Noam Chomsky

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Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist who was a pioneer in generative grammar. Later he became an extreme left-wing propagandist and genocide denier[1][2]. He advocates holding America to an absolute standard of ethics in foreign relations, but has not held such a standard elsewhere. He tends to ignore such violations by other countries, even when they have been far worse. Fellow liberal academic, Arthur Schlesinger, once referred to Chomsky as "an intellectual crook." [3]

He is an institute professor of linguistics (Emeritus) at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) [4] and the author of dozens of books on U.S. foreign policy. He writes a monthly column for The New York Times News Service/Syndicate.

Chomsky is very critical of American and Israeli foreign policy, sympathizes with Palestinians and has shown support for the terrorist organization Hezbollah[5]. He has also been criticized for anti-Semitism. It should be noted that Chomsky comes from a Jewish family and in the past has spoken and written in Hebrew,[6] but it is possible to argue that he is a self hater.

Chomsky is an atheist.[7]

Contents

Background

Chomsky was born Avram Noam Chomsky in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the son of William Chomsky, a Russian immigrant, and Elsie Simonofsky Chomsky. His parents both practiced Judaism. His father taught Hebrew, and published a scholarly edition of a medieval Hebrew grammar.[8]. He received his education at the University of Pennsylvania where he studied linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy, and eventually earned his Ph. D. in 1955. Since then, he has taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He previously held the Ferrari P. Ward Chair of Modern Language and Linguistics, and is now an Institute Professor.

Linguistic Works

Chomsky's work is considered to be the spark of modern linguistic thought. His research deals with questions including the critical analysis of language and grammar, the role of biology in language and language acquisition, and the importance (or lack there of) of structural grammar and formal grammar in language function and development.

Chomsky has argued that the primary role the linguist should play is to decipher a language's grammatical structure. Chomsky has provided the field of linguistics path and policy in describing language as a concept and particular languages, as well as core functions of any particular language.

Generative Grammar

Noam Chomsky advocates the view that the human mind has innate ability to generate grammatical sentences, thus, all utterances deemed sensible to the speaker are necessarily grammatical. All humans, he argues, share a core of grammar that explodes into the thousands and thousands of distinct languages spoken by humans over time and place. Generative grammar ultimately suggests that the brain is like an unlabeled map, and a child's role is to assign different "paths" with particular labels.

Universal Grammar

Noam Chomsky also proposed the theory that a kind of universal grammar, a grammar that underlies all human languages, is hard-wired in the human brain. Thus all human languages are fundamentally the same, with only superficial differences.

Criticism

Both the theory of universal grammar as well as generative grammar have been criticized over time. A primary argument is that the majority of Chomsky's studies are based in English, and do not represent "human language" as a whole. Linguist Geoffrey Sampson suggests that the core of his arguments are not scientifically falsifiable, and therefore hold no more weight than mere opinion or conjecture. Sampson follows that Chomsky does not seem to be able to make predictions of what is possible in a language. Finally, many of his critics claim that Chomsky's books are riddled with factual inaccuracies [9].

Challenges

In 2005 former missionary Daniel Everett published a controversial article titled "Cultural Constraints on Grammar and Cognition in Pirahã" which challeneged the notion that recursion is inherent in universal grammar. Since this oublication Everett has experienced academic and (stemming from this) political bullying and Chomsky himself labelled him a charlatan.

Political Views

Chomsky has stated that his "personal visions are fairly traditional anarchist ones, with origins in The Enlightenment and classical liberalism" and he has praised libertarian socialism.

His opponents accuse him of expressing admiration for governmental systems such as the Soviet Union, Chinese and Cambodian governments which are characterized by central control, xenophobia, and rejection of free expression, though he has openly expressed opposition to the Soviet Union and other regimes characterized by authoritarianism, arguing that they are not legitimate forms of socialism.[10] He also counters that he is merely pointing out the West's own crimes and not condoning authoritarian governments that the West opposes. His stated justification for this is that criticism of other authoritarian governments will do nothing except give the United States ammunition against other countries, while being able to freely ignore their own crimes, whereas criticism of his own country may bring about what he considers to be positive reform. Chomsky identifies himself as a "libertarian socialist" who is opposed to both neoliberalism and authoritarianism. [11]

Anti-Semitism

Chomsky has been accused for anti-Semitism.[12][13]. In addition to his support for Hezbollah, He has stated that Jews are "the most privileged and influential part of the population", and that "Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem. It's raised, but it's raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control"[14].

