Kuro5hin.org: technology and culture, from the trenches
create account | help/FAQ | contact | links | search | IRC | site news
[ Everything | Diaries | Technology | Science | Culture | Politics | Media | News | Internet | Op-Ed | Fiction | Meta | MLP ]
We need your support: buy an ad | premium membership

[P]
Chomsky on "The New War Against Terror"

By srichman in MLP
Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 06:54:51 PM EST
Tags: Politics (all tags)
Politics

Last night, I attended a talk by Noam Chomsky titled "The New War Against Terror" (the "old" war, Chomsky reminds us, began 20 years ago when the incoming Reagan administration stated that the fight against international terrorism would form the core of its foreign policy). The lecture was educational, expectedly incendiary, and thought provoking, and is something that everyone--Chomsky haters and admirers alike--should hear.


Chomsky discussed a range of issues surrounding the events leading up to and stemming from September 11, from the origins and motivations of the terrorists to logical policy choices going forward.

One contentious highlight was his explication of the United States' role as the leading perpetrator of international terrorism. Chomsky offers several pieces of recent history to support his claim, and explains how the nomenclature of terrorism and the conspicuous lack of social and scholarly discourse on these events have made us oblivious to American terror.

Another highlight was Chomsky's observation (again, with factual support) that the military campaign in Afghanistan has prevented aid workers from delivering food to millions of Afghanis on the brink of starvation. With their deaths imminent, the United States, Chomsky claims, is on the verge of committing mass genocide against innocent Afghanis, and you and I are complicit with this.

If your ears have two hours to kill, check it out.

Sponsors

Voxel dot net
o Managed Hosting
o VoxCAST Content Delivery
o Raw Infrastructure

Login

Poll
Professor Noam Chomsky...
o is a silly, crazy old quack. 11%
o is a dangerous, unpatriotic quack. 2%
o is a brilliant, incisive commentator in an age largely dominated by corporate mass media. 61%
o should just stick to linguistics. 24%

Votes: 210
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o check it out
o Also by srichman


Display: Sort:
Chomsky on "The New War Against Terror" | 275 comments (254 topical, 21 editorial, 1 hidden)
I learned to ignore Chomsky 20 years ago (2.93 / 31) (#6)
by wiredog on Fri Oct 19, 2001 at 10:56:00 PM EST

when I was in high school.

Read this piece to anyone who was in Cambodia in the 70's. Chomsky's basic thesis is that anything the US does is wrong. His work in The Nation is instructive reading. The vicious infighting there is not for the faint hearted, however. I find myself actually agreeing with Chris Hitchens. (Next thing you know, I'll be telling people to install WinXP.)

Chomsky is beloved of people in the Soviet Republic of Berkely, and other extreme left wing intellectuals, and mostly ignored by sensible folk. When I see or hear anyone quoting Chomsky admiringly I tune them out on the grounds that they are probably idiots. Chomsky is the left's version of Jerry Falwell.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle

It's spelled Berkeley. (3.69 / 13) (#11)
by jason on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 01:29:36 AM EST

And the "anti-war rallies" have seen less attendance than recent rallies to support a so-so radio station. The speakers seem required to utter "capitalist imperialist society" in every other sentence. sigh. The "pro-war" side shows just as much originality, and they have almost as many people at the rallies. And if you're ever in Berkeley, stop by a Top Dog hot dog shop... Read the walls. Berkeley isn't 100% left.

BTW, some of Chomsky's linguistic theories are worth serious consideration. You shouldn't discount everything he says. Keep in mind that he selects his presented evidence very carefully, though.

[ Parent ]

Oops (3.00 / 7) (#34)
by wiredog on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 07:53:47 PM EST

How'd I miss that?

A friend of mine, in 82, went out to UC Berkeley when looking at colleges. After he walked on the campus he saw a guy on the ground in the lotus position going "ooommmmm". After that he referred to Berkeley as "Berserkely". He decided to go to UVA, iirc.

If there's a choice between performance and ease of use, Linux will go for performance every time. -- Jerry Pournelle
[ Parent ]

Thank you (1.37 / 8) (#46)
by montjoy on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 01:24:57 PM EST

You just gave me a context for this argument and all futher arguments you will make. Now I know I can safely ignore them.

[ Parent ]
what took you so long? (3.00 / 2) (#71)
by streetlawyer on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 04:05:37 AM EST

When someone has as their signature a quote from Jerry Pournelle saying something demonstrably stupid about operating systems and UI design, surely that's all the context you need?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
In other words (4.14 / 7) (#60)
by deaddrunk on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 11:23:21 PM EST

Just like the US media, except that Chomsky is subjected to ridicule at every turn, whilst everything the mouthpieces of the elite say is treated as fact.

Look at the media definition of a terrorist. Was Suharto of Indonesia ever called a terrorist, even though his policies were designed to institute a climate of fear amongst the population? Was Henry Kissinger ever called a terrorist, even though he was responsible for terror campaigns against Vietnamese peasants?

Just because Chomsky presents a view that differs diametrically from that presented by the New York Times doesn't mean he's wrong, stupid or a neo-communist. Pointing out the flaws in the system is what the media is supposed to do, and given that they don't, someone else has to.



[ Parent ]
I never said he was wrong... (4.00 / 2) (#93)
by jason on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:19:21 AM EST

I just wanted to be sure people realized that he isn't much different than the media. Guess I need to assume less of the readership.

Similarly, he's never been a communist (socialist, yes, but he knows the term communist now means Stalinist, and he's very anti-fascist), and the media doesn't have a single, all-encompassing job. Believe it or not, people can disagree without name calling.

[ Parent ]

Our "left wing" is a blight (2.60 / 10) (#61)
by ariux on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 11:40:09 PM EST

...on the face of liberalism.

The speakers seem required to utter "capitalist imperialist society" in every other sentence.

Bunch of aging marxists on flashbacks - they make me sick. Rarely in the world has there been such plentiful material for liberalism to take up (rampant death, starvation, and poverty, much of it apparently because of us) and the best they can do is rant about ideology and Starbucks Coffee.

This sorry bunch of whiners needs to come to terms with this fact: their goals may be high, but their means were useless. Communism had its day, and did far worse even than we're doing now. It's time for some lengthy soul-searching and fresh ideas.

[ Parent ]

Not aging. (3.33 / 3) (#92)
by jason on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:15:23 AM EST

Just as a quick correction: All the speakers were 18-30, and the vast majority were 18-20. So many are in the transition from behind led by someone authoritative (parents, teachers) to leading themselves. Unfortunately, the "anti-everything" crowd is much more willing to help them through this phase. If more "typical" people were to help...

[ Parent ]
Be careful (3.00 / 2) (#139)
by norge on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:46:53 PM EST

Calling everyone in the "left wing" an "aging marxist on flashbacks" and a "whiner" is entirely incorrect and destructive. To provide a quick counter example, I am a 22-year-old programmer non-marxist who very rarely whines. I subscribe to "The Economist" and believe that capitalism encompasses some really good ideas. However, I also subscribe to "Z Magazine" and "The Nation", and I deeply dislike many features of modern American consumerism and the powerful social conservatism of many of the inhabitants of this land. I consider myself more or less in the American left wing.

There are also many older American leftists who don't fit your description terribly well; Gore Vidal and Howard Zinn to name two. There are plenty of idiots to be found at anti-this or anti-that rallies (it would be interesting to study their numbers relative to the number of idiots at your average Sunday service). However there are also plenty of thoughtful intelligent people who are doing their best to come up with some "fresh ideas". Don't blind youself to potentially good people and ideas with your aversion.

Benjamin


[ Parent ]
Subscription (3.00 / 2) (#162)
by finial on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:53:43 PM EST

How can you be only 22 and afford The Economist? At 22 I was still eating Macaroni & Cheese.

[ Parent ]
Not Falwell... Limbaugh. (2.41 / 12) (#17)
by SvnLyrBrto on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 04:30:25 AM EST

>Chomsky is the left's version of Jerry Falwell.

Nah, he's not a Falwell. He's the left's equivelent of Rush Limbaugh....

Reasonably intelligent and quite articulate... but just so far, Far, FAR out in left (right in Limbaugh's case) field that no reasonable person could take either seriously. (Or not get PO'd reading the writeings of either)

Both are intractible, unreasonable, quite loony, bores. But they're no Falwell. I wouldn't rate Falwell's intelligence anywhere NEAR Chomsky's or Limbaugh's.

What I never got though, it just what the HELL is he doing at MIT?!?!?!? Last I checked, MIT stood for Massachusetts Institute of TECHNOLOGY... not Massachusetts Institute of extreme liberal rantings. Chomsky seems much more suited to one of those PCU-type liberal arts colleges, NOT a tech school.

So I have to wonder what he did to get there? Some sort of bait-and-switch... where he pretended to be a techie till he got tenure, then betreyed the university??? Started at a real professor, but gradually went off the deep end, and now they just can't get rid of him??? There's SOME kind of dishonesty on his part, being at MIT... which just lowers my opinion of him further.

Oh, and the other reply to your post was right about Berkeley. It's not anymore what you see in those movies about the '60s. For example, it has a quite strong anti-semitic contingent. Last year, a former Israelite prime minister was to speak in Berkeley, and the "ve should gas ze jews" segment of Berkeley's population was large, vocal, and threatening enough to silence him and cancel the appearance.

Imagine that, from the home of the old free speech movement, and one of the original bastions of liberalism and demand for racial acceptance in the US.


cya,
john

Imagine all the people...
[ Parent ]

Chomsky 'n' Berkeley 'n' Limbaugh (4.00 / 13) (#20)
by bobsquatch on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 07:46:50 AM EST

So I have to wonder what he did to get there? Some sort of bait-and-switch... where he pretended to be a techie till he got tenure, then betreyed the university???
Y'know, MIT teaches quite a few subjects that aren't science or engineering. Chomsky reportedly made some important contributions to linguistics before going into hard-core policy wonk mode. (I say "reportedly" because I know next to nothing about linguistics, and just a little of Chomsky's history.)
Last year, a former Israelite prime minister was to speak in Berkeley, and the "ve should gas ze jews" segment of Berkeley's population was large, vocal, and threatening enough to silence him and cancel the appearance.
You're referring to this event, I take it. The anti-Israel crowd that I've met here in Berkeley have been mostly concerned for the human rights of the Palestinians, not crusaders for bringing back Zyklon B. (Note the sign "Zionism=Nazism". The protesters are hardly cozy with the National Socialists.) (Also note that it's standard practice for the Berkeley PD to inflate the numbers of people at demonstrations. You need more cops to handle a crowd of 500 than a crowd of 100, after all... so be more grateful and pay cops more, because they're holding back a mob of 1500 angry hippies! Er, make that 3000 heavily-armed hippies. With air support.)

Yeah, you could argue that the creation of a Palestinian nation is the first step in driving Israel into the sea, and you wouldn't be the first; but the protesters I've seen are just calling for partition, not the eradication of Israel. To call folk Nazis because they support native rights in Palestine is, well, very Limbaugh of you. At worst, they're deluded; at best, they might even be right.

Or is there actually a huge Aryan Nation population around here, scurrying behind bushes and hiding behind signs whenever I turn around?

[ Parent ]

yes and no (4.55 / 9) (#39)
by Lode Runner on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 02:09:44 AM EST

You're right that the anti-Zionist crowd at Berkeley (and many other American universities) does not primarily consist of neo-Nazis and their ilk. Rather, it's a doomed coalition of white, upper-middle-class liberals and Muslim "human rights" activists.

It's really strange, this alliance of the American far-Left and the political facet of Islam; it sort of brings out the worst in both worlds... On the one hand you see Teva-wearing (sic) white suburbanites who've never been to the Middle East sporting kaffiyehs. And on the other hand you see Arab nationalists and Muslim fundamentalists (fundies by Western standards, not the Ummah's) echoing American liberal critics like Chomsky, Norman Solomon, and Howard Zinn while remaining firmly silent in regard to the Muslim community's role in perpetuating exactly the sort of evils the aforementioned trio are fighting.

Here's an example of the latter type. It's all there: the co-opted Chomsky quote as signature, the wholly disingenuous call for (very arbitrarily defined) regional democracy at the expense of national sovereignty, and of course the call for the destruction of Israel. The Berkeley e-mail address is icing on the cake.

For those of you who are interested, it's fairly simple to cleave the white liberals from the Muslim activists. Just mention abortion or homosexual rights or the Holocaust and irreconciliable differences will quickly arise.

Already, the cracks in this unholy alliance are beginning to show. For instance, Robert Fisk, who's long been a thorn in Zionists' sides, has complained that Muslim groups are very selectively quoting his journalistic work in order to propagate their political views. But the real danger lies in those who will exploit these cracks -- white bigots have found that their outspoken views of Jews will resonate throughout the Muslim-American community. Just this week, an Arab student union at NYU tried to fob off one of ex-KKK grand wizard David Duke's anti-semitic rants as a reasonable analysis of America's role in the Middle East. This sad incident made TNR's idiocy watch. Sigh...



[ Parent ]

Einstein of linguistics (4.60 / 10) (#23)
by ooch on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 09:31:15 AM EST

My father is a linquist(if that is even a word), so I know a bit about Chomsky's scientific career. He is often called the 'Einstein of linguistics', because our whole modern understanding of language is based mainly on his work. His early work focussed on how a human learns a language. Before Chomsky it was just assumed that children parroted the sounds of their parents, and learned a language that way. With ihs classic 'syntactic structures' Chomsky proposed a whole different system, which apparently explained the learning of a language better. He has written an incredible load of books, both political and linguistic. My father objected to the claim that Chomsky is 'reasonable intelligent'(he is somewhat opposed to his political views, so that has little to do with it) saying he is a genius. Only if you are willing to call Einstein reasonable intelligent, you may name Chomsky that way, according to my father.

The MIT has a faculty of linguistics&philosphy, and Chomsky is institute-professor. Much of the funding of MIT comes, or at least came, from the military, and probably the military was interested in how people learn languages, perhaps to teach people Russian or whatever. So that is probable the reason that a linguistic-proffesor works at MIT.

[ Parent ]

Einstein (3.12 / 8) (#24)
by strlen on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 12:58:07 PM EST

Yeah, ignore political ramblings uttered by techies. Einstein wrote an essay in support of socialism, and to take it as "truth, truth and nothing but the truth" is not wise. RMS wrote emacs, gcc, and his contribution to computing is enormous. But he also likes to release streams of political ramblings,although I do find most of them to be agreeable (most of the time he's defending free speech and crypto rights and the like). ESR however seems to be more of a charlatan, fetchmail is just a mail downloader, everything else he does seems to be of political nature.

--
[T]he strongest man in the world is he who stands most alone. - Henrik Ibsen.
[ Parent ]
ESR and open source (1.80 / 5) (#64)
by Pseudonym on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:13:09 AM EST

While I agree that fetchmail isn't exactly the world's most mind-shatteringly generally useful piece of software, ESR has contributed in other ways. For example, he's written an awful lot of HOWTOs. He also developed tools to translate older troff-formatted documents (e.g. man pages) into DocBook to assist in the modern LDP efforts.

He wrote the original version of sed which the FSF distributed. (They later ditched it and rewrote it around GNU regexp.) He wrote a lot of libpng. He wrote a lot of the standard add-on interfaces for GNU Emacs (e.g. the CVS interface). He's developed a new configuration management tool to replace the current Linux kernel configuration system (which has needed overhaul for a long time now).

Personally, I think ESR's technical contributions to open source/free software/call it what you will are excellent examples of exactly what's right about the community. He's done a lot of stuff. Much more than you or I. The reason you haven't heard about it is that most of it is extremely unsexy and low-profile, but he did it anyway because it needed to be done.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
ESR and open source (4.66 / 6) (#65)
by Pseudonym on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:17:17 AM EST

While I agree that fetchmail isn't exactly the world's most mind-shatteringly generally useful piece of software, ESR has contributed in other ways. For example, he's written an awful lot of HOWTOs. He also developed tools to translate older troff-formatted documents (e.g. man pages) into DocBook to assist in the modern LDP efforts.

He wrote the original version of sed which the FSF distributed. (They later ditched it and rewrote it around GNU regexp.) He wrote a lot of libpng. He wrote a lot of the standard add-on interfaces for GNU Emacs (e.g. the CVS interface). He's developed a new configuration management tool to replace the current Linux kernel configuration system (which has needed overhaul for a long time now).

Personally, I think ESR's technical contributions to open source/free software/call it what you will are excellent examples of exactly what's right about the community. He's done a lot of stuff. Much more than you or I. The reason you haven't heard about it is that most of it is extremely unsexy and low-profile, but he did it anyway because it needed to be done.

I'm reminded of a quote from The King and I. When Anna hears that the monarchs from surrounding countries are spreading rumours in the West that the king of Siam is a barbarian, she says: "His Majesty is many things which I dislike, but he is not a barbarian." Well, ESR is many things which I dislike, but he is not a charlatan.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Bleah (5.00 / 1) (#67)
by Pseudonym on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 01:09:44 AM EST

Bleah. Double post. Sorry. This is the one I intended, not the other one.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Computer science (3.85 / 7) (#28)
by drquick on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 02:10:19 PM EST

You write
The MIT has a faculty of linguistics&philosphy, and Chomsky is institute-professor. Much of the funding of MIT comes, or at least came, from the military, and probably the military was interested in how people learn languages, perhaps to teach people Russian or whatever. So that is probable the reason that a linguistic-proffesor works at MIT.
Linguistics have implications on computer science. Understanding the semantics of a natural language might give hints on how to make better computer programming languages. The concept of 'a language' in the computer world, might also be extented to mean the user interface. Especially the semantic parts of it. (GUI graphics, etc syntaxes not so much). Learning a language is also related to learning in general. What if the UI of your computer just learned what way you want to interact with the system? Suppose the language you use is constructed in a natural process as you use the system and therefore adapts to the situation and its needs. This would, for the Pentagon, imply very powerful user interfaces to weapons. It's very important to a pilot or a tank crew to read and respond quickly and intuitively. It's funny to think that the Pentagon might benefit from Chomskys work.

[ Parent ]
There's more than one branch of linguistics (4.25 / 8) (#49)
by vmarks on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 07:43:51 PM EST


I just finished a Master's from the University of Liverpool, England. Chomksy is not held in high regard there.

As with any science, there are "experts" that make wild, out there statements, and some in the field regard them as less than desirable sources.

Chomsky, in many corners, is certainly not the Einstein of Linguistics. Your father may disagree, but it doesn't change the distinct possibility that not every observation Chomsky makes in Linguistics is gospel, and his observations outside of Linguistics are even more questionable.

I am often disappointed when people considered experts in their fields speak outside their expertise. When Stephen Hawking began to talk about cyborgs that would overtake human dominance, I was disappointed. When Shockley (one of the inventors of the transistor) began to speak about the superiority of the White race, I was disappointed. I am again experiencing those familiar feelings in regard to Chomsky.

Thanks.

[ Parent ]
There's more than one side to Chomsky (5.00 / 5) (#63)
by The Solitaire on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:10:53 AM EST

Just because one doesn't agree with Chomsky's positions on certain issues does not mean one should dump him wholesale. As someone in computational linguistics myself (working on my MSc at Simon Fraser University), I often find that I disagree with many of Chomsky's theories. However, I will never deny that the man has made some very important observations. Being wrong does not imply being an idiot.

I feel similarly about his socio-political ideologies. I'm not ready to accept him doom and gloom, almost illuminati-like vison of contemporary society. But I will give him this: he often makes points that so many others refuse to make - and he makes them well. Unfortunately, much of what he says is bought wholesale by his "followers", without much, if any, thought. Too often this is a problem on both the "left" and the "right" (two terms I despise because of their restrictive nature).

I think the solution is to listen to Chomsky, as well as others; understand what they have to say; do a little research of your own (as Chomsky always advises); and finally make informed decisions. Finally, be willing to change your position when you realize that you are wrong.



I need a new sig.
[ Parent ]
Chomsky is a genius. (2.00 / 2) (#81)
by the trinidad kid on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:25:15 AM EST

Chomsky's famous saying "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" overturned 100 years of work on language acquisition and killed the Skinnerians dead in the water. It is a thought experiment up there with Shroedinger's Cat. (4 pairs of words with a 0 probability that any listener would have heard them in that order which create a sentence which is recognisably grammatically correct but meaningless - it proves that individuals learn whole grammars and not merely how to imitate other speakers.)

