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Chomsky bites back!
November 17, 2005 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Chomsky gets his apology. The world's most famous public intellectual would appear to have been vindicated back after the hatchet job done on him in the Guardian by Emma Brockes two weeks ago. The Guardian has had to withdraw the offending article from its site and Ms Brockes has made no comment after her employer's Correction & Clarifications tore strips off of her article. The original article was previously discussed here.
posted by ClanvidHorse (42 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
As abject and complete an apology as I recall the Guardian ever making. Worth reading if only because they set an example of how to eat crow when necessary.
posted by hank at 1:45 PM on November 17, 2005


This is very satisfying. That original article had blackened my impression of Chomsky until I read about how badly he was treated here on mefi.
posted by leibniz at 2:11 PM on November 17, 2005


awsome.
posted by nola at 2:16 PM on November 17, 2005


The world's most famous public intellectual?
posted by Count Ziggurat at 2:20 PM on November 17, 2005


music.metafilter.com?

Anyways, it's good that occasionally the journalists are held accountable for the way that they re-interpret stuff to fit their agenda.
posted by veedubya at 2:21 PM on November 17, 2005


Strange that they don't make any mention of disciplinary action towards Brockes, since they're basically admitting that she fabricated massive parts of the interview.
posted by Gamblor at 2:24 PM on November 17, 2005


Neat.
posted by bardic at 2:25 PM on November 17, 2005


The world's most famous public intellectual?


posted by Pretty_Generic at 2:27 PM on November 17, 2005


Count Ziggurat writes "The world's most famous public intellectual?"

Short of Hawkins (who, strictly speaking, is not an "intellectual" in the Social Sciences sense of the word), who else would you suggest? Notice we're not talking about one's work relevancy, importance or novelty but about "fame", worldwide public awareness about oneself.
posted by nkyad at 2:30 PM on November 17, 2005


Do you mean Hawking?
posted by Grangousier at 2:32 PM on November 17, 2005


I agree with hank; the Guardian did the right thing, and did it appropriately. It's an effective reminder that, in the rarified air of heated political discussion, sober fact-checking is all the more relevant.

But I'd wondered at the time of initially reading the article — Noam's critics tend to be an unreasonable bunch, less interested in a truthful discourse than just flinging shit.
posted by Haruspex at 2:33 PM on November 17, 2005


Grangousier writes "Do you mean Hawking?"

Exactly what the Mefi's semantic checker should have asked me. Except it does not exist. Sorry, my typo.
posted by nkyad at 2:34 PM on November 17, 2005


His intellect is all too public.
posted by TwelveTwo at 2:34 PM on November 17, 2005


I thought the world's most famous intellectual was NickDouglas.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 2:36 PM on November 17, 2005


If there was a semantic checker, I think a lot of people here would have trouble posting.

*ducks*
posted by anthill at 2:43 PM on November 17, 2005


see, Chomsky is right

/grin
posted by Substrata at 2:48 PM on November 17, 2005


"...vindicated back..." ?
posted by benzo8 at 2:54 PM on November 17, 2005


an unreasonable bunch, less interested in a truthful discourse than just flinging shit.

Sounds like every journalist I've ever met.
posted by dobbs at 2:55 PM on November 17, 2005


Somehow, this is all Todd Lokken's fault.

-Todd Lokken
posted by stenseng at 2:56 PM on November 17, 2005


I know it really bothers some people how popular Chomsky is, but there is nothing worse than listening to pseudo-intellectuals try to come up with arguments for why we shouldn't listen to him.
posted by jimmy76 at 3:02 PM on November 17, 2005


sorry benzo8.

A cut'n'paste poorly executed. My humble apologies.
posted by ClanvidHorse at 3:02 PM on November 17, 2005


The world's most famous public intellectual?

According to the Arts and Humanities Citation Index, between 1980 and 1992 Chomsky was cited as a source more often than any living scholar, and the eighth most cited source overall.
posted by ori at 3:09 PM on November 17, 2005


(also: Chomsky is voted world's top public intellectual from (of all places) the Guardian.
posted by ori at 3:23 PM on November 17, 2005


(also: Chomsky is voted world's top public intellectual from (of all places) the Guardian.

He beat out Umberto Eco? Bah. Silly Guardian.
posted by unreason at 3:45 PM on November 17, 2005


Although the Guardian has pulled the interview from its website, it's still available on www.chomsky.info, together with Chomsky's letter to the Guardian.

