American linguist and activist (born 1928)
(Redirected from Chomsky)
Quotes 1950s–1980s edit
- Suppose that we manage to construct grammars having the properties outlined above. We can then attempt to describe and study the achievement of the speaker, listener, and learner. The speaker and the listener, we must assume, have already acquired the capacities characterized abstractly by the grammar. The speaker’s task is to select a particular compatible set of optional rules. If we know, from grammatical study, what choices are available to him and what conditions of compatibility the choices must meet, we can proceed meaningfully to investigate the factors that lead him to make one or another choice. The listener (or reader) must determine, from an exhibited utterance, what optional rules were chosen in the construction of the utterance. It must be admitted that the ability of a human being to do this far surpasses our present understanding. The child who learns a language has in some sense constructed the grammar for himself on the basis of his observation of sentences and nonsentences (i.e., corrections by the verbal community). Study of the actual observed ability of a speaker to distinguish sentences from nonsentences, detect ambiguities, etc., apparently forces us to the conclusion that this grammar is of an extremely complex and abstract character, and that the young child has succeeded in carrying out what from the formal point of view, at least, seems to be a remarkable type of theory construction. Furthermore, this task is accomplished in an astonishingly short time, to a large extent independently of intelligence, and in a comparable way by all children. Any theory of learning must cope with these facts.
- A Review of B. F. Skinner’s Verbal Behavior, Language 35, no. 1 (January–March 1959)
Syntactic Structures (1957) edit
- The search for rigorous formulation in linguistics has a much more serious motivation than mere concern for logical niceties or the desire to purify well-established methods of linguistic analysis. Precisely constructed models for linguistic structure can play an important role, both negative and positive, in the process of discovery itself. By pushing a precise but inadequate formulation to an unacceptable conclusion, we can often expose the exact source of this inadequacy and, consequently, gain a deeper understanding of the linguistic data. More positively, a formalized theory may automatically provide solutions for many problems other than those for which it was explicitly designed. Obscure and intuition-bound notions can neither lead to absurd conclusions nor provide new and correct ones, and hence they fail to be useful in two important respects. I think that some of those linguists who have questioned the value of precise and technical development of linguistic theory may have failed to recognize the productive potential in the method of rigorously stating a proposed theory and applying it strictly to linguistic material with no attempt to avoid unacceptable conclusions by ad hoc adjustments or loose formulation.
- Syntactic investigation of a given language has as its goal the construction of a grammar that can be viewed as a device of some sort for producing the sentences of the language under analysis.
- Chap. 1 : Introduction
- We can determine the adequacy of a linguistic theory by developing rigorously and precisely the form of grammar corresponding to the set of levels contained within this theory, and then investigating the possibility of constructing simple and revealing grammars of this form for natural languages.
- Chap. 1 : Introduction
- Despite the undeniable interest and importance of semantic and statistical studies of language, they appear to have no direct relevance to the problem of determining or characterizing the set of grammatical utterances. I think that we are forced to conclude that grammar is autonomous and independent of meaning, and that probabilistic models give no particular insight into some of the basic problems of syntactic structure.
- Chap. 2 : The Independence of Grammar
- The grammar of a language is a complex system with many and varied interconnections between its parts. In order to develop one part of grammar thoroughly, it is often useful, or even necessary, to have some picture of the character of a completed system. Once again, I think that the notion that syntactic theory must await the solution of problems of phonology and morphology is completely untenable whether or not one is concerned with the problem of discovery procedures, but I think it has been nurtured by a faulty analogy between the order of development of linguistic theory and the presumed order of operations in discovery of grammatical structure.
- Chap. 6 : On the Goals of Linguistic Theory
- There are many facts about language and linguistic behavior that require explanation beyond the fact that such and such a string (which no one may ever have produced) is or is not a sentence. It is reasonable to expect grammars to provide explanations for some of these facts.
- Chap. 8 : The Explanatory Power of Linguistic Theory
- 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.
- The Responsibility of Intellectuals: Arthur Dorfman, reply by Noam Chomsky, New York Review of Books, April 20, 1967.
- 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.
- "The Legitimacy of Violence as a Political Act? Noam Chomsky debates with Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, et al." in New York, December 15, 1967; Republished at chomsky.info, accessed May 23, 2014.
- "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.
- "A Review of B. F. Skinner's Verbal Behavior," in Leon A. Jakobovits and Murray S. Miron (eds.), Readings in the Psychology of Language, Prentice-Hall, 1967, pp. 142-143.
- 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.
- Noam Chomsky interviewed by William F. Buckley in the TV talk show Firing Line, April 3, 1969. Quoted in: Does anyone know the context of the following Noam Chomsky quote about violence? at eduqna.com, 2006-12.
- 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", The New York Review of Books, December 7, 1967.
- Twenty years ago, Dwight Macdonald published a series of articles in Politics on the responsibility of peoples and, specifically, the responsibility of intellectuals. I read them as an undergraduate, in the years just after the war, and had occasion to read them again a few months ago. They seem to me to have lost none of their power or persuasiveness. Macdonald is concerned with the question of war guilt . He asks the question: To what extent were the German or Japanese people responsible for the atrocities committed by their governments? And, quite properly, he turns the question back to us: To what extent are the British or American people responsible for the vicious terror bombings of civilians, perfected as a technique of warfare by the Western democracies and reaching their culmination in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, surely among the most unspeakable crimes in history.
- With respect to the responsibility of intellectuals, there are still other, equally disturbing questions. Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments, to analyze actions according to their causes and motives and often hidden intentions. In the Western world, at least, they have the power that comes from political liberty, from access to information and freedom of expression. For a privileged minority, Western democracy provides the leisure, the facilities, and the training to seek the truth lying hidden behind the veil of distortion and misrepresentation, ideology and class interest, through which the events of current history are presented to us. The responsibilities of intellectuals, then, are much deeper than what Macdonald calls the "responsibility of people," given the unique privileges that intellectuals enjoy.
- [...] it is conceivable that in some instances American occupation may have prevented bloodshed, as it is conceivable that converting the United States into a Chinese colony might end American racism. Imperialist apologetics will no doubt be with us as long as one nation has the power to control another.
- An Exchange on “The Responsibility of Intellectuals”, The New York Review of Books, April 20, 1967.
Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1965) edit
- Within modern linguistics, it is chiefly within the last few years that fairly substantial attempts have been made to construct explicit generative grammars for particular languages and to explore their consequences. No great surprise should be occasioned by the extensive discussion and debate concerning the proper formulation of the theory of generative grammar and the correct description of the languages that have been most intensively studied. The tentative character of any conclusions that can now be advanced concerning linguistic theory, or, for that matter, English grammar, should certainly be obvious to anyone working in this area. (It is sufficient to consider the vast range of linguistic phenomena that have resisted insightful formulation in any terms.) Still, it seems that certain fairly substantial conclusions are emerging and receiving continually increased support. In particular, the central role of grammatical transformations in any empirically adequate generative grammar seems to me to be established quite firmly, though there remain many questions as to the proper form of the theory of transformational grammar.
- A grammar of a language purports to be a description of the ideal speaker-hearer’s intrinsic competence. If the grammar is, furthermore, perfectly explicit—in other words, if it does not rely on the intelligence of the understanding reader but rather provides an explicit analysis of his contribution—we may (somewhat redundantly) call it a generative grammar.
- Chap. 1 : Methodological Preliminaries
- The phonological component of a grammar determines the phonetic form of a sentence generated by the syntactic rules. That is, it relates a structure generated by the syntactic component to a phonetically represented signal. The semantic component determines the semantic interpretation of a sentence. That is, it relates a structure generated by the syntactic component to a certain semantic representation.
- Chap. 1 : Methodological Preliminaries
- A linguistic theory must contain a definition of “grammar,” that is, a specification of the class of potential grammars. We may, correspondingly, say that a linguistic theory is descriptively adequate if it makes a descriptively adequate grammar available for each natural language.
- Chap. 1 : Methodological Preliminaries
- In general, there is no doubt that a theory of language, regarded as a hypothesis about the innate “language-forming capacity” of humans, should concern itself with both substantive and formal universals. But whereas substantive universals have been the traditional concern of general linguistic theory, investigations of the abstract conditions that must be satisfied by any generative grammar have been undertaken only quite recently. They seem to offer extremely rich and varied possibilities for study in all aspects of grammar.
- Chap. 1 : Methodological Preliminaries
- In brief, it is clear that no present-day theory of language can hope to attain explanatory adequacy beyond very restricted domains. In other words, we are very far from being able to present a system of formal and substantive linguistic universals that will be sufficiently rich and detailed to account for the facts of language learning. To advance linguistic theory in the direction of explanatory adequacy, we can attempt to refine the evaluation measure for grammars or to tighten the formal constraints on grammars so that it becomes more difficult to find a highly valued hypothesis compatible with primary linguistic data.
- Chap. 1 : Methodological Preliminaries
- In short, the structure of particular languages may very well be largely determined by factors over which the individual has no conscious control and concerning which society may have little choice or freedom. On the basis of the best information now available, it seems reasonable to suppose that a child cannot help constructing a particular sort of transformational grammar to account for the data presented to him, any more than he can control his perception of solid objects or his attention to line and angle. Thus it may well be that the general features of language structure reflect, not so much the course of one’s experience, but rather the general character of one’s capacity to acquire knowledge — in the traditional sense, one’s innate ideas and innate principles.
- Chap. 1 : Methodological Preliminaries
- Finally, I should like to call attention, once again, to the fact that various modifications and extensions of these functional notions are possible, and that it is important to find empirical motivation for such improvements.
- Chap. 2 : Categories and Relations in Syntactic Theory
- In general, the rules of stylistic reordering are very different from the grammatical transformations, which are much more deeply embedded in the grammatical system.
- Chap. 2 : Categories and Relations in Syntactic Theory
- Returning to the main theme, we can apparently define a grammatical transformation in terms of a “structure index” that is a Boolean condition on Analyzability and a sequence of elementary transformations drawn from a base set including substitutions, deletions, and adjunctions. It seems also that these form larger repeated units (for example, substitution-deletions, erasures) and that the limitations on their application can be given by general conventions of the sort just mentioned. If this is correct, then the formal properties of the theory of transformations become fairly clear and reasonably simple, and it may be possible to undertake abstract study of them of a sort that has not been feasible in the past.
- Chap. 3 : Deep Structures and Grammatical Transformations
- In any event, the questions we have touched on here have not yet been illuminated in any serious way by approaching them within the framework of any explicit grammatical theory. For the present, one can barely go beyond mere taxonomic arrangement of data. Whether these limitations are intrinsic, or whether a deeper analysis can succeed in unraveling some of these difficulties, remains an open question.
- Chap. 4 : Some Residual Problems
Cartesian Linguistics (1966) edit
- In summary, it is the diversity of human behavior, its appropriateness to new situations, and man's capacity to innovate – the creative aspect of language use providing the principal indication of this –that leads Descartes to attribute possession of mind to other humans, since he regards this capacity as beyond the limitations of any imaginable mechanism.
- "Creative aspect of language use"
- Modern linguistics has also failed to deal with the Cartesian observations regarding human language in any serious way.
- "Creative aspect of language use"
- The deep structure that expresses the meaning is common to all languages, so it is claimed, being a simple reflection of the forms of thought.
- "Deep and surface structure"
- Cartesian linguistics was not concerned simply with descriptive grammar, in this sense, but rather with “grammaire générale,” that is, with the universal principles of language structure.
- "Description and explanation in linguistics"
- Despite these shortcomings, the insights into the organization of grammar that were achieved in Cartesian linguistics remain quite impressive, and a careful study of this work can hardly fail to prove rewarding to a linguist who approaches it without prejudice or preconceptions as to the a priori limitations on permitted linguistic investigation.
- "Description and explanation in linguistics"
- The central doctrine of Cartesian linguistics is that the general features of grammatical structure are common to all languages and reflect certain fundamental properties of the mind.
- "Acquisition and use of language"
The Legitimacy of Violence as a Political Act? (1967) edit
- Noam Chomsky debates with Hannah Arendt, Susan Sontag, et al.
- I read in the Times this morning an interview with Jeanette Rankin, who was the one member of Congress to vote against the declaration of war on December 8, 1941, to the accompaniment of a chorus of boos and hisses. Looking back, though, we can see that the Japanese had very real grievances, and that the United States had quite a significant share of responsibility in those grievances back in 1941. In fact, Japan had rather a more valid case than is customary to admit.
- Of course, it was politically impossible after Pearl Harbor for the United States not to declare war; we know how very difficult it is to restrain from striking back, even when you do know that the guilt is distributed.
- For my part, of course, there’s no question about justifying the American and Saigon government terror. But what about the harder question, that of the terror practiced by the National Liberation Front? Was this a legitimate political act? The easiest reaction is to say that all violence is abhorrent, that both sides are guilty, and to stand apart retaining one’s moral purity and condemn them both. This is the easiest response and in this case I think it’s also justified. But, for reasons that are pretty complex, there are real arguments also in favor of the Viet Cong terror, arguments that can’t be lightly dismissed, although I don’t think they’re correct. One argument is that this selective terror — killing certain officials and frightening others — tended to save the population from a much more extreme government terror, the continuing terror that exists when a corrupt official can do things that are within his power in the province that he controls.
- Then there’s also the second type of argument … which I think can’t be abandoned very lightly. It’s a factual question of whether such an act of violence frees the native from his inferiority complex and permits him to enter into political life. I myself would like to believe that it’s not so. Or at the least, I’d like to believe that nonviolent reaction could achieve the same result. But it’s not very easy to present evidence for this; one can only argue for accepting this view on grounds of faith. And the necessity of releasing the peasant from this role of passivity is hardly in question. We know perfectly well that, in countries such as North Korea and South Vietnam and many others, it was necessary to rouse the peasants to recognize that they were capable of taking over the land. It was necessary to break the bonds of passivity that made them totally incapable of political action. And if violence does move the peasantry to the point where it can overcome the sort of permanent bondage of the sort that exists, say, in the Philippines, then I think there’s a pretty strong case for it.
- With all these arguments in favor of this type of violence, I still think there are good grounds to reject it. It seems to me, from the little we know about such matters, that a new society rises out of the actions that are taken to form it, and the institutions and the ideology it develops are not independent of those actions; in fact, they’re heavily colored by them, they’re shaped by them in many ways. And one can expect that actions that are cynical and vicious, whatever their intent, will inevitably condition and deface the quality of the ends that are achieved. Now, again, in part this is just a matter of faith. But I think there’s at least some evidence that better results follow from better means.
- It’s clear, I believe, that the emphasis on the use of terror and violence in China was considerably less than in the Soviet Union and that the success was considerably greater in achieving a just society.
- Dr. Arendt takes rather an absolutist view, that I don’t share, about certain historical phenomena such as the character of the new societies that have emerged. 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. Many things, in fact, do meet the sort of Luxembourgian conditions that apparently Dr. Arendt and I agree about. 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.
- I think one has to be rather cautious about accepting as absolute the alternatives peaceful stagnation and violent revolution. There’s also a possibility of spontaneous revolution that uses both violence and nonviolent tactics, that minimizes the use of terror except as necessary in defense.
- I don’t accept the view that we can just condemn the NLF terror, period, because it was so horrible. I think we really have to ask questions of comparative costs, ugly as that may sound. And if we are going to take a moral position on this — and I think we should — we have to ask both what the consequences were of using terror and not using terror. If it were true that the consequences of not using terror would be that the peasantry in Vietnam would continue to live in the state of the peasantry of the Philippines, then I think the use of terror would be justified. But, as I said before, I don’t think it was the use of terror that led to the successes that were achieved.
