Saturday, July 26, 2008

AGAINST CHOMSKY


AGAINST CHOMSKY
by Denis G. Rancourt
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Chomsky invites us to peer into the functioning of the superpower and provides analyses and predictive descriptions of complex societal phenomena such as war, the US military economy, and continental-scale corporate predation. Using institutional and media and geopolitical analyses, Chomsky illustrates golden rules such as that an organization will never work against itself and unravels relationships between domestic interests, class divisions, and global pillaging.
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As a professor at MIT, is Chomsky an exception to the rule or does Chomsky work for the man?
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Chomsky once challenged the US war machine at its root and went to jail for his activism, an activism tied to a strong campus anti-war movement. But after jail and after Vietnam, Chomsky became a non-activist intellectual engaged in analytical penetration of the monster.
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In debating Chomsky in 1971, Foucault stated [1]:
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“One knows … that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class. … It seems to me that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.”
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Chomsky, from his position of power within MIT, has not done this. One can say that that is a question of personal choice; that one needs to “choose one’s battles”. But is this choice informed, in terms of action that creates justice – which liberates, rather than reinforces the murderous machine that Chomsky describes?
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No, it is not. Chomsky feeds our need for truth by providing analysis, an intellectual framework that resides in inaction. Chomsky appeases First World cerebral wanderers by giving them their fix, thereby locking them into either cynicism or a non-ending quest to mentalize it all while being disconnected from any real battle. Chomsky feeds the false notion that one can understand the world and one’s place in it and oneself by reading books.
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While this may not be Chomsky’s intent, it is clear that the great majority of Chomsky readers have never put themselves at significant risk by confronting the madness that rules our lives and that is destroying every region of the planet. It is clear that most Chomsky readers don’t read Chomsky as part of a necessary reflection within a high-risk activist battle, within a praxis of change [2, 3, 4].
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Among activist readers Chomsky mainly serves to deepen the pathological pacifism of neutralized mainstream movements. This is mainly because almost all First World activists are of the latter variety [4] but Chomsky does not challenge us to step out. Instead, Chomsky feeds the disconnected and ailing trapped intellectual, the lost soul who has been socialized to study as a “first step” rather than to first feel and stand based on primordial impulse.
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Education as a “first step” constrains us to study and precludes action until an “understanding” is sufficiently complete, in a manner not unlike compulsory and self-imposed schooling as a holding pattern. When one cannot perceive or will not fight one’s own oppression [5] and when the problem is taken to be the intractable entire planet and the systems of exploitation that occupy it, the “first step” is a non-ending self-trapped cycle of intellectual isolation in which the brain is severed from the heart; the heart that is defined by solidarity in battle and in shared risk and shared consequences, and by inter-dependence.
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The same scientific method that has alienated us from nature and from our own selves also defines the framework in which we interpret the new world and our place in it [6]. It is a cold framework of measured consequences, weighed counter pressures, and legalistic morality, without the liberating impulse.
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Chomsky is very careful to not provide any examples of how individuals can free themselves. At most, the prescription is to “organize” [7]: Organizing as a “first step”, leaving out the individual’s primordial quest for freedom to influence. The individual’s impulse to free herself must be constrained behind organizing and education, to the extent that the realities of “survival” permit. Anarchy as anarchism, not anarchy from anarchy [8].
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In reality, one must first act. The world cannot be correctly perceived from involuntary observation and thought. Only knowledge from action allows one to realistically evaluate the proposals of others. Action, reaction, communication, reflection, action… There is a natural sequence that cannot be adulterated without separating us from ourselves.
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The intellectual as mentalizer is a service intellectual [2, 9], just as surely as cerebral wanderers are trapped intellectuals. Only through action have I come to understand Chomsky and his place in the world. Let’s move on.
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References cited:
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[1] Chomsky-Foucault debate, 1971.
[2] Gradual Change is Not Progress.

[3] Activism and Risk.

