Noam Chomsky quotes

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Noam Chomsky

Birthdate: 7. December 1928
Other names: Ноам Хомский, Ноам Чомский, Avram Noam Chomsky

Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes described as "the father of modern linguistics," Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He is the author of over 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism. He holds a joint appointment as Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and laureate professor at the University of Arizona.

Born to middle-class Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia, Chomsky developed an early interest in anarchism from alternative bookstores in New York City. At the age of 16 he began studies at the University of Pennsylvania, taking courses in linguistics, mathematics, and philosophy. From 1951 to 1955 he was appointed to Harvard University's Society of Fellows, where he developed the theory of transformational grammar for which he was awarded his doctorate in 1955. That year he began teaching at MIT, in 1957 emerging as a significant figure in the field of linguistics for his landmark work Syntactic Structures, which remodeled the scientific study of language, while from 1958 to 1959 he was a National Science Foundation fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. He is credited as the creator or co-creator of the universal grammar theory, the generative grammar theory, the Chomsky hierarchy, and the minimalist program. Chomsky also played a pivotal role in the decline of behaviorism, being particularly critical of the work of B. F. Skinner.

An outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which he saw as an act of American imperialism, in 1967 Chomsky attracted widespread public attention for his anti-war essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals". Associated with the New Left, he was arrested multiple times for his activism and placed on President Richard Nixon's Enemies List. While expanding his work in linguistics over subsequent decades, he also became involved in the Linguistics Wars. In collaboration with Edward S. Herman, Chomsky later co-wrote an analysis articulating the propaganda model of media criticism, and worked to expose the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Additionally, his defense of unconditional freedom of speech – including for Holocaust deniers – generated significant controversy in the Faurisson affair of the early 1980s. Following his retirement from active teaching, he has continued his vocal political activism, including opposing the War on Terror and supporting the Occupy movement.

One of the most cited scholars in history, Chomsky has influenced a broad array of academic fields. He is widely recognized as a paradigm shifter who helped spark a major revolution in the human sciences, contributing to the development of a new cognitivistic framework for the study of language and the mind. In addition to his continued scholarly research, he remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neoliberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and mainstream news media. His ideas have proved highly significant within the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements, but have also drawn criticism, with some accusing Chomsky of anti-Americanism.

Works

9-11
Noam Chomsky
Year 501
Noam Chomsky
Power Systems
Power Systems
Noam Chomsky

„There is a noticeable general difference between the sciences and mathematics on the one hand, and the humanities and social sciences on the other.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994
Context: There is a noticeable general difference between the sciences and mathematics on the one hand, and the humanities and social sciences on the other. It's a first approximation, but one that is real. In the former, the factors of integrity tend to dominate more over the factors of ideology. It's not that scientists are more honest people. It's just that nature is a harsh taskmaster. You can lie or distort the story of the French Revolution as long as you like, and nothing will happen. Propose a false theory in chemistry, and it'll be refuted tomorrow.

„You can't have non-violent resistance against the Nazis in a concentration camp“

—  Noam Chomsky

Chronicles of Dissent, December 13, 1989 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/interviews/db-8912.html
Quotes 1960s-1980s, 1980s
Context: Non-violent resistance activities cannot succeed against an enemy that is able freely to use violence. That's pretty obvious. You can't have non-violent resistance against the Nazis in a concentration camp, to take an extreme case...

„We're dealing with real human beings who are suffering and dying and being tortured and starving because of policies that we are involved in“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994
Context: We're not analyzing the media on Mars or in the eighteenth century or something like that. We're dealing with real human beings who are suffering and dying and being tortured and starving because of policies that we are involved in, we as citizens of democratic societies are directly involved in and are responsible for, and what the media are doing is ensuring that we do not act on our responsibilities, and that the interests of power are served, not the needs of the suffering people, and not even the needs of the American people who would be horrified if they realized the blood that's dripping from their hands because of the way they are allowing themselves to be deluded and manipulated by the system.

„If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators“

—  Noam Chomsky

Interview by Yifat Susskind, August 2001 http://www.madre.org/articles/chomsky-0801.html.
Quotes 2000s, 2001
Context: Take the Kyoto Protocol. Destruction of the environment is not only rational; it's exactly what you're taught to do in college. If you take an economics or a political science course, you're taught that humans are supposed to be rational wealth accumulators, each acting as an individual to maximize his own wealth in the market. The market is regarded as democratic because everybody has a vote. Of course, some have more votes than others because your votes depend on the number of dollars you have, but everybody participates and therefore it's called democratic. Well, suppose that we believe what we are taught. It follows that if there are dollars to be made, you destroy the environment. The reason is elementary. The people who are going to be harmed by this are your grandchildren, and they don't have any votes in the market. Their interests are worth zero. Anybody that pays attention to their grandchildren's interests is being irrational, because what you're supposed to do is maximize your own interests, measured by wealth, right now. Nothing else matters. So destroying the environment and militarizing outer space are rational policies, but within a framework of institutional lunacy. If you accept the institutional lunacy, then the policies are rational.