- Now, of course, I’m opposed to such speciously rationalized moralistic policy but I’m not in the least opposed to truly moral policies. And I don’t see the slightest reason why moral considerations must be left out until some final stage is reached at which destruction is imminent. It seems to me that, particularly in a society which is the beneficiary of both past and present violence, moral questions should be raised at the very first point. Quite apart from whether the West reached its present stage because of exploitation of the Third World (so called), the rape of India, and so on and so forth, quite apart from that issue, we should, for example, press for the proper use of the capacities that exist in this country to alleviate the misery and backwardness of much of the rest of the world. Toward that, we would need to organize our society properly and organize our concepts and morals properly. That’s a moral act, of course, and I don’t see the slightest reason why we should refuse to take that moral act.
Language and Mind (1968) edit
- In fact, as Descartes himself quite correctly observed, language is a speciesspecific human possession, and even at low levels of intelligence, at pathological levels, we find a command of language that is totally unattainable by an ape that may, in other respects, surpass a human imbecile in problem-solving ability and other adaptive behavior.
- Chap. 1 : Linguistic contributions to the study of mind: past
- It is important to understand just what properties of language were most striking to Descartes and his followers. The discussion of what I have been calling “the creative aspect of language use” turns on three important observations. The first is that the normal use of language is innovative, in the sense that much of what we say in the course of normal language use is entirely new, not a repetition of anything that we have heard before and not even similar in pattern – in any useful sense of the terms “similar” and “pattern” – to sentences or discourse that we have heard in the past. This is a truism, but an important one, often overlooked and not infrequently denied in the behaviorist period of linguistics to which I referred earlier, when it was almost universally claimed that a person’s knowledge of language is representable as a stored set of patterns, overlearned through constant repetition and detailed training, with innovation being at most a matter of “analogy.”
- Chap. 1 : Linguistic contributions to the study of mind: past
- To conclude, I think there have been two really productive traditions of research that have unquestionable relevance to anyone concerned with the study of language today. One is the tradition of philosophical grammar that flourished from the seventeenth century through romanticism; the second is the tradition that I have rather misleadingly been referring to as “structuralist,” which has dominated research for the past century, at least until the early 1950s. I have dwelt on the achievements of the former because of their unfamiliarity as well as their contemporary relevance. Structural linguistics has enormously broadened the scope of information available to us and has extended immeasurably the reliability of such data. It has shown that there are structural relations in language that can be studied abstractly. It has raised the precision of discourse about language to entirely new levels. But I think that its major contribution may prove to be one for which, paradoxically, it has been very severely criticized. I refer to the careful and serious attempt to construct “discovery procedures,” those techniques of segmentation and classification to which Saussure referred. This attempt was a failure – I think that is now generally understood. It was a failure because such techniques are at best limited to the phenomena of surface structure and cannot, therefore, reveal the mechanisms that underlie the creative aspect of language use and the expression of semantic content. But what remains of fundamental importance is that this attempt was directed to the basic question in the study of language, which was for the first time formulated in a clear and intelligible way. The problem raised is that of specifying the mechanisms that operate on the data of sense and produce knowledge of language – linguistic competence. It is obvious that such mechanisms exist. Children do learn a first language; the language that they learn is, in the traditional sense, an “instituted language,” not an innately specified system. The answer that was proposed in structural linguistic methodology has been shown to be incorrect, but this is of small importance when compared with the fact that the problem itself has now received a clear formulation.
- Chap. 1 : Linguistic contributions to the study of mind: past
- In practice, the linguist is always involved in the study of both universal and particular grammar. When he constructs a descriptive, particular grammar in one way rather than another on the basis of what evidence he has available, he is guided, consciously or not, by certain assumptions as to the form of grammar, and these assumptions belong to the theory of universal grammar. Conversely, his formulation of principles of universal grammar must be justified by the study of their consequences when applied in particular grammars. Thus, at several levels the linguist is involved in the construction of explanatory theories, and at each level there is a clear psychological interpretation for his theoretical and descriptive work.
- Chap. 2 : Linguistic contributions to the study of mind: present
- The principles of universal grammar provide a highly restrictive schema to which any human language must conform, as well as specific conditions determining how the grammar of any such language can be used. It is easy to imagine alternatives to the conditions that have been formulated (or those that are often tacitly assumed). These conditions have in the past generally escaped notice, and we know very little about them today.
- Chap. 2 : Linguistic contributions to the study of mind: present
- In studying the evolution of mind, we cannot guess to what extent there are physically possible alternatives to, say, transformational generative grammar, for an organism meeting certain other physical conditions characteristic of humans. Conceivably, there are none – or very few – in which case talk about evolution of the language capacity is beside the point. The vacuity of such speculation, however, has no bearing one way or another on those aspects of the problem of mind that can be sensibly pursued. It seems to me that these aspects are, for the moment, the problems illustrated in the case of language by the study of the nature, the use, and the acquisition of linguistic competence.
- Chap. 3 : Linguistic contributions to the study of mind: future
- Having some knowledge of the characteristics of the acquired grammars and the limitations on the available data, we can formulate quite reasonable and fairly strong empirical hypotheses regarding the internal structure of the language-acquisition device that constructs the postulated grammars from the given data. When we study this question in detail, we are, I believe, led to attribute to the device a very rich system of constraints on the form of a possible grammar; otherwise, it is impossible to explain how children come to construct grammars of the kind that seem empirically adequate under the given conditions of time and access to data. But if we assume, furthermore, that children are not genetically predisposed to learn one rather than another language, then the conclusions we reach regarding the language-acquisition device are conclusions regarding universal grammar.
- Chap. 4 : Form and meaning in natural languages
- The child must acquire a generative grammar of his language on the basis of a fairly restricted amount of evidence. To account for this achievement, we must postulate a sufficiently rich internal structure – a sufficiently restricted theory of universal grammar that constitutes his contribution to language acquisition.
- Chap. 5 : The formal nature of language
- To summarize, I doubt that linguistics can provide “a new technique” for analytic philosophy that will be of much significance, at least in its present state of development. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the study of language can clarify and in part substantiate certain conclusions about human knowledge that relate directly to classical issues in the philosophy of mind. It is in this domain, I suspect, that one can look forward to a really fruitful collaboration between linguistics and philosophy in coming years.
- Chap. 6 : Linguistics and philosophy
The revolutionary pacifism of A.J. Muste: On the backgrounds of the Pacific War (1969) edit
- Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars, 1969
- I think that Muste's revolutionary pacifism was, and is, a profoundly important doctrine, both in the political analysis and moral conviction that it expresses. The circumstances of the anti-fascist war subjected it to the most severe of tests. Does it survive this test? When I began working on this article, I was not at all sure. I still feel quite ambivalent about the matter.
- p. 22.
- It is very difficult to retain a faith in the "essential humanity" of the SS trooper or the Commissar or the racist blinded with hate and fear, or, for that matter, the insensate victim of a life of anti-communist indoctrination. When the enemy is a remote technician programming B-52 raids or "pacification," there is no possibility for a human confrontation and the psychological basis for nonviolent tactics, whatever it may be, simply evaporates. A society that is capable of producing concepts like "un-American" and "peacenik" -- of turning "peace" into a dirty word -- has advanced a long way towards immunizing the individual against any human appeal. American society has reached the stage of near total immersion in ideology.
- p. 23.
- Only rarely has the question been raised whether there was any justification for American victory in the Pacific war; and this issue, where faced at all, has been posed in the context of the cold war -- that is, was it wise to have removed a counterweight to growing Chinese power, soon to become "Communist" power?
- p. 25.
- When we lament over the German conscience, we are demanding of them a display of self-hatred -- a good thing, no doubt. But for us the matter is infinitely more serious. It is not a matter of self-hatred regarding the sins of the past. Like the German Kaiser, we believe that everything must be put to fire and sword, so that the war will be more quickly finished -- and we act on this belief. Unlike the German Kaiser, our soul is not torn.
- p. 27.
- In contrast to the alternatives of “realism” and “moralism,” so defined, the revolutionary pacifism of Muste seems to me both eminently realistic and highly moral. Furthermore, even if we were to grant the claim that the United States simply acted in legitimate self-defense, subsequent events in Asia have amply, hideously, confirmed Muste’s basic premise that “the means one uses inevitably incorporate themselves into his ends and, if evil, will defeat him.” Whether Muste’s was in fact the most realistic and moral position at the time may be debated, but I think there is no doubt that its remoteness from the American consciousness was a great tragedy. The lack of a radical critique of the sort that Muste, and a few others, sought to develop was one of the factors that contributed to the atrocity of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as the weakness and ineffectiveness of such radical critique today will doubtless lead to new and unimaginable horrors.
- p. 44.
American Power and the New Mandarins (1969) edit
- American Power and the New Mandarins, Pantheon Books, 1969.
- By entering into the arena of argument and counterargument, of technical feasibility and tactics, of footnotes and citations, by accepting the presumption of legitimacy of debate on certain issues, one has already lost one’s humanity. This is the feeling I find almost impossible to repress when going through the motions of building a case against the American war in Vietnam. Anyone who puts a fraction of his mind to the task can construct a case that is overwhelming; surely this is now obvious. In an important way, by doing so he degrades himself, and insults beyond measure the victims of our violence and our moral blindness. There may have been a time when American policy in Vietnam was a debatable matter. This time is long past. [...] 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.
- p. 9.
- 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. These and a thousand other examples testify to moral degeneration on such a scale that talk about the “normal channels” of political action and protest becomes meaningless or hypocritical. We have to ask ourselves whether what is needed in the United States is dissent —or denazification. The question is a debatable one. Reasonable people may differ. The fact that the question is even debatable is a terrifying thing. To me it seems that what is needed is a kind of denazification.
- p. 16.
- 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.
- pp. 17-18.
- There is a growing realization that it is an illusion to believe that all will be well if only today’s liberal hero can be placed in the White House, and a growing awareness that isolated, competing individuals can rarely confront repressive institutions alone. At best, a few may be tolerated as intellectual gadflies. The mass, even under formal democracy, will accept “the values that have been inculcated, often accidentally and often deliberately by vested interests,” values that have the status of “unconsciously acquired habits rather than choices.” In a fragmented, competitive society, individuals can neither discover their true interests nor act to defend them, as they cannot do so when prevented from free association by totalitarian controls. Recognition of these facts has brought young men together in various forms of resistance and has given rise to the little-known but very impressive attempts at community organizing in many parts of the country […]
- p. 18.
- […] it might be asked whether the left-wing critique of Leninist elitism can be applied, under very different conditions, to the liberal ideology of the intellectual elite that aspires to a dominant role in managing the welfare state.
- p. 73.
- After decades of anti-Communist indoctrination, it is difficult to achieve a perspective that makes possible a serious evaluation of the extent to which Bolshevism and Western liberalism have been united in their opposition to popular revolution.
- p. 83.
- […] there are dangerous tendencies in the ideology of the welfare state intelligentsia who claim to possess the technique and understanding required to manage our “postindustrial society” and to organize an international society dominated by the American superpower. [...] Insofar as the technique of management and control exists, it can be used to consolidate the authority of those who exercise it and to diminish spontaneous and free experimentation with new social forms, as it can limit the possibilities for reconstruction of society in the interests of those who are now, to a greater or lesser extent, dispossessed.
- p. 125.
- 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.
- 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.
- Noam Chomsky, in John Duffett International War Crimes Tribunal: Against the Crime of Silence: Proceedings. Simon and Schuster (1970). p. xxiv; Republished at Foreword in chomsky.info, accessed May 23, 2014.
- 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.
- "Watergate: A Skeptical View," New York Review of Books (September 20, 1973).
- 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.
- "One Man's View : Noam Chomsky interviewed by an anonymous interviewer," Business Today (May 1973).
- [C]apitalism 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.
- "Anarchism : Noam Chomsky interviewed by David Dobereiner, John Hess, Doug Richardson & Tom Woodhull" in: C. P. Otero (ed.), Language and Politics, Black Rose (1988), pp. 166-196 (January 1974).
- 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.
- Even today, as regards East Timor, where our brutal Indonesian satellite (authors of the 1965-1966 butcheries) have very possibly killed as many people as did the Khmer Rouge, there is a virtually complete blackout of information in the Free Press. This is a bloodbath carried out by a friendly power and is thus of little interest to our readers. It is a “benign bloodbath” in our terminology.
- Chomsky and Herman (1979), The Washington Connection and Third World Fascism, p. 22.
- We will consider the facts about postwar Indochina insofar as they can be ascertained, but a major emphasis will be on the ways in which these facts have been interpreted, filtered, distorted or modified by the ideological institutions in the West.
- Chomsky and Herman (1979), After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology, p. vii.
- When the facts are in, it may well turn out that the more extreme condemnations were in fact correct. But even if that turns out to be the case, it will in no way alter the conclusions we have reached on the central question addressed here: how the available facts were selected, modified, or sometimes invented to create a certain image offered to the general population. The answer to this question seems clear, and it is unaffected by whatever may be discovered about Cambodia in the future.
- Chomsky and Herman (1979), After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology, p. 293.
- Our primary concern has been U.S. global policy and propaganda, and the filtering and distorting effect of Western ideology, not the problems of reconstruction and modernization in societies that have been victimized by Western imperialism. Correspondingly, we have not developed or expressed our views here on the nature of the Indochinese regimes. To assess the contemporary situation in Indochina and the programs of the current ruling groups is a worthwhile endeavor, but it has not been our current objective. [...] The success of the Free Press in reconstructing imperial ideology since the U.S. withdrawal has been spectacular. The shift of the United States from causal agent to bystander – and even to leader of the struggle for human rights – in the face of its empire of client fascism and long, vicious assault on the peasant societies of Indochina, is a remarkable achievement. The system of brainwashing under freedom, with mass media voluntary self-censorship in accord with the larger interests of the state, has worked brilliantly.
- Chomsky and Herman (1979), After the Cataclysm: Postwar Indochina and the Reconstruction of Imperial Ideology, p. 299.
At War with Asia (1970) edit
- [...] As to negotiations [to end the Vietnam War], there is, in fact, very little to negotiate. Withdrawal of American troops must be a unilateral act, as the invasion of Vietnam by the American government was a unilateral act in the first place. Those who had been calling for ‘negotiations now’ were deluding themselves and others, just as those who now call for a cease-fire that will leave an American expeditionary force in Vietnam are not facing reality.
Government in the Future (1970) edit
- "Two conceptions of social organization" (February 16, 1970)," republished in Noam Chomsky, Carlos Peregrín Otero (2003) Chomsky on Democracy and Education, : Talk titled "Government in the Future" at the Poetry Center of the New York YM-YWHA (February 16, 1970).
- Two hundred years ago Rousseau denounced the sophistic politicians and intellectuals “who search for ways to obscure the fact,” so he maintained, “that the essential and the defining property of man is his freedom. They attribute to man a natural inclination to servitude, without thinking that it is the same for freedom as for innocence and virtue. Their value is felt only as long as one enjoys them oneself, and the taste for them is lost as soon as one has lost them.” As proof of this doctrine he refers to the marvels done by all free peoples to guard themselves from oppression. “True” he says “those who have abandoned the life of a free man do nothing but boast incessantly of the peace, the repose they enjoy in their chains. But when I see the others sacrifice pleasures, repose, wealth, power and life itself for the preservation of this sole good which is so disdained by those who have lost it, when I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword and death to preserve only their independence, I feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom.” A comment to which we can perhaps give a contemporary interpretation.