[4] Churchill, Ward. Pacifism as Pathology. 1998.
[5] Friere, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. 1970.
[6] Marcuse, Herbert. One Dimensional Man. 1964.
[7] Chomsky, Noam. Understanding Power: The Indispensable Chomsky. 2002. (P.R. Mitchell and J. Schoeffel, eds.)
[8] Chomsky, Noam. Chomsky on Anarchism. 1969. (2005, AK Press)
[9] Said, Edward. Representations of the Intellectual. 1994.

Follow Up and Supporting Post:
Data in the study "Against Chomsky"

25 comments:

Gwen said...

Hey Denis I still have your copy of Disciplined Minds. Do you want it back?
- Gwen

Alroy said...

Denis,

While your article makes a valuable point about the need for people to “first feel and stand based on primordial impulse,” I think you’re wrong to use Chomsky as the straw-man to beat up on. As I understand it, the basic argument in your post is that “after jail [in the 60s] and after Vietnam, Chomsky became a non-activist intellectual engaged in analytical penetration of the monster” and, consequently, leads his readers/‘followers’ to also become paralyzed non-activist intellectuals. I suppose that the first step in evaluating this statement is to settle on a definition of activism. I will use the one you provided last year on your blog:

“An animal rights activist may treat her pets humanely or may be a vegetarian but she is an activist only because she directly confronts the system that abuses animals. She may do so via intense discussions, petitions, lawsuits, lobbying, outreach events, demonstrations, challenging authority, denunciation, direct action, civil disobedience, or some such direct means. In activism one confronts in order to change the norm.

“A vegetarian may practice vegetarianism in political silence and simply adapt to all eating circumstances by abstaining from eating meat, whereas another vegetarian may defend her choices and engage in every occasion to communicate her reasons and to advance her justice-based political motives. The first is a vegetarian while the latter is a vegetarian and an activist – someone whose discourse is more than a personal style.”

Based on the definition of activism you have provided, I have difficulty seeing how you could characterize Chomsky as a “non-activist intellectual”. With respect to demonstrations, denunciations, outreach events, petitions, intense discussions, etc., Chomsky’s record is hard to beat. He has given his name to all sorts of petitions, including high-profile ones (such as the one calling for divestment from Israel, http://www-tech.mit.edu/V122/N25/col25dersh.25c.html), personally supported in important lawsuits (like the free expression case of Turkish publisher Fatih Tas, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/1817598.stm), reached out to official enemies (like Hezbollah, http://www.alternet.org/blogs/video/39706/), participated in large demonstrations (like in Vancouver in 2004, http://www.workingtv.com/peacerally8.html), and lent both his political and financial support to various alternative media that confront the status quo. Additionally, you write that the activist will “engage in every occasion to communicate her reason and to advance her justice-based political motives.” If Chomsky’s hundreds of books and articles, hundreds (perhaps thousands) of interviews, hundreds of talks around the world (both in auditoriums and at political demonstrations), and quick responses to e-mails (see below) does not constitute an effort “in every occasion to communicate” his arguments, I don’t know what would. If I am correct, then it seems to follow that Chomsky’s readers/‘followers’ engaging in similar actions (as many often do) are not locked into either “cynicism or a non-ending quest to mentalize it all while being disconnected from any real battle.”

You also write that “Chomsky, from his position of power within MIT, has not done this [made a similar statement as Foucault].” Again, this statement seems completely false. In countless interviews, talks, and books, Chomsky has repeatedly criticized universities (including MIT) and professors as servants of power. He has, indeed, used his position of power (working for the man) at MIT to relentlessly criticize all sorts of injustices.

