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Chomsky says arrest me too.
February 19, 2002 12:54 PM   Subscribe

Chomsky says arrest me too. A Turkish publisher accused of disseminating separatist propaganda was acquitted yesterday after one of his authors -the celebrated American linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky - appeared in an Istanbul court and asked to be tried alongside him.
posted by skallas (68 comments total)

 
I question the impact of a garden Noam in a Turkish Court.
posted by mikhail at 1:20 PM on February 19, 2002


Noam, have you ever been in a... Turkish prison?
posted by starvingartist at 1:27 PM on February 19, 2002


How can you not admire the man? He flies in, stands up for the little guy, lectures and pats the Turkish court on the back and, before the morning's over, I bet he starts writing his next indictment of the Turkish government. I wish we right-wing couch potatoes had half his gumption.

Now we return to our regular Chomsky-bashing schedule...
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:27 PM on February 19, 2002


I like Noam, but I would never volunteer for Turkish prison after seeing Midnight Express.
posted by ddmmyyyy at 1:30 PM on February 19, 2002


I'm thoroughly impressed by Noam and I'm glad to see the recent spat of mostly inane criticism since 9/11 going his way hasn't turned him into some pariah on the international scene.
posted by skallas at 1:35 PM on February 19, 2002


The man has more guts than Darth's got vader.
posted by luriete at 1:37 PM on February 19, 2002


And he even manages to throw some blame the USA - imagine that.

Before yesterday's trial he said that Americans had a duty to monitor and protest against human rights abuses in Turkey. "When the United States provides 80% of the arms for Turkey, for the express purpose of carrying out repression that's my responsibility," he explained.
posted by schlyer at 1:39 PM on February 19, 2002


blame at the USA. sorry about that.
posted by schlyer at 1:40 PM on February 19, 2002


How can you not admire the man?

Very easily, Miguel. Before this I merely thought of Chomsky as a self-important, knee-jerk lefist, ivory tower academic gasbag. Now, I see he's a grandstanding publicity hound as well. I shouldn't be surprised, I guess.
posted by jonmc at 1:42 PM on February 19, 2002


What? No "cunning linguist" jokes?

Let's just ingore the chump. I mean chimp. I mean Nim Chimpsky.
posted by etc. at 2:01 PM on February 19, 2002


When people argue that foreign countries are oppressive and change needs to take place, people dismiss them by sneering, "yeah? well if you hate it so much, why not go over there and do something about it?"

And when somebody does, some people dismiss him as a publicity hound. Just wondering -- is there any way for him to win in this situation, in your unbiased opinion?
posted by Hildago at 2:24 PM on February 19, 2002


Jeez, jonmc. Yeah, it's been good publicity for Chomsky. But it's good publicity because he did a good thing. Should he have stayed at home and let his publisher go to jail?

See this Amnesty reportto understand why this was risky, and why helping his publisher was a good deed. Even by American standards, Turkish jails are bad, and torture of dissident prisoners is common.

Arms sales by the US to Turkey for oppressing the Kurds are detailed in this report.

The blind eye that the West turns to Turkey's treatment of its Kurdish minority is hypocritical compared to the rhetoric directed at Iraq. (Although come to that, no one worried about selling Iraq arms for Kurd-bashing purposes until the Gulf War either).
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:26 PM on February 19, 2002


ddmmyyy, while I don't ever want to go to a Turkish Jail, I think the movie Midnight Express isn't particularly accurate.

The Turkish lonely Planet has a good explanation of what the Midnight Express really was. I can't find a link to the actual text right now, but this page provides a good summary.
posted by Foaf at 2:26 PM on February 19, 2002


Hidalgo - It's not necessarily about winning. I don't like Chomsky, even on the rare occasions I agree with him.
This is cos he strikes me as the epitome of a certain type I've come across both in the real world, and her on MeFi: those who take positions not based on altruism or belief, but because it offers yet another opportunity to display their moral superiority to us unwashed mortals.

That, and I fear a stretch in prison would only validate Chomsky's already overweening Christ complex.
posted by jonmc at 2:30 PM on February 19, 2002


My god that man has guts.
posted by Outlawyr at 2:32 PM on February 19, 2002


My god that man has guts.

Some would call it hubris.
posted by MrBaliHai at 2:35 PM on February 19, 2002


This is cos he strikes me as the epitome of a certain type I've come across both in the real world, and her on MeFi: those who take positions not based on altruism or belief, but because it offers yet another opportunity to display their moral superiority to us unwashed mortals.

What evidence is there that this is Chomsky's motivation? What has he ever said that gives any support to this? I appreciate your dislike of the man, but that doesn't square with the Chomsky I know. I think you're imagining it.

That, and I fear a stretch in prison would only validate Chomsky's already overweening Christ complex.