"For a century, the Zionist colonization of Palestine has proceeded primarily on the pragmatic principle of the quiet establishment of facts on the ground, which the world was to ultimately come to accept. It has been a highly successful policy... Only One Thing Will Make Israel Change Course: Israel’s brutalization of Palestinians through exercises like “mowing the lawn” will persist without a change in U.S. policy". [15]
.

Chomsky has supported controversial author Norman Finkelstein, author of The Holocaust Industry, who has argued that claims of anti-Semitism are used to silence critics of Israel and that the Holocaust is exploited by some Jewish institutions for their own gain.[16] Noam Chomsky has also supported the right of Holocaust deniers, among them the notorious Robert Faurisson, to express their views. Chomsky has claimed he sees this as a free-speech issue and does not himself support Holocaust deniers. [17]

It should be noted that both Finkelstein and Chomsky are from Jewish-American backgrounds [18][19], and that both Chomsky's parents were devout and involved in Jewish scholarship. It is unclear whether Chomsky still practices Judaism.

Controversies

  1. Chomsky denied the Cambodian Genocide, claiming that the killing had been inflated "by a factor of 100."[20][21] He further asserted that the (in reality) 2 to 3 million Cambodians slaughtered by the Khmer Rouge from 1975 to 1978 were morally comparable to Nazi collaborators during WW2, and that Pol Pot's Cambodia was "comparable to France after liberation [from the Nazis]."[22]
  2. Chomsky recently (1995) claimed, in the wake of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that the death toll in Cambodia may have been inflated "by a factor of a thousand."[23] Since he was responding to an estimate of two million dead, his words would imply that the real toll was on the order of two thousand. (Note: Investigators have uncovered and examined the remains of 1,386,734 Cambodians found in mass graves near Khmer Rouge execution centers whose cause of death has been determined by the investigators to have been virtually exclusively execution by the former Khmer Rouge regime.[24][25][26] Because no more than roughly half of those who died during the Khmer Rouge years were executed (the rest having died from other causes like state-created famine, the deliberate withholding of basic necessities by the state, the refusal by the state to allow foreign aid, the abolishing of medicine and hospitals by the state, systematic overwork and slave labor by the state, and normal mortality), the Documentation Center of Cambodia estimates that the former regime killed or otherwise caused the unnecessary deaths of, between 2 and 2.5 million Cambodians (with 2.5 to 3 million dying and half a million of these representing normal mortality for the period).[27] A UN investigation reported 2-3 million dead, while UNICEF estimated 3 million dead.[28] Even the Khmer Rouge acknowledged that 2 million had been killed—though they attributed those deaths to a subsequent Vietnamese invasion.[29]
  3. Chomsky has claimed that Pearl Harbor saved millions of lives and that America and Britain used Nazi armies to attack the Soviet Union and prolong the Holocaust.[30]
  4. Chomsky has stated: “Of course, no one supposed that Mao literally murdered tens of millions of people, or that he ‘intended’ that any die at all.”[31] In fact, a comprehensive analysis by Professor R.J. Rummel concluded that Mao was responsible for the deaths of 76 million Chinese.[32]
  5. Chomsky regularly compares the "alleged" genocide in Cambodia to the 24-year occupation of East Timor by Indonesia. He wrote: “The harshest critics claim that perhaps 100,000 people have been slaughtered [in Cambodia]… Comparing East Timor with Cambodia, we see that the time frame of alleged atrocities is the same, the numbers allegedly slaughtered are roughly comparable in absolute terms, and five to ten times as high in East Timor relative to population… my own conclusion is that the sources in the [case of] East Timor are more credible…”[33] Based on the findings of genocide investigators, as mentioned above; about 2.2 million people were killed by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in less than 4 years. A Truth Commission found that 89-214,000 Timorese out of more than 700,000 were killed during the 24-year occupation, about 3/4 of them by Indonesia.[34] Suharto killed far less people in absolute terms over decades in one of the world's most populous countries than Pol Pot killed in three years in a country with 8 million people, and exponentially less relative to the size of the population.
