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Noam Chomsky Quotes

Noam Chomsky
  • Mini Bio
  • Name: Avram Noam Chomsky
  • Born: 7th December 1928, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
  • Alma Mater: University of Pennsylvania
  • Occupation: Linguist, Philosopher and Author
  • Awards: Guggenheim Fellowship (1971), Member of the National Academy of Sciences (1972), Orwell Award (1987, 1989), Kyoto Prize in Basic Sciences (1988), Helmholtz Medal (1996), Sydney Peace Prize (2011) and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation (2014)
  • Influenced by: Alan Turing, Anton Pannekoek, Bertrand Russell, David Hume, Ferdinand de Saussure, Galileo, George Orwell, Hilary Putnam, Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, John Locke, Karl Liebknecht, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Marcel-Paul Schützenberger, Morris Halle, Nelson Goodman, Pāṇini, René Descartes, Wilhelm von Humboldt, William Chomsky, W. V. O. Quine, and Zellig Harris​
  • Inspired: Aaron Swartz, Amy Goodman, Arundhati Roy, César Milstein, Christopher Hitchens, Crispin Wright, Daniel Dennett, Derek Bickerton, Donald Knuth, Edward Said, Georges J. F. Köhler, Glenn Greenwald, Harold Pinter, Hugo Chávez, Jean Bricmont, Jerry Fodor, John Pilger, John Searle, Julian Assange, Julian C. Boyd, Marc Hauser, Michael Moore, Niels Kaj Jerne, Norbert Hornstein, Robert Fisk, Stephen Jay Gould and Zack de la Rocha
  • Marriage resume: Carol Doris Schatz 1949 - 2008 (her death) and Valeria Wasserman ​2014 to present day
  • Nickname: The father of modern linguistics
  • Hobbies: Reading

"As early as World War I, American historians offered themselves to President Woodrow Wilson to carry out a task they called "historical engineering," by which they meant designing the facts of history so that they would serve state policy"

Noam Chomsky

"That’s my life: honoring commie-rats and the renegade who is the source of the word “pilgerize” invented by journalists furious about his incisive and courageous reporting, and knowing that the only response they are capable of is ridicule"

Noam Chomsky

"I’ll avoid speculation, you can judge for yourselves the role Pilger plays in the fantasy life of the editorial offices of the Guardian"

Noam Chomsky

"Be cautious, and make sure to have a tape recorder that is very visibly placed in front of you. That may inhibit the dedication to deceit"

Noam Chomsky

"The hypocrite is the person who refuses to apply to himself the standards that he applies to others. By that standard, the entire commentary and discussion of the so-called "war on terror" is pure hypocrisy, virtually without exception"

Noam Chomsky

"If you take a poll among U.S. intellectuals, support for bombing Afghanistan is just overwhelming, but how many of them think that you should bomb Washington because of the U.S. war against Nicaragua, let's say, or anyone else?"

Noam Chomsky

"The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations"

Noam Chomsky

"The Cold War ideology and the international communist conspiracy function in an important way as essentially a propaganda device to mobilize support at a particular historical moment for this long-time imperial enterprise"

Noam Chomsky

"When I see multitudes of entirely naked savages scorn European voluptuousness and endure hunger, fire, the sword and death to preserve only their independence, I feel it does not behoove slaves to reason about freedom"

Noam Chomsky

"No person of understanding or humanity will too quickly condemn the violence that often occurs, when long subdued masses rise against their oppressors or take their first steps toward liberty and social reconstruction"

Noam Chomsky

"It is very difficult to retain a faith in the "essential humanity" of the SS trooper or the Commissar or the racist blinded with hate and fear, or, for that matter, the insensate victim of a life of anti-communist indoctrination"

Noam Chomsky

"State propaganda, when supported by the educated classes and when no deviation is permitted from it, can have a big effect. It was a lesson learned by Hitler and many others, and it has been pursued to this day"

Noam Chomsky

"One who pays some attention to history will not be surprised if those who cry most loudly that we must smash and destroy are later found among the administrators of some new system of repression"