...and this seems singularly off-target. Chomsky might have a Diogenes complex, maybe, or a Spinoza complex.
posted by rodii at 2:41 PM on February 19, 2002


"I don't like Chomsky, even on the rare occasions I agree with him."

I don't like him either. But I think he's done right here, and moral consistency obliges me to say so.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 2:42 PM on February 19, 2002


Chomsky displayed no guts in this case. Flying into a county with good diplomatic relations with the US to grandstand in a court case in which his own liberty was never in jeopardy is is not guts.

Going to Cambodia 25 years to confront Pol Pot abot the killing Fileds would have taken guts.

Going to El Salvador and camping out in the jungles in order to find and confront a right wing death squad would have taken guts.

What if he had actualy gone to Turkey to distribute the litertature that was the basis fo the criminal charge, so putting his liberty actually in jeapardy, rather than bloviate?

Ignore his (and your) politics and focus on his acts - where is the guts here?
posted by Jos Bleau at 2:58 PM on February 19, 2002


I tire easily of Chomsky's America bashing--we can do no wrong no matter what (he sure leaves out a lot), and the poor guy never manages to get himself arrested. But helping out his publisher is admirable and he is to be commended for this. Shame he can not stay there on leave of absence and do further good in Turkey.
posted by Postroad at 2:59 PM on February 19, 2002


"He flies in, stands up for the little guy, lectures and pats the Turkish court on the back and, before the morning's over, I bet he starts writing his next indictment of the Turkish government."

Prince Feisal: "Mr Cardoso, Aowrence has always been...changed since his time in Turkey.

'Diogenes complex'.... perhaps more of a Socratic stand-in. me thinks Diogenes would not have traveled. Not caring, the court would have to be brought to him. (plato rolls his eyes, pulls a few shekels from his pouch, slips them to the greedy hand...)"...and wheres that bowl I gave you?...")

hes got some brass ones though.
posted by clavdivs at 2:59 PM on February 19, 2002


This is cos he strikes me as the epitome of a certain type I've come across both in the real world, and here on MeFi: those who take positions not based on altruism or belief, but because it offers yet another opportunity to display their moral superiority to us unwashed mortals.

What, if not altruism and belief, could be flying this man halfway around the world, where he can try to defend small publishers, and generally trying to counteract the negative effects of our own governments against people that have done nothing wrong? He's not running for president, or any other government office, he's not preaching hail and brimstone (anyone who's seen him talk knows he's pretty mild-mannered for the most part, usually quite the opposite of his critics though), and the best argument against him is that he's talking about unproven conspiracies and trying to make us feel bad about our own unwashed morals. Which of those things took place here? Was he not right in risking his own well-being (he does have a wife and family after all) to stand up for something that everyone can agree would've been unjust? I say if he gets publicity and is able to sleep at night because if it, he deserves it.
posted by mockerybird at 3:02 PM on February 19, 2002


But I think he's done right here, and moral consistency obliges me to say so.

I'll admit he's on the right side here, But I don't know that he's doing the right thing.
Him offering to be arrested accomplishes what exactly, aside from getting his name in the paper, and showing all the world, what a swell fella ol' Noam is?

What evidence is there that this is Chomsky's motivation?

Out of repect to you, rodii, I'll admit there's none. All I know about Chomsky, I've learned here, from perusals of his books as I shelved them for a living, and some more from a linguistics major chick I used to go out with. I have met several people who consider him the ultimate political genius of our times, and just about all of them meet the description I offered above. Perhaps, I'm projecting my opinions of them onto Chomsky himself.

To be fair, right-wingers like Bob Grant and Pat Buchannan evoke the same response in me. Perhaps this thinly vieled contempt for the common man that I feel radiating from all these people is the reason I feel so alienated from activists of any strip, I honestly don't know.
posted by jonmc at 3:08 PM on February 19, 2002


Him offering to be arrested accomplishes what exactly, aside from getting his name in the paper, and showing all the world, what a swell fella ol' Noam is?

Aside from keeping his publisher from going to prison and pointing out the continuing lack of political freedoms in Turkey at a moment when it's trying to be admitted in the EU?
posted by signal at 3:21 PM on February 19, 2002


jonmc:
you talk a lot about representing the common man, and about Ivory towers, and about poverty and the uneducated, unwashed masses. I don't agree with Pat Buchannan, and I would never compare him to Noam Chomsky (who has done brilliant work in computer science(my field of interest), as well as examining the political realm from an analytical background), but I don't think that Pat B. displays a thinly veiled contempt for the common man.
I think that you might be confusing intelligence, education, and/or the ability to construct sentances with snobbishness. I think that you might benefit from looking at people who are intelligent with an open mind, instead of simply putting them in a category of upper-class snob, especially before you know much about them.
posted by goneill at 3:34 PM on February 19, 2002


I spent years in grad school disagreeing with Chomsky and despising his debating tactics, but even I never sensed any need in him to appear morally superior. Intellectually superior, sure--self-righteous, arrogant as hell even. But it never seemed to me that he was motivated by a need for publicity or adulation.