Without a doubt, books such as Jeff Schmidt’s Disciplined Minds (which you revere) serve an important purpose alongside Chomsky’s works. Schmidt’s book, with its suggested list of actions that employees can take in the workplace is instructive and complementary to books written by Chomsky. However, I don’t see why this should diminish Chomsky’s contributions. I found Schmidt’s book to be less effective in deconstructing the status quo, and most effective for those who are already convinced that the system stinks. Conversely, I found some of Chomsky’s books (Understanding Power, Deterring Democracy, New Military Humanism) and various talks on western political economy very effective in convincing people (me included) that the system stinks (because not everyone “gets it” right away due to the indoctrination provided by our education system).

As a related aside, it appears, in fact, that Chomsky was rather active in gathering support for Schmidt in the latter’s battle against his employer back in 2001 (see http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/sanjoy/schmidt/archive/chomsky-group-letter.htm).

I passed your post to Chomsky, who had the following to say within about 39 minutes of my sending a message to him (not an uncommon response time for anyone who writes him):

“I have no idea who Rancourt is, and he has no idea of what I do. Perhaps he is what he describes: an intellectual who keeps to books. If so, he would be unlikely to know anything about me, since my life continues to be immersed in activism just as it was during the 60s, which I suspect he also knows nothing about.

“This is simply a diatribe, an expression of his completely uninformed opinion. There are no arguments. He offers no facts that can be checked. It's simply his personal inventions. There is no way to respond, and no need to pay attention.”

As mentioned at the top, your post makes the valuable point of pushing activists towards real action, instead of purposeless intellectualizing of the world’s problems. I agree that this is a big problem with academics (and their followers). In my experience as a graduate student in political science, the readings that we were assigned by our ‘leftist’ professors were often a waste of time and, I found, had the effect of neutralizing any will to take meaningful political action. As it turns out, this effect that leftist academics have is something that Chomsky has also criticized in many places, including Understanding Power, and in the following message attributed to him: http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/chomsky-on-postmodernism.html. Interestingly, in that message, he accuses Foucault of being irrelevant to the political concerns of ordinary people. Anyway, it seems misguided to try to make your point using Chomsky, especially without providing adequate supporting evidence.

Perhaps I’m missing/misunderstanding something that someone could clarify.

Alroy

Aaron said...

Here here, alroy! I also find this particular talk of Mr. Rancourt uncongenial. Why beat up on Chomsky? The best thing for rulers is in-fighting among dissidents. I was inspired by Chomsky years ago, stopped reading newspapers, created a blog and shared stories that I found more reflective with my family, friends, and the public. Activism of the intellect, Socratic criticism, is a good thing. Finding better ways to have conversations about heated issues is a benefit I gain from reading certain thinkers. Often, action is talking -- as we are doing here.

Anonymous said...

I took issue with this idea of action and knowledge at one Cinema Politica event last year, and I take issue with it again. The concept that people must act first and read less is absurd: it serves only to create well-intentioned fools with no ability or knowledge to affect actual change. A society cannot function on inspiration alone, and if someone really wants to improve the world, they would do well to have a solid knowledge of history, political theory, and economics among other things. Uneducated activists run the risk of making the mistakes of the past, espousing impossible, and cannot honestly stand their ground against the well educated and intelligent guardians of the status quo. There's no room in world for "Sarah Palin activists", you cannot stare down Russia's former KGB Prime Minister with folksy charm and a working-man's knowledge of politics and power. Activists must represent a real political alternative, and that alternative for a modern country and modern world cannot be formulated in a few life experiences and sleepless nights.

Furthermore, I argue that informing the population is the only real way to create change in a democratic society. Where every person is recognized as having an equal voice, and where practically a country is run by elected officials, it is both arrogant and unrealistic for individual activists, or even activist groups to "take up the burden" of saving the country. If society at large is aware of the real issues (and I mean real issues, their depth, not just the political taglines and rhetoric), then widescale political support is possible. The people themselves decide what the society and nature of a country is, and if the people aren't on the same page as either the activist or the government, then whatever the latter parties do, it will be moderated, ignored, or temporary. Education is key, because education creates lifestyle changes on a large scale, and changes morality on a scale that can actually affect the issue at hand.