[ Parent ]
genius <> forever correct (4.66 / 3) (#90)
by Luyseyal on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:53:51 AM EST

it proves that individuals learn whole grammars and not merely how to imitate other speakers

Close... but not exactly. Chomsky believes in an innate grammar device*. While fine tuning of grammar occurs as a learning process, the device itself has a specific built-in worldview, so to speak. That is, the concepts of noun, verb, and other basics are embedded in the structure of the brain, not learned.

This is why Chomsky does not believe other simians are really using sign language or behaving outside of Skinnerian behaviorism. He doesn't believe simians possess a grammar device. I happen to disagree with his view based on some research I did for a paper, but his view has not been 100% discounted.

The notion of embedded linguistic structures in the brain also appears in Sperber and Wilson's Relevance Theory (which is a pragmatic theory, rather than a semantic one, but holds results for semantics) which seems very plausible to me. They hold that the brain has a logic module as well as a grammar module. They don't speculate whether this is innate or learned, but it's fascinating nonetheless. For example, their solution to the age-old problem of irony is very simple but elegant.

Anyhow, $0.02USD on Chomsky and Relevance Theory compliments of PHL 332 and 375M,

-l

* grammar device. just a loose way of talking about a dedicated structure in the brain for grammar processing.

[ Parent ]

Oh, please. (4.33 / 3) (#176)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 05:31:05 AM EST

Chomsky's famous saying "colourless green ideas sleep furiously" overturned 100 years of work on language acquisition and killed the Skinnerians dead in the water. [...] it proves that individuals learn whole grammars and not merely how to imitate other speakers.

Bah. First of all, you are succumbing to the Chomskian myth that, before The Prophet Chomsky came, everybody who was in linguistics was Skinnerian. This is so wrong it's not even US-centric, for it ignores the fact that there is a whole linguistic tradition in anthropology departments (Boas, Sapir, Whorf, ...) which never was behaviorist. And it arguably gets Skinner and Bloomfield, the targets of the "refutation", wrong. (Not that I want to rehabilitate behaviorism...)

Not to mention that Roman Jakobson and his associates in Prague already believed what you attribute to be Chomsky's innovation ("individuals learn whole grammars") as early as the late 20's.

BTW Lucien Tčsniere, a French linguist from the first half of the 20th century who hardly anybody outside of France and Germany knows about, had in his classic Éléments de syntaxe structurale has an earlier published example (1954, but probably conceived of in the 30s) of a "colorless green ideas" sentence: Le silence vertébral indispose la voile licite ("The vertebral silence undisposes the licit sail"). (BTW, Tesničre is the great forgotten genius of 20th century linguistics-- he was, essentially, 40-50 years ahead of his time relative to comparable work on "generative grammar" loosely defined...)

And I'm not about to claim Tesničre was the first one to come up with such a thing-- in fact, I believe Carnap (a philosopher) in a hilarious 30s article about Logical Positivism essentially attacks Heidegger by claiming his sentences are syntactically well-formed but meaningless... not that the claim was true, but rather, the idea that syntactically well-formed natural languages sentences might be meaningless was floating around for a looong while on philosophy.

The real world is more complex than what everybody thinks...

--em
[ Parent ]

Linguistics and Computer Science (4.60 / 5) (#53)
by zeda on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 08:40:48 PM EST

There are two main uses of linguistics in Computer Science.

1) Programming languages. There are lots and they are all designed. Witness Larry Wall's linguistic designs in Perl. Also regular expressions are in the Chomsky Heirarchy of Languages

2) Artificial Intelligence. Part of AI is natural language processing, or how to get computers to understand it, them, they and such. Also language is the format of the Turing test, also the main way we communicate thus the main way we attempt to determine intelligence (artificial or not).

[ Parent ]

Chomsky is not the Prophet. (4.33 / 3) (#173)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 05:08:09 AM EST

[Chomsky] is often called the 'Einstein of linguistics'

Never heard that one. I've heard him called the "Galileo of Cognitive Science", though, by one particularly fawning fanboy who translates his books to Spanish (terrible translations, stay away).

because our whole modern understanding of language is based mainly on his work.

I think you are attributing *way* too much to Chomksy. Which is what Chomskians always do, because if you are trained in that cult, you are pretty much discouraged from knowing anything else, and you end up believing that Chomsky came up with all sorts of things that he didn't.

His early work focussed on how a human learns a language.

No, not at all. His earliest work was on Hebrew grammar; then he pioneered formal language theory. Frankly, none of Chosmky's work can seriously be said to be about how humans learn language-- has he ever published any papers on language acquisition at all?

Before Chomsky it was just assumed that children parroted the sounds of their parents, and learned a language that way.

This is plainly false. Before Chomsky, behaviorism (what you roughly refer to) was the dominating psychological theory in US academia, and was the most entrenched in US linguistics departments; the biggest name here was Leonard Bloomfield. However, not all linguistics was done in linguistics departments; anthropological linguists never took to behaviorism. And european linguistics for the most part didn't either. And neither were all the Bloomfieldeans (the people who Chomsky "defeated") a homogeneous bunch behind behaviorism; the most notable student of Bloomfield, Charles Hockett, was quite open to other ideas.

Anyway, the first imporant work on universal aspects of language acquisition was done in the 40's by Roman Jakobson (who arguably *is* the "Einstein of Linguistics"). "Universal Grammar" is essentially Chomsky's elaboration of Jakobson's ideas about language universals (an elaboration that, however, rejects one of the central principle of Jakobson's linguistics, that of functionalism).

With ihs classic 'syntactic structures' Chomsky proposed a whole different system, which apparently explained the learning of a language better.

Chomsky's work has never been any closer to explaining language acquisition than anybody else's. Chomsky claims that the goal of his theory is to explain how children acquire language, but he basically rejects methods involving actually sitting down with children and observing how they go about doing it. In the classical Chomskian method (which, thank God, not even Chomskians follow nowadays), the linguist simply introspects on his judgements of grammaticality of different sentences in his native speech, and uses this as data to write a grammar. No need to actually go out and do fieldwork with speakers of dying languages or anything of the sort-- you just deduce the structure of Universal Grammar from your own experience.

My father objected to the claim that Chomsky is 'reasonable intelligent'(he is somewhat opposed to his political views, so that has little to do with it) saying he is a genius.

Chomsky is quite intelligent. His characterizations as a "genius", though, are always accompanied by misinformed lunatic raves either by members of his cult, or by people who just don't know better. (These categories are not exclusive; the first one implies the second.)

Chomsky has done at least as much damage to Linguistics as good, if you ask me.

--em
[ Parent ]

Linguistics and other things at MIT (3.75 / 8) (#38)
by neoptik on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 10:47:06 PM EST

MIT is a kickass engineering school, for sure. However we, (I say we because I'm a freshmen there) do other things than math and science. We happen to have the best economics faculty according to USNews and World Report. We also have one of the best linguistics faculties around (Chomsky and others). People at MIT study psychology, music, Urban development, and architecture, just to mention a few "other majors". I say other because 1 in 3 people at MIT are course 6 (computer science and electrical engineering) and whole hell of a lot more are some sort of math or science major. But we do kick ass at other things, and Linguistics is just one of them.

By the way, I'm not a big fan of Chomsky; I think he's the left wing equivalent of Jerry Fallwell but a trillion times smarter. Someone on this board compared him to Limbaugh, but I personally don't think that Rush is half as smart as Chomsky. Another little note: for some reason or another, there is a very large population of Jewish Linguists who are as anti-Israel as Chomsky is, persumably because they studied with him. Just thought I'd mention it.
*sigh....* so many distributed computing projects.....so few computational resources....
[ Parent ]

A choice quote (4.00 / 10) (#30)
by Zeram on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 03:00:09 PM EST

from the one article you linked to:

We do not pretend to know where the truth lies amidst these sharply conflicting assessments; rather, we again want to emphasize some crucial points.

Your throwing out the baby with the bath water. I'll be the first one to admit that Chomsky can be really, really out there. But he often makes some very good points. The first Chomsky article I ever read was the one about how people can't climb through the power structure with out being molded by it, specifically reporters. And if you stop to think about it for even just a few seconds, you realize that after four years of college unless you are intelligent beyond measure, really lucky, or ultra hard-headed you will wind up being molded into something acceptable to the current power structures. Because when you get right down to it, one of the primary functions of the established power structures in society is self perpetuation.
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
to however emailed me (none / 0) (#240)
by Zeram on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 08:06:01 PM EST

your address doesn't work so here is my reply:

It's title is "What makes mainstream media, mainstream". It was from a talk he gave back in 97. I read it in the book "You are Being Lied To". You can check it out online here: http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/z9710-mainstream-media.html
<----^---->
Like Anime? In the Philly metro area? Welcome to the machine...
[ Parent ]
trust the tale, not the teller (4.26 / 15) (#45)
by mikpos on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 12:04:14 PM EST

Assuming someone to be an idiot because he quotes Chomsky is certainly not constructive.

By the way how far does this Chomsky-idiot truism apply. If I say, "well, as Chomsky said, a context-free grammar can be represented by a pushdown finite automaton", am I an idiot for quoting Chomsky? Or is it just politics? How about if I say, "well, as Chomsky said, authority can be justified. For example, he said he'll stop his grandchildren from darting into a busy street," am I an idiot? The paraphrased quote fits directly into his anarchist ideologies, so it is quite political.

Prejudice does have its down-sides, you know.

[ Parent ]

Well... (2.66 / 3) (#104)
by Ken Arromdee on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 01:23:42 PM EST

How about if I say, "well, as Chomsky said, authority can be justified. For example, he said he'll stop his grandchildren from darting into a busy street," am I an idiot?

If you say that seriously, quoting Chomsky with the intent that it should be taken more seriously because Chomsky said it, yeah, you're an idiot. While Chomsky probably isn't biased about crossing streets in the same way he's biased about politics, he's also still not an authority in those matters--at least no more an authority than anyone else--and quoting Chomsky on it does no more good than quoting your Aunt Petunia.

[ Parent ]

Chomsky? Left? (4.87 / 8) (#59)
by Jetifi on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 11:15:27 PM EST

You said:

Chomsky is beloved of people in the Soviet Republic of Berkely, and other extreme left wing intellectuals, and mostly ignored by sensible folk. [...] Chomsky is the left's version of Jerry Falwell.

If you'd listened to the stream: one thing he repeatedly said is that the right-wing commentators have been more honest than the left-wing on the motives of UBL, and why the USA is so hated in that part of the world.

In fact, he said that while right-wing commentators have acknowledged the things like the USA financing Turkey's 'counter-terrorism' against the Kurds, propping up the regime in Saudi Arabia, etc., left-wing commentators have trotted out stuff along the lines of 'they hate the fact that we stand for freedom and liberty'. Which of these you choose to believe is your choice, but Chomsky is soundly on the side of the right-wingers here.

For what it's worth, I haven't listened to the Chomsky/meta-Chomsky thing before, so I don't know the details of what (from reading K5) seems to be a fairly crude discussion about the merits of his arguments.

With respect to using 'all he says is that the USA sucks' as an argument for ignoring him, that seems a variation of 'I feel good don't bother me', and does not affect the validity of his arguments.

Listening to him, he's just pointed out that 'to endure' is 'to suffer'. I'd point out that in this case Operation 'enduring freedom' may have a slightly different aim than that advertised :-)



[ Parent ]
Chomsky's not bad, but ... (4.37 / 8) (#79)
by pyramid termite on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:14:55 AM EST

In fact, he said that while right-wing commentators have acknowledged the things like the USA financing Turkey's 'counter-terrorism' against the Kurds, propping up the regime in Saudi Arabia, etc., left-wing commentators have trotted out stuff along the lines of 'they hate the fact that we stand for freedom and liberty'.

That's an excellent point. I've been reading antiwar.com almost daily during this crisis and one of the things that interests me is how many libertarians and conservatives have misgivings about our foreign policy and our current course of action. There's one old factoid that comes to mind - when considering Republicans and Democrats and their war-like tendencies, Democrats were in power during the starts of WWI, WW2, the Korean War, the Vietnam War ... well, I don't think that's terribly meaningful, but people who believe the left are pacifists don't know their history well.

I think Chomsky's most essential service to political debate is to keep bringing out facts that get swept under the rug by the major media. I think his most glaring disservice (and that of his followers) is to rant on about El Salvador and East Timor and Chile when it's clear to me that Bin Laden and Co. could care less about that. He was a lot more germane during the 70s and 80s - I'm afraid a lot of the criticisms I've been reading here and other places of American policy are rather dated. Keep it focused on the Middle East and keep it focused on the 90s. There's a lot of things that could be said about our policy in the Middle East, but people need to make their case in a rational manner, not just jumble up ancedotes from our government's misadventures from the past 50 years and expect that people will understand what that has to do with the war.

Another thing I'm afraid a lot of people who are protesting this war don't understand is that Osama bin Laden and the people who support him are every bit as bad as Nazis - it's bad enough they have influence in Afghanistan, let alone anywhere else. Even if we were to stop our blind support of Israel and our propping up of governments they are fighting they'd still hate us for being "Godless infidels". Our government is not fighting reasonable people here.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
A bit about Latin America (3.00 / 3) (#144)
by norge on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:20:28 PM EST

Perhaps you know more about Latin America than your comment implies, but let me point out a few things: By you dissmisal of any discussion of El Salvador and Chile I presume that you believe that the U.S. government did some bad things in the past, but that's behind us. Our policy towards Latin America is all wine and roses now. Well, it's not. We still run a training facility in Georgia for Latin American military personel that has put on PR stunts recently to try to change it image, but still trains men in torture and terrorism. These U.S. trainees go back to El Salvador and Chile and Mexico and Columbia and help control the population, so that U.S.-friendly policy can be made. We also still send billions of dollars worth of military aid to fight battles on very questionable moral ground.

Of course, Osama bin Laden probably doesn't care too much about U.S. policy towards Mexico. However, the point that many leftists try to make and the point that often doesn't come accross very well is that the U.S. must change its foreign policy practices if we really want a world without terrorism. Clearly people like Osama bin Laden need to be dealt with in a severe way. However, the world is bubbling with violence and unrest, some of which can be directly linked to American policy (and I don't mean policies of decades passed).

Benjamin

p.s. Very few intelligent people on the left would care to be associated very closely with the democratic party.


[ Parent ]
So the question is... (1.80 / 25) (#10)
by physicsgod on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 01:22:06 AM EST

When is our dear friend Noam flying over to Pakistan to volunteer to drive trucks for the aid agencies? Until that happens I don't give a damn about what he says about my compicity. Those who can, do; those who can't, bitch.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
Bombing (3.83 / 12) (#12)
by srichman on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 01:32:54 AM EST

When is our dear friend Noam flying over to Pakistan to volunteer to drive trucks for the aid agencies? Until that happens I don't give a damn about what he says about my compicity.
If you listen to the talk, you'll learn that the reason the aid trucks are no longer driving from Pakistan into Afghanistan is because the United States is presently bombing the hell out of Afghanistan, and it is no longer safe or feasible to continue the food distribution. Whether Chomsky is willing to drive trucks in the Middle East is highly irrelevant. Our complicity lies in the fact that our government chose a course of action that cut the only lifeline for these people (and, I needn't mention, the US is in no small part to blame for the current extreme destitution in Afghanistan).
Those who can, do; those who can't, bitch.
Yeah, so, like I said, no one can "do" now; that was Chomsky's point. According to aid agencies, US airdrops are primarly a propaganda ploy, as they are exceedingly ineffective and often detrimental and dangerous.

[ Parent ]
Bullshit (1.78 / 14) (#26)
by physicsgod on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 01:46:28 PM EST

The reason food isn't getting into Afghanistan is because the drivers in Pakistan aren't driving it there, because they're scared. Now instead of bitching about how the poor Afghans are starving because of the US maybe people should volunteer to drive aid trucks to the starving people. I'm willing to do so, but I'd need a plane ticket from the US to Pakistan, something I doubt aid agencies would be willing to pay for. As a well-known professor Noam shouldn't be bound by the same finacial considerations as a student. But Noam and his ilk don't ACTUALLY want to solve the problem, they just want to bitch.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
so take up a collection (3.90 / 10) (#29)
by Arkady on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 02:15:49 PM EST

I'll put up $10 (maybe more) to send you to Afghanistan to drive an aid truck, definitely. In addition to the obvious benefits to the Afghanis, it might give you a brief lesson in the effects of U.S. foreign policy and help you develop a realistic idea of how the world works under the American hegemony.

-robin

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere Anarchy is loosed upon the world.


[ Parent ]
Great Idea! (3.33 / 3) (#35)
by physicsgod on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 10:24:37 PM EST

So the Drive food to the Afghans fund is now at US$110. I tried to find out how much airfare from Denver to Islamabad would be, but I'm not getting any luck. You'd figure someone would be flying in and out of the country. Anyway, once the fund gets up to $500 I'll contact the WFP and explain the situation, and ask for expense estimates. If all goes well I'll email the contributers with an address.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
About $2000 (USD) R/T (4.00 / 2) (#52)
by finial on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 08:27:28 PM EST

From Travelocity (r/t Denver-Islamabad):

Round-Trip not including applicable charges*
Price: USD 1610.00
Pakistan Intl Airlines offers connecting service
Latest Travel: 06Dec01
Earliest Return: 10 days
Latest Return: 4 months

Round-Trip not including applicable charges*
Price: USD 1710.00
Pakistan Intl Airlines offers connecting service
Latest Travel: 06Dec01
Earliest Return: 07 days
Latest Return: 6 months

Round-Trip not including applicable charges*
Price: USD 1780.00
Pakistan Intl Airlines offers connecting service
Earliest Return: 10 days

Round-Trip not including applicable charges*
Price: USD 1790.00
Pakistan Intl Airlines offers connecting service
Latest Travel: 06Dec01
Latest Return: 12 months

Lowest Economy/Coach Fares valid for travel through February 2002

* Fares shown are for one adult. Any applicable discounts will be added after you choose your flights. These fares include airline-imposed fuel surcharges and some but not all taxes. Additional taxes, airport facility charges (ranging from USD 2.00-18.00) and federal segment fees (USD 2.75 per segment, defined as a takeoff and landing) will be shown after your flights are selected. The above fares may not be available on all flights and are subject to change without notice. Additional taxes/fees may be associated with international itineraries of up to USD 113 or local currency equivalent. The final fare per passenger will be displayed once flights are chosen.



[ Parent ]
$100 (3.60 / 5) (#41)
by M0dUluS on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 04:06:23 AM EST

Hell, I'll give $100. I'm completely serious. This is great physicsgod.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
$50 (none / 0) (#95)
by PhillipW on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:38:42 AM EST

It isn't much, but I'm pretty much on the broke side.

-Phil
[ Parent ]
how about the tv reporter special forces? (4.05 / 17) (#18)
by cnicolai on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 05:00:44 AM EST

If Chomsky were in Pakistan, he wouldn't have time to research multinational historical situations. Nor could he give lectures. It's like a farmer saying, "When are those gentlemen in the capitol going to try growing their own food. Until that happens I don't give a damn for their laws." Then again, maybe that's why family farms are in trouble.

These inexperienced or non-practicing experts seem like an essential feature of society, ever since it grew beyond tribal size. In a democracy, we all need to hear them to make informed decisions. Yeah, the people who are doing would be better, but they're busy doing, and you'd somehow have to find the competent ones for each situation.

So we have a choice:

  • find the real experts (good luck)
  • ignore all the talkers, inviting the kind of large-scale trouble that grows from small-scale common sense, as in the tragedy of the commons
  • ignore some talkers, based on ease or gut feelings, and limit our options
  • ignore some talkers based on our judgment of their qualifications and insight
  • listen to everyone
If anything, listen to Chomsky and ignore the TV stations, who had been cutting back on foreign affairs coverage right up to 911, and eerily mirror official government policy.

[ Parent ]
better questions (3.58 / 12) (#21)
by bobsquatch on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 08:24:57 AM EST

When is our dear friend Noam flying over to Pakistan to volunteer to drive trucks for the aid agencies?
When is our dear friend George joining US Special Forces in ground raids on Taliban forts?

When is our dear friend Donald joining Green Berets in "advising" Northern Alliance troops?

...crack secret agent, Condoleezza Rice, alone behind enemy lines...