I think many of us need to be able to think the worst of people we disagree with, but consider for a second the possibility that in general, Chomsky, most of the time--like most of us, most of the time--is guided by considerations of principle. I think that is the easiest way to make sense of him. That doesn't mean he's a superhero, and it doesn't mean anyone has to agree with his principles, but you (not you, Jon, I mean people) can disagree with him without having to treat him as a villain.

I have met several people who consider him the ultimate political genius of our times, and just about all of them meet the description I offered above. Perhaps, I'm projecting my opinions of them onto Chomsky himself.

Seems plausible to me. I've met him, once, briefly, at a party. He was modest, laconic, and dry. Not preachy, not wild-eyed, not anything really. That's the paradox of him. Start with the boringness of Ralph Nader and take away all the loose-cannon unpredicability and you have Noam Chomsky.
posted by rodii at 3:46 PM on February 19, 2002


who has done brilliant work in computer science

That is, in linguistics, work which was appropriated by computer science. Chomsky is, how shall I say, not a fan of computational work on language.
posted by rodii at 3:51 PM on February 19, 2002


you talk a lot about representing the common man,

For the record, I've never claimed to represent anyone but myself.

I think that you might be confusing intelligence, education, and/or the ability to construct sentances with snobbishness.

I may have less formal education than some people, but I assure you I can construct a sentence. I've spent a lot of my life working in dirty, bottom of the ladder level jobs(janitor, telemarketer, store clerk, assembly line worker), I've also spent a fair amount of time around graduate students and others who fancy themselves intelectualls. This experience has taught me that both groups view eachother through a distorted lens, and that neither group has an ccurate picture of the other.

instead of simply putting them in a category of upper-class snob,

I'll give you an example of intellectual snobbery from right here on MeFi, this lovely note from n9. If that isn't the definition of contempt for everyday people, I don't know what is. And I've read plenty of "scholarly" articles with the same tone.
posted by jonmc at 3:55 PM on February 19, 2002


I would hasten to note that there's no evidence that the presence of Chomsky was necessary for the publisher's acquittal. Turkey has been in major suck-up mode as it attempts to qualify for membership in the EU, and they've recently amended their constitution something like a dozen ways to get the coveted human rights gold star from Brussels.

Much as I dislike many of the things he says, I do grudgingly respect this action. I'm just not willing to give him immediate full credit, given the circumstances.
posted by dhartung at 3:58 PM on February 19, 2002


you know, I've never met and "everyday person" or a "common man", but if I would I'd probably give him a hug.
posted by signal at 4:03 PM on February 19, 2002


Now, I see he's a grandstanding publicity hound as well.

And if they called him on his challenge, tried and convicted him, what would he be? The same thing? At what point does conviction (no pun) become mere publicity? Say what you like about his politics and his debating style (the former of which I find questionable and the latter quite nasty), but I think what he did here takes some kind of spine. More than dropping bombs on Afghan civ's, that's for sure.
posted by holycola at 4:18 PM on February 19, 2002


Dhartung, you are right - the only sources in the article that are quoted crediting Chomsky are Chomsky himself and his publisher. No 'sources close to the prosecution' or independent observers are cited one way or another. And the publisher isn't out of the woods yet - he faces additional charges for critisizing Turkey's civil rights record - and he could still go to jail for those. Is Chomsky insisting on becoming a defendant in that case, too?
posted by Jos Bleau at 4:18 PM on February 19, 2002


I would hasten to note that there's no evidence that the presence of Chomsky was necessary for the publisher's acquittal.

In all fairness, while the article doesn't state one way or another whether the gentleman was expected to be acquitted or found guilty, it does mention that dozens of others have been jailed for similar crimes recently, and that the man had "anticipated" a one year sentence. If you don't wan to give them the benefit of the doubt on the basis of this circumstantial evidence, it's certainly reasonable not to, but I'm putting the burden of proof on the other side.
posted by Hildago at 4:26 PM on February 19, 2002


Chomsky makes me think of a quote from Woody Allen in Annie Hall: "I'm a bigot, but for the Left"

I vote getting medieval on his sorry ass.
posted by evanizer at 4:37 PM on February 19, 2002


"When the United States provides 80% of the arms for Turkey, for the express purpose of carrying out repression that's my responsibility," he explained.

i think it's the other way around evanizer! it looks like he's trying to civilize their disgraceful behinds, and they're trying to joing the EU anyway :)
posted by kliuless at 5:14 PM on February 19, 2002


From the Human Rights Watch news:

"It is an extraordinary outcome. Normally a case like this would drag on for a year and a half and end with a prison sentence," said Jonathan Sugden, Human Rights Watch's Turkey researcher, in Istanbul to observe the Tas trial. "We only hope that it is more than a one-time response to Chomsky's celebrity status and signals a new approach by Turkey's justice system to respect the right to free expression in all cases."