प्रवीण त्रिवेदी PRAVEEN TRIVEDI said...

very nice thougts , but i think that these have many issues to de
alt more!

Anonymous said...

I guess there's are good reasons why Chomsky thinks you're irrelevant. I suspect you'd have nicer things to say about Chomsky if he hadn't said you were incoherent, self-serving, and should be ignored. You quoted him prominently right up until that moment, but then suddenly all things Chomsky disappeared.

Facts suck for you because they are so inconvenient and, strangely, never seem to support you.

Anonymous said...

Citing Foucault:
that the university and in a general way, all teaching systems, which appear simply to disseminate knowledge, are made to maintain a certain social class in power; and to exclude the instruments of power of another social class.

This argument can be made verbatim for mathematics or physics, or any other codification of knowledge into some form of communicable language, including spoken and written languages themselves.

It's not a problem with institutions. It's a problem with standardization.

It's called a learning curve. Get over it.

Unless you, or Foucault, believe that apprenticeship is the course to utopia. Historical evidence suggests though, that there is far more political and personal violence in apprenticeship-based systems.

Jane Scharf said...

Well I believe Denis' assessment of Chomsky's work is accurate. All talk and no action. And Chomsky doesn't even talk action.

However, the primordial impulse to act theory of activism needs some work. Intuition based direction is not devoid of intellectual considerations. Nor is devoid of emotion. A persons actions ought to be based on an integrated response to a situation i.e. emotion/intuitive, mind/intellectual considerations, and body/physical response.

Anonymous said...

A persons actions ought to be based on an integrated response to a situation i.e. emotion/intuitive, mind/intellectual considerations, and body/physical response.

At least, yes. But have we not evolved, or cannot we not hope too, to something more than a stimulus-response type organism?

Denis reproaches that Chomsky is very careful to not provide any examples of how individuals can free themselves

This is the statement of a man who doesn't understand the point at all. Like the fool in the cave, he finds fault with the framework with which he is presented.

Philosopher, heal thyself.

Anonymous said...

Activist as long as the public service salary roles in... I've seen guys like you a hundred times. You don't deserve rspect because you're too afraid to go out and earn it.

You spend 20 years safely seconded in a Public Service padded ivory tower dreaming of increasingly grandiose ego fueled fantasies of power and influence.

Well here's a news flash Professor Pigginton; Nobody cares about your harebrained "thoughts". So how about you just shut and either teach introductory physics, or take your chances in the real world.

MM said...

Chomsky refuses to action because he's paralyzed by the fear of his own power and influence as an activist...if he began prescribing how activists should "act" he would be too accountable...pushing an agenda, instead of presenting facts and letting people think for themselves. (This is in contrast to someone like Naomi Klein who has no problem telling you what you should do and what you shouldn't do). I appreciate Chomsky's refusal to prescribe action...

Patrick Henry said...

Chomsky`s The Political Economy of Human Rights had an impact on me, but basically he is a very establishment type thinker, because he accepts the government`s views on:
1. the assassination of JFK,
2. 9/11, and
3. the Holocaust.
Regarding the racist state-terrorist government of Israel, he is not very different from Alan Derschowitz.

Patrick Henry said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

A Buddhist take:

The political and power systems of which you speak are nothing more than an amalgamation of individuals. Each of those individuals is nothing more than a temporary amalgamation of ever changing causes and conditions. There's no ground. Only emptiness and love.

The wars, oppression, and environmental destruction you lament are not, at root, the product of any system. Rather the systems arise from hearts and minds that are clouded by deep-seated delusion, ill-will and greed.

What we often overlook is that our own hearts and minds are clouded. It's easy to point the finger of blame at everybody else and everything else for problems both personal and global. It's harder to be quiet and look inside and identify the war that's raging within.