[ Parent ]

Slight difference. (2.66 / 9) (#27)
by physicsgod on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 01:51:27 PM EST

Rangers and Green Berets spend months training on how to kill people and avoid getting themselves killed, also Bush and Donald are contributing to the effort. Driving a truck can be learned in a matter of hours or days, and Noam isn't doing anything about the problem. Now if he wanted to send epistles on the horrors of Afghanistan while he's shipping food around I might actually listen, but I have no patience for those who point out problems and do nothing about them.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
huh. (3.57 / 7) (#33)
by bobsquatch on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 06:58:08 PM EST

Funny, here I thought that these four folk were all working in their chosen professions, attempting to influence US foreign policy from their desks in offices half a world away from the consequences of their positions. In my delusion, I thought that at least 3 out of 4 of them were experts in their fields, and that they all had important (if controversial) things to say. And in my blinkered ignorance, I thought that their jobs all consisted of making decisions and then advocating for them.

[ Parent ]
Not entirely sure... (2.54 / 11) (#36)
by physicsgod on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 10:29:49 PM EST

What 4 people you're talking about. I count Bush, Rumsfield, and Chomsky. Bush and Rumsfield's jobs are to implement foreign policy. Chomsky is a professor of lingiustics at MIT, and such has no more right to affect foreign policy than I do. Now if Chomsky was doing anything to help the starving people in Afghanistan I'd listen to what he has to say, but if he's just going to sit in his ivory tower and pontificate on the problems of the world I'm going to treat him the same way I treat Pat Robertson, I'm going to ignore him.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]
You, sir, do not deserve to live in a democracy. (4.63 / 11) (#58)
by ghjm on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 11:13:56 PM EST

The civil liberties generally associated with democratic rule carry with them civic responsibilities, the most pressing of which is to educate yourself about the conditions of the world and vote your conscience when it is your turn to do so. Pat Robertson and Noam Chomsky are both engaged in the respectable and, dare I say it, sacred task of informing the electorate of what they see as crucial issues in their world. You have both the right and the responsibility to do the same. You may certainly disagree, and you may certainly choose not to continue to listen once it has been established that no further enlightenment can arise from your interaction with a speaker, but you may not wallow in self-imposed ignorance in this manner. Not if you wish to preserve the republic.

"He has not driven a truck in Afghanistan" is not a refutation of the substance of Chomsky's arguments. Whether you happen to like it or not, he has made strongly supported arguments that U.S. foreign policy is in an awful mess and we, the voters, need to exercise our collective will in getting it sorted out. If you believe that current U.S. foreign policy is in fact desirable, correct and in no need of change, then say so. But be prepared to back it up - extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.

-Graham

[ Parent ]
You're right. (3.00 / 2) (#135)
by NovaHeat on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:22:10 PM EST

They are experts in their fields... Chomsky's field being linguistics. No one is disputing the fact that Noam Chomsky is, indeed, an expert in the field of linguistics. The problem, however, is arising from the fact that Chomsky is not an expert in the field of politics. Sure, he likes to pretend he is... sure, his zealous followers like to take his word as scripture, but the fact of the matter is that for all his brains, the man has no real credentials in the political field except that for 30 years he's been saying "AmeriKKKa SUX!!" in relation to various topics.

So, you're right. They're experts in their fields. Chomsky's field, however, is linguistics, not politics, no matter how hard he tries to play the role.

-----

Rose clouds of flies.
[ Parent ]

George W. Bush (none / 0) (#183)
by marx on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 10:41:39 AM EST

What is the field of expertise of George W. Bush?

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

An even better question (4.00 / 1) (#80)
by pyramid termite on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:21:46 AM EST

When is Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwartznegger and Jackie Chan going to go over and do something about all this? I just know they can.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Well... (2.81 / 11) (#37)
by Anonymous 6522 on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 10:43:14 PM EST

...according to a bunch of other people, it would be quite dangerous for Mr. Chomsky to drive a truck in Afganistan this time of year. He could very well get killed.

So....

He should learn to fly a helicopter instead. You can't bomb a helicopter, and as an added bonus, it would be able to reach those remote mountain villages. By now, the Taliban's air defense network should be kocked out by now, so he won't have to worry about that. He might have to deal with some small arms fire, and I don't know how that would affect a helicopter. He's probably safe as they don't manage to shoot his fuel tanks.

Heck, there's a lot of people who are probably itching to do something for those starving Afghanis. They should all get together with their buddy Noam and set up their own aid agency! Since they'll be airborne, they could specialize at getting to remote areas that trucks have difficulty getting to.

So, what are you guys waiting for?

[ Parent ]

And.. (3.20 / 10) (#40)
by physicsgod on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 02:42:08 AM EST

...according to a bunch of other people, it would be quite dangerous for Mr. Chomsky to drive a truck in Afganistan this time of year. He could very well get killed.
And the downside would be? :)

Seriously, I think the dangers of driving an aid truck into Afghanistan are overrated. AFAIK there's only been one instance of a road vehicle being destroyed by the bombing, and that was a car belonging to a Taliban official. As long as you drive a properly marked vehicle you shouldn't have any problems with bombs, though I'd take an entrenching tool and sleep in a foxhole at night.

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

Aid and war (3.80 / 5) (#68)
by ariux on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 02:12:35 AM EST

Seriously, I think the dangers of driving an aid truck into Afghanistan are overrated.

I suspect what's driving aid agencies out of Afghanistan is not as simple and limited as fear that their trucks will actually be directly hit by US bombs.

The United States is attacking Afghanistan with the intentional aim of overthrowing its government and destroying their ability to govern. Some of the country is starving to death, some is fleeing in panic, and the rest is arming and heading for the caves. The banditry that the Taliban drove out before must be flooding back now that the cat's away. In short, all hell is breaking loose in Afghanistan; chaos reigns there; the dogs of war are unleashed.

Would you send your people, with their western faces, into such a situation? Their mission would likely be doomed, and they killed.

[ Parent ]

In addition to other reply (3.66 / 3) (#84)
by Jetifi on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:54:14 AM EST

Seriously, I think the dangers of driving an aid truck into Afghanistan are overrated

If you'd listened to the stream, or read the papers (like Chomsky did) you'd know that the US has pressured Pakistan (where all the charities are based) in to closing the border to all traffic - including aid trucks.

Therefore, the dangers of driving aid trucks into Afghanistan (which are probably considerable), are irrelevant: the border is closed, and it is impossible.

This was one of the main points he was trying to make. The US Government/Army is fully aware that there are x million Afghans on the brink of starvation, that winter is closing in, and that aid by air doesn't do squat for a variety of reasons.

According to sources (Feed the children, Oxfam, etc.) quoted by Chomsky, aid by air requires organization and communication with people on the ground, safe places to drop the aid (as opposed to minefields), and people to collect the aid and make sure that it get's to the people who need it most as opposed to the people who can run/fight/shoot the fastest/hardest/most accurate.

All of this can be accomplished more efficiently and effectively using trucks, but (as he pointed out, quoting (IIRC) the NY Post) the border to Pakistan, where all the aid workers are based, has been closed at the insistence of the US.



[ Parent ]
Whoever said it (4.33 / 3) (#168)
by physicsgod on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 02:07:50 AM EST

They're wrong. According to this and here Aid trucks (as of oct. 20) have been able to cross the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The lawlessness is a problem, which is why getting a non-Taliban government in power is a priority, and that's why the US bombed Taliban front lines against the Northern Alliance, to put pressure on Pakistan which is percieved as dragging its heels in getting a non-Taliban government together.

On another note, I wonder why Noam Chomsky cited a fact that took me 5 minutes online to refute. What he unwilling or unable to accept the truth? In either case should we really care about what he has to say?

--- "Those not wearing body armor are hereby advised to keep their arguments on-topic" Schlock Mercenary
[ Parent ]

Whoops... (4.50 / 2) (#177)
by Jetifi on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 06:02:36 AM EST

You're right. Re-listening, it turns out I misquoted him. He said that on Sept 16th, the US demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys. The convoys resumed early October on a 'lower scale', were suspended when the bombing started, then resumed at a 'lower pace'.

He also quoted the NY Times, one week after the bombings began, who were themselves quoting UN officials, who said that ~7.5 million Afghans were weeks away from starvation.

So, mea culpa - I suppose I shouldn't be trying to argue one corner while simultaneously undermining it through misrepresentation :-p



[ Parent ]
The Chomsky Matrix (1.00 / 1) (#76)
by RSevrinsky on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:00:45 AM EST

...according to a bunch of other people, it would be quite dangerous for Mr. Chomsky to drive a truck in Afganistan this time of year. He could very well get killed. So.... He should learn to fly a helicopter instead. You can't bomb a helicopter, and as an added bonus, it would be able to reach those remote mountain villages.

CHOMSKY lifts cell phone and dials.

TANK: Operator.

CHOMSKY: Tank, I need a pilot program for a foodlift helicopter. Hurry!

CHOMSKY closes his eyes in concentration as TANK types furiously at his console.

- Richie

[ Parent ]

yeah yeah (3.70 / 10) (#70)
by streetlawyer on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 03:57:11 AM EST

about the same time that you, Ann Coulter and George W Bush land by parachute clutching your M-16's ready to kick ass.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
ROFL. (1.00 / 3) (#103)
by ronin212 on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:51:15 PM EST

Bahahaha. Shit, I'd buy you a drink for that one if you were in NYC

--
Now is the time... get on the right side! You'll be godlike.
[ Parent ]
Some reflections (3.63 / 11) (#19)
by Philipp on Sat Oct 20, 2001 at 05:20:11 AM EST

It is definitely worth listening to the audio - Chomsky knows his stuff and he presents it a very good calm voice. He brings in some background on terrorism with interesting tidbits: How Nicaragua sued the US on charges of terrorism and won in a World Court, how only the US and Israel rejected a international definition of terrorism, how the US tries to avoid international authorization for its actions currently, because that would dimish their power.

He does not claim to have all the answers, he is advocation an international solution that puts the perpetrators of the WTC attack to trial. He has harsh words for the Taliban, but points out that it is pointless for US citizens to simply point your finger at them, because that has little effect. US citizens should rather recognize that they are personally responsible for the politics of their government and act accordingly.

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'

off-topic (1.00 / 6) (#89)
by Luyseyal on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:29:58 AM EST

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'

heh, I like how evolution comes with its own kill tool `killev`. I use it every other day.

-l

[ Parent ]

ok, so we are responsible for US policy (3.50 / 6) (#113)
by demi on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:13:04 PM EST

and he points out things that a lot of news sources here in the US completely ignore. But to suggest that we are in Afghanistan for oil interests and that we wish to assert hegemony over Asia and Africa, is an incredible leap from just pointing out that we defend our commercial interests abroad.

It's really embarassing at time to compare news coverage between CNN and the BBC (for example) and the fact that Chomsky capitalizes on this makes him more credible in some people's eyes.

US citizens should rather recognize that they are personally responsible for the politics of their government and act accordingly.

Hey, that sounds like a great idea (I realize that you were just paraphrasing him). Does that mean that the Afghanis are not innocent and should accept responsibility for the Taliban and bin Laden? I mean, we don't want to hold them to some kind of racist double standard or anything.



[ Parent ]

Responsibility (4.00 / 4) (#121)
by Philipp on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:59:17 PM EST

You ask a very interesting question:

Does that mean that the Afghanis are not innocent and should accept responsibility for the Taliban and bin Laden?

Consider you live in a totalitarian state. Consider, things are awfully wrong. Would you act up, even if it means risking your life? In a way, yes, since the totalitarian state only persists, because you don't do anything against it.

The standard excuse of Germans after the Nazi era was "I just followed orders. I couldn't do anything, they would have put me in a concentration camp." Only very few did act on their convictions. One even tried a terrorist/freedom-fighter attack, by planting a bomb close to Hitler.

So I would clearly say: Yes, the Afghan people have responsibility for the actions of the Taliban. But I hope you do realise that it is much easier (or at least less life threatening) for you in a democracy to try change the politics of your country, than for people in countries such as Afghanistan.

The point Chomsky was making, was different from this: You can say "The people in Afghanistan are starving because of the Taliban, it's my not my fault!", or you can think about how the politics of your country (and you) effect the situation. It is always more important to question your own actions than simple pass judgement on others (that is even in the Bible somewhere).

alias kn 'killall -9 netscape-communicator'
[ Parent ]

Before this debate gets too nasty... (4.00 / 10) (#44)
by otak on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 11:12:01 AM EST

I suggest everyone reads Christopher Hitchen's essay The Chorus and Cassandra, which does a fairly good job of defending Chomsky from the distortions and outright lies he's often been the target of.

Fascinating (3.16 / 6) (#51)
by greenrd on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 07:52:29 PM EST

Fascinating... Hitchens has certainly changed his tune lately, at one point casually dismissing Chomsky's work as worthless. He (Hitchens) was also pretty irritating in a recent interview in the libertarian Reason magazine. I think I prefer the younger Hitchens. :)


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

talking of comedy debates... (1.00 / 1) (#83)
by FredBloggs on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:45:55 AM EST

...has anyone been to Google (Usenet beta browser/poster) and searched for `Kuro5hin`. Its hilarious! Someone has *way* too much time on their hands!

[ Parent ]
time on hands (2.50 / 2) (#85)
by Ludwig on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 09:40:23 AM EST

Someone has *way* too much time on their hands!

Yeah, that "web2news.pl" guy really needs to get a life.

[ Parent ]

My little note... (3.50 / 6) (#87)
by Electric Angst on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 09:58:52 AM EST

You have to wonder exactly what the groundings of a political disposition are when that those of that disposition regularly use the terms "academic" and "intellectual" as slurs...

Sorry, I just had to say it. The debate going on practically forced the words out of my mouth. At least it's a second-level comment. I don't need a flame-war right now.


--
"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster." - Nietzsche
[ Parent ]
interesting grammer (4.50 / 2) (#142)
by jajuka on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:04:09 PM EST

Regarding Hitchen's essay, more specifically the very first line, I believe that is the first time I have ever seen excel used as a transitive verb in my 30+ years of life. And I am an avid reader. Kind of an amusing thing to encounter in an essay about a linguist. (And before you say so, yes, I know it's a valid, if dated, usage.)

[ Parent ]
The Trouble with Chomsky, (2.65 / 23) (#48)
by Apuleius on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 07:34:31 PM EST

is that he could be replaced by a simple program - "grep 'America sucks'". What Chomsky does is engage in meticulous research that will find every single factoid that supports his thesis (which is that America sucks), and not only ignore evidence against his claims, but pretend this evidence does not exist. He then summarises with rhetorical bombast, and so we get a CHomsky screed.

That would not be so bad if he didn't have the fan following. There's an old adage, "beware the man who has read one book." The adage applies doubly so when that one book is by Chomsky.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
The Trouble with"The Trouble With Chomsky&quo (3.65 / 20) (#54)
by M0dUluS on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 10:12:07 PM EST

is that that post could be replaced by a simple program:
echo "chomsky sucks"
What "The Trouble with Chomsky" does is to engage in no research that finds no single factoid that supports it's thesis (which is that Chomsky sucks), and not only ignore evidence against this claim, but pretend that this evidence does not exist. It then summarizes with rhetorical bombast (like the phrase "rhetorical bombast", it's very orotund), and so we get a CHomsky screed.
That would not be so bad if it didn't have the fan following. There's a new adage, "beware the man that hasn't read one book". The adage applies doubly so when that one book is by Chomsky.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
This bugs me (2.66 / 6) (#56)
by Phage on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 10:58:25 PM EST

Why was this modded at a 1 ?
OK, it is argumentative and lacks any new content, but it is mildly amusing, and is not free of content.

OT: I have had a vocabulary failure...WTF is "orotund" ? Did you mean rotund ?


I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
Canthros
[ Parent ]

Why modded? (3.60 / 5) (#98)
by M0dUluS on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:59:38 AM EST

Why was this modded at a 1 ?

Didn't you know? If you disagree with something you mod it as "1". Especially if you don't have a response.

orotund: when referring to style of writing or speech means pompous or pretentious (comes from "rounded mouth")

I thought the post was mildly amusing, a cheap shot, but the underlying point is that I am sick of contentless Chomsky bashing. So I thought it would be ironic to make a contentless attack on a contentless attack. (I forgot that irony had died).

There has been one substantive attempt (possibly by Lode_Runner or monocrome ?) to show the errors of Chomsky with reference to his earlier Cambodian commentaries. This has centered around his 1977 Nation article (and a later related book) which reviews books about Cambodia and Vietnam. In the earlier posts about this he was accused of being "a Goebbel's-like cheerleader for PolPot". I'm still plowing my way through the references that I was provided with by the poster. So far I haven't seen Chomsky claiming that Cambodia was a neat place to live. Instead he is claiming that the Western media coverage is biased against Cambodia and is accepted uncritically. Sort of like arguing that untrue propaganda was used against Hussein (viz the whole "baby incubator" story or the WW1 "German troops pitchfork babies").



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Damn right ! (1.00 / 1) (#154)
by Phage on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:28:48 PM EST

Didn't you know? If you disagree with something you mod it as "1". Especially if you don't have a response.

The really irritating thing is that, they not only didn't they have a response, they had no original opinion of their own either. Their total contribution = nil.

God knows your posts can be hard to read (no offense) but at least your are passionate in your beliefs and stand up for them, occaisonally with humour, unlike those morons.

Bah....a bad day !


I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
Canthros
[ Parent ]

Hey Look ! (1.00 / 2) (#153)
by Phage on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:22:32 PM EST

I got modded at a 1...

I don't know whether to laugh or cry.


I don't find Heathens to be sexy, as a general rule.
Canthros
[ Parent ]

A zero! (none / 0) (#184)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 11:14:28 AM EST

Try both laughing and crying. You just got a zero.......!

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
$trouble = "The trouble with " . $troubl (1.00 / 2) (#116)
by Apuleius on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:36:40 PM EST

Do you seriously deny that this is Chomsky's modus operandi? Do you also dispute the color of the sky?


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Sky is multi-colored. (4.00 / 1) (#123)
by M0dUluS on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:26:09 PM EST

Do you seriously deny that this is Chomsky's modus operandi?
Yes.[1]
Do you also dispute the color of the sky?
Depends on what color you are claiming.

1. Examples to support the idea that Chomsky can be complimentary about the U.S.

A piece celebrating the U.S. freedom of speech

The 1969 Supreme Court decision formulated a libertarian standard which, I believe, is unique in the world. In Canada, for example, people are still imprisoned for promulgating "false news," recognized as a crime in 1275 to protect the King.

In Europe, the situation is still more primitive. France is a striking case, because of the dramatic contrast between the self-congratulatory rhetoric and repressive practice so common as to pass unnoticed. England has only limited protection for freedom of speech, and even tolerates such a disgrace as a law of blasphemy. The reaction to the Salman Rushdie affair, most dramatically on the part of self-styled "conservatives," was particularly noteworthy.


2.On the independence of the U.S. public
As to why the government doesn't just come to the population and play it the Japanese way, the answer is, in my view, and this has been the answer that business has given and I think they're right, that the public here wouldn't tolerate it. This is not a docile, submissive population like Japan. You can't come to the population here and tell them : "Look, next year you're going to cut back on your consumption by this amount so that IBM can make more profits and then maybe ten years from now your son or your daughter will get a job." That wouldn't wash

There are lots more. I find him a bit rah-rah toward the U.S. myself.



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
A slightly more detailed response. (3.00 / 1) (#140)
by Apuleius on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:50:24 PM EST

The trouble with Chomsky worshippers is that if you state the trouble with Chomsky, they respond "you're just casting aspersions," and if you respond by showing examples of Chomsky's intellectual disingenuousness and politicized grepping, they answer "I have no time for minutia.

My examples of Chomsky's grepping come from my knowledge of Mideast history and my disgust at how Chomsky misrepresents it. I'll give you examples if you wish, and if it would not be a waste of my efforts. Others have examples from other realms of Chomsky's worldview.

But what I have now is something I never thought I'd see: Chomsky lying outright. Until now I did not think I would see that. Search the Front Page Mag site for more examples. And read them before you cast your own aspersions. Yes, Horowitz has a hot fire under his balls. But here he's right.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Not wasted (3.00 / 1) (#143)
by M0dUluS on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:18:39 PM EST

on me. If you can find me some Chosmky errors then I am interested. I just looked at the link to FrontPage magazine that you gave me. I don't know anything about the issue of whether or not D.Horowitz was a Stalinist. Looking at the link I am not enlightened either. Horowitz is responding to a letter that purports to quote Chomsky as
CHOMSKY: I haven't read Horowitz. I didn't used to read him when he was a Stalinist and I don't read him today. Haven't seen it."
There is a problem here. There is no link to a reputable source that shows Chomsky saying this. The letter writer could be trolling, or inaccurate. There's no way for me to check. Also I am suspicious that a linguist would say "I didn't used to [...]". Do you not find that an illiterate phrase?