Noam Chomsky

"If violence does move the peasantry to the point where it can overcome the sort of permanent bondage of the sort that exists, say, in the Philippines, then I think there’s a pretty strong case for it"

Noam Chomsky

"Goebbels was in favor of freedom of speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you're in favor of freedom of speech, that means you're in favor of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise"

Noam Chomsky

"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

"The war is simply an obscenity, a depraved act by weak and miserable men, including all of us who have allowed it to go on and on with endless fury and destruction"

Noam Chomsky

"We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush's compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic"

Noam Chomsky

"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"

Noam Chomsky

"One reason that propaganda often works better on the educated than on the uneducated is that educated people read more, so they receive more propaganda"

Noam Chomsky

"Because they don't teach the truth about the world, schools have to rely on beating students over the head with propaganda about democracy"

Noam Chomsky

"This is a bloodbath carried out by a friendly power and is thus of little interest to our readers. It is a “benign bloodbath” in our terminology" (about East Timor)

Noam Chomsky

"We all know that if Russia or China were guilty of what we have done in Vietnam, we would be exploding with moral indignation at these monstrous crimes"

Noam Chomsky

"I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled"

Noam Chomsky

"In the American Jewish community, there is little willingness to face the fact that the Palestinian Arabs have suffered a monstrous historical injustice"

Noam Chomsky

"It's perfectly legitimate to send arms to people who finally try to use violence in self-defense against a gang of mass murderers installed by a foreign power"

Noam Chomsky

"As for drugs, my impression is that their effect was almost completely negative, simply removing people from meaningful struggle and engagement"

Noam Chomsky

"WikiLeaks ... compromised the security that governments are usually concerned about: their security from inspection by their own populations"

Noam Chomsky

"There is a growing realization that it is an illusion to believe that all will be well if only today’s liberal hero can be placed in the White House"

Noam Chomsky

"Powerful states have quite typically considered themselves to be exceptionally magnificent, and the United States is no exception to that"

Noam Chomsky

"Moral equivalence is a term of propaganda that was invented to try to prevent us from looking at the acts for which we are responsible"

Noam Chomsky

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

Noam Chomsky

"Armies usually aren't interested in wars. They like preparation for war. But they have an understandable reluctance to fight a war"

Noam Chomsky

"Of course, everybody says they're for peace. Hitler was for peace. Everybody is for peace. The question is: "What kind of peace?"

Noam Chomsky

"Go to any elite university and you are usually speaking to very disciplined people, people who have been selected for obedience"

Noam Chomsky

"There are no conservatives in the United States..... They believe in a powerful state, but a welfare state for the rich"

Noam Chomsky

"What I find terrifying is the detachment and equanimity with which we view and discuss an unbearable tragedy"

Noam Chomsky

"The threat of China is not military. The threat of China is they can't be intimidated... Europe you can intimidate"

Noam Chomsky

"Here it happened in the way American propaganda always works: by servility and cowardice and class interest"

Noam Chomsky

"Stability means we run it. There are countries that are very stable. Cuba is stable, but that's not called stability"

Noam Chomsky

"By accepting the presumption of legitimacy of debate on certain issues, one has already lost one’s humanity"

Noam Chomsky

"The more there is a need to talk about the ideals of democracy, the less democratic the system usually is"

Noam Chomsky

"If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged"

Noam Chomsky

"Non-violent resistance activities cannot succeed against an enemy that is able freely to use violence"

Noam Chomsky

"We have to ask ourselves whether what is needed in the United States is dissent - or denazification"

Noam Chomsky

"Mass education was designed to turn independent farmers into docile, passive tools of production"

Noam Chomsky

"Where the voice of the people is heard, elite groups must insure their voice says the right things"

Noam Chomsky

"Covid-19 has revealed glaring failures and monstrous brutalities in the current capitalist system"

Noam Chomsky

"It is the fundamental duty of the citizen to resist and to restrain the violence of the state"

Noam Chomsky

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

Noam Chomsky

"Where the state lacks means of coercion, it is important to control what people think"

