendentious assertions, egregious omissions and even outright fabrications?"

Apparantly, you're not so different from how you believe Chomsky to be: quick to judge and slow to really examine the facts.

oh, and just to inform you, because I'm sure you haven't figured it out yet, Fox news is not fair and balanced, and bill o'reily spins everything.

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