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

„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

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„And after that every single memoirist radically changed their story about what had happened.“

—  Noam Chomsky

interview by David Cogswell, September 14, 1993 (see also: Rethinking Camelot http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/rc/rc-contents.html, Boston Review http://www.chomsky.info/letters/200312--.htm) http://www.davidcogswell.com/Political/Chomsky_Interview_93.htm.
Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994
Context: The Tet Offensive in January of 1968 [... ] made the war unpopular. American corporate elites decided at that point that it just wasn't worth it, it was too costly, let's pull out. So at that time everybody became an opponent of the war because the orders from on high were that you were supposed to be opposed to it. And after that every single memoirist radically changed their story about what had happened. They all concocted this story that their hero, John F. Kennedy, was really planning to pull out of this unpopular war before he was killed and then Johnson changed it. If you look at the earlier memoirs, not a hint, I mean literally.

„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.

„We do control the destinies of Central America and we do so for the simple reason that the national interest absolutely dictates such a course“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1960s-1980s, 1980s, Talk at University of California, Berkeley, 1984
Context: There have been times, however, when US officials have described what's going on in relatively frank terms; sometimes quite clearly. One put the matter in these words: "The Central American area down to and including the Isthmus of Panama constitutes a legitimate sphere of influence for the United States [... ] We do control the destinies of Central America and we do so for the simple reason that the national interest absolutely dictates such a course [... ] We must decide whether we shall tolerate the interference of any other power in Central American affairs, or insist upon our own dominant position [... ] Until now, Central America has always understood that governments that we recognize and support stay in power, while those we do not recognize and support, fall [... ] Nicaragua has become a test case, it is difficult to see how we can afford to be defeated." That's fairly familiar. These remarks were made by Under Secretary of State Robert Olds in 1927, and the outside power that he was concerned about was Mexico. [audience laughter] Mexico at that time was a Russian proxy. We were no longer fighting Huns in the Dominican Republic, now we were fighting Russians in Nicaragua, and in particular the Russian proxy Mexico. Mexico was then a proxy of the Bolsheviks, so the Marines had to be sent in, once again, and they established Somoza, and established the National Guard which was the basis for American power throughout the region, and in fact one of the most effective murder-incorporated forces down there for many years. They killed Sandino, he was killed off by stealth couple of years later, the guerilla leader. As President Coolidge sent the Marines in, he made the following declaration: "Mexico is on trial before the world." Mexico is on trial before the world as a proxy of the Soviet Union when we send the Marines into Nicaragua. Now things have changed a little bit, now it's Nicaragua that's threatening Mexico as a Russian proxy... But again there's the same conclusion, you know, kill the spics and the niggers and so on. That follows no matter who's the proxy for who. And all of this is repeated at every moment of history with great seriousness and awe and so on as if it had some meaning, as if it wasn't just some black comedy.

„You see a kid eating an ice cream cone and you notice there's no cop around and you can take the ice cream cone from him because you're bigger and walk away. You can do that. Probably there are people who do. We call them "pathological." On the other hand, if they do it within existing social structures we call them "normal." But it's just as pathological. It's just the pathology of the general society.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994
Context: Of course it's extremely easy to say, the heck with it. I'm just going to adapt myself to the structures of power and authority and do the best I can within them. Sure, you can do that. But that's not acting like a decent person. You can walk down the street and be hungry. You see a kid eating an ice cream cone and you notice there's no cop around and you can take the ice cream cone from him because you're bigger and walk away. You can do that. Probably there are people who do. We call them "pathological." On the other hand, if they do it within existing social structures we call them "normal." But it's just as pathological. It's just the pathology of the general society.

Interview with Michael Albert, January 1993 http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/interviews/9301-albchomsky-2.html.