- p. 136.
- No rational person will approve of violence and terror, and in particular the terror of the post-revolutionary state that has fallen into the hands of a grim autocracy has more than once reached indescribable levels of savagery. At the same time, no person of understanding or humanity will too quickly condemn the violence that often occurs, when long subdued masses rise against their oppressors or take their first steps toward liberty and social reconstruction.
- p. 137.
- Senator Vanderberg 20 years ago expressed his fear that the American chief executive would become the number one warlord of the earth, his phrase. That has since occurred. The clearest example is the decision to escalate in Vietnam in February 1965, in cynical disregard of the expressed will of the electorate. This incident reveals, I think, with perfect clarity the role of the public in decisions about peace and war, the role of the public in decisions about the main lines about public policy in general. And it also suggests the irrelevance of electoral politics to major decisions of national policy.
- p. 140
- Unfortunately, you can't vote the rascals out, because you never voted them in, in the first place. The corporate executives and the corporation lawyers and so on who overwhelmingly staff the executive, assisted increasingly by a university based mandarin class, remain in power no matter whom you elect.
- p. 140.
- 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.
- p. 143.
- Of course, it is perfectly obvious that Russian imperialism is not an invention of American ideologists. It is real enough for the Hungarians and the Czechs, for example. What is an invention is the uses to which it is put, for example by Dean Acheson in 1950 or Walt Rostow a decade later, when they pretend that the Vietnam war is an example of Russian imperialism. Or by the Johnson administration in 1965 when it justifies the Dominican intervention with reference to the Sino-Soviet military bloc. Or by the Kennedy intellectuals, who as Townsend Hoopes put it in an article in the Washington Monthly in the last month, were deluded by the tensions of the cold war years, and could not perceive that the triumph of the national revolution in Vietnam would not be a triumph for Moscow and Peking. It was the most remarkable degree of delusion on the part of presumably literate men.
- p. 145.
- 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."
- p. 146.
- We have today the technical and material resources to meet man’s animal needs. We have not developed the cultural and moral resources or the democratic forms of social organization that make possible the humane and rational use of our material wealth and power. Conceivably, the classical liberal ideals, as expressed and developed in their libertarian socialist form, are achievable. But if so, only by a popular revolutionary movement, rooted in wide strata of the population, and committed to the elimination of repressive and authoritarian institutions, state and private. To create such a movement is the challenge we face and must meet if there is to be an escape from contemporary barbarism.
- p. 146
Language and Responsibility (1977) edit
- Published by Pantheon
- in the United States, political discourse and debate has often been less diversified even than in certain Fascist countries, Franco Spain, for example, where there was lively discussion covering a broad ideological range. Though the penalties for deviance from official doctrine were incomparably more severe than here, nevertheless opinion and thinking was not constrained within such narrow limits, a fact that frequently occasioned surprise among Spanish intellectuals visiting the United States during the latter years of the Franco period. Much the same was true in Fascist Portugal, where there seem to have been significant Marxist groups in the universities, to mention just one example. The range and significance of the ideological diversity became apparent with the fall of the dictatorship, and is also reflected in the liberation movements in the Portuguese colonies — a two-way street, in that case, in that the Portuguese intellectuals were influenced by the liberation movements, and conversely, I suppose.
- I have often thought that if a rational Fascist dictatorship were to exist, then it would choose the American system. State censorship is not necessary, or even very efficient, in comparison to the ideological controls exercised by systems that are more complex and more decentralized.
- [...] one must be cautious in assessing the political significance of the relative freedom from repression — at least for the privileged — in the United States. Exactly what does it mean, concretely?
- The question is not whether Idi Amin is a racist murderer. No doubt the appellation is correct. The question is, what does it mean for Moynihan to make this accusation and for others to applaud his honesty and courage in doing so? […] This manner of shifting moral issues to others is one of the ways to reconstruct the foundations of moral legitimacy for the exercise of American power, shaken during the Vietnam war. Solzhenitsyn is exploited to this end in a natural and predictable way, though of course one cannot on those grounds draw any conclusions in regard to his charges against the Soviet system of oppression and violence.
After the Cataclysm (1979) edit
- Published by Black Rose Books
- If a serious study of the impact of Western imperialism on Cambodian peasant life is someday undertaken, it may well be discovered that the violence lurking behind the Khmer smile, on which Meyer and others have commented, is not a reflection of obscure traits in peasant culture and psychology, but is the direct and understandable response to the violence of the imperial system, and that its current manifestations are a no less direct and understandable response to the still more concentrated and extreme savagery of a U.S. assault that may in part have been designed to evoke this very response, as we have noted. Such a study may also show that the Khmer Rouge programs elicited a positive response from some sectors of the Cambodian peasantry because they dealt with fundamental problems rooted in the feudal past and exacerbated by the imperial system with its final outburst of uncontrolled barbarism.
- The record of atrocities in Cambodia is substantial and often gruesome, but it has by no means satisfied the requirements of Western propagandists, who must labor to shift the blame for the torment of Indochina to the victims of France and the United States. Consequently, there has been extensive fabrication of evidence, a tide that is not stemmed even by repeated exposure.
- If, indeed, the Cambodian regime was, as Lacouture believes, as monstrous as the Nazis at their worst, then his comment might be comprehensible, though it is worth noting that he has produced no evidence to support this judgment. But if a more appropriate comparison is, say, to France after liberation, where a minimum of 30-40,000 people were massacred within a few months with far less motive for revenge and under far less rigorous conditions than those left by the U.S. war in Cambodia, then perhaps a different judgment is in order.
- The ferocious U.S. attack on Indochina left the countries devastated, facing almost insuperable problems. The agricultural systems of these peasant societies were seriously damaged or destroyed... With the economies in ruins, the foreign aid that kept much of the population alive terminated, and the artificial colonial implantations no longer functioning, it was a condition of survival to turn (or return) the populations to productive work. The victors in Cambodia undertook drastic and often brutal measures to accomplish this task, simply forcing the urban population into the countryside where they were compelled to live the lives of poor peasants, now organized in a decentralized system of communes. At heavy cost, these measures appear to have overcome the dire and destructive consequences of the U.S. war by 1978.
- While all of the countries of Indochina have been subjected to endless denunciations in the West for their 'loathsome' qualities and unaccountable failure to find humane solutions to their problems, Cambodia was a particular target of abuse. In fact, it became virtually a matter of dogma in the West that the regime was the very incarnation of evil with no redeeming qualities, and that the handful of demonic creatures who had somehow taken over the country were systematically massacring and starving the population.
- […] the evacuation of Phnom Penh, widely denounced at the time and since for its undoubted brutality, may actually have saved many lives.
- Some time ago I was asked to sign a petition in defense of Robert Faurisson's “freedom of speech and expression.” The petition said absolutely nothing about the character, quality or validity of his research, but restricted itself quite explicitly to a defense of elementary rights that are taken for granted in democratic societies, calling upon university and government officials to “do everything possible to ensure the [Faurisson’s] safety and the free exercise of his legal rights.” I signed it without hesitation.
- I see no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the Holocaust
I see no hint of anti-Semitic implications in Faurisson's work.
- I find [no] credible evidence [of anti-Semitism or neo-Nazism] in the material that I have read concerning [Faurisson], either in the public record or in private correspondence. As far as I can determine, he is a relatively apolitical liberal of some sort.
- One reason that propaganda often works better on the educated than on the uneducated is that educated people read more, so they receive more propaganda. Another is that they have jobs in management, media, and academia and therefore work in some capacity as agents of the propaganda system--and they believe what the system expects them to believe. By and large, they're part of the privileged elite, and share the interests and perceptions of those in power.
- [In] 'Democratic' societies ... the state can't control behavior by force. It can to some extent, but it's much more limited in its capacity to control by force. Therefore, it has to control what you think... One of the ways you control what people think is by creating the illusion that there's a debate going on, but making sure that that debate stays within very narrow margins. Namely, you have to make sure that both sides in the debate accept certain assumptions, and those assumptions turn out to be the propaganda system. As long as everyone accepts the propaganda system, then you can have a debate.
- The Vietnam War is a classic example of America's propaganda system. In the mainstream media--the New York Times, CBS, and so on-- there was a lively debate about the war. It was between people called "doves" and people called "hawks." The hawks said, "If we keep at it we can win." The doves said, "Even if we keep at it, it would probably be too costly for use, and besides, maybe we're killing too many people." Both sides agreed on one thing. We had a right to carry out aggression against South Vietnam. Doves and hawks alike refused to admit that aggression was taking place. They both called our military presence in Southeast Asia the defense of South Vietnam, substituting "defense" for "aggression" in the standard Orwellian manner.
- 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); Republished at "Program Information: Chomsky on Indonesia and E. Timor, 1982" at radio4all.net, accessed May 23, 2014.
- From a comparative perspective, the United States is unusual if not unique in the lack of restraints on freedom of expression. It is also unusual in the range and effectiveness of methods employed to restrain freedom of thought... Where the voice of the people is heard, elite groups must insure their voice says the right things... The less the state is able to employ violence in the defense of the interest of the elite groups that effectively dominate it, the more it becomes necessary to devise techniques of ‘manufacture of consent’... Where obedience is guaranteed by violence, rulers may tend towards a ‘behaviourist’ conception; it is enough that people obey; what they think does not matter too much. Where the state lacks means of coercion, it is important to control what people think.
- “Though Control in the USA: The Case of the Middle East,” Index on Censorship, July/August 1986, quoted in John H. George, Be Reasonable: Selected Quotations for Inquiring Minds, Prometheus Books (1994), p. 64
- In certain intellectual circles in France, the very basis for discussion—a minimal respect for facts and logic—has been virtually abandoned.
- Noam Chomsky interviewed by an anonymous interviewer, October 26, 1981; Published in: "The Treachery of the Intelligentsia: A French Travesty " in C. P. Otero (ed.), Language and Politics, Black Rose (1988), pp. 312-323.
- Lenin was a right-wing deviation of the socialist movement and he was so regarded...by the mainstream Marxists... Bolshevism was a right-wing deviation.
- Speech on “Lenin, Trotsky and Socialism and the Soviet Union”, (March 15, 1989) 
- There was nothing remotely like socialism in the Soviet Union... [Lenin] didn't believe that it was possible to have socialism in the Soviet Union... He kept the view that the Soviet revolution was a holding action, they just kind of hold things in place, until the real revolution took place in Germany... That, presumably, gave some sort of justification for eliminating the socialist institutions.
- Speech on “Lenin, Trotsky and Socialism and the Soviet Union”, (March 15, 1989) 
- I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.
- Language and Politics (1988) p. 775
- The war was a “tragic error,” but not “fundamentally wrong or immoral” (as the overwhelming majority of the American people continue to believe), and surely not criminal aggression - the judgment that would be reached at once on similar evidence if the responsible agent were not the USA, or an ally or client. Our point is not that the retrospectives fail to draw what seem to us, as to much of the population, the obvious conclusions; the more significant and instructive point is that principled objection to the war as “fundamentally wrong and immoral,” or as an outright criminal aggression - a war crime - is inexpressible. It is not part of the spectrum of discussion. The background for such a principled critique cannot be developed in the media, and the conclusions cannot be drawn. It is not present even to be refuted. Rather, the idea is unthinkable. All of this reveals with great clarity how foreign to the mobilized media is a conception of the media as a free system of information and discussion, independent of state authority and elite interests.
- Herman and Chomsky Manufacturing Consent (1988), p. 252.
- Roughly speaking, states are violent to the extent that they have the power to act in the interests of those with domestic power...
- Noam Chomsky, letter dated June 13, 1983. Published in: "The reasons for my concern: Response to Celia Jakubowicz," in C. P. Otero (ed.), Language and Politics, Black Rose (1988), pp. 369-72.
- A twenty-year war of terrorism was waged against Cuba. 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. And now there’s a war against Nicaragua.
The impact of all of this has been absolutely horrendous. There’s vast starvation throughout the region while crop lands are devoted to exports to the United States. There’s slave labor, crushing poverty, torture, mass murder, every horror you can think of. In El Salvador alone, from October 1979 (a date to which I’ll return) until December 1981 — approximately two years — about 30,000 people were murdered and about 600,000 refugees created. Those figures have about doubled since. Most of the murders were carried out by U.S.-backed military forces, including so-called death squads. The efficiency of the massacre in El Salvador has recently increased with direct participation of American military forces. American planes based in Honduran and Panamanian sanctuaries, military aircraft, now coordinate bombing raids over El Salvador, which means that the Salvadoran air force can more effectively kill fleeing peasants and destroy villages, and, in fact, the kill rate has gone up corresponding to that.
- 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); Republished at "Program Information: The Lessons of Viet Nam" at radio4all.net, accessed May 23, 2014.
- The uniformity and obedience of the media, which any dictator would admire, [...]
- Turning the Tide: U.S. Intervention in Central America and the Struggle for Peace, (1985), p. 275
- Commonly rephrased as: "Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the [U.S.] media."
- 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.
- in: Wendy McElroy, Carl Watner (1987) The Voluntaryist, Nr. 23-41 (1987), p. 120; Republished in: "Propaganda Review, 1987," at zpub.com, accessed May 23, 2014.
- 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, American-style" in Propaganda Review (1987).
- 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) .
- 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) .
- 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) 
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.
- p. 3 as cited in: Jerry Fodor (1983).
- [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).
- p. 3 as cited in: Jerry Fodor (1983).
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.
- 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 (March 1, 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) .
- 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) .
- 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.
- The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn't betray it I'd be ashamed of myself.
- Noam Chomsky in interview on The Late Show BBC Television (November 25, 1992), in The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1993), p. 465
- 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) .
- Control of thought is more important for governments that are free and popular than for despotic and military states. The logic is straightforward: a despotic state can control its domestic enemies by force, but as the state loses this weapon, other devices are required to prevent the ignorant masses from interfering with public affairs, which are none of their business.
- Deterring Democracy (1992), p. 357.
- I don't know if it's a hundred years, but it seems to me if history continues—that's not at all obvious, that it will—but if society continues to develop without catastrophe on something like the course that you can sort of see over time, I wouldn't be in the least surprised if it moves toward vegetarianism and protection of animal rights. In fact, what we've seen over the years—and it's hard to be optimistic in the twentieth century, which is one of the worst centuries in human history in terms of atrocities and terror and so on—but still, over the years, including the twentieth century, there is a widening of the moral realm, bringing in broader and broader domains of individuals who are regarded as moral agents.
- 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.
- 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) .
- 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 .
- 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, [or] a dominant Church, and so on. That kind of conservatism no one even remembers anymore.
- Boards 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.
Media Control: The Spectacular Achievements of Propaganda, (1991) edit
- The issue is whether we want to live in a free society or whether we want to live under what amounts to a form of self-imposed totalitarianism... admiring with awe the leader who saved them from destruction, while the educated masses goose-step on command and repeat the slogans they're supposed to repeat and the society deteriorates at home. We end up serving as a mercenary enforcer state, hoping that others are going to pay us to smash up the world.
- The role of the media in contemporary politics forces us to ask what kind of a world and what kind of a society we want to live in, and in particular in what sense of democracy do we want this to be a democratic society? Let me begin by counter-posing two different conceptions of democracy.