Noam Chomsky

"If we're leaving our fate to sociopathic buffoons, we're finished... Trump is the worst"

Noam Chomsky

"There's a good reason why nobody studies history. It just teaches you too much"

Noam Chomsky

"Market signals were clear: There's no profit in preventing a future catastrophe"

Noam Chomsky

"The uniformity and obedience of the media, which any dictator would admire"

Noam Chomsky

"Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state"

Noam Chomsky

"The United States effectively has a one-party system, the business party"

Noam Chomsky

"The invasion of Iraq was simply a war crime. Straight-out war crime"

Noam Chomsky

"Intellectuals are in a position to expose the lies of governments"

Noam Chomsky

"There was nothing remotely like socialism in the Soviet Union"

Noam Chomsky
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Noam Chomsky's Legacy

The legacy of Noam Chomsky has been an ongoing process charting more than half a century of extraordinary achievements. In 2005 he was voted the world's leading public intellectual in a poll conducted by two anglo/American magazines. The following year (2006), New Statesman readers elevated his worldwide credentials by listing Chomsky in a poll of the world's foremost heroes. He is oft credited as the spark that ignited the cognitive revolution with his 1957 paper Syntactic Structures cited as a major contributing factor in the intellectual movement that led to the formation of cognitive science. He also credited with creating the theory of generative grammar.

A Legacy of Activism

From Vietnam to Venezuela the name Noam Chomsky has been associated with activist movements that became a recurring thorn in the ass of U.S. foreign policy. His 1967 essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" brought him national attention much to the chagrin of policy making officials. He made it onto President Richard Nixon's secret enemies list and was arrested on multiple occasions for his varied activism. A Freedom of Information Act request revealed that the CIA had been monitoring his activities despite previous denials from the clandestine government organisation.

He is without doubt one of the most important intellectuals of the late twentieth century, but, he was never the establishment choice as a preferred intellectual. Having the temerity to morph into a gadfly at any time by posing awkward questions to authorities made him into a modern-day hero to counterculture subversives and a distraction to corporate leaning narratives. Mainstream media never fully accepted his political viewpoints whilst his activism was treated with sceptical disdain by the same institutions who kept him at arms length on the outer-radius of political palatability.

Quotes About Noam Chomsky

The Linguist Robert Barsky pondered the obvious elephant in the room: "We now hear a lot about how the left has been discredited, the hopelessness of utopian thinking, the futility of activist struggle, but little about the libertarian options that Chomsky and others have so consistently presented"

Robert Barsky went on to say: "Unlike many leftists of his generation, Chomsky never flirted with movements or organizations that were later revealed to be totalitarian, oppressive, exclusionary, antirevolutionary, or elitist"

Right wing commentator David Horowitz labelled him: "The most devious, the most dishonest and ... the most treacherous intellect in America"

The journalist Chris Hedges expressed this view: "Noam Chomsky is America's greatest intellectual. His massive body of work, which includes nearly 100 books, has for decades deflated and exposed the lies of the power elite and the myths they perpetrate. Chomsky has done this despite being blacklisted by the commercial media, turned into a pariah by the academy and, by his own admission, being a pedantic and at times slightly boring speaker. He combines moral autonomy with rigorous scholarship, a remarkable grasp of detail and a searing intellect"

The writer Christopher Hitchens shared this observation: "Chomsky proceeds on the almost unthinkably subversive assumption that the United States should be judged by the same standards that it preaches (often at gunpoint) to other nations"

Michael Leon shared this assessment: "The Anti-Chomsky Reader is mired in a thick haze of loathing and hard-right ideology, short on verifiable facts and long on ideologically-steeped assertions"

The historian Robin Blackburn offered this perspective: "He didn’t only transform linguistics in the 1950s and 1960s; he has remained in the forefront of controversy and research"

The academic Edward Marcotte highlighted the importance of Chomsky's linguistic theory: "What started as purely linguistic research ... has led, through involvement in political causes and an identification with an older philosophic tradition, to no less than an attempt to formulate an overall theory of man. The roots of this are manifest in the linguistic theory"

The author Tom Wolfe was not so impressed: "Only wearily could Chomsky endure traditional linguists who … thought fieldwork was essential and wound up in primitive places, emerging from the tall grass zipping their pants up.… What difference did it make, knowing all those native tongues? Chomsky made it clear he was elevating linguistics to the altitude of Plato's - and the Martian's - transcendental eternal universals."