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Not errors. (3.00 / 1) (#149)
by Apuleius on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 09:22:58 PM EST

Even despite the link I just posted for you, I still doubt I could find Chomsky making a factual error in a book. An example I can give you off the cuff is how Chomsky goes on and on in Fateful Triangle about tensions between Israeli Ashkenasis and Sephardis, in order to represent the Ashkenasi elite as racist, but conveniently omits the well known fact that 50% of Jewish marriages in Israel are between an Ashkenasi and a Sephardi, and that it is getting difficult to tell one from the other. (Can't get specific until I once again find a copy of FT - I'm in the boonies right now.)

As for Chomsky's verbal comment, we'll see soon enough. I bet he will respond to Horowitz. I also bet he is much looser with his tongue that with his pen.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
Documentation of Lies of Omission (none / 0) (#214)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 06:43:09 PM EST

<a href="http://www.geocities.com/SoHo/Lofts/6072/chomsky.html">here.</a>

<p>"Chomsky's goal in denying the atrocities was less to defend the Khmer Rouge than to prevent the gruesome facts of their genocide from deflecting guilt from the United States. Thus he tricked out his cover-up as an "analysis" of how the American media were "brainwashing" the public with concocted reports of Communist misdeeds in order to reconstruct the "imperial ideology" of the pre-Vietnam era."
<p>Ladies and Gentlemen, Noam the intellectual.

<p>"Chomsky was just completing his 160-page, footnoted assault on the Western media for fabricating the genocide that Hanoi was now ready to confirm. He responded not by throwing out the pages of his perverse text but by hedging its claims. "When the facts are in," Chomsky now speculated, "it may turn out that the more extreme condemnations were in fact correct." Moreover, he added:

<p>--If a serious study of the impact of Western imperialism on Cambodian peasant life is someday undertaken, it may well be discovered that the violence lurking behind the Khmer smile ... is not a reflection of obscure traits in peasant culture and psychology, but is the direct and understandable response to the violence of the imperial system , and that its current manifestations are a no less direct and understandable response to the still more concentrated and extreme savagery of a U.S. assault that may in part have been designed to evoke this very response...
[Emphasis added.]--

<p>"In other words, the Khmer Rouge were really innocent of the atrocities Chomsky was now forced to concede they might have committed. Why? Because the U.S. devil made them do it. Why would the U.S. make them commit such crimes? Chomsky had a ready answer: In order to discredit the socialist future. In making these arguments, Chomsky had discovered the Archimedean principle of the Leftist revival."

<p>"...Several books appeared after Chomsky's work that attacked his cynical attempt to dismiss the facts of the Cambodian genocide but nonetheless echoed his thesis that the United States was ultimately responsible for the tragedy. Chief among them was Sideshow by William Shawcross, subtitled "Kissinger, Nixon and the Destruction of Cambodia," whose contents suggested that the Americans who tried to prevent a Communist victory were ultimately responsible for the atrocities the Communists had committed once they were in power."


<p>Modulus, you asked for the well documented lies by omission. What do you want to do with them now that you have them?

[ Parent ]
Meta (3.50 / 6) (#55)
by slaytanic killer on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 10:27:15 PM EST

The conversation about Chomsky always raises an interesting point. People who are against Chomsky pull out blatantly simple dismissals, and his supporters are equally blatant. Perhaps the man is so much smarter than we are that we can't help but lump everything he says in a neat category, humorously simplified imitations of his words.

But if we talked about his views on a deeper level, would we learn quite so much? Would there be so little to say that our conversation stops being educational?

Perhaps Chomsky should pilot helicopters to stop world hunger. And perhaps Fred Brooks should go work at every startup and fix what's going wrong. But I think these are very, very simplified views of a deeper (and more satisfying) world.

helicopters (2.75 / 4) (#77)
by FredBloggs on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:05:45 AM EST

"Perhaps Chomsky should pilot helicopters to stop world hunger"

Oh, the amusement of people incapable of accepting criticism, and trying to deflect that criticism by finger pointing ("I think you should be doing this instead.").

He`s pointing out Bad Things the American government has done, and the reason why things are as they are. You are suggesting he flies a helicopter. I dont see the connection. Please deal with the issues he raises. Is he right, or is he wrong.

[ Parent ]
hard to sort out his opinions from the invective (3.00 / 3) (#112)
by demi on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 04:59:04 PM EST

since Chomsky uses huge leaps in his reasoning to make broad points. For example, he crudely cites an economist's work to support this statement:

Broader studies by economist Edward Herman reveal a close correlation worldwide between torture and US aid, and also provide the explanation: both correlate independently with improving the climate for business operations. In comparison with that guiding moral principle, such matters as torture and butchery pale into insignificance.

Find that passage herein:

http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Chomsky/ChomOdon_Neighbor.html

Now certainly he has a point to make with that statement, which is completely valid within the context of his opinions, but that statement traverses continents of explanations with a simple slap in the face. I am sorry Noam, but there is no meaningful correlation between 'torture' and 'U.S. Aid'. And it does nothing but further undermine the use of such 'studies', which are supposed to be scientific and meaningful, by researchers who are not wedded inexorably to an idealogy.



[ Parent ]

Read him thoroughly before you criticize (5.00 / 1) (#148)
by Pihkal on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 09:09:55 PM EST

For starters, Chomsky did not "crudely" cite "an economist's work." The economist in question is Dr. Herman, Professor Emeritus of the highly esteemed Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania - one of the best business schools in the world. Furthermore, I have no doubt that if Chomsky had misunderstood any facet of Herman's work, he would have been corrected by him - because they've written three books together.

Now, I can understand your criticism on the "huge leaps" in reasoning and the supposed crude citing if that web page was all you had read of Chomsky on the subject. Unfortunately, that page was a mere excerpt from the middle of a larger collection of transcripted interviews and speeches, What Uncle Sam Really Wants, which is a really basic "primer", and not intended to go into depth on anything. Chomsky outlines his argument reaching the conclusion you were faulting earlier in the book, and does so much more convincingly in his other works. That book is actually a disservice to people curious/interested/enraged at Chomsky because of its lack of depth. For those of you who are interested, visit the Chomsky Archive, and read the man yourself. Many of his books are printed in full, with his complete references. (I recommend Necessary Illusions as a good start.)

Also, I think you're misreading the particular statement you cited. If I'm understanding you correctly, when you say "I am sorry Noam, but there is no meaningful correlation between 'torture' and 'U.S. Aid[sic]'.", you're saying that Noam Chomsky is suggesting that there is a meaningful correlation. However, if you read carefully, the pertinent words are "both correlate independently with improving the climate for business operations" (emphasis mine.) He was NOT saying that US aid leads to higher torture, or that the government rewards higher torture rates with US aid, if that is what you were inferring. Here is a quote from No Human Being is Disposable in relation to Colombia that may help:

"... An important study of the topic was published in 1981 by the leading academic specialist on human rights in Latin America, Lars Schoultz. He investigated U.S. foreign aid and torture in Latin America, and found that they correlated closely. As he put it, U.S. aid "has tended to flow disproportionately to Latin American governments which torture their citizens, . . . to the hemisphere's relatively egregious violators of fundamental human rights." This continued right through the Carter years, including military aid uncorrelated with need.

"These facts might lead a superficial observer to conclude that the U.S. government just likes torture. But causal connection can't be deduced from a correlation; we have to look further. This was done in a broader study carried out at the same time by an economist at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, Edward Herman, published in a book we co-authored in 1979. Herman studied the relation between torture and foreign aid worldwide, finding that the same correlation held: states that engage in torture are more likely to receive U.S. aid. But Herman also did a second study which offers a plausible explanation for the correlation. He compared U.S. aid with the climate for business operations, finding that the two were closely correlated. That makes sense. Foreign aid, after all, is largely a device whereby the U.S. taxpayer subsidizes U.S. corporations via some other country, which may incidentally gain from the process. Resorting to this device increasingly as opportunities for profit improve is completely natural, given the sources of policy-making.

"Why then should there be a correlation between U.S. aid and torture? That becomes clear when we ask how the climate for business operations is improved. The answer is straightforward and well known: by torturing union leaders and human rights activists, murdering priests who are trying to organize peasants, and so on. Putting all this together, we find a derivative correlation between U.S. aid and torture. The proper conclusion then, is not that U.S. leaders enjoy torture; rather, it is a matter of indifference. What they care about is profits for U.S. investors, which just happen to be correlated with torture. Hence torture is rewarded, indirectly. The phenomenon is global, and understandable.

As an addendum, I would like to suggest that everyone commenting on the discussion any further indicate how much they have read of Chomsky and any detractors they cite. I will start.
My Chomsky Familiarity Index

  • 3 books, The Chomsky Reader, Deterring Democracy and Necessary Illusions
  • Dozens of essays from the Chomsky Archive


"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!"
-- Number 6
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the extra information... (3.00 / 1) (#169)
by demi on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 02:18:43 AM EST

it helped me understand much more fully what he was talking about. What I have know of Chomsky comes mostly from recorded talks he has given and excerpts like the one I referred to in the other post. I would still object to the use of unqualified blanket statements that are ubiquitous in his public speaking (although, as you have shown, he provides more justification elsewhere). I am not some kind of obsessed Chomsky debunker, but here are some examples from the MIT talk that the original poster attended (I listened to the mp3).

  • He referred to Saudi Arabia as the most repressive regime in the world, of which the Taliban is an 'offshoot'.
  • The nations in the UN Security Council are 'terrorist states'.
  • The response to the WTC attack is a 'silent genocide'.
I read/listen to Chomsky just like I read the Word Socialist Website: good reporting and a fresh point of view that is utterly polemic and factually unreliable.



[ Parent ]

Blanket statements (3.00 / 1) (#170)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 03:24:20 AM EST

  • He referred to Saudi Arabia as the most repressive regime in the world, of which the Taliban is an 'offshoot'.
  • The nations in the UN Security Council are 'terrorist states'.
  • The response to the WTC attack is a 'silent genocide'.
Which three of the above mentioned points is factually incorrect?

[ Parent ]
2 out of 3 are wrong (none / 0) (#179)
by pyramid termite on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 07:51:02 AM EST

I dare say North Korea is more repressive than Saudi Arabia. And although I have my doubts if the response to the WTC is genocidal, I can say for certain there's not anything silent about it. Just goes to show you there's an endless supply of rhetoric in the world on many sides ...
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
but (none / 0) (#181)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 08:44:03 AM EST

That North Korea is more or less oppressive than Saudi Arabia is open to debate, and probably not even true if you are a woman.

Also, whether the genocide is 'silent' or not is open to debate, but almost to a man, world governments and mainstream media are very definitely underplaying Afghan casualties.

No, the three points mentioned are certainly open to debate, but are not 'patently false', as per the original post.

[ Parent ]

not patently false but definitely unqualified (none / 0) (#187)
by demi on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 11:52:37 AM EST

It's not so much a matter of him being wrong or right. He just matter-of-factly makes a statement that is not, erm, a matter of fact. They are, as you very correctly mentioned, a matter of debate. If you listen to him talk, he usually will lower his voice slightly whenever he decides to gloss over something that is controversial but unqualified, like it's some kind of afterthought.

I don't want to argue the veracity of any of those statements but certainly they are at variance with my opinion and I do not consider them to be facts.



[ Parent ]

maybe he just expects us to go along with him (none / 0) (#190)
by demi on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:18:46 PM EST

but I don't consider the Saudis to be the most oppressive regime in the world, or even the Middle East for that matter. Unless you directly equate wealth disparity with oppression, they are moderates. Just look at Iraq, Syria, and even Pakistan. Without getting into an argument about the Middle East, can you accept that his statement is not a fact (be it true or false), but rather an (vaguely) supported opinion?

Perhaps my world view is so limited compared to his that I just cannot reflexively accept that rubbish as factual. Chomsky, on the other hand, seems rather comfortable doing so, especially if there is some way that it can be used as an indictment against the US government. Good for him.

I wouldn't be taking him to task if he was just some radio talk show host, but this is Noam Chomsky, whose word is obviously revered by a lot of intelligent people. In my view, he has to use the inflammatory rhetoric to get his supporters fired up. That way, when people go around parroting the things he says and feeling confident about it, they can just point to the God of Linguistics for substantiation. I can already see that the term 'silent genocide' has some real potential for being printed up on flyers and banners worldwide.



[ Parent ]

One world, one race, one law --- World Government (3.08 / 12) (#57)
by nodes on Sun Oct 21, 2001 at 11:10:55 PM EST

My single criticism of Noam Chomsky, who I
admire a great deal, is that he tends to
illuminate without offering a viable solution.

We need world government. Rather than complaining about U.S. violations of international
law, we need to subject the U.S. to international rule.

This will require a change to our Constitution.
Therefore, we need a Constitutional Convention.
There are a number of issues which need to be
addressed: terrorism, foreign policy, national
debt.

The sooner the better. Ask yourself this:
Why is Congress still operating under the
constraint of a physical meeting place when
it is no longer necessary? They can vote
from anywhere. So could we. Again, we
need a Constitutional Convention to discuss
these things and find better solutions which
will turn into proposed amendments to the
Constitution.

Steve Moyer
http://peaceroom.net

But it is necessary (3.00 / 5) (#73)
by Paul Johnson on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 04:44:03 AM EST

Why is Congress still operating under the constraint of a physical meeting place when it is no longer necessary? They can vote from anywhere.

Voting is the most visible and least important function of Congress.

The real business of Congress gets done in meetings and discussions of varying degrees of formallity. Electronic meeting technology is good enough for occasional formal meetings, but it can't replace the quiet word over lunch. Without the ability to sound people out on an informal basis, any politician is at a grave disadvantage.

When major companies start disbanding their head offices in favour of "virtual" head offices it will be time to consider virtual houses of legislation. But not until then.

Paul.
You are lost in a twisty maze of little standards, all different.
[ Parent ]

Re: (1.00 / 5) (#91)
by ronin212 on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:58:15 AM EST

One world, one race one law??! Ein reich, ein welt, ein Fuhrer, or what? I sure hope not

--
Now is the time... get on the right side! You'll be godlike.
[ Parent ]
Article X of the US Constitution (2.33 / 3) (#108)
by demi on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 04:33:21 PM EST

Amendment X. The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

Chapter I, article 2, part 7 from the UN Charter:

Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter; but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter Vll.



[ Parent ]

Don't do that, please. (1.33 / 3) (#120)
by urgan on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:56:07 PM EST

We don't need world government. That's exactly what's behind it all. Believe me, you don't want more world government. Even if it seems all legitime.

[ Parent ]
excellent idea, but... (none / 0) (#254)
by kpeerless on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 08:19:23 PM EST

If you think that the folks who buy your politicians would go kicking and screaming into the void you are terminally optimistic.

We in Canada need to revamp our system also. It's in worse shape than yours. OUR Senate is drawn from a pool of the Prime Minister's golfing cronies... and he's a bum golfer so you can figure the quality of his appointees.

We repatriated our constitution from Britian several years ago, where it used to be called the BNA Act, and fucked with it a little and I have to report that it didn't change diddley shit. Same dog, different collar.

I am afraid that what might happen eventually is that the ordinary folks in the world are eventually gonna raise so much shit that the US will find itself isolated... and maybe that's the answer. No more foreign markets or resources for US industry untill they agree to rules that we ALL support.


When your President tells the rest of us that "You are either with us or with the terrorists." I know which side I contrarily am inclined to come down on. Fuck President Bush. Who does he think he is that he can draw a line like that. I am for neither the US nor the Terrorists in this endeavour. Both I and the Pope agree on this, and it is the first time we have ever agreed an ANYTHING.

In an effort to strike a little balance may I also say "Fuck Prime Minister Chretien" too. The worthless dickhead didn't have the balls to tell Bush in no uncertain terms that we in Canada have been, for the last 50 years, Peacekeepers, not war makers, and are determined to continue in that direction. We have no "Interests" worth defending abroad... or at least none you could convince Canadians to storm of and bomb folks in defense of.

A Con Con. Great idea. I was living in the Philippines before, during and after their last Revolution. They threw a Constitutional Convention also when the smoke of revolt cleared. Aside from the rich folks bribing the Delegates to vote on their behalf, it all went off peacefully. Previously there had been a paramilitary group called the Civilian Home Defense Force. The new constitution disbanded it. Two months or so later it reappeared as the Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Units. Same murderous thugs. Same murderous agenda.

I hope you have a plan "B".

[ Parent ]
World Governments are bad (none / 0) (#266)
by eean on Sun Oct 28, 2001 at 01:28:34 PM EST

If there is a World Government then people will have no place to go when it goes corrupt. Is the WTO your idea of a good thing?

What would be a good idea is extending Consititutional protections to foreign policy. Or in some way having judicial review for wars and stuff instead of letting the executive branch doing whatever the heck it likes with only mild checks from the legislative branch (who can not use their power without becoming unAmerican).

I agree; Chomsky does only point out the wrong in the current system. Since he is an Anarchist, he has no practical ideas to fix it (which I think he knows.)

[ Parent ]
Chomsky got "owned" (2.22 / 18) (#62)
by nickb on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:04:35 AM EST

Read as David Horowitz completely demolishes Chomsky.
Chomsky is, in fact, the imam of this religious worldview on today's college campuses. His great service to the progressive faith is to deny the history of the last hundred years, which is the history of progressive atrocity and failure. In the 20th century, progressives in power killed one hundred million people in the attempt to realize their impossible dream. As far as Noam Chomsky is concerned, these catastrophes of the left never happened. "I don't much like the terms left and right," Chomsky writes in yet another ludicrous screed called The Common Good. "What's called the left includes Leninism [i.e., Communism], which I consider ultra-right in many respects.... Leninism has nothing to do with the values of the left - in fact, it's radically opposed to them." You have to pinch yourself when reading sentences like that.
http://www.frontpagemag.com/columnists/horowitz/2001/dh09-26-01.htm
http://www.frontpagemag.com/columnists/horowitz/index.htm

A veritable smackdown (2.91 / 12) (#66)
by 0xdeadbeef on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:21:22 AM EST

Ooh, the right's biggest troll and intellectual lightweight talks smack about the left's most intelligent but boring and obscurist gadfly. This shit should be on pay-per-view.

[ Parent ]
Blah (2.16 / 6) (#96)
by nickb on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:53:06 AM EST

Ooh, the right's biggest troll and intellectual lightweight...

Wow, you've managed to invalidate everything you wanted to say with your introduction and actually managed to make your argument ironic considering what you wrote.

Typical liberal bullshit. Just accuse any republican of being an idiot. All republicans are idiots.

[ Parent ]

In this corner.... (none / 0) (#237)
by On Lawn on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 03:57:06 PM EST

David "Fight Back!" Horowitz

(That show did more for educating me about consumerism than 100 college lectures.)

[ Parent ]
Hmm.. I don't think so (4.28 / 7) (#69)
by plutronic on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 03:34:50 AM EST

Horowitz, or at least the portion of Horowitz that you quoted, 'forgets' that 1. The subject of Chomsky's criticism is, for the most part, recent US foeign policy - there isn't alot of leftist meat there to chew on. 2. While Chomsky may limit his criticism to US foreign policy, a major point is relevent here: the orthodox media in the US heavily focuses their criticsm on external agents. A good parallel are the Soviet dissidents: they limited their criticism to the subject of their criticism, Soviet Communism. It's unreasonable to dismiss them because they don't write books about the slums of LA.

-------sig----
DeCSS
[ Parent ]
Bunch of bull (1.37 / 8) (#99)
by nickb on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:01:10 PM EST

"Current left" has done so much for us recently that I'm sure if Gore were in office right now, we'd be all much better.

Yeah right. Don't smoke too much of that Albanian/Balkan blend that Albright and Clinton have imported from their KLA friends who will bite us in the ass any moment. I bet you also believe that Serbs murdered millions of people.

We can all thank God that Bush is in the office right now and has balls to confront these terrorists instead of making empty promises about doing something like Clinton did for 8 years. They always accuse republicans of kissing corporate ass but it was Clinton who decided that economy is much more important than fighting for our freedom. Kenya, yemen, Saudi Arabia attacks were NOT avenged and the events of 9/11 can be directly attributed to that.

But hey, K5 is just a bunch of hippies and treehuggers with too much fucking time on their hands.