To end war we must end the wars in our own hearts and minds-- especially the simple wars. We must learn to do the dishes with grace, to take out the garbage without complaining, to stop blaming others for all of our troubles, and to let go of ill will for all beings--even (and especially) those who harm us and others.

You speak of freeing the individual from power systems. I understand and have great respect for this yearning. I think it's an expression of the heart's deepest desire to find groundless unconditioned freedom for all beings.

The problem is, that the solution you prescribe misdiagnosis the malady. The problem is that each of our hearts and minds is clouded by delusion, ill-will, and greed. Only when we first work honestly and diligently to directly understand and purify these defilements from our own minds and heart can we serve the world. When we do this quiet work, love, compassion, kindness, and joy naturally burst free like water in a river in which a dam has been raised.

A society composed of individuals, supporting each other in this kind of purification of the heart will naturally be free of war, greed, and destruction. Where there is only love, ill will cannot exist. Where there is only generosity, greed cannot exist. Where there is only compassion, cruelty cannot exist.

Of course, we cannot live with the delusion that all human beings will simultaneously become enlightened beings. We do this work of purification of the mind and heart and at the same time, as the Bhagavad Gita intones, we renounce all attachment to the outcomes of our actions. We do the best we can, and then we we let go.

Why let go? Because there is nothing to hold on to.

may all beings be free

Amir

kevin p. said...

"While this may not be Chomsky’s intent, it is clear that the great majority of Chomsky readers have never put themselves at significant risk by confronting the madness that rules our lives and that is destroying every region of the planet."

To dislodge the (Chomsky-reading) armchair activist from their cushy lives and get them out on the streets, they either have to take a big personal risk (requiring difficult internal change); or, they have to unwillingly lose the worldly life they've grown so attached to.

Check back on this one year from now. If the world economy continues to fall apart, there will be many more "activists." But they won't be bred for it, and they'll likely be whining about their losses, and share little solidarity with their sisters and brothers around the planet. Complacency breeds disinterest in things real.

I will take that your focus Chomsky is simply to provide a point of reference, because the same could also be said of the readers and contributors of publications such as Adbusters or Utne Reader.

I've met many Chomsky readers on the streets in protests around the world. Perhaps your "majority" is a valid accounting, but let it be known that there is a vocal, active minority.

gutsamillion said...

Personally, I believe that Chomsky and his "education" is what got me into activism. It's one-half of the equation of awakening people to the injustices in the world. I think educating people is just as important as going out into the street and protesting and making your issues known. After all, that's just another version of trying to educate people to your issues, whether it be anti-war or feminism or whatever.

And I disagree with your statement that Chosmky has done nothing after the Vietnam era. My reasoning is stated in my previous paragraph.

Also, the reason why Chomsky doesn't tell people how to fight back and be an how to be activist is because this would put him in the same category of intellectuals who manipulate people and influence how they think. Like many of his books that deal with established educations, Chomsky wants people to be critical think and make decisions for themselves, rather than someone (Chomsky) doing it for you.

One Love :)

bluecalx2 said...

I disagree about Chomsky not encouraging activism. The fact of the matter is, he doesn't consider himself an authority to tell people specifically what they should do. He doesn't, for example, tell people to join this or that organization, or to sign certain petitions. This is because he believes that he has no right to tell people what to do. But he does some more important things:

-Chomsky informs. What good is activism if you don't know what you're talking about?

-He encourages you to think for yourself. He doesn't tell you what to think, he tells you HOW to think. Very important skill for an activist to have. Intellectual self defense is vital for an activist.

-He also encourages you to constantly question your beliefs, and look at yourself in the mirror. Some of the most corrupt politicians started off as young, idealists. Chomsky reminds us to be true to our values and not be afraid to question our own actions.

-He encourages us to talk to one another. He cites public opinion polls that remind us that we're not alone in our beliefs, only atomized. For me, personally, this has helped me to find more like minded people and am even now involved in some political groups because I discovered they were out there. Chomsky leaves it up to those groups to plan their own actions.