The CounterPunch author Robert Hunziker gave this grave assessment: "The Biden administration, expanding upon Trump's confrontational approach, has Chomsky at a loss for words to describe the danger at hand. Only recently, Biden met with NATO leaders and instructed them to plan on two wars, China and Russia. According to Chomsky: “This is beyond insanity.” Not only that, the group is carrying out provocative acts when diplomacy is really needed. This is an extraordinarily dangerous situation"

Paul Robinson in a 1979 NYT article shared this appraisal: "Judged in terms of the power, range, novelty and influence of his thought, Noam Chomsky is arguably the most important intellectual alive today. He is also a disturbingly divided intellectual"

The journalist Jonathan Kay was less complimentary when he described Chomsky as: "a hard-boiled anti-American monomaniac who simply refuses to believe anything that any American leader says"

The author Brian Morton shared his assessment of the man: "Chomsky sees the world in a very stark way and gets at certain truths in that way, but ultimately his view is so simplistic that it's not useful. He's become a phase that people on the left should go through when they are young"

The academic Edward Said posed this moral comparison: "There is something profoundly unsettling about an intellectual such as Chomsky who has neither an office to protect nor territory to consolidate and guard. There is no dodging the inescapable reality that such representations by intellectuals will neither make them friends in high places nor win them official honors. It is a lonely condition, yes, but it is always a better one than a gregarious tolerance for the way things are"

The academic James McGilvray was impressed to say: "The second major area to which Chomsky has contributed—and surely the best known in terms of the number of people in his audience and the ease of understanding what he writes and says—is his work on sociopolitical analysis; political, social, and economic history; and critical assessment of current political circumstance"

His biographer Wolfgang B. Sperlich described him as: "One of the most notable contemporary champions of the people"

The independent journalist John Pilger waxed lyrical, calling him a: "Genuine people's hero; an inspiration for struggles all over the world for that basic decency known as freedom. To a lot of people in the margins—activists and movements—he's unfailingly supportive"

Part of a retraction published by the Guardian in 2005: "Prof. Chomsky has been obliged to point out that he has never said or believed any such thing. The Guardian has no evidence whatsoever to the contrary and retracts the statement with an unreserved apology to Prof. Chomsky"

The journalist Roberts Stevens shared this view: "The newspaper’s November 14 retraction admitted as much. It was issued in the form of an acknowledgement by the “readers’ editor” that found in favour of Chomsky on three significant complaints"

Roberts Stevens then posed this question about the Guardian's retraction: "Brockes’ piece was clearly a hatchet job in which she demonstrated a complete disdain for basic journalistic standards. But why was she given the task and what was the brief given to her by the Guardian’s editorial staff?"

The writer Nick Cohen was not so impressed by the professor: "I am disgusted to say that I can cite vast amounts of detail on the malign influence of Chomsky and his kind on the wider left"

The French scholar Pierre Vidal-Naquet opined this opinion: "The simple truth, Noam Chomsky, is that you were unable to abide by the ethical maxim that you had imposed. You had the right to say: my worst enemy has the right to be free, on condition that he not ask for my death or that of my brothers. You did not have the right to say: my worst enemy is a comrade, or a "relatively apolitical sort of liberal." You did not have the right to take a falsifier of history and to recast him in the colors of truth."

The journalist John McDermott inferred this assessment: "Chomsky’s distance from the mainstream is not down to his academic work. Referring to him as a linguist is a bit like calling Arnold Schwarz­enegger a bodybuilder. Chomsky is arguably the world’s most prominent political activist. To his opponents, he is a crank who sees evil as made in America. To his supporters, he is a brave truth-teller and unrelenting humanist; a latter-day Bertrand Russell"


Noam Chomsky quote

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