[ Parent ]

Facism is facism, even if painted red. (4.37 / 8) (#74)
by drquick on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:52:19 AM EST

I don't see your point. So if you smear Chomsky by saying he criticizes Lenin and Stalin on the wrong grounds, does Chomsky's point go away?. I don't think so. Chomsky is consequently against fascism in all its forms including communist left wing flavors of it. Obviously you have some kind of double thinking: "If Chomsky should/is criticizing communism, heh, then he criticizes himself". Nothing could be more wrong! Chomsky *does* criticize Stalin and some communist regimes (among those Pol Pot, look it up).

Fascism is fascism even if you paint it red! It's that simple for Chomsky and me.

[ Parent ]

Oh yeah (1.75 / 4) (#97)
by nickb on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:54:50 AM EST

Chomsky *does* criticize Stalin and some communist regimes...

He must be doing it secretly while he's on a can because it's nowhere to be seen.

[ Parent ]

Try picking up one of his books (5.00 / 3) (#166)
by Neil Rubin on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 01:55:31 AM EST

I picked up the six books by Chomsky that I own and looked for "Stalin" in the index of each. One, "American Power and the New Mandarins," has no index. Another, "The New Military Humanism: Lessons From Kosovo," has no mention of Stalin, but it's pretty short and narrowly focused. In the other indices, I find:

Deterring Democracy (1992, UK edition):

  • p. 25: talks about 1952 Soviet proposal for reunification and neutralization of Germany
  • p. 41: in discussing U.S. policy toward Europe in the 1930's, he speaks of "a tilt towards Spanish Fascism against the liberal democratic republic, while joining in the uniform hostility of the West and Stalin to the popular libertarian revolution."
  • p. 61: quotes derisively something called the "Z document," which mentions Stalin and was printed, in 1990, in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, under the pseudonym "Z."
  • p. 75: (after discussing the U.S. "cult" of the Founding Fathers and reverence of the Kennedy "Camelot") "Sometimes a foreign leader ascends to the same semi-divinity among loyal worshippers, and may be described as 'a Promethean figure' with 'colossal external strength' and 'colossal powers,' as in the more ludicrous moments of the Stalin era, or in the accolade to Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir by New Republic owner-editor Martin Peretz, from which these quotes are taken."
  • p. 96: in discussing Gorbachev, mentions the Hitler-Stalin pact in passing
  • p. 347: "Apart from the rearmament of Germany within a Western military alliance--which no Russian government could easily accept, for obvious reasons--Stalin observed all of this with relative calm, apparently regarding it as a counterpart to his own harsh repression in Eastern Europe. Nevertheless, these parallel developments were bound to lead to conflict."
World Orders, Old and New (1996, UK edition):
  • p. 37-39: (discussing the Cold War) "Here we have to distinguish two phases: the period from the Bolshevik revolution to World War II, and the period of renewal of the conflict from the end of World War II to the final collapse of the Soviet Union. Consider first the Soviet side.

    "The first phase saw the quick demolition of incipient socialist tendencies, the institutionalization of a totalitarian state, and extraordinary atrocities, particularly under Stalin. Abroad, the USSR was not a major actor, though its leaders did what they could to undermine socialist and libertarian tendencies, their leading role in the demolition of Spanish libertarian socialism being a prime example. No one considered the Soviet Union to be military threat. Nevertheless, Western policies were much the same as those adopted as the second phase began."

    He goes on at length condemning Stalin and also the West's reaction to him, both that of leftists and of those like Churchill who, out of wartime expediency, portrayed Stalin as the likable "Uncle Joe." In condemning Western socialists, Chomsky says "For authentic socialists, the collapse of Soviet tyranny would have been a time of rejoicing, another barrier to socialism having been removed. The actual reaction was quite different..."

The Common Good (1999):
  • p. 19: (referring to corporations) "They're totalitarian institutions--you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There's about as much freedom as under Stalinism."
Profit Over People (1999):
  • p. 29: (in a discussion of how countries develop) "Despite Stalin's awesome atrocities and the terrible destruction of the wars, the Soviet system did undergo significant industrialization."
So much for Chomsky only criticizing Stalin on the can. You may argue that the relatively small number of words spent condemning Stalin in more than 1000 pages, in which he mostly criticizes one action or another of Western elites, means that he really doesn't think that Stalin was that bad, or that he thinks the U.S. government is worse.

The thing is that these books are not about Stalin. Everyone, including the Soviet government (secretly) from Khrushchev onward, agrees that Stalin's was an evil regime, guilty of some of the great crimes of this century--similarly for Hitler. Chomsky wouldn't have anything new or interesting to say about them. Furthermore, he would say that a debate about them, while it may have great historical or philosophical interest, is of very limited moral value. Those crimes have been committed and been widely condemned. There is nothing today that we can do about them. There was, in fact, little that people in the U.S. could have done about them when they happened. Chomsky tends to limit his attention to those things his audience can actually do something about.

So suppose that you couldn't be bothered to go to a library or a bookstore and thumb through the index of a few random books by Chomsky. You could always search Google for "Chomsky" and "Stalin." In the first page, you would find a lot of very anti-Chomsky stuff, but no evidence that he approves of Stalin. In fact, you would find a very direct statement to the contrary:

Stalinism went fast. I mean I was always anti-Stalinist; that happened very early, I'd say by the time I was ten years old, partly because of an interest in the Spanish Civil War in the late 30s. It was quite clear, even not knowing much, that something was wrong with the standard picture, er and I did, by the time I was twelve or thirteen I was haunting anarchist bookstores in New York and so on, picking up pamphlets, and talking to people who were happy to talk to some young feller who walked around, and could see that the Spanish Civil war was - in fact, it was like, as I have later learned, all civil wars are, it was tripartite. There are two parts that are fighting, and they enter history; they're fighting to see who picks up the share of power; then there's the general population, who they both wanna destroy. In the Spanish Civil War, there was a popular revolution, and the Stalin-backed Republic, and the Fascists, first combined, along with the Western democracies, to destroy the popular revolution, and after that was done, they fought to pick up the spoils. Which is not an unusual pattern. And, I though I can't claim to have understood it, I couldn't already see the picture, by the time the Stalin-Hitler pact came along, and the information about the purges, it was impossible to take any of this seriously. I was also anti-Leninist, because it struck me at the time that however horrifying the Stalinist crimes were, they clearly had their origins in Leninist authoritarianism er and I was also quite sceptical about Marxism, not so much the particular ideas, as the concept of any movement that is named after a person already arouses scepticism; it suggests at once that it's a form of organised religion or something like that. So for example, in physics, there's nothing like Einsteinism, and in any serious domain, you don't personalise collections of beliefs and that immediately set me off to later learn more about it.
Source: http://www2.prestel.co.uk/littleton/jp_noamc.htm

[ Parent ]
Two Fallacies (3.00 / 3) (#82)
by pyramid termite on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:29:53 AM EST

Chomsky is, in fact, the imam of this religious worldview on today's college campuses. His great service to the progressive faith is to deny the history of the last hundred years, which is the history of progressive atrocity and failure. In the 20th century, progressives in power killed one hundred million people in the attempt to realize their impossible dream.

1. Progressives are not the same as communists.
As far as Noam Chomsky is concerned, these catastrophes of the left never happened.

2. As far as David Horowitz is concerned, the Cold War never ended. Someone please buy this man a calendar.
On the Internet, anyone can accuse you of being a dog.
[ Parent ]
Horowitz is a cheerleader (2.66 / 3) (#107)
by demi on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 02:45:04 PM EST

Horowitz makes good arguments trivial with his grandstanding. There are plenty of people on the right wing (and the left, too) who would like to see Chomsky discredited and sent home. Given the volume and breadth of Chomsky's opinions, that's not going to be possible with some silly two-column piece.

Chomsky can easily be discredited by careful scrutiny of his supporting information (if and when he provides it). Calling him 'Sick' and splashing him with commie red paint doesn't hurt him at all, considering that his following is mostly academic. Trying to marginalize his beliefs by showing how far they are away from the mainstream only strengthens his position as a Cassandra.



[ Parent ]

Thoughts on Horowitz's article... (none / 0) (#274)
by ComradeSeraph on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 07:23:30 PM EST

Horowitz makes some good points... despite himself. The trouble with what I've read by Horowitz is that he simply cannot restrain himself from gross rhetorical excess when discussing his opponents on the left. His Chomsky article presents an interesting alternative description of several episodes of world politics, but he badly distorts Chomsky's work even as he denounces Chomsky for the very same crime of distortion. I cannot recall Chomsky accusing the US of being 'evil' or being associated with the devil- he believes they act in their own self-interest, a rather un-controversial belief in political analysis. It is also painfully obvious that Horowitz has not bothered to read any of Chomsky's more substantial books, many of which are referenced in the pamphlet-style What Uncle Sam Really Wants as the source for Chomsky's otherwise wild accusations. I'd happily read a point-counterpoint explanation of history with both commentators if Horowitz could stay on-topic rather than straying into grinding his axe against the leftist fools he sees throughout academia

[ Parent ]
Arguments with respect to the speech? (4.55 / 9) (#72)
by moosh on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 04:41:27 AM EST

Reading through these posts I see a lot of Chomsky bashing. Personally, I found Chomsky's argument compelling. However many of the areas he speaks about I'm not familiar with - having only studied 'modern' Australian, Japanese and German history and the cold war 1945-1990 with focus on Europe. Needless to say the region of Nicoragua, Costa Rica, etc. (Central America) escapes me. My question is - who can offer a verifiable argument refuting argument to the speech in question without resorting to name calling? A critical analysis would be nice.

Here's something you should keep in mind. (1.50 / 2) (#141)
by Apuleius on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:55:15 PM EST

US policy in Central America was ugly during the Cold War. But guess what: Central America was a place where in each country two sons of bitches were fighting for control. Uncle Sam picked one, and Uncle Joe picked the other. Chomsky's habit of crying foul over one SOB and ignoring the other is pitiful, especially now that Latin America is heading for an SOB-free future. (Could America's victory in the Cold War have something to do with that? Nah, couldn't possibly be that..)


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
musings (4.00 / 2) (#157)
by norge on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:36:00 PM EST

> Chomsky's habit of crying foul over one SOB and ignoring the other is pitiful

Do you mean that this habit is pitiful when Chomsky does it or when anyone does it? Contrary to your impression that Chomsky is pitifully biased, I have gotten the impression from the little Chomsky that I have read (a few articles, no books) that he is relatively balanced, for a political commentator. He certainly does much less shameless blaming than any politician that I have heard or read. Do you believe that Chomsky is more biased than most political commentators, or do you just dislike political commentators and particularly dislike Chomsky because you disagree with him?

Benjamin

p.s. Where does your optimism regarding Latin America come from? The articles in the magazines that I read regularly (The Economist, Z Magazine) are usually pretty gloomy and everyone who I talked to in Brazil when I visitted in the spring believed that crime and the division between rich and poor are going to get a lot worse before they get better. Perhaps you were just pointing out that most of Latin America is no longer overtly controlled by an imperialistic nation.


[ Parent ]
Responses. (3.50 / 2) (#161)
by Apuleius on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:13:57 PM EST

1. When anyone does it. 2. Far more biased, to the point of being disingenuous. PS. In Latin America's wars, the problem was that neither side let a man's home be his castle. The left tried to collectivise, with all attendant disaster, and the right did not respect the rights of anyone with too dark a skin tone. Hence, both were sons of bitches. I am not saying that Latin America's travails are over, but that phenomenon I just mentioned is finally over and done with.


There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
[ Parent ]
false dilemma (none / 0) (#224)
by glasnost on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 03:52:04 AM EST

There are actually three choices.

1) support SOB A.
2) support SOB B.
3) don't support anybody.

By pointing out that Chomsky criticizes our support of SOB A, you are disgusted that, naturally, he must be advocating that we support SOB B. From my own readings, however, I got no such impression. Especially when presented like this (SOB A ~= SOB B), it would be ridiculous to advocate one or the other. I don't think Chomsky does something so infantile.

[ Parent ]
The world has changed.. (3.75 / 4) (#75)
by DavidatEeyore on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:15:03 AM EST

It seems that Noam Chomsky is either revered or reviled. If folk would look at his views on the world situation as juat an informed persons comment, rather than lining up for or against, it would help to move the discussion onward. Here in Oz, we are moving toward the situation that is developing in the U.S. and parts of Europe; the demonisation of the 'enemy' and anyone who isn't pathologically red, white and blue! [BTW, ex-Army (30 years ago!) and I do support our troops going..] Yes, the world needs to deal with the evil of terrorism, but at the same time, realize that there are injustices everywhere, which people of goodwill want to remedy. I hope that there is a role for the UN to play here.

UN member states are acting in their own interests (2.00 / 2) (#106)
by demi on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 02:21:49 PM EST

I too would have felt much more comfortable with a UN resolution on military action. The fact that we are leading a 'coalition' (call it what you will) hasn't really refuted people like Chomsky who thinks of our international influence as self-interested and malevolent. Any time a country goes to war, no matter what the justifications for that war, it becomes extremely vulnerable to international and internal dissent. So the countries that want to send troops need to make sure that the populace is behind them. How they choose to make sure is up to that particular country. Sometimes it is a matter of playing patriotic music on radio stations, sometimes it's throwing the objectors in jail. In Australia I am sure it is more of the former than the latter.



[ Parent ]

Transcription anywhere? (4.00 / 1) (#78)
by Kasreyn on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:23:08 AM EST

33.6 modem dialup = no downloading 2 hour .ram's for me!

Anyone know where a translation into good ol' ASCII characters might be found?


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Or mp3? (none / 0) (#86)
by lonesmurf on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 09:57:16 AM EST

I guess I could take the time to play the ram and loop the audio back into my mic... but oh, you know. I'd like to cut this up on to two regular CDs and give it to a friend. Anyone know where I could get an MP3 version of this?

Rami

I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.


[ Parent ]
Streaming (none / 0) (#242)
by srichman on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 10:19:08 AM EST

33.6 modem dialup = no downloading 2 hour .ram's for me!
That's why Real Audio streams, dude. You only have to wait for 30 seconds, not 2 hours.

[ Parent ]
Transcript (none / 0) (#246)
by losang on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 11:18:17 AM EST

There is a transcript of the talk at http://zmag.org/GlobalWatch/chomskymit.htm

[ Parent ]
Why I like Chomsky... (4.42 / 14) (#88)
by Khedak on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:14:37 AM EST

Because everyone who tries to detract from him ends up making themselves look foolish by saying things like "Chomsky simply always accuses America of being evil." ... An idea I've seen paraphrased in at least three different responses to this article.

The fact is, if you read Chomsky, he's consistent, logical, and relentless. You may be offended by what you read, but your emotional response to his arguments in no way alters their factuality. And in fact, the more people I see knee-jerking and saying Chomsky is an America-hater, without any analysis or coherent argument at all, the more I am impressed by Chomsky's claims. And remember, Chomsky does not invite you to take his word for it. He does not claim that he has special insider knowledge. He simply says that if you examine the information available without bias and with an eye for analysis, you'll see what he means. The fact that many people (including myself) can and do see this, while others can do nothing but attack Chomsky's views for reflecting negatively on America, only serves to underscore one of Chomsky's most important points: That the reason so few people are willing to come to the same conlcusions is he, is because their basic assumption is that America's motives are always pure and just and above scrutiny or analysis.

A lesson from Lisa Simpson (3.37 / 8) (#94)
by On Lawn on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:34:08 AM EST

His arguments remind me of little Lisa Simpson where she is trying to teach her Dad an important lesson on governments getting things done.

The sequence opens up with large trucks and even a stealth bomber with a bear painted in a crossed out circle. They are part of a bear patrol, keeping bears out of springfield.

Her Dad is obviously pleased about the mobilization of government on the issue that he so urgently advocated. But Lisa points out that it has nothing to do with the lack of bear sightings.

"For example this rock keeps away tigers." Lisa says.

"Oh yeah, how do I know that?" her father replies.

"You don't see any tigers do you?"

"No..."

"Then this rock keeps away tigers."

"I'll but it from you!" her Dad says as he reaches for his wallet.

"No! Dad! I'm trying to teach you an object lesson! It doesn't really keep away tigers."

"Fifty Dollars," her Dad ensues.

"Okay...."


Chomsky's seems to me to be the stealth fighter out to partol against bears (and you can be the little rock). He is very visable and definately anti-whatever, and there are many like him. People on the ground want to believe in his cause, and his success in it. Why its logical to believe he keeps away bears! isn't it?

Well, kind of. Although I respect his research and definately defend the right of such one-sided journalism (in fact I think the country needs it) it is all to easy to make a simplification here, and ascribe an alterior motive there and paint pretty much whatever picture you want. My sister and I learned this tactic as children when arguing to our parents about "who started it."

In the end I put him in the same category as Rush Limbaugh. Definately a source of information I wouldn't get anywhere else. However, becuase of their obvious agenda I refrain from making the same character judgments that they do.

Especially when they rely on the all powerful vision of hindsight. Especially when they involve the over simplification of puppets, manipulation or summing up whole nations or governments under one personality. They are often too handy a tool in the hands of propagandists, extremists, and spoiled children.

I sit don't dismiss them however. I sin on them for a while, open minded and find that there are other more reasonable assesments to be made. For instance take your comment that "That the reason so few people are willing to come to the same conlcusions is he, is because their basic assumption is that America's motives are always pure and just and above scrutiny or analysis."

It makes a grand charachter judgment and simplification of personalities, and the polarizing viewpoints into opposite extremes. A more reasonable objective view on such evidence is that they are just unwilling to start out with the assumption that "America is guilty of motives that are always impure and unjust, and must be proven innocent."

In my experience it is a relative few who actually believe that America is above scrutiny and analysis. Yet your argument requires that a vast majority of people do. Therefore I can't seriously accept your self-aggrandizement.

It is the virtue of the extremists to consider themselves open minded to the exclusion of anyone who doesn't come up with the same conclusion as they do. Its especially popular among people who would rather believe themselves smarter than anyone else, because that is essentially what they are proclaiming.

[ Parent ]
Could Lisa give some quotes? (3.75 / 4) (#100)
by M0dUluS on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:30:45 PM EST

I like your post. Good style. But I don't agree with it. You start off with a nice Simpsons illustration of the old correlation!=causation trope. Fair enough.
Now, exactly what "bears" does Chomsky claim to be chasing away?
It seems that he is more in the position of Lisa, pointing out that there are errors in the "standard picture".

What "character judgements" does he make?
Where does he "[sum] up whole nations or governments under one personality"?

I'd like you to provide some specific, concrete illustrations of where he does this.

Personally speaking I find Chomsky too measured and rational in his criticisms. What the left needs is a good demagogue that can whip up a revolution or two in the Mid-West. Chomsky's analytic, factually based reasoning will never sway over the dis-spirited people who need to be given an emotional stimulus that will then send them searching for alternatives.



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Already one, maybe (2.00 / 2) (#111)
by jazzido on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 04:49:50 PM EST

What the left needs is a good demagogue that can whip up a revolution or two in the Mid-West

Although I don't agree with his methods, Chavez, the president of Venezuela is a big demagogue.

What the left really needs is an agitator. (Agitators, anyone? :)

--
"Patriotism is the last resource of scoundrels" (Samuel Johnson)

[ Parent ]

Not Lisa, but one from Homer... (5.00 / 1) (#151)
by On Lawn on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:06:40 PM EST

When I listen to Chomsky I hear this dialogue running through my head...

Homer: So, Mr. Burns is gonna make us all go on a stupid corporate retreat up in the mountains to learn about teamwork. Which means we'll have to cancel our plans to hang around here.
Bart: Teamwork is overrated.
Homer: Huh?
Bart: Think about it. I mean, what team was Babe Ruth on? Who knows.
Lisa+Marge: Yankees.
Bart: Sharing is a bunch of bull, too. And helping others. And what's all this crap I've been hearing about tolerance?
Homer: Hmm. Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. But we'll have to go to the camp anyways.



And just becuase you asked, as I see it the Bears in the analogy are not important. It just goes to show that where many consider it a great intellectual feat to be anti-something I actually find it the lazy pseudo-intellectual road. As easy as convincing Homer that a rock kept away Tigers.

To be anti-anything is to attack a position. To never have a position is really losing a war, but at least you'll never be attacked!

Like I told the other poster, I don't dismiss Chomsky, but he comes across to anxious for me to see a particular viewpoint. When ever I see that I make a point of refraining from making the character judgements they either imply or outright state. I don't dismiss, but I do refuse to be lead on a rope.

[ Parent ]
Totally irrelevant jab (4.00 / 2) (#158)
by norge on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:51:10 PM EST

And just becuase you asked, as I see it the Bears in the analogy are not important. It just goes to show that where many consider it a great intellectual feat to be anti-something I actually find it the lazy pseudo-intellectual road.
The man who uses extended analogies and then admits that significant pieces of them are not important accuses others of intellectual laziness?

