Skip to comments.Dissident intellectual Noam Chomsky at 90
Posted on 12/07/2018 8:27:25 AM PST by Borges
Born on December 7, 1928, Noam Chomsky was raised by Ashkenazi Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia.
Though his father was a Hebrew scholar who studied medieval grammar, Chomsky lacked direction through school and university and only committed to the study of linguistics when he took up a post at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1955.
It wasn't long, however, before the young unknown scholar single-handedly revolutionized the field of linguists, his book Syntactic Structures (1957) kickstarting his concept of "transformational grammar" that argued contrary to the behaviourist fad of the time that our linguistic capacity is genetic and innate.
Having since been dubbed "the father of modern linguistics," the long-time Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT and author of 100-odd books further made his name for his deconstruction of language in the public realm, and the way words have helped wage war and consolidate political power.
Inspired by anarchist and socialist writers like George Orwell, in the 1960s Chomsky became involved in the anti-Vietnam War movement, not only as an intellectual critic, but as a participant in direct "activism and resistance," as he called it in a 2003 interview.
"For years, every time I came to Washington, the first thought that came to mind was the smell of teargas, I was in and out of demonstrations, in and out of jail a number of times," he said, adding that he went to jail in 1967 alongside the writer, Norman Mailer.
In 1969, Chomsky published his first political tract, American Power and the New Mandarins, which was a stinging indictment of the Vietnam War and US imperialism.
Many similarly themed books and essay collections would follow, including 1983's Fateful Triangle, which explored the relationship between the US, Israel and Palestine as the source of the ongoing Middle East conflict.
Chomsky tried to infuse his political critiques with important linguistic and semiotic context. Books like Manufacturing Consent (1988) co-authored with Edward Herman became a bible for students and activists looking to apply Chomsky's so-called "propaganda model" of media criticism and linguistically unlock the way political and military elites maintain legitimacy.
Yet while the darling of the global anti-imperialist left, Chomsky has faced sustained criticism for whitewashing the genocide committed by the communist Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
"What filters through to the American public is a seriously distorted version of the evidence available, emphasizing alleged Khmer Rouge atrocities and downplaying or ignoring the crucial US role, direct and indirect," wrote Chomsky in The Nation about the unfolding horror in Cambodia.
Chomsky has also been criticized for refusing to call the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre in Bosnia a genocide, again focusing instead on alleged US war crimes that he says have never been held to account. "[It's] certainly a horror story and major crime, but to call it "genocide so cheapens the word," he told English journalist George Monbiot in 2011 of the Srebrenica Massacre.
Despite such controversies, Chomsky has remained one of the world's foremost public intellectuals throughout his eighties, a tireless advocates for peace (lately in Yemen), human rights, economic equality and climate justice via constant public speaking and media appearances. He has also been an outspoken supporter of the work of Wikileaks and Julian Assange.
"An intellectual and moral teacher and inspiration the likes of which one rarely encounters in the human record," said left news site Counterpunch on the eve of Chomksy's 90th birthday.
The publication contrasted the thinker's legacy with that of the recently deceased George H. W. Bush, of whom Chomsky was a major critic primarily for invading Iraq during the 1990 Gulf War, and for Bush's invasion of Panama to overthrow Manuel Noriega the year before.
Though the dissident intellectual has been a fierce opponent of US imperialism under both major political parties in America, in 2017 he called the Republican Party "the most dangerous organization in human history" for its consistent rejection of the science of climate change.
"Has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth? he said in an interview with Amy Goodman of the Democracy Now news program after President Trump pulled the US out of the Paris climate agreement.
While nonagenarian Chomsky might no longer be protesting on the front lines, his words have not lost their impact.
Please tell me this is his obituary!
Darn. I thought this was an obit. Guess not.
Assuming the title should read “dead at 90” not that he turned 90. The first is encouraging, the second disappointing.
Good old chumpsky; first encountered him when he was a linguist at MIT and I was studying linguistics at Wheaton. He had a novel approach, I thought, in that it was loosey-goosey psychobabble linguistics which I had no use for.
Dang. I got excited for a moment thinking this might be an obituary for that old scumbag.
Same here. I was ready to celebrate.
Not dead yet
I was happy then not so happy.
Saw him twice in the late 80s. His talks were complicated hairballs of conspiracy with gaps that leftists would easily fill with evil intent and class warfare. At that time, Henry Kissinger was his bête noire
He’s a bit like Michael Moore (although less popular), in that he appeals to strident leftists who want to believe anything that supports their world-view.
Michael Moore? The founding member of the Film And Television Big Actors Guild?................
He was a crazed loon that even the left had no use for until Reagan became POTUS.
Then Chomsky became a useful tool in the progressives’ quest in damaging common sense and reason.
At first glance I thought I saw the word “dead” in that title.
I don’t want to read the story, as it’s probably a puff piece. He’s a darling of the leftist media.
This devolved into “New Journalism.”
“Man somehow kept going and going...”
And now he’s gone...to Hades, I trust.
Nim Chimpsky and Paul Erlich...two loons from the past, still chattering their nonsense 50 years after their sell by date.
He’s not gone. This isn’t an obit.
D**N! He’s not dead YET?!?
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