At least someone aquianted with Turkish justice thinks Chomsky made a difference.
posted by skallas at 5:15 PM on February 19, 2002


Human Rights Watch is not exactly a Chomsky front, but they don't substantially disagree either. "In its annual survey of rights around the world, released last week, Human Rights Watch devotes at least three times as much critical space to America as to any other country." Not that the US doesn't have lots of room for improvement, but HRW seems to agree with Chomsky that the US is the main source of evil in the world.

They are NOT what I would call independent observers in this case. And as the Gaurdian article noted, Tas could still go to jail simply for critisizing Gov't policy.
posted by Jos Bleau at 5:39 PM on February 19, 2002


Chomsky makes me think of a quote from Woody Allen in Annie Hall: "I'm a bigot, but for the Left"

I vote getting medieval on his sorry ass.


?!

... What about getting a man acquitted of unfair charges warrants the Marcellus Wallace treatment?
posted by Hildago at 6:22 PM on February 19, 2002


blogger Ken Layne puts it more eloquently than i could, so I'll defer to him on this issue:

Unable to find anyone willing to arrest him in the United States, Noam Chomsky went to Turkey and begged to be put on trial there. Poor Noam. The guy has spent decades trying to prove the U.S. is a police state where dissidents are dumped in prison, and all he gets is a huge salary from a major U.S. university, lucrative speaking fees, publishers willing to print whatever he types, and a regular (and paid) forum in newspapers and magazines from coast to coast.

He heard his Turkish publisher was charged with "disseminating separatist propaganda" (for putting out Kurdish books, it seems), so Noam hopped a plane to Istanbul and ran to the courtroom -- hoping to finally, finally get arrested.

Instead, the Turkish court dropped the case and poor Noam was left with nothing more than his usual lecture schedule. He gives three in Turkey.

Hmm ... what does the United States have to do with this? Let's ask Noam!

"When the United States provides 80 percent of the arms for Turkey, for the express purpose of carrying out repression, that's my responsibility," he explained.

Whew ... I was getting worried for a minute.

Noam Chomsky: the guy who literally can't get arrested.


I think the cause is just, but i think Chomsky is taking a very calculated risk and intentionally avoiding easier, less public, solutions to the problem (a la the Rev. Jesse Jackson). I don't think he'd pull the same stunt in, say, Saudi Arabia.

Chomsky is a phenomenal linguist. as a political theorist, and "professional dissident," he leaves much to be desired...
posted by lizs at 7:31 PM on February 19, 2002


As usual, when Matters Chomsky arise here and elsewhere, the discussion ends up being more about the man than the things he says or does.

This, I find annoying.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 8:09 PM on February 19, 2002


Say what you like about his politics and his debating style (the former of which I find questionable and the latter quite nasty)

nasty debating style? I see, as opposed to William F. Buckley telling Chomsky in their 1969 'Firing Line' debate on Vietnam: "I'd smash you in the goddamn face"? maybe if "getting medieval on his sorry ass" is your preferred debating style.

the neo-con media's approach towards Chomsky ever since then is I think far nastier than Buckley's-- complete systematic obliteration from the debate. if only Chomsky had even the chance to get nasty with Robert Novak, Bill O'Reilly, Britt Hume, Tucker Carlson, John McLaughlin, Rush Limbaugh, Fred Barnes et al... then you might have something to complain about.
posted by ssdecontrol at 8:37 PM on February 19, 2002


it's awfully convenient how some people choose to dismiss him (and most opinions they don't like) simply for being "from the left," as opposed to actually answering his charges. I guess thats why this whole dumb left vs. right exists in the first place, it's an easy way out of useful discourse and independent thought. bravo, "Conservative Cabal!"
posted by mcsweetie at 11:36 PM on February 19, 2002


it's awfully convenient how some people choose to dismiss him ... as opposed to actually answering his charges.