Benjamin

[ Parent ]

Blank, blank, and Bears, Oh My! (4.00 / 1) (#163)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:42:39 AM EST

Caught me napping. It suffices to say what the bears are generaly important, yes. But not important enough for me to get down to the specifics.

To elaborate on the bears, if you wanted I could fill the screen with things Chomsky is against or thought wasn't a good idea, I'd singlehandedly replenish the world population of bears. Thats what the bears are, just things that somone is against. (No, Chomsky is definately not Lisa in this example.)

But do I really have to? I really would like to be lazy just this once.

I wouldn't even mind if you saw it as an example in point even. ;)

[ Parent ]
Any scrutiny is welcome... (4.50 / 6) (#101)
by Khedak on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:33:16 PM EST

It makes a grand charachter judgment and simplification of personalities, and the polarizing viewpoints into opposite extremes. A more reasonable objective view on such evidence is that they are just unwilling to start out with the assumption that "America is guilty of motives that are always impure and unjust, and must be proven innocent."

Nobody is making that assumption. The mere fact that you suggest that to consider Chomsky is to start with that assumption belies the heart of the whole matter. The point is you aren't supposed to start with any assumptions, you're supposed to read the information and decide for yourself. But I already said this in my last article.

You can come up with as many reasons as you like to dislike Chomsky, and that's fine. I explained why I like him, but I don't suggest that other people should. All I suggest is that if you're going to comment negatively on Chomsky, at least go to the level of addressing his arguments, rather than simply stopping (as even you do) at the dismissal stage. Or did you address the susbtance of his article? Because as near as I can tell, you did not.

It is the virtue of the extremists to consider themselves open minded to the exclusion of anyone who doesn't come up with the same conclusion as they do. Its especially popular among people who would rather believe themselves smarter than anyone else, because that is essentially what they are proclaiming.

So, by that definition, extremists are closed-minded people then. Because they only consider people to be open-minded who agree with them. Okay. I disagree with you. You consider youself open-minded, but you consider me not to be. You seem to fit your own description of an extremist. What exactly are you trying to say?

Regardless, All I ask is that you examine the arguments, the evidence, and the situation critically, rather than dismissing them because their sources is "Anti-American." This was my point. You seem to want to turn my position around and say that I'm accusing most people of thinking America above scrutiny any analysis. Not at all. I am accusing only those people who have demonstrated that behaviour. Read the responses to this story, and you'll see them: Little three-line comments, with little logical cohesiveness, and the main idea of "Chomsky is anti-American." And then I provide a possible explanation for this behavior. If you have a logical argument to make, and your conclusion is different from mine, more power to you.

But "Chomsky is an anti-American extremist" is not an argument, and putting words into my mouth and accusing me of "self-aggrandizing" is not a rebuttal.

[ Parent ]
a look at some of your accusations (2.66 / 3) (#115)
by On Lawn on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:29:45 PM EST

"Why I like Chomsky" you title it/ Why? well becuase "everyone who tries to detract from him ends up making themselves look foolish by saying things like 'Chomsky simply always accuses America of being evil.'"

This shows the stereo-typing that I'm accusing you of.

I think that the fact that you attempt to show that I think Chomsky is "simply accusing America of being evil" from my comment is strong evidence of that claim.

For more evidence, lets look at some of your accusations.

"You consider youself open-minded, but you consider me not to be. You seem to fit your own description of an extremist."

In truth I mentioned you only once and the accusation is "stereotyping," an accusation which you are solely providing the evidence for. I never once painted you as close-minded. The closest is the "virtue of the extremist" arguement which is a true statement in my experience. If you indeed are accusing those who disagree with such a blanket statement of "simplistic dismissal" then maybe the shoe fits. Either way I still haven't accused you of being close-minded, except to the degree of a stereo-typist.

"Read the responses to this story, and you'll see them: Little three-line comments, with little logical cohesiveness, and the main idea of 'Chomsky is anti-American.'"

I read a well thought out and argued piece copied from David Horowitz, an article that mentions that Chomsky only complains and never contributes, one that accuses him of grossly stacking his deck (towards an anti-american view), another accusing Chomksy as being a complainer rather than a doer.. I find no post meeting your requirements. The closest one (and I do mean one) that might fit supplies its own proof and supporting articles.



Your responces support the accusation that you show a mind for stereo-typing and over-simplification of those who would disagree with you. You stand so accused with more than ample evidence that is not my own conjecture or wresting of your opinion. It is your self-proclaimed message and pronouncement.


[ Parent ]
Stereotyping (4.33 / 3) (#182)
by Khedak on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 10:25:49 AM EST

I apologize if you felt you were the target of stereotyping. But if I may suggest, if your differences with Chomsky have more logical basis than simply thinking he's anti-American, then why were you offended? I'm clearly not talking about you. I was replying to the people attempting to detract from Chomsky here on k5 prior to my post. While I also think Horowitz is full of shit, he is not "simply accusing Chomsky of being anti-American", nor do I say so.

The posts I was replying to most directly can be found here, and here (this one actually cites Chomsky, I guess he figures the contents will be so offensive they must be false, since he does not offer any counter evidence whatsoever).

Oh, and here's one that accuses Chomsky of being a neo-nazi. What foolishness.

As for Chomsky "complaining and never contributing", or being a "complainer and not a doer", Chomsky has done what very few other people with his intelligence and expertise have done: critically analyze world affairs without bias. He's doing it because he regards it the province of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies, especially in politics when life and death, peace and war, hang in the balance of making the proper decision. If you think he's doing anything other than his conscience's best work, then you just don't know anything about his motivations. What exactly is your point in this regard?

Your responces support the accusation that you show a mind for stereo-typing and over-simplification of those who would disagree with you. You stand so accused with more than ample evidence that is not my own conjecture or wresting of your opinion. It is your self-proclaimed message and pronouncement.

I think I've explained myself adequately. Think whatever you want.

[ Parent ]
Biased Reporting? (1.00 / 1) (#188)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:09:22 PM EST

But if I may suggest, if your differences with Chomsky have more logical basis than simply thinking he's anti-American, then why were you offended?

Precious. So when I correct one gross charachter judgement, I just get another one. Just keep stacking evidence that you are simply stereo-typing those who disagree with you.

Chomsky has done what very few other people with his intelligence and expertise have done: critically analyze world affairs without bias.

Objective journalism means that you be fair to both sides, and represent them fairly. Chomsky is well documented as ignoring a lot of important facts to present what he does. The most fairness you can argue about Chomsky is that he is part of a dialogue, where the government presents one view and he presents another. He does not present both. You can know a lot about someone by what they focus in on. However I would like to hear you substantiate that he has no bias. Remember it is not enough to say that someone sounds logical, presents evidence and steers away from emotional argument. You must show that he represents both sides, presents all the evidence, and gives enough background for people to make a balanced decision.

I definately would offer that there are many who offer very good critical analysis, with equal or greater levels than Chomsky. That you think Chomsky is rare in this is very cult like, in that cult followers listen to their leader to the exclusion of eveyrone else. Maybe you do include other people, I'd like to hear who some of these other great thinkers are.

For now lets look again at your arguments and see if any of those you accuse of being biased actually fit in the realm of objective journalism, or if they actually fit the accusation....

Oh, and here's one that accuses Chomsky of being a neo-nazi. What foolishness.

He doesn't accuse Chomsky of being a Neo-Nazi. He presents someones view, mentiones as background that he has no idea if they are credible, and even provides Chomsky's rebuttal. This meets all the criteria of being objective journalism.

The first one you mention I also mentioned. He is simply saying that Chomsky is stacking the deck towards a biased conclusion. He does mention that conclusion is "hate america" I would wonder if you thought Chomsky was arguing another conclusion. However, what is attacked is Chomsky's style, lack of objectivity, and roping the audience. Not his conclusion. His arguments are lucid and logical. For all you know the poster might be anti-american himself and mad the Chomsky gives it a bad name. He definately cannot be considered less than an open minded thinker that dismisses Chomsky on tactics rather than conclusion.

The other one is a statement on to what he thinks is an obvious Chomsky bias. As I mentioned before, he offers that anyone can verify Chomsky is incorrect by actually talking to someone from Cambodia. Sounds fair enough.

So what we have here again is stereotyping people who disagree with you. Your conclusions about them are not even reasonable, and you seem to dismiss them and their arguments as simply being "anti-chomsky".

[ Parent ]

References (none / 0) (#197)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 01:54:01 PM EST

Chomsky is well documented as ignoring a lot of important facts to present what he does.
Could you give a reference to this documentation?
He does mention that conclusion is "hate america"
Again, could you provide a reference for where Chomsky concludes "hate america"?

Also, while we're at it, you've not yet provided me with the quotes for Chomsky "characterizing nations/governments under one personality"(to paraphrase you).

Thanks.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
You asked for it (3.00 / 2) (#204)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 03:27:05 PM EST

Although I don't go in to depth in the "ignoring evidence" part there is a lot there that sums up my opinion to those who wish it spelled out. And instead of jumping around from one "request for quotes" to another lets just move it up there.

The antecedent of 'He', that mentions the conclusion is Hate America is the poster. However the article above points out from one essay where Chomsky provides plenty of character judgements and requires people to hate america to share his viewpoint on the evidence he presents.

I hope you enjoy. Its under "grep 'bias' Chomsky".


Meanwhile Khedek is still shown to be stereo-typing his opposition.

[ Parent ]
Khedak (none / 0) (#226)
by Khedak on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 10:16:32 AM EST

Khedak has switched from stereotyping his opposition to rating his opposition 1 for stupidity. Anyone who disagrees with me, feel free to rate me 1 in return.

[ Parent ]
Khedak now rates his opposition 1 for stupidity (5.00 / 1) (#227)
by On Lawn on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 10:40:54 AM EST

We just heard it straight from him.

K5 certainly allows such behaviour. However without any intelligent refutations of the facts I presented, what am I supposed to think about your position?

[ Parent ]
Noam Chomsky == Rush Limbaugh (2.50 / 6) (#102)
by epepke on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 12:35:11 PM EST

Both are performance artists, playing to a selected audience. Both are entertaining and amusing. Both are gifted speakers. Both will tell you things you did not know, and with both, almost all of these things are insightful and true. Both can construct highly rational and logical arguments, given an idee fixe. Both generate "ding-dong" responses of quasi-religious worship or utter hatred amongst most people. Both enrich public discourse.

Neither ever says anything of any use whatsoever.

This should not surprise. Several decades ago, Chomsky gave us the theory of transformational grammar. It is simple, logical, compelling, beautiful, and fun. It rings true. It also bears no relationship whatsoever to how native speakers use language.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


maybe Buckley but not Limbaugh (2.50 / 2) (#105)
by demi on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 01:55:15 PM EST

Perhaps Willian F. Buckley would be better to use as a comparison. He is more analytical, reasoned, and low-profile than Limbaugh. Buckley is popular among conservatives but not a demogogue. Chomsky is far too strident in his viewpoints to ever be popular in this country.



[ Parent ]

Maybe G. Gordon Liddy? (2.00 / 2) (#117)
by epepke on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:40:05 PM EST

Buckley has always seemed to me to be more of a Humpty Dumpty than anything else. He's probably better compared to someone like Derrida. G. Gordon Liddy, though, might be a better match.

Anyway, the main point is that all these folks function more as a recrudescence of the court fool than anything else. They do political comedy, not political discourse. This is all right if you like that sort of thing, but it shouldn't be made more than it is.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Maybe Dr. Laura (none / 0) (#191)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:23:12 PM EST

Okay maybe not. But at least Dr Laura is unpopular also, presents great amounts of evidence against prevailing thought.

But just because Chomsky is unpopular I think the Rush analogy still stands. Both of them are well informed, logical and lucid. I wouldn't want to go head to head against either of them for that fact. Yet I listen to both and feel inside that although the evidence is stacked in their favor something is wrong.

Usually I find out a few weeks or months later when I can match their research what was wrong. A little simplification here, a ignoring of a fact there that when added provides a much more satisfying and clear picture of the even that doesn't require me to paste evil motives on people to fill in holes. Sometimes I find they are right, and the evil motives are there, but over simplified.

But what they do is rope the audience, both of them. Stacking the evidence and belittling disagreement to where you just feel ashamed to be on the other side. They both do it logicaly, and reasonably but it doesn't mean that they are right. They both are definately satsifying an audience itch.

[ Parent ]
transformational grammar (4.50 / 2) (#172)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 04:21:34 AM EST

Several decades ago, Chomsky gave us the theory of transformational grammar. It is simple, logical, compelling, beautiful, and fun. It rings true.

Er, transformational grammar is certainly not "simple". "Logical" is, as far as I'm concenrned, contentless praise. "Compelling", well, Chomsky has an academic cult around him which essentially takes him as the Prophet of Linguistics whose Word is always true, so yeah, I guess it is "compelling" in that sense. "Beauty" is in the eye of the beholder. "Fun" is in the desperation of the bored. As for "rings true", see "compelling".

It also bears no relationship whatsoever to how native speakers use language.

Duh, of course not. Transformational Grammar and its successor, Principles and Parameters, are theories of linguistic competence, so by definition they don't tell you naything about how native speakers actually use language, but rather the linguistic knowledge of an idealized speaker in an idealized completely homogeneous speech community. As to how people actually speak, to paraphrase Chomsky: "But that is not interesting." (This must be Chomsky's favorite sentence, BTW. I should start selling tshirts with a Chomsky caricature and that phrase in certain schools in the western US...)

--em
[ Parent ]

Opinions (3.00 / 1) (#195)
by epepke on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:47:17 PM EST

Er, transformational grammar is certainly not "simple".

That's a matter of opinion. I find it simple.

"Fun" is in the desperation of the bored.

I'm used to contempt from people who find the things I enjoy. That's OK. It hasn't bothered me since I discovered that the things I have fun doing allow me to do a lot of other things, and that I did not have to feel guilty for the sequelae, including a large income.

As to how people actually speak, to paraphrase Chomsky: "But that is not interesting."

That, essentially, puts the finger on the main problem with Chomsky. Whatever he may be interested in, a lot of people are interested in how native speakers use language. However, with that Prophet of Linguistics stuff you alluded to, he has managed to bias the research community against that kind of research. As I pointed out elsewhere, Chomsky is to linguistics as Aristotle is to physics. Demideification of Aristotle provided a significant resistance to Galileo and Newton. It isn't entirely analogous, as nobody so far has been executed for not accepting Chomsky, but it's pretty close.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
aristotle (none / 0) (#213)
by Estanislao Martínez on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 06:08:34 PM EST

That's a matter of opinion. I find it simple.

Well, given that the very fact that the theory has transformations introduces the need for additional devices to control transformations (e.g. the Coordinate Structure Constraint) which nontransformational theories simply don't have to, the "simple" part is absolutely unsupportable.

Also, given that current minimalist syntax has

As I pointed out elsewhere, Chomsky is to linguistics as Aristotle is to physics.

What are Saussure and Jakobson, then? Comparing them to Socrates and Plato seems inaccurate (well, the whole excercise is kinda pointless, anyway).

--em
[ Parent ]

Yeah... (3.83 / 12) (#109)
by trhurler on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 04:35:40 PM EST

I saw this argument from Chomsky before. He conveniently neglects to mention a few things.

For instance, he doesn't mention the Taliban seizing extant aid supplies in hoarding actions, or if he does, he downplays the significance.

He doesn't mention that the US does not owe these people food. Genocide is wiping people out; merely failing to keep them alive does not qualify unless you're actually their government and deliberately starve them.

He doesn't seem to think that aid workers(who have yet to experience as many casualties as the US military has in this action,) are responsible for not delivering aid - the US is entirely responsible, even though aid workers left because of fear, not inability to do the job.

In short, he's up to his usual anti-US everything bad is good rhetoric. Screw Chomsky and the horse he rode in on.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

I'm Guessing You Didn't Pay Attention (4.00 / 6) (#114)
by mech9t8 on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:28:53 PM EST

You ignore the whole point of his discourse - which was that we need to take responsibility for the consequences of the actions of our government. The actions of others are irrevelent to whether our actions are right or wrong unless they're predicable results of the actions we must take moral responsibility for.

Sure, the Taliban is seizing aid supplies. That's the natural act of desparate criminals after we started bombing them.

Would they have seized the aid supplies if we were not bombing them? Probably not.

The US is specifically preventing truck convoys from entering the country. So there's no way to get food in. And people are afraid to drive convoys around the country for fear of being bombed by the US or captured by desperate Taliban.

Would there be food convoys if the US hadn't taken action? Probably.

The aid workers left because they were afraid of getting hit by US bombs, or being seized by desperate Taliban who want to use them as human shields against the US bombs.

Would they have left the country if the US hadn't immediate declared its intention to attack Afghanistan? Probably not.

The US actions against Afghanistan are undeniably making a difficult humanitarian situation there far more difficult. All the problems you mentioned are predictable responses to the US action; therefore we must take responsibility for them happening.

If you want to counter his arguments, counter his arguments - argue that the actions are justified, that they're the only way to prevent future attacks, that the deaths now will prevent future deaths in the future - or argue that the situation in Afghanistan would be worse if the US wasn't acting.

But denying responsibility and burying your head in the sand is the wrong way out.


--
IMHO
[ Parent ]
No (2.83 / 6) (#119)
by trhurler on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:48:55 PM EST

You ignore the whole point of his discourse - which was that we need to take responsibility for the consequences of the actions of our government.
I have no control over my government; I did not vote for its leaders, and I have no control over their present actions. I am not at fault, if indeed there is blame to be laid.
Would they have seized the aid supplies if we were not bombing them? Probably not.
They've done it before on a semiregular basis. I do not understand why you are so stupid as to presume they've changed their ways. (Oh, wait, the fact that they've done it before is another bit Chomsky neglected to mention for fear it might screw up his prechosen conclusion.)
The US is specifically preventing truck convoys from entering the country.
The US specifically argued with Iran to get them to let truck convoys through to Afghanistan. You're being lied to.
The US actions against Afghanistan are undeniably making a difficult humanitarian situation there far more difficult. All the problems you mentioned are predictable responses to the US action; therefore we must take responsibility for them happening.
And so we should do nothing but wait and see if things turn out well. Hopefully, you, Chomsky, and whoever else agrees with this line of reasoning will be there in the next World Trade Center so we won't have to hear this again. All actions have consequences, both intended and otherwise. If you can't deal with that, you will die in short order of dehydration. The bigger the action, the bigger the consequences. That's the way life is, and in this case, we need big actions to get anything done. If you think we should be doing something different, that's one thing, but Chomsky is against action in general.
But denying responsibility and burying your head in the sand is the wrong way out.
My head is not buried in anything, and I am not responsible for the actions of men who do not need my approval to do what they do.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
This is why debate is needed. (4.00 / 3) (#131)
by mech9t8 on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:04:24 PM EST

The US specifically argued with Iran to get them to let truck convoys through to Afghanistan.

I might have just misheard it. It's a minor point in the overall situation - that the bombing campaign is making the overall humanitarian situation worse.

If there's a geniune back-and-forth between people that agree with Chomsky and people that support the government action, the truth may come out. But if you adopt the "screw Chomsky" attitude, you end up polarizing the argument - you end up with a bunch of people that think the US government is deliberately starving the Afghans, and a bunch of people that think the airdrops are actually solving the situation. The truth is obviously somewhere in the middle.

If you think we should be doing something different, that's one thing, but Chomsky is against action in general.

No, Chomsky thinks actions should be taken through the mechanisms of the World Court and UN. He thinks a UN force without Russian or US (who are biased participants in this arena) should handle the Afghanistan situation, under the control of the UN Security Council.

Now, whether that's a good idea or not is a separate issue. But representing it as "doing nothing" is incorrect. You may feel that, for example, "Chomsky thinks we should work through the UN, which I feel is equivalent to doing nothing", but saying he wants to sit back until he gets smallpox misrepresents the point of view.

My head is not buried in anything, and I am not responsible for the actions of men who do not need my approval to do what they do.

As a democracy, everything the government does it does in our name. And if there are consequences for our government's foreign policies, the attacks on Sept. 11 show that we can bear them.

If you feel you have no influence on the government, at what point will you try to change it?

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

Ah (3.66 / 3) (#134)
by trhurler on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:15:07 PM EST

You see, I do have influence - roughly one vote in one hundred million. I cast it against the present government. Nobody can say that I am responsible for what is being done, because I took the only action available to me.