„Until the United States prosecutes its own leaders, it is guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that means war crimes.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Talk titled "On West Asia" at UC Berkeley, March 21, 2002 http://www.chomsky.info/talks/20020321.htm.
Quotes 2000s, 2002
Context: [Israel's military occupation is] in gross violation of international law and has been from the outset. And that much, at least, is fully recognized, even by the United States, which has overwhelming and, as I said, unilateral responsibility for these crimes. So George Bush No. 1, when he was the U. N. ambassador, back in 1971, he officially reiterated Washington's condemnation of Israel's actions in the occupied territories. He happened to be referring specifically to occupied Jerusalem. In his words, actions in violation of the provisions of international law governing the obligations of an occupying power, namely Israel. He criticized Israel's failure "to acknowledge its obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention as well as its actions which are contrary to the letter and spirit of this Convention." [... ] However, by that time, late 1971, a divergence was developing, between official policy and practice. The fact of the matter is that by then, by late 1971, the United States was already providing the means to implement the violations that Ambassador Bush deplored. [... ] on December 5th [2001], there had been an important international conference, called in Switzerland, on the 4th Geneva Convention. Switzerland is the state that's responsible for monitoring and controlling the implementation of them. The European Union all attended, even Britain, which is virtually a U. S. attack dog these days. They attended. A hundred and fourteen countries all together, the parties to the Geneva Convention. They had an official declaration, which condemned the settlements in the occupied territories as illegal, urged Israel to end its breaches of the Geneva Convention, some "grave breaches," including willful killing, torture, unlawful deportation, unlawful depriving of the rights of fair and regular trial, extensive destruction and appropriation of property not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly. Grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that's a serious term, that means serious war crimes. The United States is one of the high contracting parties to the Geneva Convention, therefore it is obligated, by its domestic law and highest commitments, to prosecute the perpetrators of grave breaches of the conventions. That includes its own leaders. Until the United States prosecutes its own leaders, it is guilty of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention, that means war crimes. And it's worth remembering the context. It is not any old convention. These are the conventions established to criminalize the practices of the Nazis, right after the Second World War. What was the U. S. reaction to the meeting in Geneva? The U. S. boycotted the meeting... and that has the usual consequence, it means the meeting is null and void, silence in the media.

„At the time, it was reported that Saddam Hussein was giving $10,000 to every family. Well, is that supporting terror? It seems to me, sending helicopters to Israel when they're using them to attack apartment complexes, that's supporting terror.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Talk titled "Why Iraq?" at Harvard University, November 4, 2002 http://www.iop.harvard.edu/events_forum_archive_2002.html.
Quotes 2000s, 2002
Context: Before there were any suicide bombers, it was also reported by the same sources that Saddam Hussein was giving $10,000 to the families of anyone who was killed by Israeli atrocities, and there were plenty of them. Well, should he've been doing that? So let's take the first month of the current intifada. I'm just relying now on IDF sources. What they say is, that in the first few days of the intifada, the Israeli army fired a million bullets. One of the high military officers said 'that means one bullet for every child'. Within the first month of the intifada, they killed about 70 people. Using U. S. helicopters, and in fact Clinton shipped new helicopters to Israel as soon as they started using them against civilians. That's just the first month. And it goes on, no suicide bombers. At the time, it was reported that Saddam Hussein was giving $10,000 to every family. Well, is that supporting terror? It seems to me, sending helicopters to Israel when they're using them to attack apartment complexes, that's supporting terror.

„If you look into the history of what is called the CIA, which means the US White House, its secret wars, clandestine warfare, the trail of drug production just follows.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Interview by John Veit in High Times, April 1998 http://www.hightimes.com/ht/entertainment/content.php?bid=175&aid=2
Quotes 1990s, 1995-1999
Context: If you look into the history of what is called the CIA, which means the US White House, its secret wars, clandestine warfare, the trail of drug production just follows. It started in France after the Second World War when the United States was essentially trying to reinstitute the traditional social order, to rehabilitate Fascist collaborators, wipe out the Resistance and destroy the unions and so on. The first thing they did was reconstitute the Mafia, as strikebreakers or for other such useful services. And the Mafia doesn't do it for fun, so there was a tradeoff: Essentially, they allowed them to reinstitute the heroin production system, which had been destroyed by the Fascists. The Fascists tended to run a pretty tight ship; they didn't want any competition, so they wiped out the Mafia. But the US reconstituted it, first in southern Italy, and then in southern France with the Corsican Mafia. That's where the famous French Connection comes from. That was the main heroin center for many years. Then US terrorist activities shifted over to Southeast Asia. If you want to carry out terrorist activities, you need local people to do it for you, and you also need secret money to pay for it, clandestine hidden money. Well, if you need to hire thugs and murderers with secret money, there aren't many options. One of them is the drug connection. The so-called Golden Triangle around Burma, Laos and Thailand became a big drug producing area with the help of the United States, as part of the secret wars against those populations.

„States are violent to the extent that they're powerful“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1990s, 1990-1994
Context: States are violent institutions. The government of any country, including ours, represents some sort of domestic power structure, and it's usually violent. States are violent to the extent that they're powerful, that's roughly accurate.

„Such a society couldn't survive, and even if it could, it would be so full of terror and hate that any human being would prefer to live in hell.“

—  Noam Chomsky

Quotes 1990s, 1995-1999, The Common Good (1998)
Context: The most extreme types, like Murray Rothbard, are at least honest. They'd like to eliminate highway taxes because they force you to pay for a road you may never drive on. As an alternative, they suggest that if you and I want to get somewhere, we should build a road there and charge people tolls on it. Just try generalizing that. Such a society couldn't survive, and even if it could, it would be so full of terror and hate that any human being would prefer to live in hell.

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

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