Nobody bothers to "answer" stories published in the Weekly World News either. And for much the same reason. If the medium is not credible, analyzing the message just wastes your time and annoys the message.
posted by kindall at 11:58 PM on February 19, 2002


Nobody bothers to "answer" stories published in the Weekly World News either.

oh, please. would he be credible in your eyes if he went and earned another PhD? equating him to the Weekly World News is just slightly more self-serving than the scenario I presented earlier.
posted by mcsweetie at 12:15 AM on February 20, 2002


jonmc: Perhaps this thinly vieled contempt for the common man that I feel radiating from all these people is the reason I feel so alienated from activists of any strip, I honestly don't know.
I have yet to read any political theorist that believes in the "common man" as strongly as Chomsky. Can you give an exapmle of this contempt in his writings?
As for Turkey, people have been going to jail for expressing less condemning opinions about the Turkish state. Having said that I think Chomsky's goal in going to Turkey and asking to be charged was to prevent his publisher from going to jail- and not, of course, to end in a Turkish prison. He has succeded- so far.
And I agree with macsweetie. I have not read or heard a single rebuttal of his main arguments- but I have read a lot of ad hominem attacks and strawman arguments against Noam from all sorts of pundits.
posted by talos at 2:41 AM on February 20, 2002


Good on him. What mssr wonderchicken said and talos as well.

Also:

I fear a stretch in prison would only validate Chomsky's already overweening Christ complex.

jonmc, I suspect you may have gotten Chomsky mixed up with the lead singer of shite band Creed.
posted by lia at 3:15 AM on February 20, 2002


Ken Layne has just proven himself to be a completely inept excuse for a journalist and an editorial writer. Harsh words, but I can back them up.

First, the factual innacuracy:
“[Chomsky went to Turkey] hoping to finally, finally get arrested ... Noam Chomsky: the guy who literally can't get arrested.”

Ken Layne: The guy who literally makes stuff up.

Chomsky has been arrested and has been to jail. He shared a cell with Norman Mailer, of all people, during the Vietnam era. So, Layne has proven he doesn’t much about Chomsky and probably hasn’t read much about or by him.

Layne, you don’t know your facts. For this mistake you must print a correction.

Now, the fiction:
“The guy has spent decades trying to prove the U.S. is a police state where dissidents are dumped in prison”

Interesting thing about lies: the bigger the lie the easier it is to (re)print it. (Shame on you lizs.)

I defy Ken Layne to find and quote a piece by Chomsky arguing that the US is essentially a police state in which dissidents are just “dumped in prison”.

Quick test:
Chomsky is a US dissident.
The US puts dissidents in prison.
Conclusion: Chomsky is in prison.

Come to think of it, he often writes that he runs a cup across the bars of his cell, singing “no-body knows the trouble I’ve seen.”

Here's a hint for the lil guy: You’ll have a very easy time finding Chomsky arguing governments manage their constituents. That isn’t terribly controversial, nor an original idea. Call it spin, call it PR, propaganda, the crisis of modernity, neccessary illusions or the manufacture of consent. That dissidents are occasionally put in jail in all sorts of different countries is just a fact of government. On some occasions, not necessarily a bad one.

Oh, and Tabloid.net sucked. I’m glad he stopped pushing it.
posted by raaka at 4:25 AM on February 20, 2002


From the European edition of Time: "Tas avoided conviction and a year in prison, observers agree, mainly because Chomsky had flown into Istanbul to stand by his side, prompting the prosecutor — in the glare of negative publicity — to throw in the towel... 'Law is not local anymore," says Vahit Bicak, who lectures on human rights at the Ankara Police Academy. "We are part of an international legal system and must have respect for global values.'...With the world's television cameras trained on them as their country hosted the forum on harmony among civilizations, the three-man state-security tribunal accepted Tas' defense — that he had intended only to 'contribute to academic debate.' In Turkey, that is no small victory."
posted by Carol Anne at 5:47 AM on February 20, 2002


I have yet to read any political theorist that believes in the "common man" as strongly as Chomsky.

In theory, perhaps. I suspect it's another case of an intellectual embracing the "struggling masses" whom he has absolutley no contact with.

and about poverty and the uneducated, unwashed masses.

Actually, I'm usually speaking of this country's masses. The enormous middle-class who live in subdivisions,wear nametags at work, drive minivans,listen to Creed, and watch network TV.
Make no mistake, this group of folks is held in contempt by many intellectuals in academia and here on MeFi. I'd find all the mockery very amusing if i wasn't one of them.

bravo, "Conservative Cabal!"

well mcsweetie, not being a member of said Cabal I can't really accept the applause. I'll sneak into the next meeting and pass it along, though.

In the spirit of things I leave you this:

I believe I'm past the age of conciousness and righteous rage/ I found that just surviving was a noble fight/ I once believed in causes too/had my pointless point of view/and life went on no matter who was wrong or right
posted by jonmc at 8:28 AM on February 20, 2002


jonmc:In theory, perhaps. I suspect it's another case of an intellectual embracing the "struggling masses" whom he has absolutley no contact with.

Well, I'd have to know the man personally to answer that, but I can surmise that both his working class background and the fact that his main targets are the intellectual and political elites, suggest otherwise, as does the fact that I have not read or heard anything from him that might be construed that way.

