Chomsky - Prophet or Loon?

I’ve started to watch a series of documentaries about Noam Chomsky. From the clips from various lectures that they’re showing, he seems to really tell things like they are and has a pretty good way of stating his platform such that it seems quite obvious in hindsight.

Then I talk to people who say he’s a looney. Not sure why, because he doesn’t really say anything offensive or anything I’ve thus far encountered that’s far off base. is, btw, a nice source of his lectures and video material. Just got done watching “Manufacturing Consent” and can’t say I found much to disagree with in it.

I don’t know enough to give any details, but I believe his politics are very left-leaning. Possibly extremely so. So people on the opposite end of the spectrum are going to call him a nut, because those are the RULES.

Is the documentary you mention on television?


Next question.


More than left-leaning, he is very anti-imperialist, and because he equates Israel with Western imperialism people get offended.

He’s basically the anti-neocon–

Anything the U.S., or the West in general tries to do in the world is greedy and imperialistic, even if we attempt to disguise it with good intentions. Western-dominated international institutions exist in order to further enrich the west and cement their power by impoverishing the rest of the world.

It’s on “internet television”

If he’s way over in the left, he’s the most libertarian lefty I’ve ever seen though.

Here’s how I perceive Chomsky’s stance: We and all other countries decided how we’re going to run our nations. Stir in some big business and the power of money. Now, we have to sustain our goals and way of life, which is often incompatible with those of other nations. Sometimes we put smaller countries to unfortunate use as pawns in our games against our opponents, and cry foul and shame when they do the same to us - but nobody apologises to the little guys for using their countries as our battlefields. The USA, like all other countries, looks out for its own interests and often does so at others’ expense, but the media and government are very much in the business of chanting a smokescreen of “Freedom freedom rah rah rah!” mixed with “You should be very afraid” in order to keep us blind and watching NFL Monday Night Football instead of paying attention to anything that matters - because the population of a democracy is often hesitant to be aggressive in their own interests, even when it’s required to ensure our standard of living.

That’s pretty much what I take from his comments.

I don’t know if he’s a loon, but the episode of Bullshit that he’s in makes him look like he just makes crap up.

Forming an opinion on Chomsky from an episode of Bullshit is bullshit.

I’m no expert on Chomsky so I’ll leave it for more informed people to fight this out. I will say this from what I have seen, he’s a very smug fellow with very strong, inflexible, ideas about the unhealthy aspects of role of the United States in history. In fact, he strikes me as a guy who’d respond “no” in the “have you ever changed your mind about anything” thread we had going. That said, I think he’s got some very constructive things to say which more often than not seem to have some basis in fact. His observations, as I recall them, about the origins of al Qaida in our own foriegn policies was pretty refreshing back in 2001 and 2002 compared to the frenetic Oz-like flagwaving going on everywhere else. “Don’t look at the man behind the curtain. This is a war of Good and Evil. Question it and you’re Evil yourself!”

When reading or listening to Chomsky I tend to have quite a bit of salt on hand but I don’t stop listening necessarily. Where he gets a very bad rap isn’t necessarily from right wingers shooting him down but folks on the left trying to look less liberal. Cutting on Chomsky was the automatic “Sister Soulja” move of middle-left folks before there was a Michael Moore to disparage. “Well, it’s not like I’m some Chomsky-reading, loafer-wearing, cappuchino-drinking liberal! I don’t like Chomsky so I must be a moderate!” And I tend to think not many of them have even read him. Another problem with Chomsky’s rep is that many folks who do take him to heart are also as judgmental and inflexible as Chomsky himself with an additional helping of annoying shrillness.

The biggest problem I have with Chomsky is that, for a guy who really developed the mathematical basis for grammar computing, his arguments and thoughts on politics lack any sort of rigor.

In other words, his logic is full of holes.

I tried reading an essay of his. I lost track of the number of flaws in his reasoning by the time I got to the third paragraph.

He’s interesting as a linguist, and significant in that regard. His political views, while probably noble, are a mess. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him quoted saying anything positive about anything or anyone.

So if you were talking someone who probably should have read some Chomsky years ago, what would you recommend that they read in order to begin forming an opinion?

My brother is a big fan of Chomsky, and he gave me this book and told me I should read it if I wanted to understand Chomsky.

Chomsky for Beginners

Why bother buying a whole book? Just read the paper, see what America(as the frontman for Western capitalist imperialism) has done lately, and say to yourself “They should not have done that.”

IX- I’ve never heard him described as a “libertarian” before. What I’ve read of his certainly isn’t very libertarian. Could you provide an example?

I’ve never bothered to read his stuff because he smells like a crank. Plus his Kosovo opinions are just bizarre:

Scarcely had the dust settled on NATO’s 1999 bombing of Serbia when prolific political commentator Noam Chomsky brought out The New Military Humanism, which raises incisive, unsettling questions about the motives of the United States and England–the two most vocal proponents of Operation Allied Forces–and the efficacy of their handiwork. Chomsky pulls together much damning evidence, including testimony from the military commander who led the attack, to demonstrate that the assault was not intended to bring an end to Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic’s “ethnic cleansing” of the disputed territory in Kosovo; it seems very likely, in fact, that President Bill Clinton and Prime Minister Tony Blair knew full well that their actions would ultimately exacerbate the situation. Chomsky also points out that if the United States was genuinely concerned with ending the horrors of genocide, its continued financial and military support of repressive regimes in countries like Turkey and Indonesia is at the very least extremely puzzling. (The New Military Humanism was written and published before the international community decided in September 1999 to intervene in East Timor, which had been subject to Indonesian occupation for over 20 years.) Ultimately, Chomsky suggests, such contradictions exist because what the United States claims to be a “humanitarian” mission is–no matter how glowingly the mass media portrays it–nothing more than American muscle flexing. “The contempt of the world’s leading power for the framework of world order,” he concludes, “has become so extreme that there is little left to discuss.”

Chomsky = Koontz

That pretty much sums it up for me.

Forming an opinion on Chomsky from an episode of Bullshit is bullshit.[/quote]

Think before you quote, I didn’t give an opinion on Chonsky, just said he looked like a fool on the show.

That’s not an opinion?

No, it’s a fact. I don’t think you’ll find any takers for the “he didn’t look like a fool” choice. Bullshit! uses creative editing a lot of the time to get their point across.

In my experience Chomsky is very much worth reading, and I haven’t seen the sort of logical contradiction Rimbo mentions in anything I’ve read of his. Many may not agree with his politics or ideals, but IMHO he does a good job of factually supporting his position, and I’ve never seen anyone be able to knock his points down. He is mind numbingly well informed, if rather sure of himself.

All the people I’ve met who think he’s a crank or a loon have admitted that they haven’t read much if any of his writing. His Kosovo opinions seemed bizarre at first to me too, but he uncovered things I hadn’t known that changed my opinion and left me wondering – e.g. the “testimony from the military commander who led the attack” in Jason’s quote from the Amazon abstract.

Oh, and the Chomsky = Koontz association is unfounded. That’s basically slander. ;-)

“Creative editing?” Yeah… I like the way that works!

BTW, “looks like” is a subjective statement, which is opinion, not fact.

I haven’t seen Bullshit! But any work that sets out to make someone who is widely viewed as one of the finest intellectuals of our time is highly suspect. And anyone who dismisses Chomsy as a “fool” or a “crank” is – in the words of my friend Ben – a retarded idiot. Doing so without actually reading him, well, that’s even lower.