- One conception of democracy has it that a democratic society is one in which the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free. If you look up democracy in the dictionary you'll get a definition something like that.
- An alternative conception of democracy is that the public must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. That may sound like an odd conception of democracy, but it's important to understand that it is the prevailing conception.
- The picture of the world that's presented to the public has only the remotest relation to reality. The truth of the matter is buried under edifice after edifice of lies upon lies.
- Let's begin with the first modern (U.S.) government propaganda operation. That was under the Woodrow Wilson Administration. Woodrow Wilson was elected President in 1916 on the platform "Peace Without Victory." That was right in the middle of the World War I. The population was extremely pacifistic and saw no reason to become involved in a European war. The Wilson administration was actually committed to war and had to do something about it. They established a government propaganda commission, called the Creel Commission which succeeded, within six months, in turning a pacifist population into a hysterical, warmongering population which wanted to destroy everything German, tear the Germans limb from limb, go to war and save the world.
- That was a major achievement, and it led to a further achievement. Right at that time and after the war the same techniques were used to whip up a hysterical Red Scare, as it was called, which succeeded pretty much in destroying unions and eliminating such dangerous problems as freedom of the press and freedom of political thought. There was very strong support from the media, from the business establishment, which in fact organized, pushed much of this work, and it was, in general, a great success.
- The progressive intellectuals, people of the John Dewey circle ... took great pride, as you can see from their own writings at the time, in having shown that what they called the "more intelligent members of the community," namely, themselves, were able to drive a reluctant population into a war by terrifying them and eliciting jingoist fanaticism.
- The means that were used were extensive. For example, there was a good deal of fabrication of atrocities by the Huns, Belgian babies with their arms torn off, all sorts of awful things that you still read in history books. Much of it was invented by the British propaganda ministry, whose own commitment at the time, as they put it in their secret deliberations, was "to direct the thought of most of the world." But more crucially they wanted to control the thought of the more intelligent members of the community in the United States, who would then disseminate the propaganda that they were concocting and convert the pacifistic country to wartime hysteria. That worked. It worked very well.
- And it taught a lesson: State propaganda, when supported by the educated classes and when no deviation is permitted from it, can have a big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day.
Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, 1992 edit
- Noam Chomsky: A Life of Dissent, March 31, 1995 .
- 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 
Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 1992 edit
- Noam Chomsky, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, 1992.
- Perhaps this is an obvious point, but the democratic postulate is that the media are independent and committed to discovering and reporting the truth, and that they do not merely reflect the world as powerful groups wish it to be perceived. Leaders of the media claim that their new choices rest on unbiased professional and objective criteria, and they have support for this contention in the intellectual community. If, however, the powerful are able to fix the premises of discourse, to decide what the general populace is allowed to see, hear, and think about, and to “manage” public opinion by regular propaganda campaigns, the standard view of how the system works is at serious odds with reality.
- 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.
- Well, if you want to understand the way any society works, ours or any other, the first place to look is who is in a position to make the decisions that determine the way the society functions. Societies differ, but in ours, the major decisions over what happens in the society — decisions over investment and production and distribution and so on — are in the hands of a relatively concentrated network of major corporations and conglomerates and investment firms. They are also the ones who staff the major executive positions in the government. They’re the ones who own the media and they’re the ones who have to be in a position to make the decisions. They have an overwhelmingly dominant role in the way life happens. You know, what’s done in the society. Within the economic system, by law and in principle, they dominate. The control over resources and the need to satisfy their interests imposes very sharp constraints on the political system and on the ideological system.
- To start with, there are two different groups, we can get into more detail, but at the first level of approximation, there’s two targets for propaganda. One is what’s sometimes called the political class. There’s maybe twenty percent of the population which is relatively educated, more or less articulate, plays some kind of role in decision-making. They’re supposed to sort of participate in social life — either as managers, or cultural managers like teachers and writers and so on. They’re supposed to vote, they’re supposed to play some role in the way economic and political and cultural life goes on. Now their consent is crucial. So that’s one group that has to be deeply indoctrinated. Then there’s maybe eighty percent of the population whose main function is to follow orders and not think, and not to pay attention to anything — and they’re the ones who usually pay the costs.
- The major agenda-setting media — after all, what are they? As institutions in the society, what are they? Well, in the first place they are major corporations, in fact huge corporations. Furthermore, they are integrated with and sometimes owned by even larger corporations, conglomerates — so, for example, by Westinghouse and G.E. and so on. So what we have in the first place is major corporations which are parts of even bigger conglomerates. Now, like any other corporation, they have a product which they sell to a market. The market is advertisers — that is, other businesses. What keeps the media functioning is not the audience. They make money from their advertisers. And remember, we’re talking about the elite media. So they’re trying to sell a good product, a product which raises advertising rates. And ask your friends in the advertising industry. That means that they want to adjust their audience to the more elite and affluent audience. That raises advertising rates. So what you have is institutions, corporations, big corporations, that are selling relatively privileged audiences to other businesses. Well, what point of view would you expect to come out of this? I mean without any further assumptions, what you’d predict is that what comes out is a picture of the world, a perception of the world, that satisfies the needs and the interests and the perceptions of the sellers, the buyers and the product.
- Now there are other media too whose basic social role is quite different: it’s diversion. There’s the real mass media-the kinds that are aimed at, you know, Joe Six Pack — that kind. The purpose of those media is just to dull people’s brains. This is an oversimplification, but for the eighty percent or whatever they are, the main thing is to divert them. To get them to watch National Football League. And to worry about “Mother With Child With Six Heads,” or whatever you pick up on the supermarket stands and so on. Or look at astrology. Or get involved in fundamentalist stuff or something or other. Just get them away. Get them away from things that matter. And for that it’s important to reduce their capacity to think.
- You know, I remember in high school, already I was pretty old. I suddenly asked myself at one point, why do I care if my high school team wins the football game? I mean, I don’t know anybody on the team, you know? I mean, they have nothing to do with me, I mean, why I am cheering for my team? It doesn’t mean any — it doesn’t make sense. But the point is, it does make sense: it’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority, and group cohesion behind leadership elements — in fact, it’s training in irrational jingoism. That’s also a feature of competitive sports. I think if you look closely at these things, I think, typically, they do have functions, and that’s why energy is devoted to supporting them and creating a basis for them and advertisers are willing to pay for them and so on.
What Uncle Sam Really Wants, 1993 edit
- A study of the inter-American system published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London concluded that, while the US pays lip service to democracy, the real commitment is to "private, capitalist enterprise." When the rights of investors are threatened, democracy has to go; if these rights are safeguarded, killers and torturers will do just fine.
- "Our Commitment to Democracy," p. 19
- 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.
- p. 69
The Prosperous Few and the Restless Many, 1993 edit
- In the United States you're not allowed to talk about class differences. In fact, only two groups are allowed to be class-conscious in the United States. One of them is the business community, which is rabidly class-conscious. When you read their literature, it's all full of the danger of the masses and their rising power and how we have to defeat them. It's kind of vulgar, inverted Marxism. The other group is the high planning sectors of the government. They talk the same way — how we have to worry about the rising aspirations of the common man and the impoverished masses who are seeking to improve standards and harming the business climate. So they can be class-conscious. They have a job to do. But it's extremely important to make other people, the rest of the population, believe that there is no such thing as class. We're all just equal, we're all Americans, we live in harmony, we all work together, everything is great.
- "The Unmentionable Five-Letter Word" in How the World Works, p. 120
- The idea is to create a picture among the population that we're all one happy family. We're America, we have a national interest, we're working together. There are us nice workers, the firms in which we work and the government who works for us. We pick them — they're our servants. And that's all there is in the world — no other conflicts, no other categories of people, no further structure to the system beyond that. Certainly nothing like class. Unless you happen to be in the ruling class, in which case you're very well aware of it.
- "The Unmentionable Five-Letter Word" in How the World Works, p. 121
Secrets, Lies and Democracy, 1994 edit
- Spectator sports make people more passive, because you're not doing them—you're watching somebody doing them.
- "Sports" in How the World Works, p. 168
- ... the stupefying effect spectator sports have in making people passive, atomized, obedient nonparticipants—nonquestioning, easily controlled and easily disciplined
- "Sports" in How the World Works, p. 169
- If you look at the American army's counterinsurgency literature (a lot of which is now declassified), it begins with an analysis of the German experience in Europe, written with the cooperation of Nazi officers. Everything is described from the point of view of the Nazis-which techniques for controlling resistance worked, which ones didn't. With barely a change, that was transmuted into American counterinsurgency literature.
- "How the Nazis Won the War" in How the World Works, p. 192
- When British and then American troops moved into southern Italy, they simply reinstated the fascist order—the industrialists. But the big problem came when the troops got to the north, which the Italian resistance had already liberated. The place was functioning—industry was running. We had to dismantle all of that and restore the old order.
- "How the Nazis Won the War" in How the World Works, p. 193
- Next we worked on destroying the democratic process. The left was obviously going to win the elections; it had a lot of prestige from the resistance, and the traditional conservative order had been discredited. The US wouldn't tolerate that.
- "How the Nazis Won the War" in How the World Works, p. 194
- 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 .
- [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 
- 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, p.137
- 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 .
- 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 .
- 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.
- Talk titled "Language & Mind", 1997.
- 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 
- 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 .
- 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 .
- 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 .
- A good teacher knows that the best way to help students learn is to allow them to find the truth by themselves. Students don't learn by a mere transfer of knowledge, consumed through rote memorization and later regurgitated. True learning comes about through the discovery of truth, not through the imposition of an official truth.
- Chomsky on Miseducation, 1999, p. 21
- 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 .
- 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 .
- 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 
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?
Powers and Prospects (1996) edit
- Powers and Prospects: Reflections on Human Nature and the Social Order. London: Pluto, 1996.
- The responsibility of the writer as a moral agent is to try to bring the truth about matters of human significance to an audience that can do something about them.
- p. 56.
David Barsamian interviewing Noam Chomsky; The Common Good: An Interview With Noam Chomsky, The Sun Magazine, (November, 1997) edit
- Many societies just take affirmative action for granted. India has a system called reservation, which was instituted back in the 1940s in an attempt to overcome deep-seated caste and gender inequities. Any such system imposes hardships on some in order, one hopes, to develop a more equitable and just society. But to a large extent I think the attack on affirmative action is an attempt to justify the kinds of discriminatory and oppressive patterns that existed in the past. On the other hand, such systems should certainly be designed so that they don’t harm poor people who happen not to fit the categories designated for support. This can be done. There have been very effective applications of affirmative action — in the universities, for example, and the public-service industries. If you look in detail you find plenty of things to criticize, but the main thrust of the program is humane and appropriate.
The Common Good (1998) edit
- Noam Chomsky (1988) The Common Good. Odonian Press (Excerpts 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 its 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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 .
- 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).
- 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 .
- 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 .
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 9-11, 2001 .
- Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a "war against terrorism."
- 9-11, 2001 
The New War Against Terror, 2001 edit
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 , 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 .
- [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. ...What they hate is official policies that deny them freedoms to which they aspire.
- The Guardian, September 9, 2002 .
- [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 .
- ...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.
- If you take a poll among U.S. intellectuals, support for bombing Afghanistan is just overwhelming, but how many of them think that you should bomb Washington because of the U.S. war against Nicaragua, let's say, or Cuba or Turkey, or anyone else? Now if anyone were to suggest this, they'd be considered insane, but why? I mean, if one is right, why is the other wrong? When you try to get someone to talk about this question, they just won't try. They can't comprehend what your question is, because you can't comprehend that we should apply to ourselves the standards that you apply to others. That is incomprehensible! There couldn't be a moral principle more elementary... There's a famous definition in the Gospels of the hypocrite. The hypocrite is the person who refuses to apply to himself the standards that he applies to others. By that standard, the entire commentary and discussion of the so-called "war on terror" is pure hypocrisy, virtually without exception. Can anybody understand that? No, can't understand that. But that's not so unusual... I know it was true in Germany and France and everywhere else. It's just standard. It's ugly, but it's standard.
- Power and Terror: Noam Chomsky in Our Times (2002) documentary film
Talk at the University of Houston, 2002 edit
- 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.
- [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.
- There's a good reason why nobody studies history. It just teaches you too much.
- 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  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 
Hegemony or Survival (2003) edit
- 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.
- Those who want to face their responsibilities with a genuine commitment to democracy and freedom - even to decent survival - should recognize the barriers that stand in the way. In violent states these are not concealed. In more democratic societies barriers are more subtle. While methods differ sharply from more brutal to more free societies, the goals are in many ways similar: to ensure that the "great beast," as Alexander Hamilton called the people, does not stray from its proper confines.
- Chapter Two, Priorities and Prospects
- The final years of the millennium witnessed a display of exuberant self-adulation that may even have surpassed its no-too-glorious predecessors, with awed acclaim for an "idealistic new world bent on ending inhumanity," dedicated to "principles and values" for the first time in history. An era of enlightenment and benevolence was upon us, in which the civilized nations, led by the United States, then "at the height of its glory, " acted out of "altruism" and "moral fervor" in pursuit of exalted ideals.
- Chapter Three, "The New Era of Enlightenment", introductory paragraph.
- There is a new and highly regarded literary genre inquiring into the cultural defects that keep us from responding properly to the crimes of others. An interesting question no doubt, though by any reasonably standard it ranks well below a different one: Why do we persist in or crimes, either directly or through crucial support for murderous clients? It is constructive to ask how often, or how accurately, one finds reference to Turkey, Colombia, East Timor, and many contemporary literature on the flaws in our character. There is much self-congratulation about the new "ruling ideology" in the moral universe of the enlightened states, grounded in the principal that "all states have a responsibility, to protect their citizens' if their leaders are unable or unwilling to do so, they render their countries liable to military intervention = authorized by the Security Council or, failing that (as in the case of Kosovo), by individual countries in 'conscience-shocking situations'" Atrocities comparable to or much worse than anything charged to Milosevic in Kosovo before the NATO bombing were not "conscience-shocking" when responsibility traced back home, as it often did - and even when the crimes took place within, not just near, the borders of NATO.
- Chapter Three
- 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.
- Interview by Ahmed Nassef, April 29, 2004
- 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
- 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
- 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
- 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
- [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.
- ...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
- 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 
- 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 .
- 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 .
- 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
- 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
- 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
- ...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.
- 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.
- Talk at the Englert Theatre in Iowa, April 10, 2006
- 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.
- 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 
Discussion with Robert Trivers, 2006 edit
- Discussion with Robert Trivers, September 6, 2006
- 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.
- 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 , 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 .
- "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 , 2008.
Quotes 2010s 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.
- 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. ...
- In the fourth century, it was taken over by the Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine turned the church into the religion of the persecutors.
- 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 
- "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), 2. Chomsky.info (March 1, 2006). Retrieved on August 16, 2011.
- 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. Chomsky.info (March 1, 2006). Retrieved on August 16, 2011.
- We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic.
- "Noam Chomsky: My Reaction to Osama bin Laden’s Death", Guernica, 6 May 2011.
- [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; "Students Should Become Anarchists" (June 14, 2011). Retrieved on July 18, 2013.
- [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; "Students Should Become Anarchists" (June 14, 2011). Retrieved on July 18, 2013.
- Where neoliberal rules have been observed since the ’70s, economic performance has generally deteriorated and social democratic programs have substantially weakened. In the United States, which partially accepted these rules, real wages for the majority have largely stagnated for 30 years, instead of tracking productivity growth as before, while work hours have increased, now well beyond those of Europe. Benefits, which always lagged, have declined further. Social indicators—general measures of the health of the society—also tracked growth until the mid-’70s, when they began to decline, falling to the 1960 level by the end of the millennium.