  6. Chomsky denied any genocide or mass reprisals in Laos after the Communist victory, stating that the Pathet Lao "have made some efforts to achieve a reconciliation with the mountain tribesmen who had been organized in the CIA clandestine army."[35] Some 100,000 tribespeople had been exterminated in a campaign of genocide at the time.[36]
  7. Chomsky once wrote: “At the end of 1978 Cambodia [under the Khmer Rouge] was the only country in Indochina that had succeeded at all in overcoming the agricultural crisis that was left by the American destruction.”[37] By late 1979, UN and Red Cross officials were warning that another 2.25 million Cambodians faced death by starvation due to “the near destruction of Cambodian society under the regime of ousted Prime Minister Pol Pot,”[38][39] who were saved by American and international aid. The Cambodian communists' economic plans were, at times, utterly surreal. Scholar David Chandler notes that, in a Democratic Kampuchea report on General Political Tasks of 1976, there are three lines devoted to education, and six devoted to urine. The document states that, regarding human urine, "We collect thirty per cent. That leaves a surplus of 70%." These were indicative of the types of policies that Chomsky and his co-writer, Edward Herman, claimed had lifted Cambodia out of the ashes of war.
  8. Chomsky openly claimed in 1977 that Pol Pot had saved up to one million lives.[40] He did so by citing a Ford administration prediction that the Khmer Rouge would likely kill more than one million people, and then falsely restating it to imply that more than one million Cambodians would starve to death if US aid was cut off. At the time of this essay, the Khmer Rouge had probably already killed more than one million people, but Chomsky was still claiming that "executions numbered at most in the thousands," that Khmer Rouge atrocities had been "inflated by a factor of 100" and that those the Khmer Rouge had allegedly refrained from killing were actually saved by the Khmer Rouge. One million people had not died since aid was terminated, he said, therefore one million lives had been saved from starvation by the Khmer Rouge's ingenious economic policies. Thus did Chomsky praise Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge for "saving" the lives of dead people who they had murdered. (Chomsky is also implying that the US cut off aid to Cambodia, when it actually had an unconditional offer to supply aid to it. Aid was terminated by the Khmer Rouge).
  9. Chomsky has praised Imperial Japan for allegedly "saving maybe tens of millions of lives."[41]
  10. Chomsky has expressed support for the former Communist dictatorship of Angola: “The defense of Angola was one of Cuba’s most significant contributions to the liberation of Africa.”[42] Cuban military intervention in support of the communist MPLA dictatorship in Angola led to decades of civil war that cost 1 million lives. Other Cuban “contributions to the liberation of Africa” include fighting for the communist dictatorship in Ethiopia, which killed 1.25 million people by massacre and forced starvation.[43]
  11. Chomsky has repeatedly denied that the former Sandinista regime in Nicaragua committed any human rights violations at all.[44] According to the Nicaraguan Commission of Jurists, the regime carried out some 8,000 political murders within its first three years in power.
  12. Chomsky also strongly approved of the Sandinista's economic policies, writing that “the crime of the Sandinistas was to carry out successful development… they immediately began to divert resources to the poor part of the population.”[45] Within a few years of Sandinista rule, wages had been fixed below poverty level and there was mass unemployment. There were shortages of nearly all basic goods, with inflation at 30,000%. Government studies found that three-quarters of schoolchildren suffered from malnutrition, while living standards were lower than Haiti. The World Bank found that Nicaragua was on the economic level of Somalia.[46]