„There are two parties, so-called, but they're really factions of the same party, the Business Party.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994, Interview by Adam Jones, 1990
Context: In the United States, the political system is a very marginal affair. There are two parties, so-called, but they're really factions of the same party, the Business Party. Both represent some range of business interests. In fact, they can change their positions 180 degrees, and nobody even notices. In the 1984 election, for example, there was actually an issue, which often there isn't. The issue was Keynesian growth versus fiscal conservatism. The Republicans were the party of Keynesian growth: big spending, deficits, and so on. The Democrats were the party of fiscal conservatism: watch the money supply, worry about the deficits, et cetera. Now, I didn't see a single comment pointing out that the two parties had completely reversed their traditional positions. Traditionally, the Democrats are the party of Keynesian growth, and the Republicans the party of fiscal conservatism. So doesn't it strike you that something must have happened? Well, actually, it makes sense. Both parties are essentially the same party. The only question is how coalitions of investors have shifted around on tactical issues now and then. As they do, the parties shift to opposite positions, within a narrow spectrum.

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„This was slaughter, not war.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Z Magazine, August 31, 1991 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/z9110-aftermath.html.
Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994
Context: The crisis began with the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait a year ago. There was some fighting, leaving hundreds killed according to Human Rights groups. That hardly qualifies as war. Rather, in terms of crimes against peace and against humanity, it falls roughly into the category of the Turkish invasion of northern Cyprus, Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1978, and the U. S. invasion of Panama. In these terms it falls well short of Israel's 1982 invasion of Lebanon, and cannot remotely be compared with the near-genocidal Indonesian invasion and annexation of East Timor, to mention only two cases of aggression that are still in progress, with continuing atrocities and with the crucial support of those who most passionately professed their outrage over Iraq's aggression. During the subsequent months, Iraq was responsible for terrible crimes in Kuwait, with several thousand killed and many tortured. But that is not war; rather, state terrorism, of the kind familiar among U. S. clients. The second phase of the conflict began with the U. S.-U. K. attack of January 15 (with marginal participation of others). This was slaughter http://www.hrw.org/reports/1991/gulfwar/index.htm, not war.

„If we don't believe in free expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky in interview by John Pilger on BBC's The Late Show, November 25, 1992 http://jmm.aaa.net.au/articles/14177.htm.
Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994

„Now, it's a little wrong to say that the people die. The fact is, they don't die.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1960s-1980s, 1980s, Talk at University of California, Berkeley, 1984
Context: Rio de Janeiro, incidentally, is not the poor part of the country, that sort of the rich part of the country. It's not the northeast, where 35 million people or so, nobody knows what happens to them, or cares. But Rio de Janeiro, that's where people are looking, the rich parts. And this journal is a science journal, kinda like Science in the United States. It was studying malnutrition. And here's the figures it had for Rio de Janeiro: infants from 0 to 5 months, severe malnutrition, meaning medically severe, 67%; 5 months to a year, 41%; a year to 5 years, 11%. Now the reason of course for the decline, from 67 to 41 to 11, is that they will die. So that's what happens under the conditions of the economic miracle, like in Guatemala. Now, it's a little wrong to say that the people die. The fact is, they don't die. We kill them, that's what happens. We kill them by carrying out policies, supporting the regimes of the kind that I've described. And by intervening with force and violence to suppress and destroy any attempt, however minimal, even on a speck like Grenada, we've got to stop any attempt to bring some change into this. That's the history of our hemisphere.

„The anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious. And for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow.“

—  Noam Chomsky, book Class Warfare

Quotes 1990s, 1995-1999, Class Warfare, 1995
Context: Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production. That was its primary purpose. And don't think people didn't know it. They knew it and they fought against it. There was a lot of resistance to mass education for exactly that reason. It was also understood by the elites. Emerson once said something about how we're educating them to keep them from our throats. If you don't educate them, what we call "education," they're going to take control -- "they" being what Alexander Hamilton called the "great beast," namely the people. The anti-democratic thrust of opinion in what are called democratic societies is really ferocious. And for good reason. Because the freer the society gets, the more dangerous the great beast becomes and the more you have to be careful to cage it somehow.