I believe I'm past the age of conciousness and righteous rage/ I found that just surviving was a noble fight/ I once believed in causes too/had my pointless point of view/and life went on no matter who was wrong or right

Sounds like something from a tyrant's propaganda campaign.
posted by talos at 8:58 AM on February 20, 2002


johnmc --- that link you posted above holds exctly three things in contempt: Gene Simmons, Fox News and (to a lesser extent) you, don't be so dramatic.

Give your "common man" crusade a break. I think the hundreds of thousands of hours that ol' Noam spent trying to help remedy the genocidal conditions of the residents of East Timor alone puts him on the side of what you could call the _real_ common man -- the, oh say billions of people who live in poverty under repressive or corrupt political regimes.

Or if you want a more USA-oriented example maybe you ought to take a look at his writings on how the lower class got totally f*cked in Vietnam because of the elitist tendencies of the Nixon whitehouse, or how Reagan screwed the lower and lower-middle classes to put money in the pockets of the rich. Agree or disagree with the politics behind these works, the man cares about people and refuses to sit back and decline to speak out and act against what he feels is wrong.
posted by n9 at 9:21 AM on February 20, 2002


I don't understand the point of this. jonmc, surely you don't begrudge the name-tag wearing worker access to NPR. Nobody has offered evidence that name-tag wearing workers are not listening to NPR, but are listening instead to the wisdom of Howard Stern. I'm not making generalizations about America's working class and neither is n9; you are. Just because someone wears a nametag doesn't mean they beat their wives and laugh at mysoginistic jokes. Listening to Howard Stern doesn't give you working class credibility, it just means that you watch/listen to mysoginistic tv/radio.
posted by goneill at 9:36 AM on February 20, 2002


n9 - My father was one of those guys who got f*cked by the Vietnam War, so I suppose I'm with you there. And in the eighties, my family was one of those lower-middle-class families screwed by reaganomics(my old man was out of work for nearly a year) so who knows, maybe me and Chomsky are on the same page. It's just that what little I have seen from him, doesn't give me the feeling that he's any better than the people he denounces.

Give your "common man" crusade a break.

I wouldn't call it a crusade. Some points-of-view are underrepresented here on mefi and often times they're mine, so I say my piece. No matter what you may think of me, I think my beliefs are valid and that I make some good points. I may have my own private reasons for behaving the way I do, but that's another story.

Now, it's almost time for me to go to work. I have to put on my ski-jumping-cow shirt and nametag and meet the world.
Meeting it from my vantage point gives you a whole new perspective on everything, believe me.
posted by jonmc at 9:38 AM on February 20, 2002


My impression of Chomsky changed after watching a talk on cable. He came across as someone who's spent many years patiently explaining to undergraduates that there is usually a point of view which opposes US foreign policy, and outlining the reasons behind it. Developing the next generation of leadership requires teaching them to understand the arguments of the other side, and I think that's what Chomsky's real function is. I was surprised that he'd be willing to take some real-world risks to step forward on behalf of one of his publishers, but it does seem consistent with his role as an academic.
posted by sheauga at 9:54 AM on February 20, 2002


you talk a lot about representing the common man, and about Ivory towers, and about poverty and the uneducated, unwashed masses. I don't agree with Pat Buchannan, and I would never compare him to Noam Chomsky (who has done brilliant work in computer science(my field of interest), as well as examining the political realm from an analytical background) . . .

Having an impact on computer science and being a highly regarded linguist and "examining the political realm from an analytical background," whatever the heck that means, has no impact upon an understanding of "the common man," or person, however you define him or her. This is the most annoying thing about Chomsky acolytes. He's a briliant linguist, it's often said in discussions of his political writing. And? Why does this matter? Chomsky wouldn't dare say, I don't think, that this makes him a genius in everything. Why the need to trumpet his academic work, constantly? Even when talking about he cares for the "common man?!?!" Sheesh, give it a rest.
posted by raysmj at 10:42 AM on February 20, 2002


Yeah, I really wonder if the Chomsky haters have ever seen Manufacturing Consent. Chomsky is just passionate about human rights and won't let our government be hypocritical about when and were U.S. interests and human rights happen to conveniently come together, i.e. we will sell arms like crazy to Turkey for geopolitical reasons and ignore treatment of the Kurds, yet Iraq's same treatment of the Kurds is a justification for action. Chomsky does what he does because he has faith that if the common man can temporarly be diverted long enough from the circuses and his/her own problems to notice, things will change for the better.

I once had a job with a nametag and blue oxford shirt with my dockers, and may again, and it made me feel hopeless for a while (is this all there is?) but being pround of being a self-styled regular joe mook lumox is no excuse to give up on progress and social change.
posted by chrismc at 10:46 AM on February 20, 2002


as a political theorist, and "professional dissident," he leaves much to be desired...