  13. Chomsky referred to 22 Israeli schoolchildren murdered by Palestinian terrorists as "members of a paramilitary youth group."[47] He falsely claimed there had been "an exchange of fire" between the schoolchildren and the terrorists.
  14. Chomsky claimed after the 9/11 attacks that “Western civilization is anticipating the slaughter of, well do the arithmetic, 3-4 million people or something like that [in Afghanistan]… Looks like what’s happening is some sort of silent genocide… we are in the midst of apparently trying to murder 3 or 4 million people…”[48] Far from killing millions, the American intervention saved lives. UNICEF figures indicate that the deaths of 112,000 children and 7,500 pregnant women have been prevented every year since as a result.[49] The US invasion saved millions of Afghans from starvation.[50][51] Chomsky responded by claiming in 2002 that it was still possible that millions might starve to death, but that the Americans and the media could cover it up: "What the effects will be, we will never know. Starvation is not something that kills people instantly. People eat roots and leaves and they drag on for a while. And the effects of starvation may be the death of children born from malnourished mothers a year or two from now, and all sorts of consequences. Furthermore, nobody’s going to look because the West is not interested in such things and others don’t have the resources."[52]
  15. Chomsky believes that there are “no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the Holocaust.”[53]
  16. Chomsky has repeatedly claimed that there has never been so much as a misplaced comma in any of his writings and that no valid criticism of any of his statements or ideas has ever been published by anyone.[54]
  17. Chomsky has lied about the views of Holocaust deniers (Faurisson, Serge Thion) by praising them as "libertarian Socialists with a long-standing record of opposition to all forms of totalitarianism."[55] He also published one of his books (The Political Economy of Human Rights, a book filled with more noble efforts to disprove the bloodbath in Cambodia) in a series directed by a Holocaust denier (Pierre Guillaume). He has praised Holocaust deniers, endorsed their political and academic credentials, collaborated in their propaganda campaigns, and whitewashed their antisemitic and neo-Nazi agenda.[56] He signed a petition in support of Faurisson's denials of the Holocaust; although he claimed that he was only expressing solidarity with his right to free speech, the petition that Chomsky signed dignified Faurisson’s writings by affirming his scholarly credentials (“a respected professor” of “document criticism”); describing his lies as “extensive historical research”; placing the term “Holocaust” in derisory quotation marks; and portraying his lies as "findings" (a very typical Chomsky propaganda technique).[57] More obscenely, Chomsky added that "I sign innumerable petitions of this nature, and do not recall ever having refused to sign one."[58] At the time of this controversy, Chomsky had just finished publicly bragging about his outspoken refusual to sign petitions calling for human rights in Communist Vietnam--even as it massacred many hundreds of thousands of South Vietnamese men, women, and children en masse and drowned at sea hundreds of thousands more. On that occasion, he had explained that “public protest is a political act, to be judged in terms of its likely human consequences,” which included the likelihood that the American media “would distort and exploit it for their propagandistic purposes.”[59]
  18. More recently, Chomsky has promoted a conspiracy theory (now popularized in Oliver Stone's Untold History of the United States) that Zbigniew Brzezinski (national security advisor under president Jimmy Carter) secretly armed the Afghan mujahideen prior to 1979 in an elaborate plot to "trap" the Soviets. Brzezinski, however, has strongly denied anything of the kind,[60] while Cyrus Vance's close aide Marshall Shulman "insists that the State Department worked hard to dissuade the Soviets from invading and would never have undertaken a program to encourage it."[61] Needless to say, declassified records from the time are at variance with Chomsky's fantasy. (It is likely, given the crucial Soviet role in initiating the Korean and Vietnam wars, that this claim is the product of projection.)

