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Does Noam Chomsky Matter Anymore?

By Douglas Herman
May 28, 2008

Does Noam Chomsky Matter Anymore? By Douglas Herman (May 29, 2008)

Forward courtesy of Steve Campbell

"If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all." -Noam Chomsky

Is it acceptable for a student to hotly contest his professor? When may an apprentice argue with his master? Or when may a lowly skeptic like myself loudly disagree with a widely known and respected figure?

Suppose a top politician, entertainment figure, or sports star said it didn't really matter who shot Lincoln or why, who attacked Pearl Harbor, the Alamo or the USS Liberty. Imagine the derision. Imagine the ridicule. Imagine the loss in credibility and marketing revenue. Now imagine if a well-respected academic"who should know better"said exactly the same thing. It doesn't really matter who committed a great crime; history had nothing to teach us; we should never waste precious time trying to apprehend the perpetrators, nor understand their motives but focus only on the outcome of their foul deeds.

Well, that is exactly what Noam Chomsky appears to believe. Do not focus on the plot or the plotters or the clever planning of any crime but only the aftermath. Strangely, I had always thought Linguistics was the scientific study of language rather than a lame attempt at disinformation.

Noam Chomsky is a brilliant man. According to his Wiki Bio, Chomsky holds honors and degrees from well over forty colleges and universities. His books enjoy a wide popularity and critical acclaim. He holds a PHD in Linguistics and lectures worldwide, and much of what he has said or written resonates with a certain insight that might appeal to the Founding Fathers.

Recently one of his overseas lectures caused a firestorm of controversy, but if you simply got your news and opinion from the mainstream media, you would never have known. Chomsky spoke of a topic he had written about"911--and yet brushed the topic aside with an off-hand remark.

Seems Chomsky spoke to a modest gathering of acolytes in Budapest , Hungary . On the video, we see Chomsky relaxed, surrounded by wine bottles, banners in the background. The moderator asked him a two-part question regarding the repercussions of 911 and towards the end he says: "Even if (911 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."

Who cares?

As one respondent to the YouTube video wrote: "This guy has lost all credibility when he says investigating mass murder and coups d'etat takes energy away from 'serious matters'. What could be more serious?"

Unfortunately for Mr. Chomsky, nearly a half million (and counting) viewers have watched that rare six minute performance, captured at an odd moment of frankness. Indeed, nearly twice as many viewers have heard Noam,s true opinion of two catalytic events that spawned imperial American hubris then have bought Noam,s book on 9-11.

Is Chomsky relevant anymore? Seriously, a public figure, lauded as the most brilliant intellectual of his day, who brushes aside two key events that triggered massive US policy change, enormous changes that affected the rest of the world; does this intellectual retain any merit as a clear thinker? To remark flippantly, "who cares" about the assassination of a American political leader despised by The Pentagon, the FBI, CIA and Mafia, not to mention oil tycoons and arms dealers, is the sort of inanity normally reserved for Fox News hosts.

Especially curious, since Chomsky stated: "People will want to know what you mean. Why did you say that? You'd better have a lot of evidence."

Yes. Evidence is ammunition, as any good CSI knows. But suppose this evidence is never allowed in a court of law, never allowed in the mainstream media, never allowed a forum in the very controlled system Chomsky derides?

Clearly, here is a man who adheres to a widely held theory of attacking the branches of evil. 1. Speak from an ivory tower but rarely take a cutting tool in hand, unless when advising others. 2. Lecture at length, inspire others to unselfish acts of civil disobedience or quiet resistance, but rarely perform such acts yourself. 3. Become a widely-heralded critic of the state from within a respected state institution.

In 1963, at the time of the JFK assassination, Chomsky was a tenured professor at MIT. Did he ever discuss world events such as this in the faculty lounge with his fellow professors? Did any of them ever draw conclusions? Did any of them observe the immediate escalation of the Vietnam War by LBJ? If not, how could any of these men, or anyone else for that matter, consider themselves intellectuals?

Only after FOUR YEARS of escalation did Chomsky deign to pen an essay for The New York Times Review of Books. At the time he claims, "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. So I was very much involved in the resistance, but I was never against the draft."

Resistance? By penning an essay to the NYT Review of Books? By 1968 I was in a military jail. Sentenced to thirty five days for AWOL, car theft and refusing to become a Security Policeman, likely bound for Vietnam . But then, I had never heard of Noam Chomsky; I had simply listened to my conscience and determined the war in Vietnam did not require my presence there, nor did it to my sworn oath to protect the Constitution from all enemies, foreign or domestic.

Consider then Chomsky on dissenting discussion: "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."

Brilliant, wouldn't you say?

But then Chomsky himself limits the discussion of the pivotal events of 911 or JFK, with exactly the same derision, as the mainstream media. But since Chomsky wrote a book called 9-11, one would think that to "allow very lively debate," would include discussion of the very topic he wrote about. I mean if you wrote a book called "Bass Fishing," and people attempted to discuss the myriad ways of bass fishing and you waved them away, most fishing aficionados would rightly conclude you were either a hypocrite, a poseur or a pompous ass.

Previous to the 9-11 attack, talk radio host, Alex Jones remarked: "Chomsky, you're a New World Order shill, and I've got twice the brain you've got with both arms tied behind my back." Since Jones predicted the attack prior to 911, and what that event might mean to the average American, Jones appeared to be right. Noam no longer mattered.

Many of Chomsky's biggest fans have noticed an aversion to connect 911 with huge crimes of the state. The off-hand remarks on YouTube only verify what many feel. For many Americans, 911 was the key that fully opened Pandora,s Box, releasing this up-armored imperialism, this New World Order. Why, many wonder, is Chomsky averse to speak out against the imperial juggernaut that used this singular event to launch an American Blitzkrieg in the Middle East ? As top detectives always ask: Cui bono?

Douglas Herman

Dissident, novelist and resident skeptic, Douglas Herman resides near Bullhead City, Arizona and knows less than he claims and more than given credit for.

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