I'll second this. Chomsky has a gift for argument, finding the sources, making the case, and summarizing the facts in a way that lends plausibility to his conclusions. That doesn't mean that his conclusions are always correct, but at least they aren't lazy or half baked. But beyond that ... After reading more than a dozen books by the man, it occured to me that he spends much more time and energy on problems than he does on solutions. While he's often labeled as an Anarchosyndicalist, he has added little or nothing to the fundamental tennets of the theory (see Proudhon, Rocker, Ferrer, Maletesta). As it stands, there are very few 'traditional' anarchists left out there, given the extent to which situationism and other pomo rhetoric has undermined the movement, diverted it from the working class to the avant-garde. One day, Chomsky's meticulous diatribes will be useful reference material for someone who really has something to say.

And Jon, though we are probably on opposite ends of the spectrum, much of what you say resonates with me. I still believe in the basic tennets of leftist thought, but I'm disolusioned with the current manifestation of the leftist "movement." I resent the elitism, the smug, "enlightened" zealots who demand that any and all potential supporters prostate themselves at the feet of the (academic, largely wealthy, politically correct and self-consciously "countercultural") left's Superior Wisdom, beg for baptism and immerse themselves in "leftist" ("bohemian," "avant garde") culture (not just the politics). Unless they happen to be from Tibet or East Timor or Latin America, in which case their traditional way of life will be fetishized. Yes, Chomsky has made some good points and raised some important issues in his time, but as a willing poster boy for the bourgeois monstrosity that passes for the left in the US, he is as valid a target as any for criticism of the 'movement' he's helped to build and nurture.

where was chomsky during the ADM and Hormel strikes? why is it that an anti-globalisation movement can draw thousands of enthusiastic protesters, yet the ongoing plight of the american family farmer goes virtually ignored by the left? Its a hell of a lot easier to spew vitriol about how "Amerika" is to blame for every injustice halfway across the world than it is to dig in and rebuild the foundations of the nation and the culture, take care of our people and our problems from the grassroots and then take on washington and beyond. as much as many lefties hate the bible, they should read it more often. then they'd know to take the plank out of their own eye before chasing down all of the splinters elsewhere.
posted by hipstertrash at 10:59 AM on February 20, 2002


would he be credible in your eyes if he went and earned another PhD?

No. One's reputation comes from one's history, not from one's credentials.
posted by kindall at 11:07 AM on February 20, 2002


And Jon, though we are probably on opposite ends of the spectrum,

Not really, from what you said here, and in other threads, we're pretty much on the same page on just about everything.

but being pround of being a self-styled regular joe mook lumox is no excuse to give up on progress and social change.

I haven't given up yet. I've picketed and protested. I was a major player in much publicized union drive at my former place of employment. However everytime I paticipated in these things, the type of BS hipstertrash mentioned alienated me, not to mention the usual egotism and powergrab machinations of all politics. So until I find someone I'm willing to throw my faith behind, I'm remaining skeptical of activists in general.
posted by jonmc at 11:28 AM on February 20, 2002


heh ... i knew there was a reason i liked you, jon ... we share the same former place of employment. it leaves a man forever changed ...
posted by hipstertrash at 11:41 AM on February 20, 2002


be the change you'd lie to see :) an army of one!
posted by kliuless at 11:48 AM on February 20, 2002


hipstertrash,



Hard-Pressed in the Heartland

The Hormel Strike and the Future of the Labor Movement

Peter Rachleff

Hard-Pressed in the Heartland tells the heartbreaking but empowering story of a spirited local union trying to resist management's drive for concessions—while fending off a conservative national union leadership unwilling to support its own members. Going beyond academic history, it offers useful perspectives for rebuilding a democratic, militant, community-based unionism that can succeed where today's bureaucratic unionism cannot.

"The struggles of the Haitian people for democracy and justice have been a true inspiration. This important collection of essays describes what they achieved and the brutal counter-attack, and outlines the institutional forces now at work to contain the democratic thrust and to restore Haitians to a service role. The prospects depend on our response."—Noam Chomsky


Seems like he was engaged enough to write the introduction to a book about the Hormel strikes.

Listen, if you agree with the core values of the left than, ding!, there are your politics. The rest of your rant about the leftist movement has nothing to do with the politics, and is really _very_ assumptive of ol' Noam and over-generalizes the realities of liberal thought in the US.

"I resent the elitism, the smug, "enlightened" zealots who demand.."

Who are these people, and when are they going to make their demands of me? And while were on it, this is a rather smug way to address you audience.

"...that any and all potential supporters prostate themselves at the feet of the (academic, largely wealthy, politically correct and self-consciously "countercultural") left's Superior Wisdom..."

Huh? Whart are you trying to say here?