Although I'm not a Chomsky fan, I've said before that it should be possible to criticize someone without making stuff up, or misrepresenting what they've actually said; and this applies to Chomsky as well as to Chomsky's targets.

Regarding the original controversy over Chomsky's support for Diana Johnstone's book:

Open letter from Chomsky defending Johnstone against criticism in the Swedish press; part of a discussion which is mostly in Swedish

Translation of Dagens Nyheter article by Gellert Tamas, discussing Chomsky's letter

Richard Caplan's review of Johnstone's book, which Chomsky refers to in his letter

Article on Srebrenica by Mark Danner
posted by russilwvong at 4:02 PM on November 17, 2005


Anyone have a link for the orginal article? It seems to have been removed.
posted by bitdamaged at 4:05 PM on November 17, 2005


an unreasonable bunch, less interested in a truthful discourse than just flinging shit.

You forgot to mention "lazy," "miserable," "bitter," and "alcoholic."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:19 PM on November 17, 2005


The Guardian has at last done the right thing here. It has partly restored my faith in them a s a quality news source, but would plain ole Joe Bloggs, maligned in some piece about crime or misbehaviour that somehow got into print, have been able to wring such an investigation from the Readers Editor?

Maybe - but not all UK papers have a position of Readers Editor. The Guardian has had one for some years - but he/she does not have the time or resources to correct everything, surely. Nor to give the correction equal prominence.

In the end, this can only be a good thing - own up to your mistakes, be a good model for your peers (ie, other papers) and restore lost trust. Hmm, might start buying it again...
posted by dash_slot- at 4:43 PM on November 17, 2005


You forgot to mention "lazy," "miserable," "bitter," and "alcoholic."
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:19 PM PST on November 17 [!]


What are you knocking alcoholics for?! Jeez.
posted by snsranch at 4:54 PM on November 17, 2005


Speaking as someone who places himself on the Left of politics, I can say that I used to think the world of Chomsky, back in the early days as an undergraduate student of politics. Since then, having read far wider, graduated and gained some more real world experience in my 'trade', I can say that while I still think that Chomsky should be highly regarded as a thinker, his ideas of late have become a little, well, loopy.

As for Brockes, it's good that she was forced to issue a retraction in this case. Her original article was hugely OTT (in my opinion), and in light of the fact that she's apparently made a whole bunch of it up, a retraction is the least of the many things that is needed here.
posted by Effigy2000 at 4:55 PM on November 17, 2005


You forgot to mention "lazy," "miserable," "bitter," and "alcoholic."

Ah, but then I would have been referring specifically to Christopher Hitchens.

Apologies, old joke.
posted by Haruspex at 4:57 PM on November 17, 2005


Apologies, old joke.

I was just about to make the same joke, but thankfully I no longer have to.
posted by Jimbob at 6:04 PM on November 17, 2005


his ideas of late have become a little, well, loopy.

Come now, e2k, you know better than to post something like this on a Chomsky thread without a citation!
posted by eustatic at 6:16 PM on November 17, 2005


I usually can't stand Chompsky, but whomever you are, you should have a right to have your ideas represented accurately in the media. It is infuriating that this happened in the first place, but that is one hell of a correction.
posted by Falconetti at 8:15 PM on November 17, 2005


Yeah, but you know what? She got her job done. She got the article up there long enough for people to point to it and say "Oh shit this Chomsky guy is a meanie" before it gets taken down. A hatchet job.

I hope she got paid well enough for it as she'll never have a job in journalism after this.
posted by destro at 10:12 PM on November 17, 2005


I hope she got paid well enough for it as she'll never have a job in journalism after this.

I did a search on Emma Brockes and found a brief profile, including the following:

She is currently the Guardian's main interviewer, writing a weekly interview with people ranging from the prime minister to Naomi Campbell.

So this is a regular job for her, not an assignment to make Chomsky look bad.

She's won a couple journalism awards: "Young Journalist of the Year" in 2000, "Feature Writer of the Year" in 2001. She's prominent enough that an interview with her is used in some materials for teaching English.

I looked for the Tony Blair interview (I wanted to see if she provoked Blair in the same way), but couldn't find it online.

A story from November 2004, on the British reaction to the US election results.