- "Crisis and Hope: Theirs and Ours" in Steven Best; Richard Kahn; Anthony J. Nocella II; Peter McLaren (eds.). The Global Industrial Complex: Systems of Domination. Rowman & Littlefield, 2011. p. 6 ISBN 978-0739136980
- The United States effectively has a one-party system, the business party, with two factions, Republicans and Democrats.
- Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance. Penguin Books Limited. 2012. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-14-196787-5.
- Voters should consider them, but without illusions about the political parties, and with the recognition that consistenly over the centuries, progressive legislation and social welfare have been won by popular struggles, not gifts from above.
- About elections, Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance. Penguin Books Limited. 2012. p. 83. ISBN 978-0-14-196787-5.
- Some kind of settlement in Kashmir is crucial for both India and Pakistan. It's also tearing India apart with horrible atrocities in the region which is controlled by Indian armed forces. This is feeding right back into society even in the domain of elementary civil rights.
- Quoted in "Exclusive interview with Noam Chomsky on Pakistan elections", Dawn, May 7, 2013.
Speech at DW Global Media Forum edit
- Speech at DW Global Media Forum, Bonn, Germany, August 17, 2013 
- 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".
- 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.
- In the past, the United States has sometimes, kind of sardonically, been described as a one-party state: the business party with two factions called Democrats and Republicans. That's no longer true. It's still a one-party state, the business party. But it only has one faction. The faction is moderate Republicans, who are now called Democrats. There are virtually no moderate Republicans in what's called the Republican Party and virtually no liberal Democrats in what's called the Democratic Party. It's basically a party of what would be moderate Republicans and similarly, Richard Nixon would be way at the left of the political spectrum today. Eisenhower would be in outer space. There is still something called the Republican Party, but it long ago abandoned any pretence of being a normal parliamentary party. It's in lock-step service to the very rich and the corporate sector and has a catechism that everyone has to chant in unison, kind of like the old Communist Party. The distinguished conservative commentator, one of the most respected – Norman Ornstein – describes today's Republican Party as, in his words, “a radical insurgency – ideologically extreme, scornful of facts and compromise, dismissive of its political opposition” – a serious danger to the society, as he points out.
Power Systems edit
- Noam Chomsky (2013) Power Systems: Conversations on global democratic uprisings and the new challenge to the US empire. Interviews with David Barsamian. Metropolitan Books
- One of the interesting WikiLeaks exposures was from Anne W. Patterson, the American ambassador in Pakistan, who supports U.S. policy in Pakistan but pointed out that it carries with it the danger of "destabilizing the Pakistani state," maybe even leading to a coup, which could bring about the leaking of radioactive materials into the jihadi network.
- p. 99
- WikiLeaks ... compromised the security that governments are usually concerned about: their security from inspection by their own populations. (p. 109)
- One respect in which the United States is unusually open is in declassifying government documents. ... [W]e have better access to internal government decisions than any country that I know of. The system isn't perfect ... . [Most] declassified documents ... are just totally boring. You can read through volume after volume of the Foreign Relations of the United States and maybe you'll find three sentences that are worth paying any attention to. Many of the classified documents have little to do with genuine security but a lot to do with preventing the population from knowing what the government is up to. I think that's true of what I've seen of WikiLeaks, too. Take the one example I mentioned. Ambassador Patterson's comments about Pakistan and the danger of the Bush-Obama policy destabilizing a country with one of the biggest nuclear weapons programs in the world ... . That's something the population ought to know about, but it has to be kept from them. You have to describe our policies in terms of defending ourselves from attack when you're in fact increasing the threat of attack. That's true over and over again.
- pp. 109-110
Noam Chomsky; Truth to power, The Japan Times, (February 22, 2014) edit
- The general question of nuclear power is not a simple one. It is hardly necessary to stress how dangerous it is after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, which has far from ended. Continued use of fossil fuels threatens global disaster, and not in the distant future. The sensible course would be to move as quickly as possible to sustainable energy sources, as Germany is now doing. The alternatives are too disastrous to contemplate.
- As I said, there is some merit in these views [that nuclear power is the "only way to save the planet from cooking"]. More accurately, there would be if limited and short-term reliance on nuclear energy, with all of its extreme hazards and unsolved problems — like waste disposal — was taken as an opportunity for rapid and extensive development of sustainable energy. That should be the highest priority, and very quickly, because severe threats of environmental catastrophe are not remote.
Noam Chomsky, Brandon Terry; "Identity, Power, and the Left: The Future of Progressive Politics in America", Harvard Kennedy School, discussion and Q&A, (22 September, 2015) edit
- Ferguson and Baltimore is a statistical clustering of things that go on all the time. It’s misleading to put them together […] It’s nothing new. In fact, it goes back 400 years. The first slaves came here in 1620 roughly. It’s 400 years, very little has changed since, fundamentally. Of course, the nature of the oppression has changed dramatically.
- Would I [support reparations for descendants of black slaves]? Very much so. Not just African Americans. We ourselves didn't own slaves, but we — me — are rich and privileged because of the torture of blacks for centuries. And yes, we owe them reparations. The same with the remnants of Native Americans. Same with countries that we've destroyed. What about Iraq? I mean we've devastated Iraq, killed hundreds of thousands of people, generated millions of refugees, created a sectarian conflict that's destroying the place. Is it our responsibility? Sure. I think the call for reparations is very legitimate. Take Europe and Africa. People are fleeing from Africa to Europe, not the other way around. Is there a reason for that? Yeah, a couple of centuries of murderous, brutal colonialism. So sure, they owe reparations, not just taking in the refugees, but do something about it, create conditions in their own societies in which there won’t be refugees. That’s the real answer to the so-called refugee problem. But it requires those who have been wielding the whip to say "okay, we benefitted from it, it’s our responsibility, we’ll do something about it."
- If I was in the mainstream, I'd began to ask myself what I'm doing wrong.
- I’m not an absolute pacifist. I think there are times when the use of military force is defensible […] Defending the Kurds against the ISIL attacks—yes, that’s legitimate.
- Imperialism has a meaning. When the United States supports Saudi Arabia, it’s not imperialism, even though it’s supporting a brutal and harsh government. When the United States supports Israel, it’s not imperialism, even though it’s carrying out atrocities. When Russia supports Damascus, it’s not imperialism. [when asked whether “sections of the left” were “guilty of only resisting US imperialism, but not Russian imperialism in the Middle East, in Ukraine, and elsewhere”]
- Annexing of the land in Crimea, I think, was a criminal act. But it has a history.
- There’s very little evidence. He’s not a nice guy, I don’t want to have dinner with him. [when asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin has an “expansionist view” of “recreating a strong, Soviet-style Russia”]
- Incidentally, I don't say it [the US electoral system] is a charade; there are differences in the parties—I don't think they're great differences, but they're real, and small differences in a system of great power can have enormous consequences.
- Turning finally to the question raised, to be precise, it appears that [Hillary] Clinton received a slight majority of the vote. The apparent decisive victory [of Donald Trump] has to do with curious features of American politics: among other factors, the Electoral College residue of the founding of the country as an alliance of separate states; the winner-take-all system in each state; the arrangement of congressional districts (sometimes by gerrymandering) to provide greater weight to rural votes (in past elections, and probably this one too, Democrats have had a comfortable margin of victory in the popular vote for the House, but hold a minority of seats); the very high rate of abstention (usually close to half in presidential elections, this one included). Of some significance for the future is the fact that in the age 18-25 range, Clinton won handily, and Sanders had an even higher level of support. How much this matters depends on what kind of future humanity will face.
- One of the great achievements of the doctrinal system has been to divert anger from the corporate sector to the government that implements the programs that the corporate sector designs, such as the highly protectionist corporate/investor rights agreements that are uniformly mis-described as "free trade agreements" in the media and commentary. With all its flaws, the government is, to some extent, under popular influence and control, unlike the corporate sector. It is highly advantageous for the business world to foster hatred for pointy-headed government bureaucrats and to drive out of people's minds the subversive idea that the government might become an instrument of popular will, a government of, by and for the people.
- If you look over the history of regulation — railroad regulation, financial regulation and so on — you find that, quite commonly, it's either initiated by the economic concentrations that are being regulated, or it's supported by them. And the reason is because they know that, sooner or later, they can take over the regulators and essentially run what they do. They can offer what amounts to bribes — offer them jobs or whatever it may be — it's an advantage to the regulators to accommodate themselves to the will of the powerful. It happens naturally in many ways, and ends up with what's called “regulatory capture.” The business being regulated is in fact running the regulators.
- Quoted by Bill Moyers in In His New Book, Noam Chomsky Takes a Look at Income Inequality, (11 May 2017)
- Each time, the taxpayer is called on to bail out those who created the crisis, increasingly the major financial institutions. In a capitalist economy, you wouldn't do that. In a capitalist system, that would wipe out the investors who made risky investments. But the rich and powerful, they don't want a capitalist system. They want to be able to run to the “nanny state” as soon as they're in trouble, and get bailed out by the taxpayer. They're given a government insurance policy, which means that no matter how often you risk everything, if you get in trouble, the public will bail you out because you're too big to fail — and it's just repeating over and over again.
- Quoted by Bill Moyers in In His New Book, Noam Chomsky Takes a Look at Income Inequality, (11 May 2017)
- If the population allows it to proceed, it's just going to go on and on like this. Until the next crash — which is so much expected that credit agencies, which evaluate the status of firms, are now counting into their calculations the taxpayer bailout that they expect to come after the next crash... Everywhere you look, policies are designed this way, which should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone. That's what happens when you put power into the hands of a narrow sector of wealth, which is dedicated to increasing power for itself — just as you'd expect.
- The Native population (in the US) suffered a migrant crisis of an incredible kind ... where the immigrants come in with the intention of exterminating and expelling the population... Should they institute war crimes trials...? It would not make a lot of sense. It would make a lot of sense to bring out understanding of what happened, to call for reparations and so on, but not war crimes trials. It just means nothing in these circumstances. Is it genocide? ... The Western hemisphere had about 80 million people when Columbus arrived, and pretty soon about 90 percent of them were gone (killed).
- Did the Russians interfere in our elections? An issue of overwhelming concern in the media. I mean, in most of the world, that's almost a joke. First of all, if you're interested in foreign interference in our elections, whatever the Russians may have done barely counts or weighs in the balance as compared with what another state does, openly, brazenly and with enormous support. Israeli intervention in US elections vastly overwhelms anything the Russians may have done, I mean, even to the point where the prime minister of Israel, Netanyahu, goes directly to Congress, without even informing the president, and speaks to Congress, with overwhelming applause, to try to undermine the president's policies - what happened with Obama and Netanyahu in 2015.
- The crucial question...what is NATO for? ...From the beginning.. we had drilled into our heads that the purpose of NATO was to defend us from the Russian hordes... OK, 1991, no more Russian hordes. There were negotiations, between George Bush, the first; James Baker, secretary of state; Mikhail Gorbachev; Genscher and Kohl, the Germans, on how to deal... after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the beginning of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gorbachev... agreed to allow Germany, now unified, to join NATO... There was a quid pro quo, namely that... NATO means basically U.S. forces—not expand to East Berlin, to East Germany... the phrase that was used was “not one inch to the east.”
NATO immediately moved to East Germany. Under Clinton, other countries, former Russian satellites, were introduced into NATO. Finally, NATO went so far, as I mentioned before... to suggest that even Ukraine, right at the heartland of Russian strategic concerns...join NATO. So, what's NATO doing altogether? Well, actually, its mission was changed. The official mission of NATO was changed to become to be—to control and safeguard the global energy system, sea lanes, pipelines and so on. And, of course, on the side, it's acting as a intervention force for the United States. Is that a legitimate reason for us to maintain NATO, to be an instrument for U.S. global domination? I think that's a rather serious question. That's not the question that's asked.
The Green New Deal Is Exactly the Right Idea edit
- ...the Green New Deal is exactly the right idea. You can raise questions about the specific form in which Ocasio-Cortez and Markey introduced it: Maybe it shouldn't be exactly this way; it should be a little bit differently. But the general idea is quite right. And there's very solid work explaining, developing in detail, exactly how it could work. So, a very fine economist at UMass Amherst, Robert Pollin, has written extensively on, in extensive detail, with close analysis of how you could implement policies of this kind in a very effective way, which would actually make a better society. It wouldn't be that you'd lose from it; you'd gain from it. The costs of renewable energy are declining very sharply. If you eliminate the massive subsidies that are given to fossil fuels, they probably already surpass them. There are many means that can be implemented and carried out to overcome, certainly to mitigate, maybe to overcome, this serious crisis... A lot of the media commentary ridiculing this and that aspect of it are essentially beside the point... the basic idea is correct.
By Focusing on Russia, Democrats Handed Trump a “Huge Gift” edit
- The Democrats... gave Trump a huge gift. In fact, they may have handed him the next election. That's just a—that's a matter of being so unwilling to deal with fundamental issues, that they're looking for something on the side that will somehow give political success. The real issues are different things. They're things like climate change, like global warming, like the Nuclear Posture Review, deregulation. These are real issues. But the Democrats aren't going after those. They're looking for something else—the Democratic establishment. I'm not talking about the young cohort that's coming in, which is quite different. Just all of that has to be shifted significantly, if there's going to be a legitimate political opposition to the right-wing drift that's taking place. And it can happen, can definitely happen, but it's going to take work.
Open Letter by Over 70 Scholars and Experts Condemns US-Backed Coup Attempt in Venezuela edit
- The United States government must cease interfering in Venezuela's internal politics, especially for the purpose of overthrowing the country's government. Actions by the Trump administration and its allies in the hemisphere are almost certain to make the situation in Venezuela worse, leading to unnecessary human suffering, violence, and instability.
- Venezuela's political polarization is not new; the country has long been divided along racial and socioeconomic lines. But the polarization has deepened in recent years. This is partly due to US support for an opposition strategy aimed at removing the government of Nicolás Maduro through extra-electoral means. While the opposition has been divided on this strategy, US support has backed hardline opposition sectors in their goal of ousting the Maduro government through often violent protests, a military coup d'etat, or other avenues that sidestep the ballot box.
- Under the Trump administration, aggressive rhetoric against the Venezuelan government has ratcheted up to a more extreme and threatening level, with Trump administration officials talking of “military action” and condemning Venezuela, along with Cuba and Nicaragua, as part of a “troika of tyranny.” Problems resulting from Venezuelan government policy have been worsened by US economic sanctions, illegal under the Organization of American States and the United Nations ― as well as US law and other international treaties and conventions. These sanctions have cut off the means by which the Venezuelan government could escape from its economic recession, while causing a dramatic falloff in oil production and worsening the economic crisis, and causing many people to die because they can't get access to life-saving medicines. Meanwhile, the US and other governments continue to blame the Venezuelan government ― solely ― for the economic damage, even that caused by the US sanctions.
““Dissident” is a term to be used universally or not at all”. Contradictions. Vol. 3, no. 2. 2019. edit
- [...] after about 1960 there’s simply no serious question that the fate of Latin American dissidents was incomparably worse than that of those in the Eastern Bloc. Firstly, their treatment was far worse, but there’s another aspect: the Eastern Bloc dissidents – who were treated very harshly, and punished harshly – had the unique advantage of being celebrated and supported elsewhere; in fact, in the most powerful parts of the world. That’s not true of dissidents elsewhere; nobody supports the Latin American dissidents.