„Similarly, if an editorial writer for the New York Times were to start, say, telling the truth“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994, Interview by Adam Jones, 1990
Context: Boards of Directors have to make certain kinds of decisions, and those decisions are pretty narrowly constrained. They have to be committed to increasing profit share and market share. That means they're going to be forced to try to limit wages, to limit quality, to use advertising in a way that sells goods even if the product is lousy. Who tells them to do this? Nobody. But if they stopped doing it, they'd be out of business. Similarly, if an editorial writer for the New York Times were to start, say, telling the truth about the Panama invasion -- which is almost inconceivable, because to become an editorial writer you'd already have gone through a filtering process which would weed out the non-conformists -- well, the first thing that would happen is you'd start getting a lot of angry phone calls from investors, owners, and other sectors of power. That would probably suffice. If it didn't, you'd simply see the stock start falling. And if they continued with it systematically, the New York Times would be replaced by some other organ. After all, what is the New York Times? It's just a corporation. If investors and advertisers don't want to support it, and the government doesn't want to give it the special privileges and advantages that make it a "newspaper of record," it's out of business.

„The Caribbean back in the 18th century was a soft drug producer: sugar, rum, tobacco, chocolate. And in order to do it, they had to enslave Africans, and it was done largely to pacify working people in England who were being driven into awful circumstances by the early industrial revolution. That's why so many wars took place around the Caribbean.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 2000s, 2002, Talk at the University of Houston, 2002
Context: There's one white powder which is by far the most lethal known. It's called sugar. If you look at the history of imperialism, a lot of it has to do with that. A lot of the imperial conquest, say in the Caribbean, set up a kind of a network... The Caribbean back in the 18th century was a soft drug producer: sugar, rum, tobacco, chocolate. And in order to do it, they had to enslave Africans, and it was done largely to pacify working people in England who were being driven into awful circumstances by the early industrial revolution. That's why so many wars took place around the Caribbean.

„Every year thousands of people, mostly children and poor farmers, are killed in the Plain of Jars in Northern Laos“

—  Noam Chomsky

ZNet, March 1999 http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199903--.htm.
Quotes 1990s, 1995-1999
Context: Every year thousands of people, mostly children and poor farmers, are killed in the Plain of Jars in Northern Laos, the scene of the heaviest bombing of civilian targets in history it appears, and arguably the most cruel: Washington's furious assault on a poor peasant society had little to do with its wars in the region. The worst period was from 1968, when Washington was compelled to undertake negotiations (under popular and business pressure), ending the regular bombardment of North Vietnam. Kissinger-Nixon then decided to shift the planes to bombardment of Laos and Cambodia. The deaths are from "bombies," tiny anti-personnel weapons, far worse than land-mines: they are designed specifically to kill and maim, and have no effect on trucks, buildings, etc. The Plain was saturated with hundreds of millions of these criminal devices, which have a failure-to-explode rate of 20%-30% according to the manufacturer, Honeywell. The numbers suggest either remarkably poor quality control or a rational policy of murdering civilians by delayed action. These were only a fraction of the technology deployed, including advanced missiles to penetrate caves where families sought shelter. Current annual casualties from "bombies" are estimated from hundreds a year to "an annual nationwide casualty rate of 20,000," more than half of them deaths, according to the veteran Asia reporter Barry Wain of the Wall Street Journal -- in its Asia edition. A conservative estimate, then, is that the crisis this year is approximately comparable to Kosovo, though deaths are far more highly concentrated among children -- over half, according to analyses reported by the Mennonite Central Committee, which has been working there since 1977 to alleviate the continuing atrocities. There have been efforts to publicize and deal with the humanitarian catastrophe. A British-based Mine Advisory Group ( MAG http://www.mag.org.uk/) is trying to remove the lethal objects, but the US is "conspicuously missing from the handful of Western organizations that have followed MAG," the British press reports, though it has finally agreed to train some Laotian civilians. The British press also reports, with some anger, the allegation of MAG specialists that the US refuses to provide them with "render harmless procedures" that would make their work "a lot quicker and a lot safer." These remain a state secret, as does the whole affair in the United States. The Bangkok press reports a very similar situation in Cambodia, particularly the Eastern region where US bombardment from early 1969 was most intense.

„Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetuer adipiscing elit. Etiam egestas wisi a erat. Morbi imperdiet, mauris ac auctor dictum.“

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