Not sure I'd be counting her out just yet. The Guardian apology only faults Brockes for her implying that Chomsky was downplaying the Srebrenica massacre. Presumably Brockes didn't come up with the misleading headline, or the accompanying photos that Chomsky complains about.
posted by russilwvong at 11:40 PM on November 17, 2005


I saw the article reprinted in the New Zealand Herald, and without actually reading it, told my mother, whose house I was visiting, to read it, cos he's a goddam genius. A few hours later, I read the interview myself and told Mum it was just about the most hostile interview I'd ever read. She agreed.

I'm glad there was a retraction. Chomsky's a goddam genius and interview painted him as a borderline psychotic or something. It's particularly amusing that the interview presented him as a kind of paranoid nutter who thinks that the media's always warping stuff for various reasons, and then... the publisher apologises for warping stuff.
posted by Wataki at 12:11 AM on November 18, 2005


(also: Chomsky is voted world's top public intellectual from (of all places) the Guardian.

He beat out Umberto Eco? Bah. Silly Guardian.


The vote was in Prospect, the Guardian only reported it.
posted by biffa at 1:54 AM on November 18, 2005


When it suits him, Chomsky relies on a hyper-literal reading of texts that's not necessarily consistent with the plain meaning of the text.

When I read the Guardian piece, I didn't think Brockes accused Chomsky of putting the word "massacre" in quotes. I took her to mean that Chomsky wraps words in quotes as a rhetorical device to undermine the impact of the quoted word; he has certainly done so with the word "genocide," so using "massacre" as an example is imprecise but not beyond the pale.

[For what it's worth, I think the fabricated question/answer at the top of the interview was clearly a low blow and should have been clarified by the Guardian].

What's ironic is that now we're just debating the air; the Guardian has pulled the interview from its web site! How do you like them free speech apples?
posted by since1968 at 5:15 AM on November 18, 2005


The Guardian is trying to rewrite history.

/Cheney
posted by iamck at 11:45 AM on November 18, 2005


his ideas of late have become a little, well, loopy.

Can you specifiy which ideas these are?

When it suits him, Chomsky relies on a hyper-literal reading of texts that's not necessarily consistent with the plain meaning of the text.

Well, he is a linguist after all. And a cunning one at that (sorry couldn't resist).

As far as Chomsky downplaying any state-backed massacre, any reader of his works should know that's pretty damn rediculous. I mean, if someone argued that he was overblowing state-sponsored massacres it would make much more sense.
posted by melt away at 1:30 PM on November 18, 2005


As far as Chomsky downplaying any state-backed massacre, any reader of his works should know that's pretty damn ridiculous.

Do a search on "chomsky serbia." Here's the first hit.

Max Boehnel: Let's decode some of the language we are hearing around this war. Can you comment on the use of the terms humanitarian crisis, genocide, and ethnic cleaning as they are being applied to Kosovo?

Noam Chomsky: Well for starters, the concept called "humanitarian crisis" has a technical meaning, which does not have much to do with what might reasonably be assumed to be the defining criteria of the term. The technical meaning of humanitarian crisis is a problem somewhere that threatens the interest of rich and powerful people. That is the essence of what makes it a crisis. Now, any disturbance in the Balkans does threaten the interest of rich and powerful people, namely, the elites of Europe and the US. So when there are humanitarian issues in the Balkans, they become a humanitarian crisis.


Do a search on "chomsky tibet". Here's an example.

In brief, Stevenson argues that China is "very aggressive," as shown by events in Tibet, India, Malaya, and Thailand. The issue is important, and let us therefore be quite clear about it. China's actions in Tibet, whatever one may think of them, are no proof of aggressive expansionism, unless one wants to say the same of Indian suppression of tribal rebellions, for example. Tibet has been recognized internationally as a region of China. This status has been accepted by India as well as Communist and Nationalist China, and to my knowledge, has never been officially questioned by the United States. Although it is of no relevance to the issue, I should also add that it is a bit too simple to say that "China did indeed take over a country that did not want to be taken over." This is by no means the general view of Western scholarship. For example, Ginsburgs and Mathos comment that "the March 1959 uprising did not, by and large, involve any considerable number of lower-class Tibetans, but involved essentially the propertied groups and the traditionally rebellious and foraging Khamba tribes opposed to any outside public authority (including sometimes that of the Dalai Lama)" (Pacific Affairs, September, 1959).

Chomsky's view is that the crimes of official enemies are exaggerated. Often that's the case; sometimes it's not.
posted by russilwvong at 2:12 PM on November 18, 2005


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