- Latin American intellectuals sympathized with and supported Eastern Bloc dissidents, but Eastern Bloc dissidents mostly didn’t give a damn about their counterparts in US domain...
- […] when Vaclav Havel comes [to the US Congress] and says “you’re the Defenders of Freedom” and of course gets enormous applause for it across the political spectrum, how are we supposed to react to that? This isn’t to imply that Havel wasn’t treated badly – of course he was – but he didn’t have his brains blown out. So yes, I expected exactly that reaction in Eastern Europe because they simply do not know. What they do “know” is that they were the only ones who suffered.
Quotes 2020s edit
- The Coronavirus is serious enough but it's worth recalling that there is a much greater horror approaching, we are racing to the edge of disaster, far worse than anything that's ever happened in human history.... Donald Trump & his minions are in the lead, in racing to the abyss. In fact there are two immense threats that we are facing. One is the growing threat of nuclear war, which has exacerbated it by the tearing what's left of the arms control regime and the other of course is the growing threat of global warming. Both threats can be dealt with but there isn't a lot of time... the corona virus is a horrible... can have terrifying consequences but there will be recovery, while the others won't be recovered, it's finished. If we don't deal with them we're done.
- [Third great threat] ...the deterioration of democracy.. the one hope we have for overcoming the crisis... informed, involved public taking control of their fate. If that doesn't happen we're doomed.
- If we're leaving our fate to sociopathic buffoons, we're finished... Trump is the worst, that's because of US power which is overwhelming. We are talking about U.S. decline but you just look at the world, you don't see that when the U.S. imposes sanctions, murderous, devastating sanctions, that's the only country that can do that, but everyone has to follow. Europe may not like, in fact hate actions on Iran, but they have to follow, they have to follow the master, or else they get kicked out of the international financial system. That's not a law of nature, it's a decision in Europe to be subordinate to the master in Washington. Other countries don't even have a choice....
- And back to the coronavirus, one of the most shocking harsh aspects of it, is the use of sanctions, to maximize the pain, perfectly consciously, Iran is in a zone, enormous internal problems by the stranglehold of tightening sanctions, which are consciously designed to make them suffer and suffer bitterly.
- Now Cuba has been suffering from it from the moment where it gained independence, but it's astonishing that they survived but they stayed resilient and one of the most ironic elements of today's virus crisis, is that Cuba is helping Europe. I mean this is so shocking, that you don't know how to describe it. That Germany can't help Greece, but Cuba can help the European countries. If you stop to think about what that means, all words fail, just as when you see thousands of people dying in the Mediterranean, fleeing from a region that has been devastated... and being sent to the deaths in the Mediterranean, you don't know what words to use.
- The Crisis, the civilizational crisis of the West at this point is devastating... it does bring up childhood memories of listening to Hitler raving on the radio to raucous crowds... it makes you wonder if this species is even viable.
- I have a parrot. It can say 'sovereignty to all the people' in Portuguese.
Chomsky: Ventilator Shortage Exposes the Cruelty of Neoliberal Capitalism, April 1, 2020 edit
- Interview with C.J. Polychroniou, Chomsky: Ventilator Shortage Exposes the Cruelty of Neoliberal Capitalism (April 1, 2020), Truthout
- The scale of the plague is surprising, indeed shocking, but not its appearance. Nor the fact that the U.S. has the worst record in responding to the crisis. Scientists have been warning of a pandemic for years, insistently so since the SARS epidemic of 2003, also caused by a coronavirus, for which vaccines were developed but did not proceed beyond the pre-clinical level. That was the time to begin to put in place rapid-response systems in preparation for an outbreak and to set aside spare capacity that would be needed. Initiatives could also have been undertaken to develop defenses and modes of treatment for a likely recurrence with a related virus. But scientific understanding is not enough. There has to be someone to pick up the ball and run with it. That option was barred by the pathology of the contemporary socioeconomic order. Market signals were clear: There's no profit in preventing a future catastrophe.
- The government could have stepped in, but that's barred by reigning doctrine: "Government is the problem," Reagan told us with his sunny smile, meaning that decision-making has to be handed over even more fully to the business world, which is devoted to private profit and is free from influence by those who might be concerned with the common good. The years that followed injected a dose of neoliberal brutality to the unconstrained capitalist order and the twisted form of markets it constructs. The depth of the pathology is revealed clearly by one of the most dramatic — and murderous — failures: the lack of ventilators that is one the major bottlenecks in confronting the pandemic.
- There will be recovery from the COVID-19 crisis, at severe and possibly horrendous cost, particularly for the poor and more vulnerable. But there will be no recovery from the melting of the polar ice sheets and the other devastating consequences of global warming. Here, too, the catastrophe results from a market failure — in this case, of truly earth-shaking proportions.
- The current administration had ample warning about a likely pandemic. In fact, a high-level simulation was run as recently as last October. Trump has reacted during his years in office in the manner to which we have become accustomed: by defunding and dismantling every relevant part of government and assiduously implementing the instructions of his corporate masters to eliminate the regulations that impede profits while saving lives — and leading the race to the abyss of environmental catastrophe, by far his greatest crime — in fact, the greatest crime in history when we consider the consequences.
- Trump was not silent, however. He issued a stream of confident pronouncements informing the public that it was just a cough; he has everything under control; he gets a 10 out of 10 for his handling of the crisis; it's very serious but he knew it was a pandemic before anyone else; and the rest of the sorry performance. The technique is well-designed, much like the practice of reeling out lies so fast that the very concept of truth vanishes. Whatever happens, Trump is sure to be vindicated among his loyal followers. When you shoot arrows at random, some are likely to hit the target.
- One effect is the shockingly belated and limited testing, well below others, making it impossible to implement the successful test-and-trace strategies that have prevented the epidemic from breaking out of control in functioning societies. Even the best hospitals lack basic equipment. The U.S. is now the global epicenter of the crisis. This only skims the surface of Trumpian malevolence, but there's no space for more here. It is tempting to cast the blame on Trump for the disastrous response to the crisis. But if we hope to avert future catastrophes, we must look beyond him. Trump came to office in a sick society, afflicted by 40 years of neoliberalism, with still deeper roots.
- The neoliberal version of capitalism has been in force since Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, beginning shortly before. There should be no need to detail its grim consequences. Reagan's generosity to the super-rich is of direct relevance today as another bailout is in progress. Reagan quickly lifted the ban on tax havens and other devices to shift the tax burden to the public, and also authorized stock buybacks — a device to inflate stock values and enrich corporate management and the very wealthy (who own most of the stock) while undermining the productive capacity of the enterprise.
- The U.S.'s privatized for-profit health care system had long been an international scandal, with twice the per capita expenses of other developed societies and some of the worst outcomes. Neoliberal doctrine struck another blow, introducing business measures of efficiency: just-on-time service with no fat in the system. Any disruption and the system collapses. Much the same is true of the fragile global economic order forged on neoliberal principles. This is the world that Trump inherited, the target of his battering ram. [...] It seems that many Americans would prefer to spend more money as long as it doesn't go to taxes (incidentally killing tens of thousands of people annually). That's a telling indication of the state of American democracy, as people experience it; and from another perspective, of the force of the doctrinal system crafted by business power and its intellectual servants. The neoliberal assault has intensified this pathological element of the national culture, but the roots go much deeper and are illustrated in many ways, a topic very much worth pursuing.
Noam Chomsky: ‘White Supremacy Is a Deep Principle in U.S. Society – and Jews Are Familiar With That’, November 16, 2020 edit
- Interview with Jotam Confino, Noam Chomsky: ‘White Supremacy Is a Deep Principle in U.S. Society – and Jews Are Familiar With That’ (November 16, 2020), Haaretz
- If you look at the birth rate in the U.S. right now, the majority are non-white, you don't have to know the statistics to know what that means. They will lose the white supremacy. The concept of being white is not a race concept, but rather sociological. If you go back, not very far, Jews were not considered white. Neither were the Irish. In late-19th century Boston, you could find signs at restaurants saying “No dogs or Irish.” They gradually became white as they assimilated into the culture, especially when they gained wealth and political power. And that's now happening with the Hispanic population.
- Let's assume Biden goes back to Obama’s policies. Contrary to what many Israelis think, Obama was the most pro-Israel president prior to Trump. He never imposed any demands on Israel. Israel's settlement freeze in 2010 under Obama was a complete farce. And everyone knows it. The Israeli press reported correctly that it had no effect. Instead of building new settlements, they called it expansion.
- There is hope for the Palestinians, but it doesn't lie with Biden, it lies with the public opinion in the U.S., which can't be suppressed forever. If you go back 20 years, the support for Israel would be among liberal democrats. Now it's shifting to evangelicals and ultranationalists. And support for Palestinians is growing among liberals – especially the young ones. Sooner or later that might influence policy.
Working Class History: Everyday Acts of Resistance & Rebellion (2020) edit
- Though the situation has somewhat improved in recent years, our education system does not even come close to adequately reflecting the impact of these movements of ordinary people on our history. One major contribution was Howard Zinn's People's History of the United States and the companion Voices volume, which lifted the veil from central parts of history that had been concealed or sidelined in the standard patriotic versions. But there is a long way to go. In particular, labor history is virtually effaced in the press and the educational system, as well as in the media. Not long ago fine journalists covering the labor movement. Today, almost none. Every newspaper has a business section; none could even imagine a labor section, addressing the interests and concerns of a large majority of the population. Social movements receive cursory attention, usually highly misleading.
- In these tumultuous times, Working Class History: Everyday Acts of Resistance & Rebellion is important, because a functioning democracy requires active citizen participation in setting social policy.
- For now, the critical task is to organize activist popular movements to change popular consciousness and understanding, to shape legislation, and to create facts on the ground: worker-owned industries, cooperatives, and other structures of democratic participation. We can learn a great deal from the long and hard struggles for social justice in past years, and we can and must move forward to build on their achievements and to surpass them. Given the urgency of the crises we face, there is no time to lose.
- Covid-19 has revealed glaring failures and monstrous brutalities in the current capitalist system. It represents both a crisis and an opportunity. Contests for controlling the narratives around the meaning of this pandemic will be the terrain of struggle for either a new, more humane common sense and society or a return to the status quo ante. The outcome of those contests is uncertain; everything depends on the actions that people take into their hands.
- with Marv Waterstone, Consequences of Capitalism: Manufacturing Discontent and Resistance (2021), p. 344
Noam Chomsky, Stephen Krashen (2021), Linguistics, Language Acquisition, Lecture & Interview (June 7, 2021) edit
- Talk with Stephen Krashen and Nabil Belmekki, Noam Chomsky, Stephen Krashen (2021), Linguistics, Language Acquisition, Lecture & Interview (June 7, 2021), Investing Rationally, YouTube
- At one point you talked about the change from language acquisition to language development. And I think that's a very significant idea. Language isn't really learned; it just grows in the mind. It's something that develops naturally, automatically [...]. It's almost like learning to walk. You don't learn to walk, it just comes automatically. At a certain point a child stands up, starts moving, figures it, gets to understand how to distribute your weight. Nobody's taught you this, but, a lot of calculation and computation goes into simply walking down the street. You don't know the rules, you couldn't know the rules, maybe some biologist could figure out what they are. But that's not the way you pick up walking.
Noam Chomsky; Chomsky: Republicans Are Willing to Destroy Democracy to Retake Power, Truthout, (16 June, 2021) edit
- “Critical race theory” is the scare-phrase used for the study of the systematic structural and cultural factors in the hideous 400-year history of slavery and enduring racist repression. Proper indoctrination in schools and universities must ban this heresy. What actually happened for 400 years and is very much alive today must be presented to students as a deviation from the real America, pure and innocent, much as in well-run totalitarian states.
AOC & Noam Chomsky: The Way Forward + transcript (October 28, 2021) edit
- We’ve been living through about 45 years of a particular socio-economic political system, what’s called neoliberalism... The so-called free trade agreements or radically protectionist that we’re seeing that right now in front of our eyes, we see virtual monopoly on drugs. What we’ve really had for the 45 years is what so many economists have called a bail out economy. So it’s one side of class war, markets for the poor, protection for the rich.
- The one-sided class war of the last 40 years is becoming two-sided. The population is actually beginning to participate instead of just accepting the hammer blows. We now are having a huge strike. One of the major strikes in American history, when workers are simply saying, we’re not gonna go back to the rotten, oppressive jobs, precarious, broadens circumstances is novel, we’re just not gonna accept it. And that’s a major factor in the economy now. And yes, it’s a strike and it’s showing up in other ways too, there are, for example, the teacher’s strikes were quite important. These are non-unionized red states, tremendous popular support. When you live in Arizona, where one of them was signs on every lawn, supporting the teachers, not a radical state by any means. They were not just calling for better wages, which they greatly deserve, but for saving the children, saving the public school, public education, which has been under severe attack for 45 years.
- We should recognize that white male supremacy is a deep current in American history. It’s not gonna go away immediately. But there have been dents, significant ones. So for example, even in the mainstream, when the New York Times ran the 1619 Project, it couldn’t have happened a couple of years earlier. And it’s because of changes in general consciousness and awareness. Of course, there was an immediate backlash, strong backlash, and you’re gonna expect that, white male supremacy is a deep part of American history and culture. To extirpate it is not gonna be easy. And, but there are, there’s very significant progress. Plenty of conflict coming. It’s not gonna be an easy struggle.
- The main part of politics is activism and mobilization. ...The fact that mobilization and activism, or the core of politics, there’s very dramatic examples of that, but... The Sunrise Movement is one of the, at the forefront of activism on climate. They got the point of civil disobedience, occupying congressional offices, occupying Nancy Pelosi’s office, demanding change or narrowly, they’d just be thrown out by the Capitol police. They weren’t this time because one person from Congress came and joined them. AOC came to join them. They weren’t thrown out, moved on, that’s what led to Biden’s climate program. Not great, but better than anything before.
Popular activism interacting with supportive people in Congress tend to lead to results. And this is an old lesson, we should learn. It takes a new deal, which greatly improved of the floors, greatly improved American society. How did it come about? Hand-built by a combination of militant labor action, CIO organizing, sit down strikes and a sympathetic administration. That combination is crucial.
Noam Chomsky; Is China Really a Threat? Noam Chomsky Slams Biden For Increasingly Provocative Actions in Region, Democracy Now!, (November 23, 2021) edit
- Biden has pretty much picked up Trump’s foreign policy. He has eliminated some of the more gratuitously savage elements. Like in the case of Palestine, for example, Trump was not satisfied with just giving everything away to Israeli right-wing power—”do what you want”—and offering nothing to the Palestinians, just kicking them in the face. He even had to go beyond that to truly gratuitous savagery like cutting off the lifeline, the UNRWA lifeline, for Palestinians to be able to have at least minimal bare survival in the Israeli punching bag in Gaza. Even that, well, Biden removed those things. Other than that, pretty much followed the same policies.
- The worst case is the increasing provocative actions towards China... there is constant talk about what is called the China threat. You can read it in sober, reasonable, usually reasonable journals, about the terrible China threat, and that we have to move expeditiously to contain and limit the China threat.... What exactly is the China threat? Actually that question is rarely raised here....
the distinguished statesman, former [Australian] Prime Minister Paul Keating, did have an essay in the Australian press about the China threat. He finally concluded realistically that the China threat is China’s existence. The U.S. will not tolerate the existence of a state that cannot be intimidated the way Europe can be, that does not follow U.S. orders the way Europe does but pursues its own course. That is the threat.