"...beg for baptism and immerse themselves in "leftist" ("bohemian," "avant garde") culture (not just the politics)."

Are you trying to write a poem? What is Avant Garde culture? A culture that is antitraditional and forward thinking? I'd like be a part of that! Bohemian? Do they even have that anymore or are you making a hedonistic reference? I'm still waiting for the point.

"...Unless they happen to be from Tibet or East Timor or Latin America, in which case their traditional way of life will be fetishized."

I mean, if by fetishized you mean there is some attempt to preserve the ways of life of people who have/are being killed in droves by oppressive governments, then I guess I agree with that -- what are you trying to say?

"Yes, Chomsky has made some good points and raised some important issues in his time,"

Well, this sounds like more than most people accomplish in a lifetime.

"...but as a willing poster boy for the bourgeois monstrosity..."

Did he sign some kind of a form? And the last time I checked the bourgeois were primarily on the right, being landustrial-oriented property owners.

"...that passes for the left in the US, he is as valid a target as any for criticism of the 'movement' he's helped to build and nurture."

Huh? Are you saying that Chomsky owns the left? Or that he (being an ultrliberal) has somehow corrupted the left? What are you saying?

posted by n9 at 2:03 PM on February 20, 2002


I've been skeptical that, in the aftermath of September 11th, any American heroes remained. I thought our entire nation had dissolved into a mass of blubbering sycophants to the rich - worshiping the powerful.

Then comes Dr. Chomsky toiling at his everyday work: speaking truth to power. Riling old man Whitman's endless trains of the faithless...his cities filled with the foolish.

My respect and best regards to you, Noam. Thank you.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 2:33 PM on February 20, 2002


Has anybody else noticed that in these chomsky-pigpiles that occur here at MeFi hardly anybody debates Chomsky's actions or statements, but rather his "attitude", his lack of "connection with the common man" or some supposed guilt by association with some vague "cultural elite", which is never defined beyond some meaningless anecdotes ("I once dated this girl, and she was a real snob and she read Chomsky...")?
posted by signal at 4:06 PM on February 20, 2002


yes.
posted by n9 at 4:17 PM on February 20, 2002


yup.
posted by mcsweetie at 5:14 PM on February 20, 2002


Perhaps the reason hardly anybody here debates Chomsky's actions or statements is that hardly anybody here finds his actions and statements worth debating. I wonder why people might feel that way.

Perhaps they feel that many of his ideas are interesting in an academic sense, or perhaps as a premise for a dystopian work of literature, they do not bear much resemblance to reality as it is known to most of us. Many of them are, as far as I'm concerned, well into tinfoil-hat category -- "corporations are basically tyrannies," "the real mass media are basically trying to divert people." (These are actual quotes.) He believes that an "elite" has intentionally structured our society and all its institutions so that the masses can be subtly and effectively controlled without even realizing that they are, in fact, sheep.

Now the fact that I reject this idea out of hand could mean that "their" control is so subtle that I am, in fact, unaware of how I am being controlled. It could also mean that Chomsky is full of it. After all, the paranoid sees a lack of evidence as the ultimate proof: "See, the conspiracy is so pervasive that it has managed to completely hide all evidence of its existence!" When he goes off on this tangent, Chomsky comes off as nothing more than a particularly articulate conspiracy theorist.

In short, Chomsky has, in the past, been a source of political and social ideas I find patently absurd. This well-established pattern has lasted for decades, and I find little evidence that he has suddenly gained a new perspective. When you receive a piece of information or a new idea, you consider the source to estimate its worth. I have not found Chomsky to be a useful source of information or ideas in the past, so I turn my limited time and attention to other sources of information and ideas, ones I have found to be more fruitful.
posted by kindall at 10:57 PM on February 20, 2002


Many of them are, as far as I'm concerned, well into tinfoil-hat category -- "corporations are basically tyrannies,"
Yes, but he doesn't stop there, he gives arguments about why corporations are basically tyrannies: They have a hierarchical structure, decisions flow from the top down only, they are practically unaccountable etc. Hardly tinfoil hat stuff. Indeed, a careful reader of Chomsky would notice that he has consistently rejected conspiracy theories as explanations of world events, (see f.e. his opinions on the JFK assasination (do a find "JFK" in the page) ).
hipstertrash: but as a willing poster boy for the bourgeois monstrosity that passes for the left in the US... NC is not loved among that particular US version of the left. His scathing comments on this whole postmodernist nonesense have made him persona non grata among the certain sectors of the academic left.
jonmc: I have the feeling that were you more familiar with NC's actual writings you might find that you probably do not disagree much about matters domestic to the US- maybe. I'd be interested to hear your comments on this 1994 article or this more recent one.
posted by talos at 2:11 AM on February 21, 2002


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