As it happens, I agree with some of what is being done, and am ambivalent about the rest; I have yet to see Bush do anything overseas that I really disagree with strongly. On the other hand, I have a serious problem with his people and their desire to get rid of my liberties in order to protect "freedom," whatever that is.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Just a vote? (3.00 / 1) (#155)
by hotseat on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:34:07 PM EST

You see, I do have influence - roughly one vote in one hundred million. I cast it against the present government. Nobody can say that I am responsible for what is being done, because I took the only action available to me.

I don't agree. Specifically, a common misconception is that each person has the same influence on the government. This simply isn't true. Those who write letters, contribute to campaigns, hire lobbyists, discuss current affairs, demonstrate and engage in advertising are influencing the government, in some way.

It is false to suppose that by changing one's vote one can disclaim responsibility for the actions of the government, because there is so much more that can be done by anybody who feels their government is acting immorally.

[ Parent ]

Well, yes (4.00 / 1) (#194)
by trhurler on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:45:09 PM EST

I'm among the louder people who hold the beliefs I do in my area, at the very least, but I certainly can't afford to hire lobbyists, advertise, or spend more time than I already spend talking to people and so on. That has a very indirect influence, I suppose. The big point to me, and not just for my sake, but as a principle of representative democracy, is that someone who votes and who clearly shows during whatever other involvement he has, however big or small that involvement may be, that he would have it another way, is not responsible for the actions of people he wouldn't have there in the first place. To hold otherwise makes representative democracy a reprehensible idea that everyone of good conscience should oppose in the strongest possible way.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
At last we agree! (4.00 / 1) (#203)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 03:16:51 PM EST

I knew that this sweet moment would occur
[...]representative democracy a reprehensible idea that everyone of good conscience should oppose in the strongest possible way.


"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Well (none / 0) (#209)
by trhurler on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 04:48:11 PM EST

Aside from the ignored qualifier, I must ask, just exactly what would you replace representative democracy with?

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Direct democracy (5.00 / 1) (#210)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 05:12:00 PM EST

1.Small voting groups (somewhere in the low 100's, may need to be larger or smaller, experimentation will be necessary) 2.Consensus decision making 3.Recallable representatives with no negotiating power 4.Federated structure 5.Communal ownership of resources 6.Representatives get no extra priveleges (oohhh!)

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
We tried most fhose (none / 0) (#211)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 05:25:14 PM EST

It was the Confederation of American States, circa 1770's and it failed miserably.

My favorite quote was from the person they wanted elected as President, who felt participating in such a government would be a waste of time...

"If nominated I will not run, if elected I will not serve."

No need to make a government less representational or more responsible to its public. Our government is already a good mirror of its people.

[ Parent ]
Ah (4.00 / 1) (#212)
by trhurler on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 05:45:32 PM EST

1.Small voting groups (somewhere in the low 100's, may need to be larger or smaller, experimentation will be necessary)
So in your dreamworld, no issue affects more than a few hundred people. Yeah... right...
2.Consensus decision making
Aka, "screw the minority." I remind you of Henrik Ibsen: "The majority is always wrong."
3.Recallable representatives with no negotiating power
So you intend to make damned sure that nothing EVER gets done in any way, whether appropriate or not. Gotcha.
4.Federated structure
Explain how this fits with "direct democracy."
5.Communal ownership of resources
This always works so well, too.
6.Representatives get no extra priveleges
Then what is the motive to do the job? As with the problem where nobody has any motive to excel in productive enterprise if he can't accumulate wealth, nobody has any motive to do thankless public service if it carries no perks. Or rather, in both cases, the motives are vastly insufficient to overcome the desire for a normal, sane life.

Fortunately for all of us, I can assure you that people who lack your myopic utopia fever will continue to be the majority. Unfortunately, it is evident that you have little or no knowledge of the history of small scale democratic communal living efforts. I suggest you look into them; it is a dismal and often tragic tale you'll read.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Choo! (5.00 / 1) (#216)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 08:13:21 PM EST

1.Small voting groups (somewhere in the low 100's, may need to be larger or smaller, experimentation will be necessary)
So in your dreamworld, no issue affects more than a few hundred people. Yeah... right...
How do you extrapolate from voting groups of limited size to a claim that no issue affects more than a few hundred? I don't believe that.
2.Consensus decision making
Aka, "screw the minority." I remind you of Henrik Ibsen: "The majority is always wrong."
You don't remind me in the least of Ibsen. He was handsome, intelligent and witty. Leaving that aside, if you were going to level one criticism at consensus-voting it would be the absolute opposite of this one. See, the way it works is that everyone within the affinity-group has the right to veto. So a consensus, NOT a majority, has to be achieved. OTOH, your system of Rep.Dem. as implemeted in the U.S. does involve the tyranny of the majority.
3.Recallable representatives with no negotiating power
So you intend to make damned sure that nothing EVER gets done in any way, whether appropriate or not. Gotcha.
I don't know which part of me you think you're grasping, but I can assure you that it's not me. The structure that I envision consists of tiers of small (probably 100's) groups of people who have some work/geographical/political affinity. They meet, discuss, argue, produce a set of objectives. They elect a delegate. He is given a set of objectives that cannot be lost, a set of acceptable negotiations (If...Then statements). he then travels to the next level of meeting. Meets with that tier of delegates. They replicate the process. If consensus can't be reached they return, present results to the tier they originated at. This structure has been used succesfully and efficiently in the affinity-group/spoke/bloc arrangements that I've been involved in.
4.Federated structure Explain how this fits with "direct democracy."
See above.
5.Communal ownership of resources This always works so well, too.
Worked in Spain and in Soviet Russia.
6.Representatives get no extra priveleges Then what is the motive to do the job? As with the problem where nobody has any motive to excel in productive enterprise if he can't accumulate wealth, nobody has any motive to do thankless public service if it carries no perks. Or rather, in both cases, the motives are vastly insufficient to overcome the desire for a normal, sane life.
Having a working community that satisfies material wants without the need to kill millions of people? Pride in doing a good job for your community? Duty? Ideological motivation?
Fortunately for all of us, I can assure you that people who lack your myopic utopia fever will continue to be the majority. Unfortunately, it is evident that you have little or no knowledge of the history of small scale democratic communal living efforts. I suggest you look into them; it is a dismal and often tragic tale you'll read.
Are you referring to the highly succesful communistic religious orders? Anyway, why do you think that I'm talking about "small-scale democratic communal living efforts"? I'm talking about large-scale, de-centralized, industrial, federated, co-operative society. I see the intial workers control of the Soviets in Russia and the Factory Councils in Italy and Spain as evidence that something like this can work. I don't have strong evidence that it will. What I do have strong evidence for is that Capitalism produces misery, waste and want. I'd like at the very least to investigate an promising alternative.

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
But... (3.00 / 1) (#232)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 12:32:05 PM EST

How do you extrapolate from voting groups of limited size to a claim that no issue affects more than a few hundred? I don't believe that.
Well, seeing as that group will be voting on some issue, and seeing as that group presumably is going to decide the issue(otherwise, the real "group" is larger,) it seems to follow fairly logically, unless you mean to say that you're just going to let a few hundred people decide issues for a whole lot more, which is the very representative democracy you claim not to want.
Leaving that aside, if you were going to level one criticism at consensus-voting it would be the absolute opposite of this one. See, the way it works is that everyone within the affinity-group has the right to veto.
In all of human history, while that has often been what has been intended, it is never what has happened. You see, someone like me has the intestinal fortitude, strength of character, downright obstinence, and willingness to put up with death threats and so on that will let him defy several hundred people on an important issue, but the vast majority do not. Go read "12 Angry Men" for a very simple elucidation of why consensus does not mean what you think it does. The worst part is, the more important the issue, the less likely such a veto will hold. As I said, screw the minority.
OTOH, your system of Rep.Dem. as implemeted in the U.S. does involve the tyranny of the majority.
Calling it my system is a bit much, seeing as I neither devised it nor think it quite operates perfectly as it should.
The structure that I envision consists of tiers of small (probably 100's) groups of people who have some work/geographical/political affinity. They meet, discuss, argue, produce a set of objectives. They elect a delegate. He is given a set of objectives that cannot be lost, a set of acceptable negotiations (If...Then statements). he then travels to the next level of meeting. Meets with that tier of delegates. They replicate the process. If consensus can't be reached they return, present results to the tier they originated at. This structure has been used succesfully and efficiently in the affinity-group/spoke/bloc arrangements that I've been involved in.
And you think that in a country with 280 million people, this is ever going to reach a decision? If your groups each have 500 people, then the second tier accounts for 250,000, the third for 125 million. Then you have three delegates at the top. That's four tiers, and if you can't get complete agreement at each level, you go back to square one. Each time you go back to square one, everyone in the whole country has to spend another several hours/days/weeks/whatever debating instead of doing something productive. Even if it could reach decisions in a reasonably timely fashion(it wouldn't) it would still outright wreck the economy. Maybe when you have 10 people in a group and only one upper tier or something roughly on that scale, this works, but that isn't remotely the same.
Worked in Spain and in Soviet Russia.
Spain: I choose not to comment, because I want to save my energy for Russia. Soviet Russia: if you are serious, then I seriously hope you die a slow, horrible death. No human being worth the air he breathes could possibly wish the horrors of the former USSR on anyone. If you don't believe it, then you don't know what the former USSR was, or how its people lived. Frankly, Afghan villagers have it better, even while the bombs are falling.
Having a working community that satisfies material wants without the need to kill millions of people?
If you think the rest of the world would sit idly by while your grand experiment went on, thus allowing you to live in some peacenik utopia, then you clearly should not be allowed to organize a coffee shop, let alone a nation.
Pride in doing a good job for your community?
You're young, aren't you?
Duty?
First of all, while many people pay lip service to duty, few really believe in it except insofar as it furthers other goals they happen to have. Second, I do not believe in it, and I am not ashamed to say so. "Duty" is just another word for "unchosen obligation," which is just another way of saying you are a serf. I am not a serf, and I will not live as one or recommend to anyone else that he do so.
Ideological motivation?
Yes, indeed, you are young. Or else exceedingly foolish.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Oops, forgot (3.00 / 1) (#234)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 12:45:57 PM EST

Sorry for the double post, I forgot this.
Are you referring to the highly succesful communistic religious orders?
No, and those aren't really communistic anyway. They've got more in common with fascism than communism, and they only work because they're small groups that all in general do agree on things. I'm referring to everything from hippie communes to the utter failure of the Soviets to maintain local control in the face of a strong and ruthless opposition.
What I do have strong evidence for is that Capitalism produces misery, waste and want.
People in (mostly) capitalist nations enjoy the highest standard of living and the greatest opportunities for personal advancement in human history. For all the misery you can find if you go looking, on average, we're pretty happy, and lacking that, often at least we're content. That's something nobody else in history can claim; the glorious histories of various old empires and nations are written of and by tiny upper classes, and do not reflect the horrid conditions of the average man of that place and period. Our way is far from perfect, but talk of replacing it with something that you try to justify by invoking the Soviets and calling that an improvement suggests that you need to put down the crack pipe, man. Seriously.

What kind of people would enjoy your world? The kind who never want anything. The kind who prefer to live like ruminants in a field. The worst, most useless kind of people, who will never achieve anything and are wasting the very things that make them human beings. I could never live there; I'd have been a criminal before I was old enough to even have a say in matters, and before I really understood what it was I was doing or why. Nobody I respect could, either. Many of them might think otherwise; this is because they've never had to ask anyone else's permission to fix up the garage, replace a failing appliance or a torn item of clothing, or whatever, and cannot fully comprehend what it would be like. The notion that you wouldn't just be allowed to go and get a nice ring for your girlfriend, or that you wouldn't have the resources to obtain one even if you did productive work - they cannot imagine such a world. I can, and I find it repulsive.

You, of course, can spend much time explaining that "this isn't what I mean!" That will not change a basic fact: when people can have a majority vote on what I can and cannot do, they are not going to agree with me on what that should be - period. And yes, control over property IS control over what I can and cannot do, whether you admit it or not.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Points... (3.00 / 1) (#223)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 03:49:45 AM EST

About 1.

If the issue affects more people, have a group of groups vote. If a few orders of magnitude more people still, have a group of groups of groups vote. Etc.

As for 2.

Concensus decision making means that nothing gets done unless everyone agrees. At least, it usually means that. In such a system, the minorities would not get so screwed.

About 3.

I'm with you. They need some negotiation ability, otherwise they are no better than sending a letter. But I can assure you that my voting cell is gonna need to minimize many degrees of freedom for negotiation, else no concensus. You could vote for your block to give more if you want.

Concerning 5.

Haven't I already discussed with you and convinced you how all incorporation is within the set of things that are communal ownership? Shit after to tedious searching I can't find such a thing, so perhaps that was someone else. Anyway, "communal ownership" covers a great deal: corporations, government properties, all the various types of commons, family properties and estates, village storehouses, trust funds, some charity organizations, hunting gains, and plenty more. When done within certain bounds, it has been shown to be one of the best and most powerful things humans have ever devised. Right up there with the ability to communicate linquistically (which is structurally similar).

Just because some of the plethora of types don't always end up for the best, you can't go concluding the whole catagory of group ownership is worthless. Ever get financing on a car? That's a good example of mutually benificial multi-entity ownership.

About those failed, dismal tales.

I think your sample set might be biased. I've read a good many tales about communes in various centuries ... several volumes choc full, cover to cover. Very educational about one's fellow primates. Tis true that there are plenty as you describe. However, there are also a good many happy tales of people getting together, having pleasant and mutually benificial associations, and, when the proper time for it came, dissolving the association and going their merry ways, quite the better for the experience.

If I weren't so fucking behind on shit, I would be compelled to look up those tomes again and do a count to get the spread. However, unless you have some nice reference that has already done that, I'll just fall back on my super inacurate gauging via lossy memory from past experience. In which case, I'm figuring that given a random tale, the odds are well better than even that it ended reasonably happy. Which isn't to say that it has good odds of containing no flares of tempers; hell it probably has a couple people leaving for one reason or another. But such tales seldom end with no one being heard from again, or lots of blood, bombs, and gore.

One person's dismal failure can be several other peoples' temporary, perfect solution.



[ Parent ]

Heh (4.00 / 1) (#235)
by trhurler on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 12:49:00 PM EST

You should look at the reply from modulus, and my replies to him. Between his showing that some of your interpretation of what he meant was incorrect and my replies to him, I think all your points are answered. By the way, communal ownership is not a temporary, voluntary, contract based thing; a contract implies private property handled in a special way, and though that may resemble communal property superficially, anyone who has ever lived in a communal arrangement knows the difference very, very well.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Going on... (4.00 / 1) (#236)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 02:56:32 PM EST

Between his showing that some of your interpretation of what he meant was incorrect and my replies to him, I think all your points are answered.
I'm only care about modulus' self interpretation in a sort of tangential way. I wasn't trying to strictly get at what he was meaning, but to flesh out his words in my own directions.

Having said that, I think some of your replies cut to the heart of some difficulties and are right on. Others seem like rhetorical moves away from the issue, proper. Sometimes you stuck to the letter of the issue and dropped the spirit, another time you just spouted more unpolite wishes for death.

By the way, communal ownership is not a temporary, voluntary, contract based thing; a contract implies private property handled in a special way
Contracts are indeed one of the ways that group ownerships are formed. The contract can split up the rights of ownership in more elaborate or detailed ways than some simple "it is everyones' stuff", which is so ambiguous that stability often requires the phrase be spelled out.

Something's being the property of someone means that they enjoy certain privilages of use and determination. A contract can dole out some of those privilages to a bank, for example, (which is usually a group ownership arraingment in itself) and some to a person. In such a case the bank and the person share the ownership rights of the object; what non-circular, principled reason is there to not say that in such a case they share ownership and that the thing is owned by a group. Typically there are clauses of such contracts detailing how all of the rights go to one side or the other under various circumstances, and the motivation for the whole arraingment was that one of them will be used, however, that doesn't erase that hunk of time where a group of entities held property rights. It still happened.

You also seem to imply that private property is mutually exclusive with group property. That isn't so. Property can easily be private to a group. Like a private country club; only members are allowed, but typically there is more than one member.

Sorry this is a bit scattered, I'm quite distracted. Further, communication with you seems tougher than with most others, less overlap in the use of our terms, perhaps. A perception that you have less willingness to adopt temporary frames of meaning in which to consider my words is another factor. Good day.



[ Parent ]

As someone who has actually lived in a commune (5.00 / 1) (#250)
by Anonymous 242 on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 03:07:01 PM EST

Unfortunately, it is evident that you have little or no knowledge of the history of small scale democratic communal living efforts. I suggest you look into them; it is a dismal and often tragic tale you'll read.
Sure, there are a few Jonestowns. Those are exceptional.

Most communal arrangements are more like the one I was involved with where my wife and I didn't like the way things were headed so we packed up and walked out the door.

That said, my experience has taught me a couple important lessons.

(1) Consensus is difficult to achieve in any sufficiently large group. If the group involves more than two or three families, the odds of maintaining consensus are quite small.

(2) There is high churn. People tend to vote with their feet. When my family moved in in September of 1999, we were three families living in our building (a former convent). When we moved out in August of 2000, that building was empty.

(3) It takes time and energy that most people don't want to spend to get anything important done in a community governed by consensus.

(4) In a good number of cases the group will end up being lead defacto by one or two personalities that define what is good for the community by what is good for those personalities.

And of course, my experience is anecdotal, so YMMV,

Regards,

Lee Irenæus Malatesta

[ Parent ]

Well... (4.00 / 2) (#221)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 02:50:53 AM EST

... I was just starting to think from some of your comments of late that you had changed your discussion style for the better. Then I hit:
Hopefully, you, Chomsky, and whoever else agrees with this line of reasoning will be there in the next World Trade Center so we won't have to hear this again.
Implicit wishes of death for the person with whom you take the time to communicate are not polite. They barely qualify as civil. Would you have roughed the other person up a bit to teach them a lession had this exchange been in person? Perhaps you need to count to ten more often or something similar.



[ Parent ]

Omitting irrational thoughts (3.66 / 6) (#118)
by BlackAndRed on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 05:46:50 PM EST

Yes, Chomsky conveniently leaves out the points you mention. For good reason: they don't make any sense.

You seem to think claim that the U.S. bombing and invasion, with it's stated goal of overthrowing the Taliban and unstated goal of allowing the hated Northern Alliance to regain some or all of it's power, has nothing to do with the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. That, or you conveniently omitted the converse from your remarks; that the U.S. attack is a major cause of the worsening food, medical, and refugee situations in Afghanistan and the surrounding countries. How convenient.

It's the aid worker's fault, the Taliban government fault, etc. You probably think it's the Afghan people's fault for not growing enough food to feed themselves. Nothing we did, oh no. We're only wonderful people.

This is the kind of sick mentality that justifies the ongoing human crisis in Iraq: the effects of a U.S.-led sanctions regime that has killed over a million and a half Iraqis, 500,000 of whom were children under the age of five.

[ Parent ]

Irrational on what premise? (3.16 / 6) (#122)
by trhurler on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:09:55 PM EST

The Northern Alliance isn't liable to get much out of this; they might get some voice in government, but so will the old king, and so will the Taliban, and so will anyone else interested. You're deliberately presuming the worst.

As for food, I must ask you: do you think these people have a right to be fed by people who have never met them, have nothing to gain from them, do not really care about them personally but only out of unearned guilt, and so on? Despite whiney rhetoric from leftists, nature is not fair, and humans are a part of nature. An animal which cannot provide for itself dies, with very limited exceptions. Why do you think the human animal is different? Because you think you know better? Make arbitrary declarations of "rights" and "morality" without feeling any need to justify them short of "pain is bad" and then claim that human responsibility and worth are based on this artifice? No thank you.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Irrelevent == Irrational (3.66 / 3) (#126)
by BlackAndRed on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:38:55 PM EST

Your question is irrelevent to the situation we face.

No one is asserting that the right to food (as enumerated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) requires the United States or others to provide food aid. The question is, does it require us to refrain from interfering with food shipments? If you accept that the military campaign is having a disruptive effect, then we can talk about whether it is "right" or not.

We shouldn't be distracted by irrelevent questions of abstract rights in hypothetical situations.

As to your statement that "the Northern Alliance isn't liable to get much out of this," you tell me how rational that is.

