Listen to Noam Chomsky

October 25, 2017

Listen to Noam Chomsky–The Public Intellectual of My Generation

Noam Chomsky first involved himself in active political protest against U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War in 1962, speaking on the subject at small gatherings in churches and homes.[82] However, it was not until 1967 that he publicly entered the debate on United States foreign policy.[83] In February he published a widely read essay in The New York Review of Books entitled “The Responsibility of Intellectuals“, in which he criticized the country’s involvement in the conflict; the essay was based on an earlier talk that he had given to Harvard’s Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.[84] He expanded on his argument to produce his first political book, American Power and the New Mandarins, which was published in 1969 and soon established him at the forefront of American dissent.[85] His other political books of the time included At War with Asia (1971), The Backroom Boys (1973), For Reasons of State (1973), and Peace in the Middle East? (1975), published by Pantheon Books.[86] Coming to be associated with the American New Left movement,[87] he nevertheless thought little of prominent New Left intellectuals Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm, and preferred the company of activists to intellectuals.[88] Although The New York Review of Books did publish contributions from Chomsky and other leftists from 1967 to 1973, when an editorial change put a stop to it,[89] he was virtually ignored by the rest of the mainstream press throughout the late 1960s and early 1970s.[90]

Along with his writings, Chomsky also became actively involved in left-wing activism. Refusing to pay half his taxes, he publicly supported students who refused the draft, and was arrested for being part of an anti-war teach-in outside the Pentagon.[91] During this time, Chomsky, along with Mitchell Goodman, Denise Levertov, William Sloane Coffin, and Dwight Macdonald, also founded the anti-war collective RESIST.[92] Although he questioned the objectives of the 1968 student protests,[93] he gave many lectures to student activist groups; furthermore, he and his colleague Louis Kampf began running undergraduate courses on politics at MIT, independently of the conservative-dominated political science department.[94] During this period, MIT’s various departments were researching helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war in Vietnam and, as Chomsky says, “a good deal of [nuclear] missile guidance technology was developed right on the MIT campus”.[95] As Chomsky elaborates, “[MIT was] about 90% Pentagon funded at that time. And I personally was right in the middle of it. I was in a military lab … the Research Laboratory for Electronics.”[96] By 1969, student activists were actively campaigning “to stop the war research” at MIT.[97] Chomsky was sympathetic to the students but he also thought it best to keep such research on campus and he proposed that it should be restricted to what he called “systems of a purely defensive and deterrent character”.[98] During this period, MIT had six of its anti-war student activists sentenced to prison terms. Chomsky says MIT’s students suffered things that “should not have happened”, though he has also described MIT as “the freest and the most honest and has the best relations between faculty and students than at any other … [with] quite a good record on civil liberties”.[99] In 1970 he visited the Vietnamese city of Hanoi to give a lecture at the Hanoi University of Science and Technology; on this trip he also toured Laos to visit the refugee camps created by the war, and in 1973 he was among those leading a committee to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the War Resisters League.[100]

President Richard Nixon placed Chomsky on his ‘Enemies List’. As a result of his anti-war activism, Chomsky was ultimately arrested on multiple occasions, and U.S. President Richard Nixon included him on the master version of his Enemies List.[101] He was aware of the potential repercussions of his civil disobedience, and his wife began studying for her own Ph.D. in linguistics in order to support the family in the event of Chomsky’s imprisonment or loss of employment.[102] However, MIT – despite being under some pressure to do so – refused to fire him due to his influential standing in the field of linguistics.[103] His work in this area continued to gain international recognition; in 1967 he received honorary doctorates from both the University of London and the University of Chicago .[104] In 1970, Loyola University and Swarthmore College also awarded him honorary D.H.L.’s, as did Bard College in 1971, Delhi University in 1972, and the University of Massachusetts in 1973.[105]

In 1971 Chomsky gave the Bertrand Russell Memorial Lectures at the University of Cambridge, which were published as Problems of Knowledge and Freedom later that year. He also delivered the Whidden Lectures at McMaster University, the Huizinga Lecture at Leiden University in the Netherlands, the Woodbridge Lectures at Columbia University, and the Kant Lectures at Stanford University.[106] In 1971 he partook in a televised debate with French philosopher Michel Foucault on Dutch television, entitled Human Nature: Justice versus Power.[107] Although largely agreeing with Foucault’s ideas, he was critical of post-modernism and French philosophy generally, believing that post-modern leftist philosophers used obfuscating language which did little to aid the cause of the working-classes[108] and lambasting France as having “a highly parochial and remarkably illiterate culture”.[109] Chomsky also continued to publish prolifically in linguistics, publishing Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar (1972),[103] an enlarged edition of Language and Mind (1972),[110] and Reflections on Language (1975).[110] In 1974 he became a corresponding fellow of the British Academy.[106]




3 thoughts on “Listen to Noam Chomsky

  1. Another Republican senator decided not to run for reelection. This is telling the 2018 Senate map just got less friendly for Republicans. Senator Jeff Flake of Arizona announced that he was not running for reelection then proceeded to rip Donald Trump to pieces. He said: “We must stop pretending that the degradation of our politics and the conduct of some in our Executive Branch are normal. They are not normal. Reckless, outrageous, and undignified behavior has become excused and countenanced as telling it like it is when it is really just reckless, outrageous, and undignified, and when such behavior emanates from the top of our government, it is something else. It is dangerous to a democracy.”

    Senator Flake has more credibility as a Trump critic because he’s been criticizing Donald Trump since the last presidential campaign. Senate Republicans suddenly have a group of loose cannons. John McCain doesn’t seem to be wasting a second while battling brain cancer, while the retiring Bob Corker and Jeff Flake are letting it fly. It’s questionable how these retirements are going to impact the votes on tax cuts and tax reform.

  2. Trump showed a new level of disrespect for the troops by blaming the generals and taking zero responsibility for the ambush that killed four Green Berets in Niger. When asked if he authorized the mission, Trump said, “No, I didn’t, not specifically. I have generals that are great generals. These are great fighters; these are warriors. I gave them authority to do what’s right so that we win. That’s the authority they have. I want to win. And we’re going to win.”

    It’s not the generals’ fault that the four soldiers died. Trump is the man who gave them the authority, so he’s ultimately responsible for what happened. In Donald Trump’s White House, the buck stops everywhere but in the Oval Office. Trump is the zero accountability president who takes no responsibility and holds nothing sacred. He threw his generals right under the bus. His comments are not how a president behaves. He’s this close to blaming the four Green Berets themselves for dying in Niger. A man who dodged the draft five times during the Vietnam War has somehow managed to possess an unlimited well of disrespect for the troops.

  3. The best rationale take-away from Chomsky is his advocacy in strong military strength for self-defence and preservation, rather for offense or dominance.
    If this could be adopted in the popularism, regardless of ideological differences, increasingly seen around the globe, the world will be a better and more peaceful place to live.

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