-And very importantly, he discourages hero worship. First and foremost, he discourages worship of himself. But also he was written about the importance of not waiting for political saviors. For example, he wrote about Martin Luther King, Jr. He was a very important person, an icon, an excellent speaker. But he didn't start the civil rights movement. Maybe activists whose names you'll never know started the movement. Dr. King, although important, was merely a spokesperson for them, as well as a fellow activist. The point is that if you want real change, you have to be one of those names forgotten to history. Chomsky wants you to be, but he won't tell you what to do. Because you need to figure out for yourself what's important to you.

Anonymous said...

To Patrick Henry, I'm sorry but what conspiracy theories don't you believe in? If you want to understand 9/11 for example, just read Chalmers Johnson's Blowback and Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine. It's all based off of official state policies. After reading them, it's pretty simple to figure out how and why everything happened.

As far as Israel goes, Dershowitz and Chomsky couldn't be more different. Chomsky is one of the most outspoken critics of the Israeli occupation, the human rights abuses and the violations of international law. Dershowitz, on the other hand, is one of the most outspoken apologists for it in the US and believes in Israeli expansion into the occupied territories. He's even gone to great lengths to ruin the careers of other critics of Israel, like Norman Finkelstein. I don't know how you can call these guys the same.

Dean Taylor said...

Professor Rancourt--

Your critique of Chomsky, i.e., his perceived lack of engagement in the specific act of civil disobedience reads like one who lapses into self pity nursing his own (real) wounds and thinking how consoling it would be to have a fellow sufferer (read: misery loves company). While your own selfless acts of civil disobedience are, indeed, laudatory, it makes no sense whatsover to then engage in a diatribe against one who has spent a lifetime--i.e., from day to inexorable day--researching and disclosing, e.g., the five filters of the "propaganda model" of corporate media bias which propagate socio-political disinformation.

Chomsky has said REPEATEDLY that the socio-political construct which over-determines our day-to-day existence can best be redesigned by a COLLECTIVE involvement of the masses. That is, he has cautioned against the insidious effects of isolation, social fragmentation, withdrawal, etc., cultivated by the absolutist, dictatorial, free-market, neo-liberal agenda. To paraphrase: it is exceedingly difficult to try and effect lasting, meaningful change on one's own, i.e., apart from some collective of like-minded activists. There are those who, for example, engage in singular acts of dissidence and social dissent, resistance and nonconformity, i.e., some unique individuals have given the flywheel of social change a decisive push, with the happy result that those in thrall to the System are made beneficiaries of that moment of socio-political evolution. But, for the most part, the rank-and-file are better off engaged in collective action to effect LASTING, MEANINGFUL CHANGE. This implies reflection and education on the issues at hand, somehow in tandem with one another (read: the internet), before formulating doable plans.

Of that unique group called to fly solo, as it were, the rest of us are indebted to them for their selfless actions. Of those having gained notoriety for their acts, one thinks of, e.g., the Berrigans, Daniel Ellsberg, Dr. King, César Chávez, Dorothy Day, Mother Teresa, etc.

Then there are those who, like yourself, have also taken the less-travelled road, again, to the benefit of masses of individuals, many of whom may not even learn of your tribulations, even as they enjoy the fruit derived therein.

The point here is that our talents and capabilities are diverse and, therefore, we should welcome a plurality of CREATIVE contributions and avoid that ethic extolling change via the one vanguard. That is, as Lenin argues for a discrete, utterly homogenized vanguard as the progenitor of change--i.e., to displace the POLITICAL hegemony to which we are in thrall--Gramsci espies a far more insidious and, as such, more effective CULTURAL hegemony acting upon the collective mindset, both subliminally and overtly. And, this cultural hegemony implies immense plurality, i.e., it transcends acts of political discourse and praxis, embracing a far greater range of values, ideas, histories--both personal and collective, mores, faiths--both traditional and unorthodox, customs, etc. Said another way: it goes beyond the cerebral/intellectual to the hotpoint of one's existence--i.e., it hits us where we live.