When we talk about the threat of China, we’re talking about the alleged threats at China’s borders. China does plenty of wrong things, terrible things. You can make many criticisms. But are they a threat?... they are not a threat.
- Right at the same time as Keating’s article, Australia’s leading military correspondent Brian Toohey, highly knowledgeable, did an assessment of the relative military power of China, in their own region of China and the United States and its allies Japan and Australia. It’s laughable. One U.S. Trident submarine, now being replaced by even more lethal ones — one U.S. submarine can destroy almost 200 cities anywhere in the world with its nuclear weapons. China in the South China Sea has four old noisy submarines which can’t even get out because they’re contained by superior U.S. and Allied Force...
In the face of this, the United States is sending a fleet of nuclear submarines to Australia. That’s the AUKUS deal—the Australia, U.K., United States—which have no strategic purpose whatsoever.
They will not even be in operation for 15 years, but they do incite China almost certainly to build up its lagging military forces, increasing the level of confrontation. There are problems in the South China Sea that can be met with diplomacy and negotiations, the regional powers taking the lead, could go into the details.
But the right measure is not increasing provocation, increasing the threat of an accidental development which could lead to devastating, even Earthly-terminal nuclear war. But that is the direction the Biden administration is following, expansion of the Trump programs. That is the core of their foreign policy programs.
- The pathology of Islamophobia is growing throughout the West — it is taking its most lethal form in India.
- Quoted in "India has turned Muslims into a 'persecuted minority': Noam Chomsky", Dawn, February 12, 2022
- It is sometimes claimed that NATO membership increases security for Poland and others. A much stronger case can be made that NATO membership threatens their security by heightening tensions. Historian Richard Sakwa, a specialist on East Europe, observed that “NATO’s existence became justified by the need to manage threats provoked by its enlargement” — a plausible judgment.
- From "US Approach to Ukraine and Russia Has 'Left the Domain of Rational Discourse'" Truthout (February 4, 2022)
- I’m not criticizing Zelensky; he’s an honorable person and has shown great courage. You can sympathize with his positions. But you can also pay attention to the reality of the world. And that’s what it implies. I’ll go back to what I said before: there are basically two options. One option is to pursue the policy we are now following, to quote Ambassador Freeman again, to fight Russia to the last Ukrainian. And yes, we can pursue that policy with the possibility of nuclear war. Or we can face the reality that the only alternative is a diplomatic settlement, which will be ugly—it will give Putin and his narrow circle an escape hatch. It will say, Here’s how you can get out without destroying Ukraine and going on to destroy the world. We know the basic framework is neutralization of Ukraine, some kind of accommodation for the Donbas region, with a high level of autonomy, maybe within some federal structure in Ukraine, and recognizing that, like it or not, Crimea is not on the table. You may not like it, you may not like the fact that there’s a hurricane coming tomorrow, but you can’t stop it by saying, “I don’t like hurricanes,” or “I don’t recognize hurricanes.” That doesn’t do any good. And the fact of the matter is, every rational analyst knows that Crimea is, for now, off the table. That’s the alternative to the destruction of Ukraine and nuclear war. You can make heroic statements, if you’d like, about not liking hurricanes, or not liking the solution. But that’s not doing anyone any good.
- Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III, Current Affairs (April 13, 2022)
- I think that support for Ukraine’s effort to defend itself is legitimate. If it is, of course, it has to be carefully scaled, so that it actually improves their situation and doesn’t escalate the conflict, to lead to destruction of Ukraine and possibly beyond sanctions against the aggressor, or appropriate just as sanctions against Washington would have been appropriate when it invaded Iraq, or Afghanistan, or many other cases. […] However, I still think it’s not quite the right question. The right question is: What is the best thing to do to save Ukraine from a grim fate, from further destruction? And that’s to move towards a negotiated settlement.
- There are two ways for a war to end: One way is for one side or the other to be basically destroyed. And the Russians are not going to be destroyed. So that means one way is for Ukraine to be destroyed. The other way is some negotiated settlement. If there’s a third way, no one’s ever figured it out.
- Noam Chomsky and Jeremy Scahill on the Russia-Ukraine War, the Media, Propaganda, and Accountability The Intercept (April 14, 2022).
- Putin’s invasion of Ukraine was clearly provoked while the U.S. invasion of Iraq was clearly unprovoked. That is exactly the opposite of standard commentary and reporting. But it is also exactly the norm of wartime propaganda, not just in the U.S., though it is more instructive to observe the process in free societies. Many feel that it is wrong to bring up such matters, even a form of pro-Putin propaganda: we should, rather, focus laser-like on Russia’s ongoing crimes. Contrary to their beliefs, that stand does not help Ukrainians. It harms them.
- Interview with C.J. Polychroniou, "Noam Chomsky: Propaganda Wars Are Raging as Russia’s War on Ukraine Expands", Truthout, 28 April, 2022
- [When asked if “Ukrainians have the right to fight to death before surrendering any territory to Russia"?] To my knowledge, no one has suggested that Ukrainians don’t have that right. Islamic Jihad also has the abstract right to fight to the death before surrendering any territory to Israel. I wouldn’t recommend it, but it’s their right.
- Interview with C.J. Polychroniou, "Chomsky: US Is Prioritizing Its Jockeying With Russia, Not Ukrainians’ Lives", Truthout.org, May 4, 2022
- Well in the Western propaganda system, what we hear is Ukrainian people want more and more arms. That's the U.S. and British propaganda system. If we look at what’s happening, Zelensky, who’s as much of a voice of the Ukrainian people as we have any idea about, has repeatedly, repeatedly called for a political settlement... That’s what you don’t hear in the U.S.-British propaganda system.
- Interview with Owen Jones, "Noam Chomsky on Ukraine and nuclear armageddon", (May 11, 2022)
- I have never once “rationalized” the invasion [of Ukraine] or hinted at any such thing. In fact, I’ve condemned it... and I’ve emphasize[d] the truism -- repeat TRUISM -- that presenting background is not justification.
- Noam Chomsky, “The Ukraine War: Chomsky Responds”, Counterpunch, June 3, 2022.
- The United States Department [sic] acknowledged that they had not taken Russian security concerns into consideration in any discussions with Russia. The question of NATO, they would not discuss. Well, all of that is provocation. Not a justification, but a provocation. And it's quite interesting that in American discourse, it is almost obligatory to refer to the invasion as the 'unprovoked invasion of Ukraine'. Look it up on Google. You will find hundreds of thousands of hits. Of course, it was provoked. Otherwise, they wouldn't refer to it all the time as an unprovoked invasion.
- By now, censorship in the United States has reached such a level beyond anything in my lifetime. Such a level that you are not permitted to read the Russian position. Literally. Americans are not allowed to know what the Russians are saying. Except, selected things. So, if Putin makes a speech to Russians with all kinds of outlandish claims about Peter the Great and so on, then, you see it on the front pages. If the Russians make an offer for a negotiation, you can't find it. That's suppressed. You're not allowed to know what they are saying. I have never seen a level of censorship like this.
- Interview with Ramzy Baroud, "‘Rationality Is Not Permitted’: Chomsky On Russia, Ukraine And The Price Of Media Censorship – OpEd, Eurasia Review, (June 27, 2022).
- Take the United States today, it is living under a kind of totalitarian culture which has never existed in my lifetime and is much worse in many ways than the Soviet Union before Gorbachev. Go back to the 1970s. People in Soviet Russia could access BBC, Voice of America, German Television, if they wanted to find out the news. If today, in the United States, you want to find out what Prime Minister Lavrov of Russia is saying, can't do it. It's barred. Americans are not permitted to hear what Russians are saying. Can’t get Russian television, can’t access Russian sources. That means also that fine American journalists like Chris Hedges, one of the best, is cut out, barred from Americans, because he happens to have a program running on RT…. the United States has imposed constraints on freedom of access to information which are astonishing and, which in fact, go beyond what was the case in post-Stalin Soviet Russia. That’s just a remarkable fact…. Anyone who dares to break the party line on the dominant issue of today, Ukraine, is simply demonized, vilified. Can’t be sent to the gulag— free country, still— but you can barely talk…
- We Are F*cked”, Interview with Russell Brand, (July 22, 2022).
- Right now, if you’re a respectable writer, you want to write in the main journals, you have to talk about the Russian invasion of Ukraine. You have to call it the ‘unprovoked’ Russia invasion of Ukraine. It’s a very interesting phrase. It was never used before. You look back at Iraq, which was totally unprovoked, nobody ever called it the unprovoked invasion of Iraq. In fact, I don’t know if the term was ever used. If it was it was very marginal. Now, you look it up on google, hundreds of thousands of hits. Every article that comes out has to talk about the unprovoked invasion of Ukraine. Why? Because they know perfectly well it was provoked.
- Interview with Katie Halper and Aaron Maté, "Noam Chomsky: We're Repeating Afghanistan in Ukraine", Useful idiots, (August 22, 2022).
- Well, who's to blame? Any power that commits aggression is to blame. So I continue to say, as I have been for many months, that the invasion, Putin's invasion of Ukraine is on a par with such acts of aggression as the US invasion of Iraq, the Stalin-Hitler invasion of Poland, other acts of supreme international crime... under international law, correction. Of course he's to blame.
- When interviewer Lex Fridman asks "Why did Russia invade Ukraine on February 24th? Who do you think is to blame? Who do you place the blame on?"
Interview by Piers Morgan, June 5, 2023. edit
- There is no indication that China is planning to invade Taiwan. If the United States increases the escalation, they might do it.
- The US is now trying to enlist Europe in its confrontation with China by expanding NATO.
- You put nuclear-capable B-52s in flying distance to China with nuclear-tipped cruise missiles, that’s provocation.
- China, remember, is faced with security problems at every border. The United States is faced with no security problems.
- When we talk about [Chinese] economic imperialism, exactly what are we referring to? We’re referring to investment in development programs throughout Eurasia, spanning to Africa, spanning even to Latin America.
- China is by no means saintly. Plenty of criticisms you can make of China. But I would like to describe the world situation as it is, not as it’s presented by US-British propaganda.
- What is Critical Race Theory? Does anybody know? Critical Race Theory is a slogan invented by the right wing… If you want to know what Critical Race Theory actually is, it’s a small academic discipline which suggests, which investigates systematic elements of racism in American [unitelligible]. It certainly exists. It’s never reached the schools. School’s wouldn’t even know what it is. This is invented by the right wing, exactly as [Christopher] Ruffo stated, to refer to everything [they] hate and want to destroy, like teaching American history, like teaching gender issues… But it’s a small academic discipline which no one ever heard of until it was picked up, primarily by Ruffo, then expanded through the Republican echo chamber…
Quotes about Noam Chomsky 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.
- Noam Chomsky's pessimism, "neither history nor psychology nor sociology gives us any particular reason to look forward with hope to the rule of the new mandarins," may be excessive; there are as yet no historical precedents, and the scientists and intellectuals who, with such deplorable regularity, have been found willing to serve every government that happened to be in power, have been no "meritocrats" but, rather, social climbers. But Chomsky is entirely right in raising the question: "Quite generally, what grounds are there for supposing that those whose claim to power is based on knowledge and technique will be more benign in their exercise of power than those whose claim is based on wealth or aristocratic origin?" (Op. cit., p. 27.)
- Hannah Arendt Crises of the Republic (1972)
- 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.
- We spent many nights in the basement that contained the Ole Mole machinery, getting the paper out and hanging out in Noam Chomsky's MIT office, talking for hours. Noam was only forty years old then, but seemed a wise sage with vast knowledge beyond his academic field of linguistics. He provided concrete historical examples of how we might organize for a new society-the Spanish anarchist collectives of the 1930s and the Jewish kibbutz movement in Palestine before the establishment of the state of Israel.
- Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz Outlaw Woman (2001)
- […] Whether willingly or unwillingly, [Chomsky’s] interviews insinuate that Ukrainians are fighting with Russians because the US instigated them to do so, that Euromaidan happened because the US tried to detach Ukraine from the Russian sphere of influence, etc. Such an attitude denies the agency of Ukraine and is a slap in the face to millions of Ukrainians who are risking their lives for the desire to live in a free country. Simply put, have you [Chomsky] considered the possibility that Ukrainians would like to detach from the Russian sphere of influence due to a history of genocide, cultural oppression, and constant denial of the right to self-determination?
- Yuriy Gorodnichenko, “Open Letter to Noam Chomsky (and other like-minded intellectuals) on the Russia-Ukraine war”, May 19, 2022.
- Turning Ukraine into something like Mexico sounds like a good idea. But this is a false comparison [made by Chomsky]. Putin’s goals for Ukraine are not to “turn it into something like Mexico”; his goals are destruction of the Ukrainian state and genocide of Ukrainians, as evidenced, for instance by the quoted article “What Russia should do with Ukraine” from the Russian official press agency…. If Russia’s stated goals are not enough to convince you [Chomsky], consider their realized actions. By now, Russia has deported more than 1.5 million people to its Asian parts, killed thousands of people (probably you have seen images from Bucha; other places are even worse), in the occupied territories people are abducted and tortured. In addition, Russia forces Ukrainian teachers to adopt Russian school programs in the occupied areas. How does this correspond to “turning Ukraine into Mexico”?
- Yuriy Gorodnichenko, Bohdan Kukharskyy, Anastassia Fedyk and Ilona Sologoub, “The Ukraine War: Chomsky Responds”, Counterpunch, June 3, 2022.
- 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.
- 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.
- Its power to write its own laws and regulations, Chomsky points out, has ultimately created a mafia economic system and a mafia political system that is exemplified in the rise to power of the demagogue Donald Trump.
- Chris Hedges, quoted by Bill Moyers in In His New Book, Noam Chomsky Takes a Look at Income Inequality, (11 May 2017)
- [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.
- 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.
- Christopher Hitchens, For the Sake of Argument ("The 'We' Fallacy"), February 1988.
- I was apprehensive from the first moment [following the 9/11 attacks] about the sort of masochistic email traffic that might start circulating from the Noam Chomsky-Howard Zinn-Norman Finkelstein quarter, and I was not to be disappointed…. It is something worse than idle to propose the very trade-offs that may have been lodged somewhere in the closed-off minds of the mass-murderers. The people of Gaza live under curfew and humiliation and expropriation. This is notorious. Very well: does anyone suppose that an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza would have forestalled the slaughter in Manhattan? It would take a moral cretin to suggest anything of the sort; the cadres of the new jihad make it very apparent that their quarrel is with Judaism and secularism on principle, not with (or not just with) Zionism… What they abominate about "the west", to put it in a phrase, is not what western liberals don't like and can't defend about their own system, but what they do like about it and must defend: its emancipated women, its scientific inquiry, its separation of religion from the state. Loose talk about chickens coming home to roost is the moral equivalent of the hateful garbage emitted by Falwell and Robertson, and exhibits about the same intellectual content.
- In Chomsky’s reading, one must learn to sift through the inevitable propaganda and emotion resulting from the September 11 attacks, and lend an ear to the suppressed and distorted cry for help that comes, not from the victims, but from the perpetrators.
- A year ago it would have been possible to notice the same thing that strikes the eye today: Chomsky’s already train-wrecked syllogisms seem to entail the weird and sinister assumption that bin Laden is a ventriloquist for thwarted voices of international justice.