See Also

External links

References

  1. http://www.jim.com/chomsdis.htm
  2. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/labedz.pdf
  3. "He begins as a preacher to the world and ends as an intellectual crook." -- Arthur Schlesinger - Commentary magazine, December 1969
  4. http://web.mit.edu/linguistics/people/faculty/chomsky/index.html
  5. http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=7&x_issue=11&x_article=1151
  6. http://books.google.com/books?id=RKUbyYPG4mcC&pg=PA7&lpg=PA7&dq=noam+chomsky+%22jewish+heritage%22&source=bl&ots=_DSi5cwxKc&sig=xHoUkX3zV4_dFwO2Gb-xrIxMJbw&hl=en&ei=Bf8iS7-DB5CXlAeXx8zzCQ&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=6&ved=0CBoQ6AEwBQ#v=snippet&q=chomsky%20jewish%20family&f=false
  7. http://hollowverse.com/noam-chomsky/
  8. http://www.mnsu.edu/emuseum/information/biography/abcde/chomsky_noam.html
  9. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/200chomskylies.pdf
  10. http://chomsky.info/articles/1986----.htm
  11. http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=19446
  12. http://www.jbooks.com/interviews/index/IP_Dershowitz.htm
  13. http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=15381
  14. http://www.variant.randomstate.org/16texts/Chomsky.html
  15. Noam Chomsky: Only One Thing Will Make Israel Change Course.
  16. University denies tenure to Holocaust academic, Mail & Guardian, 12 June 2007.
  17. Chomsky Calls Elie Wiesel “One of The Major Frauds of Our Time” - FrontPage Magazine
  18. [1]
  19. http://www.tikkun.org/rabbi_lerner/noamchomsky2005
  20. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/encounter.pdf
  21. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/labedz.pdf
  22. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/chomsky.htm
  23. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/chomsky.htm#fn61
  24. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/deaths.htm
  25. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/toll.htm
  26. http://welcome.to/dccam
  27. http://www.mekong.net/cambodia/deaths.htm
  28. William Shawcross, The Quality of Mercy: Cambodia, Holocaust, and Modern Conscience (Touchstone, 1985), p115-6
  29. Khieu Samphan, Interview, Time, March 10, 1980
  30. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/newyorker1.html
  31. “Second Reply to Casey,” ZNet, September 2001: http://www.zmag.org/chomreply2.htm
  32. http://www.hawaii.edu/powerkills/NOTE1.HTM
  33. Radical Priorities (rev. ed., AK Press, 2003), p80.
  34. Final Report of the Commission for Reception, Truth and Reconciliation in East Timor (CAVR), January 30, 2006, part 6, paras. 47, 56-7: http://www.ictj.org/en/news/features/846.html
  35. After the Cataclysm (South End Press, 1979), p122.
  36. Forced Back and Forgotten (Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, 1989), p8 (estimate); Jane Hamilton-Merritt, Tragic Mountains: The Hmong, the Americans, and the Secret Wars for Laos, 1942-1992 (Indiana Uniersity Press, 1999), pp337-460 (atrocities).
  37. Language and Politics (AK Press, 2004), pp245-6. Cf.: “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… At a heavy cost, these measures appear to have overcome the dire and destructive consequences of the US war by 1978,” After the Cataclysm (South End Press, 1979), pviii.
  38. New York Times, August 8, 1979.
  39. http://www.time.com/time/magazine/printout/0,8816,912511,00.html
  40. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/chomsky/cambodiacomments.pdf
  41. Interview, International Socialist Review, September-October 2002.
  42. Hegemony or Survival (Penguin, 2004), p94.
  43. Médecins Sans Frontières, “Angola: An Alarming Nutritional Situation,” August 1999 (Angola death toll); Washington Post, March 18, 1978 (Ethiopia intervention); New York Times, December 14, 1994(Ethiopia death toll).
  44. The Culture of Terrorism (South End Press, 1988), p137.
  45. Latin America: From Colonization to Globalization (Ocean Press, 1999), p57.
  46. Roger Miranda and William Ratliff, The Civil War in Nicaragua (Transaction, 1993), pp183-4.
  47. Pirates and Emperors, Old and New (rev. ed., Pluto Press, 2002), p65.
  48. “The New War Against Terror,” Lecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, October 18, 2001.
  49. New York Times, February 1, 2002.
  50. http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A42858-2001Dec30?language=printer
  51. http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=24019
  52. http://www.leftwatch.com/articles/2004/chomsky-backpedals-on-silent-genocide-in-afghanistan/
  53. Quoted in W.D. Rubinstein, “Chomsky and the Neo-Nazis,” Quadrant, October 1981.
  54. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XKPtwYzehYM
  55. “His Right to Say It,” The Nation, February 28, 1981.
  56. http://www.paulbogdanor.com/200chomskylies.pdf
  57. The text of the petition is reproduced in Werner Cohn, Partners in Hate: Noam Chomsky and the Holocaust Deniers (Avukah Press, 1995), pp53-4.
  58. Language and Politics (AK Press, 2004), p290.
  59. Unpublished interview, March 28, 1977; Language and Politics (AK Press, 2004), p176.
  60. Interview, The Real News, January 15, 2010.
  61. The Nation, November 12, 2001.
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