Conclusion? Let us clear a space where both your contribution and Chomsky's are more than welcome--they are celebrated and extolled.

On the liberty/equality concern) Chomsky notes, "human talents vary considerably, within a fixed framework that is characteristic of the species and that permits ample scope for creative work, including the appreciation of the creative achievements of others. This should be a matter of delight rather than a condition to be abhorred."

That Chomsky may not be "active" in a conventional sense does not mean he is not part of the action.

Jean Pape said...

chompsky is cynical and tends to deifying an entertaining villain character he creates during oration, but perhaps more importantly in terms of effectiveness, chompsky has been a writer/speaker for the beginners, new students. he provides at very least an example of an alternate framework to understand society by, and a good image of a succesful intelectual, to respect or productively aspire to dethrone.

Anonymous said...

I like Chomsky, but this guy is right. We can say all we want about theory informing practice, and thinking before doing, and well intentioned fools. Let's face it: you can think that you're the best chef in the world, but you won't know until you get in the kitchen.

I think it's misguided for anarchists to attack people who are actually out there doing things and shaking things up. The fact is, you don't know how effective a theory is until it's been practiced. So if all you guys wanna do is make up theories and have castles in the sky, go ahead. Desegregation wouldn't have happened had it not been for Rosa Parks.

bluecalx2 said...

"Desegregation wouldn't have happened had it not been for Rosa Parks."

Not to downplay her importance at all, but the civil rights movement was much bigger than Rosa Parks. She wasn't acting spontaneously either. That event was planned out by civil rights groups far in advanced. History books leave that out and tell you about this courageous woman acting alone. She was courageous, yes, but far from alone. For the powers that be, large groups of citizens organizing is much more frightening than the occasional Rosa Parks.

As far as Chomsky goes, it's worth remembering that he *was* actively involved in anti-war activities during the Vietnam War (long before it was popular to do so). Given his age, I don't think it's unreasonable to cut him some slack for not keeping this up. Especially considering that he has devoted his life to exposing US foreign policy and is, without question, the most influential voice in the Left today.

Denis Rancourt said...

From: Michael James Barker
Date: Tue, Jun 15, 2010
Subject: Critique of Chomsky
To: Denis Rancourt

I just came across your excellent critique of Chomsky by following the link on the Global Research article.

I thought this was pretty funny " I don't like to take a public stand on factual matters without serious investigation." I say this because I critiqued Chomsky some time ago for taking public stands without serious investigation.

See my article here "Noam Chomsky And The Power Of Letters"
http://swans.com/library/art14/barker10.html

best wishes Michael

Anonymous said...

I'd say Chomsky here is used as an example or vehicle.
I do wonder about the Buddhist view while in survival mode. And what kind of karma accounts for Tibet being taken over, still?
But doesn't this bring us back to the inherent qualities of man? Which came first, the masses' naturally occurring selfishness or, is this the result of eons of social engineering/exploitation by an (psychopathic) elite's agenda?
Judging from all the bombings etc, a group can find plenty of (common folk) "activists". But this may be another issue of mind control. No, we all have been under mind control as indicated above.
So, one (ie., as a fish in water) needs some info as to their predicament. Then the rest is up to character etc. Yet even that has been conditioned.
Matrix, good term.

John said...

...it is clear that the great majority of Chomsky readers have never put themselves at significant risk by confronting the madness that rules our lives and that is destroying every region of the planet.

Ridiculous. Not only do you not know this, I can't imagine how you could know it. Nor do you know the relative percentage of those who read Chomsky vs those who don't among people who "put themselves at significant risk", which is the more relevant measure (to the extent that this standard is relevant at all).

Chomsky's dismissal of this as completely uninformed opinion is exactly right.