- It is untrue that Chomsky’s support for Johnstone was limited to her “right to free speech”. An open letter signed by Chomsky describes Johnstone’s book in the following terms: “We regard Johnstone’s Fools’ Crusade as an outstanding work, dissenting from the mainstream view but doing so by an appeal to fact and reason, in a great tradition.” In his own open letter on Johnstone’s book, to which he refers in his letter to the Guardian of November 2, Chomsky states: “I have known her for many years, have read the book, and feel that it is quite serious and important… Johnstone argues – and, in fact, clearly demonstrates – that a good deal of what has been charged has no basis in fact, and much of it is pure fabrication.” Conversely, nowhere does Chomsky express the slightest disagreement with anything that Johnstone’s book says (except perhaps in the Brockes interview, which he has repudiated). This goes beyond support for Johnstone’s right to free speech, and amounts to an endorsement of her arguments.
- It is untrue that Chomsky has been as unambiguous in his recognition of the Srebrenica massacre as he now claims. Since the appearance of Johnstone’s book in 2002, Chomsky has spoken of Serb forces as having “apparently slaughtered” Muslims in Srebrenica and of the thousands of dead as mere “estimates”; has described the killings as Serb “retaliation” for alleged Muslim crimes against Serbs; and has compared Serb behaviour at Srebrenica favourably with US behaviour in Iraq. In the very same open letter to which he refers in his letter to the Guardian, he described the crime of Srebrenica as “much lesser” than Indonesian crimes in East Timor in 1999, even though he estimates the latter as involving only 5,000 to 6,000 civilian casualties….
- Marko Attila Hoare, et al. "Protest to the Guardian Over ‘Correction’ to Noam Chomsky Interview". 8 December, 2005. Republished by Balkan Insight. 11 September, 2007.
- I do not mean to suggest that linguists have all adopted Chomsky's views. They are still controversial, and he would be the first to acknowledge that they are subject to revision in the light of further evidence. Linguists who reject Chomsky's ideas, however, are trying to offer alternatives or to go beyond Chomsky. They are not turning back to Saussure. My point is not that Chomsky is right but that Saussure and Lacan are wrong.
- Norman N. Holland, The Critical I (1992), Columbia University Press ISBN 0-231-07650-9, Chapter 30, "Lacan" pp. 192-208
- They started by referencing the Doomsday Clock (Science and Security Board Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists), which has pegged humanity’s risk of annihilation at an all-time high of only 100 seconds to midnight. Chomsky feels we’re actually closer to midnight than that. For example, his opinion is influenced by information in a leaked draft of the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) upcoming report...
- With regard to nuclear weapons, the situation is far more dangerous than the last Doomsday Clock report. New weapons systems under development are much more effectively dangerous. The Biden administration, expanding upon Trump’s confrontational approach, has Chomsky at a loss for words to describe the danger at hand. Only recently, Biden met with NATO leaders and instructed them to plan on two wars, China and Russia. According to Chomsky: “This is beyond insanity.” Not only that, the group is carrying out provocative acts when diplomacy is really needed. This is an extraordinarily dangerous situation.
- According to Chomsky, the Doomsday Clock setting at 100 seconds to midnight is based upon: (1) global warming (2) nuclear war and (3) disinformation, or the collapse of any kind of rational discourse. As such, number three makes it impossible to deal with the first two major problems. Along those lines, within the Republican Party there’s virtually a disappearance of any pretense of rational discourse. Twenty-five (25%) percent of Republicans believe the government is run by an elite satanic group of pedophiles. Seventy percent (70%) of Republicans believe that the election was stolen. Only fifteen percent (15%) of Republicans believe that global warming is a serious problem. Therein lies an insurmountable problem to solving the main issues that continually tick the clock ever closer to a disaster scenario that will likely be unprecedented in the annals of warfare and environmental degradation. As a result, Chomsky says: “We’re living in a world of total illusion and fantasy.” Accordingly, “Unless this is dealt with soon, it’ll be impossible to deal with the two major issues within the time span that we have available, which is not very long.”
- When I learned that I had been awarded the Sydney Peace Price for my climate work, I was incredibly honored. This is a prize that has gone to some of my personal heroes-Arundhati Roy, Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Desmond Tutu, among so many others. It's a very nice tribe to be a part of.
- Naomi Klein On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal (2019)
- Noam Chomsky argued that those who remain unvaccinated [from Covid] should be segregated, saying that obtaining food after they had "the decency to remove themselves from the community" was "their problem."
- Asher Notheis, Noam Chomsky: Unvaccinated should 'remove themselves from the community,' access to food 'their problem', Washington Examiner, 26 October 2021
- Chomsky claims that Herman and he were exclusively concerned with demonstrating the “systematic bias” in the Western media and that they did not give their “views concerning the Pol Pot regime”. But this is untrue, as any reader of the book [After the Cataclysm] can attest. It advanced a clear thesis about what it was plausible to believe had happened in Pol Pot’s Cambodia. That thesis goes well beyond the self-evident truths that the US bombing was one major precondition for what occurred… It asserts that... “the deaths in Cambodia were not the result of systematic slaughter and starvation organized by the state but rather attributable in large measure to peasant revenge, undisciplined military units out of government control, starvation and disease that are direct consequences of the US war, or other such factors”
- What then are we to think of Chomsky’s suggestions that the deaths in Cambodia were “attributable in large measure to peasant revenge, undisciplined military units out of government control, starvation and disease that are direct consequences of the United States war, or other such factors”, […] There is only one possible thing to think: that Chomsky has become so obsessed by his opposition to the United States’ role in Indochina but [sic] he has lost all sense of perspective. His argument is a case of massive overkill, discrediting reliable and responsible observers and scholars, and converting the truth that the United States was indirectly responsible into the lie that it was directly so.
- Steven Lukes, "Chomsky's Betrayal of Truths", Times Higher Education Supplement, 7 November, 1980, p. 31
- … disparate scholars, the liberal Cohen, realist Mearsheimer, and the “radical” Chomsky deserve the accolades bestowed on them, and yet they share a something in common that unsettles me, and should unsettle us all… Each of these notable figures has asserted that Zelensky was elected on a “peace platform” in 2019, and his failure to implement this “mandate” to end the Russo-Ukrainian war was because threats from the far right made him reverse his position. The problem is that this is not true… The platform, which is rarely consulted, explicitly debunks the narrative that Zelensky betrayed his “peace platform” in taking a no concessions stance because he was threatened by the far right… Chomsky helps to clarify and summarize all this. He says the “crucial point is the whether the program on which he was elected states that territories can’t be surrendered.” If so, “it should indeed be made public.” It has been difficult to make public because intellectual giants like Cohen, Mearsheimer, Chomsky, and now a celebrity singer/songwriter, have circulated the assertion that the far-right assassination threat caused the formation of Zelensky’s no concessions stance.
- Carl Mirra. "Is Zelensky Afraid Of Far Right? Chomsky Says His Peace Platform ‘Should Be Made Public…For The First Time’" .19 September, 2022.
- Chomsky treats the battle against fascism as a battle for moral purity than can be won when the left remain respectful, polite, and deferent. But fascists have no interest in winning that battle. They don't care about respecting free speech or the right to a fair trial; they've openly declared their murderous intent towards people of colour (and other undesirables) and they'll pursue that goal by any means necessary. In this context, physical resistance is a duty, an act of self-defence, not an unsightly outpost of leftist moral decline. What's more - it works. From the Battle of Cable Street in 1936 to similar confrontations in Lewisham and Wood Green in London in 1977, physical resistance has time and again protected local populations from racist violence, and prevented a gathering caucus of fascists from making further inroads into mainstream politics.
- Eleanor Penny about Chomsky's comments on the 2017 Charlottesville car attack, quoted in Noam Chomsky: Antifa is a 'major gift to the right' by Maya Oppenheim, 22 August 2017, The Independent
- I am a survivor of the Omarska concentration camp. As such I was shocked by some of the views of Noam Chomsky in the article by Emma Brockes. Chomsky describes the revisionist work of a journalist, Diana Johnstone, on the camps and events at Srebrenica 1995… Mr Chomsky has the audacity to claim that Living Marxism was "probably right" to claim the pictures ITN took on that fateful August afternoon in 1992 - a visit which has made it possible for me to be writing this letter 13 years later - were false. This is an insult not only to those who saved my life, but to survivors like myself. Ed Vulliamy, Penny Marshall and Ian Williams were the first foreign witnesses to the existence of the camps at Omarska and Trnopolje, where Bosnian Muslims and Croats were incarcerated, tortured and executed in a manner that merits no justification. [Chomsky’s] saying that Vulliamy "happened to be caught up in a story which is probably not true" has the effect of excusing these crimes. And because I was incarcerated in Omarska in August 1992, when Vulliamy arrived there, I guess I am also a liar…
- Kemal Pervanic. "Falling out over Srebrenica". The Guardian. 2 November, 2005.
- Even before this book [Cambodia Year Zero] was translated it was sharply criticized by Mr. Noam Chomsky... and Mr. Gareth Porter.... These two 'experts' on Asia claim that I am mistakenly trying to convince people that Cambodia was drowned in a sea of blood after the departure of the last American diplomats. They say there have been no massacres, and they lay the blame for the tragedy of the Khmer people on the American bombings. They accuse me of being insufficiently critical in my approach to the refugee's accounts. For them, refugees are not a valid source... it is surprising to see that 'experts' who have spoken to few if any refugees should reject their very significant place in any study of modern Cambodia. These experts would rather base their arguments on reasoning: if something seems impossible to their personal logic, then it doesn't exist. Their only sources for evaluation are deliberately chosen official statements. Where is that critical approach which they accuse others of not having?
- 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.
- Milan Rai, Chomsky's Politics, 1995.
- 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.
- Noam Chomsky takes issue with my criticism of his one-dimensional focus on what he sees as America’s nefarious role in the world. If Chomsky had entitled his book “America’s Evil History,” I would have accepted his exclusive focus. However, he entitled it “Who Rules the World?” yet goes on to write as if the United States is virtually alone as the cause of all the world’s problems.
- As for Michael Meeropol, I agree with his point (and said so in my review) that Americans have a special responsibility to press their government to act in more principled and defensible ways. That has rightly been a longtime concern of Chomsky. However, by dwelling on only the negative, his latest book leaves the impression that America can do no good—that withdrawal and isolationism are the best we can hope for. […] I do not accept that implicit prescription. Given the enormous evil done by some other nations, and the proven capacity of the United States sometimes to mitigate that harm, I would have preferred a more holistic and nuanced assessment of America’s part in the world. That would help readers understand not only how to deter American misconduct but also how to encourage positive American conduct. We need to do both.
- There are many Americans who would be mortified to be associated with their government's policies. The most scholarly, scathing, incisive, hilarious critiques of the hypocrisy and the contradictions in U.S. government policy come from American citizens. When the rest of the world wants to know what the U.S. government is up to, we turn to Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Howard Zinn, Ed Herman, Amy Goodman, Michael Albert, Chalmers Johnson, William Blum, and Anthony Arnove to tell us what's really going on.
- Arundhati Roy War Talk (2003)
- Witnessing such a sorry state of affairs is by no means a monotonous, monochromatic activity. It involves what Foucault once called “a relentless erudition,” scouring alternative sources, exhuming buried documents, reviving forgotten (or abandoned) histories. It involves a sense of the dramatic and of the insurgent, making a great deal of one's rare opportunities to speak. There is something profoundly unsettling about an intellectual such as Chomsky who has neither an office to protect nor territory to consolidate and guard. There is no dodging the inescapable reality that such representations by intellectuals will neither make them friends in high places nor win them official honors. It is a lonely condition, yes, but it is always a better one than a gregarious tolerance for the way things are.
- Edward Said, Foreword to Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians, Updated Edition (1999)
- 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.
- I do not agree in any way with those who accuse Chomsky of sympathizing with Khmer Rouge, although I find [Chomsky’s] parallel between Cambodia after the KR takeover and France liberated in 1944 very problematic. Did de Gaulle after the liberation of Paris order its complete evacuation? Did his government reorganize entire social life into collective communes run by military commanders? Did it close down schools? If anything, de Gaulle's first government was way too tolerant…
- I agree that one should approach reports on humanitarian crises or genocidal violence in Western media with a great measure of skepticism: they are as a rule heavily biased due to political and economic interests. However, although Chomsky claims he doesn’t pretend to know what actually went on in Cambodia, the bias of his own description is obvious: his sympathies lies with those who try to minimize and relativize Khmer Rouge atrocities.... And it is this bias which displays Chomsky’s ideology in selecting and ordering data, what he downplays and what he emphasizes, not only in the case of Cambodia but also in the case of post-Yugoslav war (his downplaying of the Srebrenica massacre), etc.... With regard to Chomsky, I claim that his bias sometimes leads him to selections of facts and conclusions which obfuscate the complex reality he is trying to analyze.
- Today we know that the accusations against the KR regime were mainly true. Chomsky’s answer would probably have been that such heavy accusations have to be grounded in precise empirical facts, and that in the case of Cambodia back in the late 1970s such facts were sorely missing. While there is some truth in this claim (especially with regard to the devastation caused earlier in Cambodia by the US Army), I have again some problems with it. There is a thin line that separates justified doubt about media reports from comfortable skepticism which allows us to ignore or downplay atrocities. One can easily imagine a similar line of argumentation in the late 1930s about the Nazi atrocities or the Stalinist purges: we don’t have enough reliable data, we should not pretend to know what really goes on in these countries, so it is advisable to doubt Western press reports...
- […] what today, in the predominant Western public speech, the "Human Rights of the Third World suffering victims" effectively mean is the right of the Western powers themselves to intervene—politically, economically, culturally, militarily—in the Third World countries of their choice on behalf of the defense of Human Rights. My disagreement with Chomsky’s political analyses lies elsewhere: his neglect of how ideology works, as well as the problematic nature of his biased dealing with facts which often leads him to do what he accuses his opponents of doing.
- Slavoj Zizek, "Some Bewildered Clarifications: A Response to Noam Chomsky", Versobooks.com, July 25, 2013.
- Censorship is never over for those who have experienced it. It is a brand on the imagination that affects the individual who has suffered it, forever.
- Nadine Gordimer Telling Times 472. (See The Quotable Chomsky.)
- Our ignorance can be divided into problems and mysteries. When we face a problem, we may not know its solution, but we have insight, increasing knowledge, and an inkling of what we are looking for. When we face a mystery, however, we can only stare in wonder and bewilderment, not knowing what an explanation would even look like.
- Steven Pinker How the Mind Works, explaining Chomsky's position. (See The Quotable Chomsky).
See also edit
- chomsky.info (official website)
- Noam Chomsky at MIT
- Noam Chomsky at DMOZ
- Noam Chomsky articles on libcom.org
- Noam Chomsky at Democracy Now!
- Column archive at The Guardian
- Articles and videos featuring Noam Chomsky at AnarchismToday.org
- Interviews and articles
- Noam Chomsky on Where Artificial Intelligence Went Wrong interviewed by Yarden Katz in The Atlantic
- Talks by Noam Chomsky at Radio4all.net
- Interview about Human Rights (English with French subtitles, 2009)
- Chomsky media files at the Internet Archive
- Noam Chomsky interviewed by Alyssa McDonald in New Statesman (September 2010)
- Noam Chomsky Interviews at The Real News (TRNN)
- Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance – discussion on the "Bush doctrine" and its implications, C-SPAN (February 2004)
- Philosophies of Language & Politics – talk at The Commonwealth Club (October 2009)