[ Parent ]

Well, (2.50 / 2) (#129)
by trhurler on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:50:36 PM EST

First of all, your question, are we required to refrain from interfering with food shipments: you are equivocating on the meaning of "interfere." To actively and deliberately prevent might or might not be wrong, and that's debatable, but to say that we're "responsible" for other peoples' actions simply because our (independently motivated) actions are unintentionally motivating those people seems to me to be tantamount to saying that anything I do is unjustified unless I can show that there is no reason I should have believed that it might reasonably have caused anyone else any problems whatsoever, which is simply ridiculous. The world is too complicated for this standard of action.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Murder One, or Negligent Homicide: same outcome (4.00 / 1) (#202)
by BlackAndRed on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 03:15:54 PM EST

You say it's debatable whether disrupting -- actively and intentionally -- disrupting food shipments to a starving country is wrong. I don't think that's debatable at all.

To stay on-topic, I'll let Professor Chomsky respond (from his recent talk at MIT) on the question of "What does the leadership of the West know about the potential human crisis in Afghanistan":

Starvation of 3 to 4 Million People

Well let's start with right now. I'll talk about the situation in Afghanistan. I'll just keep to uncontroversial sources like the New York Times [crowd laughter]. According to the New York Times there are 7 to 8 million people in Afghanistan on the verge of starvation. That was true actually before September 11th. They were surviving on international aid. On September 16th, the Times reported, I'm quoting it, that the United States demanded from Pakistan the elimination of truck convoys that provide much of the food and other supplies to Afghanistan's civilian population. As far as I could determine there was no reaction in the United States or for that matter in Europe. I was on national radio all over Europe the next day. There was no reaction in the United States or in Europe to my knowledge to the demand to impose massive starvation on millions of people. The threat of military strikes right after September..around that time forced the removal of international aid workers that crippled the assistance programs. Actually, I am quoting again from the New York Times. Refugees reaching Pakistan after arduous journeys from AF are describing scenes of desperation and fear at home as the threat of American led military attacks turns their long running misery into a potential catastrophe. The country was on a lifeline and we just cut the line. Quoting an evacuated aid worker, in the New York Times Magazine.

The World Food Program, the UN program, which is the main one by far, were able to resume after 3 weeks in early October, they began to resume at a lower level, resume food shipments. They don't have international aid workers within, so the distribution system is hampered. That was suspended as soon as the bombing began. They then resumed but at a lower pace while aid agencies leveled scathing condemnations of US airdrops, condemning them as propaganda tools which are probably doing more harm than good. That happens to be quoting the London Financial Times but it is easy to continue. After the first week of bombing, the New York Times reported on a back page inside a column on something else, that by the arithmetic of the United Nations there will soon be 7.5 million Afghans in acute need of even a loaf of bread and there are only a few weeks left before the harsh winter will make deliveries to many areas totally impossible, continuing to quote, but with bombs falling the delivery rate is down to 1/2 of what is needed. Casual comment. Which tells us that Western civilization is anticipating the slaughter of, well do the arithmetic, 3-4 million people or something like that. On the same day, the leader of Western civilization dismissed with contempt, once again, offers of negotiation for delivery of the alleged target, Osama bin Laden, and a request for some evidence to substantiate the demand for total capitulation. It was dismissed. On the same day the Special Rapporteur of the UN in charge of food pleaded with the United States to stop the bombing to try to save millions of victims. As far as I'm aware that was unreported. That was Monday. Yesterday the major aid agencies OXFAM and Christian Aid and others joined in that plea. You can't find a report in the New York Times. There was a line in the Boston Globe, hidden in a story about another topic, Kashmir.

Negligence is not an excuse for genocide. There is a causal relationship between the U.S. attack and the human crisis in AF, that's very clear. If this really is a "war against terrorism", our side must make it crystal clear that innocent civilians cannot be subjected to threats of violence. Violence, in all it's forms, must be rejected as incompatible with civilization.

[ Parent ]

high school philosophy (4.75 / 4) (#128)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:46:42 PM EST

Despite whiney rhetoric from leftists, nature is not fair, and humans are a part of nature.
That's meaningless. Humans can be fair. ( Nature is not sentient, and humans are part of nature, so humans are not ... )
An animal which cannot provide for itself dies, with very limited exceptions. Why do you think the human animal is different?
Because, to a first order approximation, each individual human is incapable of supporting itself.

This is not some offhand trolling remark, by the way. While adult members of many, if not most, animal species are fully capable of surviving for extended periods in the wild with zero contact with other members of the same species, the furless, toothless, clawless human is likely to die within months if bereft of his tribe, his technology, and his culture. Heinlein fans should listen to his character John Smith in Beyond This Horizon.

The only question you want to ask yourself is, how do you define your tribe, and why?

[ Parent ]

ignoring relevant facts (3.50 / 4) (#130)
by crayz on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:52:58 PM EST

If the US was in large part responsible for a war that wrecked their country and put them under the rule of totalitarians, then yes I would say we are responsible for feeding them.

Whatever you think of what we're doing now, I doubt many people in Afghanistan appreciated the US's previous involvement in that country's conflicts.

If you're some poor guy on the street, maybe I don't have any responsibility to give you food. OTOH, if I was responsible for burning your house down, it would seem to be a quite different situation.

[ Parent ]
Where'd you buy that crystal ball? (4.50 / 2) (#152)
by Whyaduck on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:10:34 PM EST

...unstated goal of allowing the hated Northern Alliance to regain some or all of it's power...

I'm not sure how you come up with this. On or about 10/17, Colin Powell even suggested allowing moderate Taleban in any new government (personally, I find the idea repulsive). It certainly isn't an unstated goal for the Northern Alliance to have some power in a new government. Ethnic Tajiks and Uzbeks would be rightly upset if all power were invested in the hands of the Pashtun. As for "hated," by whom? The Taleban? RAWA? All Pashtun? All Hazara? What about all of the other minorities? I guess what I'd like to know is, what exactly are you trying to imply by this?
This is the kind of sick mentality that justifies the ongoing human crisis in Iraq: the effects of a U.S.-led sanctions regime that has killed over a million and a half Iraqis, 500,000 of whom were children under the age of five.

I know this has been beaten to death in this (ridiculously skewed) forum, but here goes: Hussein has the power to end the sanctions whenever he decides to comply with the UN mandated weapons inspection. If you can, please explain why the U.S. bears primary responsibility for the results of his intransigence.


Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
She has eyes that folks adore so,
and a torso even more so.

[ Parent ]
Simple (3.00 / 2) (#193)
by trhurler on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:38:35 PM EST

You see, to a leftist, when the US acts independently of the UN, we're evil and should have gone to the UN, but if we act through the UN, we're evil because the UN is just our puppet. What they really mean when they say "go through the UN" is "try to go through the UN, but get shot down," so if it doesn't happen that way, clearly we must have the UN in our pocket, because everyone knows the countries of the world are smart and agree with the leftists!

This has been a "leftists are stupid, but not incomprehensible" news bulletin. Thank you, and good day.

--
'God dammit, your posts make me hard.' --LilDebbie

[ Parent ]
Leftist...heh, if they're not careful... (none / 0) (#219)
by Whyaduck on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 02:00:17 AM EST

...they'll find themselves patting Jerry Falwell on the ass when they go for their wallets. Seriously, I'm left of center, but crap like the post I responded to is so gratuitously emotional and simplistic that it sickens me.


Oh Lydia, oh Lydia, say, have you met Lydia?
Lydia The Tattooed Lady.
She has eyes that folks adore so,
and a torso even more so.

[ Parent ]
patriotism (4.50 / 2) (#160)
by norge on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 11:12:45 PM EST

he's up to his usual anti-US everything bad is good rhetoric. Screw Chomsky and the horse he rode in on.
I find it fascinating that most of the people here who dislike Chomsky seem to be primarily moved by his anti-Americanism. (though I don't believe Chomsky is as anti-American as some, no one can deny that he has at least a little dislike of the American government). I feel no such passion for my country that I would be angered by someone insulting it. I wonder what explains the fact that some people are so very committed to a country? Most countries seem to me more or less beautiful pieces of land populated mostly by idiots and led by people motivated mostly by personal ambition. Not an institution worth getting all hot and bothered about. Maybe I'm too cynical, though.

Benjamin

[ Parent ]

Not an Anti-American (4.00 / 2) (#164)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:58:42 AM EST


I think it is mearly the responce of people who dislike the term "American Government did"...."People died" line of reasoning.

It actually shows a lack of understanding of how and why the government is set up to allow such things, and yet hate them and censor them.

In all honesty, most of the actions can be summed up as the half-attempted actions of a few in power. They are designed to be covert, indirect and therefore unprecise (yet they are critisized as if they were very purposeful to every detailed result read: "People died" as if that was intended or even if it only a related but not direct outcome.) They are shadowed from public scrutiny, and tend to be self-serving.

Why does the government allow this? Well becuase there isn't time to take everything to a vote. Not all the time would a mass of people respond and know the right thing to do. However in this country, when it is working right we have the Chomsky's bringing them to light so we can learn from our actions and do better. (I just wish he'd mention once what would be better though.)

Our Government is a complex beast, with many heads. It is also somewhat a bull in a china closet. Maybe people just resent it when you only dwell on mistakes. Maybe people dismiss it (and rightfuly so) when they feel lead by a rope to make a conclusion at such biased reporting.

Benjamin Franklin noted that America's most valuable asset was its resistance to information. I think that is simply a warranted approach to any agenda compiled reporting.

[ Parent ]
MP3 conversion (5.00 / 9) (#110)
by marx on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 04:48:49 PM EST

I've made an MP3 conversion of the lecture and put it here (13MB).

Feel free to mirror.

I think it's a very good lecture. Regardless if you want to follow all of his arguments, he brings up some relevant facts which are very uncomfortable for the US, and which are very simple to check for validity.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.

How did you do it? (none / 0) (#147)
by Jonathan Walther on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:53:57 PM EST

I was scrambling around last night trying to figure out how to turn the realaudio file into an Ogg file. Can you tell me how you turned it into a .WAV file? Under Linux? The two solutions I found, and couldn't bring myself to implement (time constraints) were, setting up my system to use esd, then doing a trivial wav dump, or using the paudio kernel module, and again, doing a wav dump.

Hopefully you have something better? If I can get the wav I'd really like to use it as a test of how well Ogg does. and since you've already made the mp3 we can do an ideal comparison.

Cheers!

(Luke '22:36 '19:13) => ("Sell your coat and buy a gun." . "Occupy until I come.")


[ Parent ]
use vsound (none / 0) (#165)
by aaron on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 01:09:04 AM EST

I don't know how the original poster did it, but I use vsound for saving realaudio streams. It uses an LD_PRELOAD hack (like the esd wrapper) to redirect output that would normally go to /dev/dsp to a file, and then uses sox to convert to WAV. Then just use oggenc.

[ Parent ]
This was it (none / 0) (#175)
by marx on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 05:15:35 AM EST

Yeah, I used vsound as well. I wish there was a way to suck down the stream faster than real time, but I guess this is adequate. This way it had to be running for 2 hours to capture the sound.

I used sox to downsample to 11025 Hz (8kHz created some really bad MP3 artifacts) and to convert to 8 bits (which I now see seems irrelevant to the MP3 encoding). I then used LAME to encode, with VBR and lowest quality:

lame -V 9 -h -b 8 foo.wav foo.mp3

I'm not really that impressed with MP3 here. The processed WAV came out at 82MB, and the MP3 at 13MB. That's only a 6:1 compression. Especially since I used the lowest possible quality setting, and since it's only voice data, I assumed it would be much better. Maybe other algorithms (or maybe just settings) are more appropriate for voice compression.

Join me in the War on Torture: help eradicate torture from the world by holding torturers accountable.
[ Parent ]

Well it was still a huge help (none / 0) (#267)
by Zanth on Sun Oct 28, 2001 at 02:56:25 PM EST

You still helped me out at least... Instead of me grabbing it realtime, I, because of your generosity....am able to listen to it, fast forward, stop it etc...while I study for my midterm tomorrow. Thank you.

[ Parent ]
Chomsky seems amoral (4.00 / 12) (#124)
by Licquia on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:26:10 PM EST

I confess to not having read much by or about Chomsky, so I'll be happy to accept clarification or correction.

The thing that most strikes me about Chomsky's responses to the 9/11 attacks is his complete lack of moral perception. The exchange with Hitchens is particularly telling in this regard; when Hitchens takes him to task, Chomsky's responses strike me as more bewildered than anything else. He simply doesn't seem capable of absorbing the concept that his ideas could be offensive in any way, or that there is any way of thinking about the moral implications of the Sudan and the 9/11 bombing other than from a statistical point of view.

In this way, he strikes me like a commentator in "defense of one's home" discussions who acridly observes that he can't recall when home burglary was made a capital offense. All of the other moral considerations - the frequency of murders in home burglary, the sense of safety most people require when in their homes, the uncertainty a home dweller feels when confronted with an intruder - are callously disregarded in favor of a statistic: how many "needless" deaths there were.

I'll have to take it as an article of faith that Chomsky is a genius in his chosen field. In politics, however, he's a crank. My only hope is that other advocates can be found for the valuable stances he takes, so that no one is distracted by his crankiness to take the opposite view on those subjects, and that he be relegated soon to the obscurity of retirement.

Sooo riiight .... (3.28 / 7) (#125)
by StrontiumDog on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:33:35 PM EST

Chomsky simply doesn't think enough about the children, like any decent American policy wonk should.

Fuck the facts. Our children are at stake here. When all other political commentators are mooing in unison, Chomsky had better moo right along with them. To do otherwise is callous and amoral in the extreme.

My God! Who ever gave the man the right!

[ Parent ]

This completely (2.75 / 4) (#133)
by M0dUluS on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:11:33 PM EST

changes my perception of the man. Man?!!!! He's a goddamned MONSTER. I'm surprised that literally _anyone_ can think about facts at a time like this.
I've always suspected that he was Anti-American and this confirms it.
Damn him! Damn him!

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Eh? (2.75 / 4) (#137)
by Licquia on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:28:53 PM EST

[Did something happen to my "welcoming clarification or correction" part? I thought sarcasm was appropriate only when talking to the already convinced.]

I see you're not very familiar with good moral discourse. That's not surprising; it seems that very few people care to think about anything in a non-empirical manner. If I may enlighten you...

In rational discourse, it's proper to disagree; one is expected to have a good reason to disagree, and to be ready to give the good reason if there is more dissent. This is true when talking about moral issues in the same way as anything else.

My point (since you seem to have missed it) is not that Chomsky has a different position on the moral issues, but that he seems to have no position on them; indeed, it seems that the concept of having such a position strikes him as odd. This, in my opinion, makes him a political hack, along the lines of those who dismiss evolutionary theory by quoting Scripture.

But, then again, you seem to be similarly blind, if you would equate a sound moral argument with quiver-lipped self-serving political rhetoric.

[ Parent ]

Eh? Eh? (2.00 / 2) (#171)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 03:46:48 AM EST

My point (since you seem to have missed it) is not that Chomsky has a different position on the moral issues, but that he seems to have no position on them; indeed, it seems that the concept of having such a position strikes him as odd.
What is a "moral issue", which "moral issues" are you referring to, and why is it neccessary for political commentators to take an explicit moral stance on historical events?
This, in my opinion, makes him a political hack, along the lines of those who dismiss evolutionary theory by quoting Scripture.
You couldn't have chosen a less appropriate analogy.

[ Parent ]
What is a moral issue? (4.00 / 1) (#186)
by Licquia on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 11:45:17 AM EST

Well, how about Chomsky's equivocation of the Sudan attacks with the September 11 bombings? That's a moral issue. Chomsky compares the two strictly on the basis of statistics: how many Sudanese have died, directly or indirectly, as a result of the 1998 bombing, versus the number of victims of the 9/11 attacks. Hitchens takes him to task for putting malicious intent and bungling on the same moral plane, and Chomsky dismisses any talk of "moral planes" as irrational. Thus, my comment about him being "amoral" (which may not be the best word; he seems at best ethically naive).

The evolution analogy is perfect for this. Scientists are interested in the best scientific theory to fit the facts as we know them; the Scripture guy doesn't give one whit for science in this debate. So, his quote of Genesis is irrelevant in a scientific discussion. Chomsky, in the same vein, responds to an ethical discussion with some nonsense about his statistics being correct and about how ethical discourse is irrational. Again, the stats are irrelevant to the discussion at hand (and, I should point out, are not challenged by Hitchens, either).

[ Parent ]

Right (3.25 / 4) (#132)
by Simon Kinahan on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:11:02 PM EST

So what you're saying here is that policy, in both civil and foreign matters, should be determined by immediate emotional responses? Its OK to bomb a country back to the mid-cambrian (it was already paleolithic) because you're feeling upset ? I'm glad noone with your mindset ever occupied the oval office during the cold war.

Seriously, and you think Chomsky's ideas show a lack of moral perception ?

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
Funny. I don't recall... (4.00 / 3) (#145)
by Licquia on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:26:34 PM EST

...having expressed a position on the bombing in my post.

[reads it again]

Nope, still don't see it.

I'm detecting a trend here - it seems that "moral" and "emotional" are seen as equivalent by a lot of people around here. So, I take it, the concept of a "rational moral discourse" is foreign to you?

[ Parent ]

Nope (4.66 / 3) (#180)
by Simon Kinahan on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 08:16:15 AM EST

Firstly, I apologise for the sarcastic tone of my former post. I'll explain later, but first, Chomsky ...

I must admit to being confused by your usage of the word "moral". I'm no particular fan of Chomsky, but lack of morality certainly isn't something I'd accuse him of. What I would criticise in him - and on rereading your post, perhaps this is what you're getting at too - is his failure to make clear the ethical position from which he is writing. This - to me - makes a lot of his work rather confusing and unsatisfying to read. When Chomsky says "this situation in which the US government is involved is resulting is deaths," that is clearly true, but its not really worth very much without some weighing of the other options, which he doesn't do. Are we saying the same thing here, or are you getting at something different ?

Now, I think I know why he does this. Because he's coming from the perspective of the anarchist left, he is, on principle, opposed to any government action, apart, sometimes, from those intended to relieve the conditions the state and capital bring into existence in the first place. He therefore objects, in practice, to the frame in which most people would ask the question. I suppose, from one perspective, that given that, his emphasis on particular events and particular atrocities is hypocritical or inconsistent, but I don't see it that way myself. Its been a particular failing of the radical left, especially over the last twenty years, to fail to put forward practical alternatives either in the short run, or over the longer span.

The reason I was somewhat sarcastic before, in response to your last post, is your apparent condemnation of the use of "callous" statistics in making moral decisions. When events happen on an immensely large scale, its my view that in order to make good moral choices, we must use statistics, and rather explicit reasoning, to avoid being sucked into bad ones, by repeated images on TV, or emotive rhetoric (yes, very stoical, I know). The common view of statistical reasoning as "cold" or "heartless" is one of my pet hates, because its so often cynically deployed by people with an agenda. Of course statistics cannot make moral decisions for you: you've got to decide for yourself whether to choose a few thousand lives or justice for one man as the higher value (although the current choice isn't that simple).

Simon

If you disagree, post, don't moderate
[ Parent ]
You have it exactly (4.50 / 2) (#192)
by Licquia on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:25:13 PM EST

Perhaps it's my turn to apologize now. :-)

You have grasped my objection exactly, and have given me a great deal of additional information which helps me understand better. I do also agree with you about the place of statistics in moral discourse; neither facts nor principles are sufficient alone as a basis for a good moral decision. My choice of words may have been unfortunate; I'm particularly not satisfied with the word "amoral", which implies way more than I intended.

I suppose I will reserve judgment on Chomsky, then, until I read more. I do think, however, that he may have at minimum been guilty of poor judgment in assuming that his audiences will understand his moral position on things (especially considering that he seems to be getting reported even more widely than usual).

[ Parent ]

Imagined failings (1.00 / 1) (#200)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 03:10:07 PM EST

Its been a particular failing of the radical left, especially over the last twenty years, to fail to put forward practical alternatives either in the short run, or over the longer span.

Only if you don't accept that anarcho-communism is a practical alternative. To many, including Chomsky who are part of the libertarian left this is a logical and practical solution. Asking them to "fix" the current un-workable system (Capitalism) is like asking someone that doesn't believe in cold-fusion to suggest how its failings can be mitigated.
Because of the need to ameliorate in the short-term many on the libertarian left have come up with short-term, stop-gap solutions, indeed to quote from the speech under discussion:

A sensible proposal which is kind of on the verge of being considered, but it has been sensible all along, and it is being raised, called for by expatriate Afghans and allegedly tribal leaders internally, is for a UN initiative, which would keep the Russians and Americans out of it, totally. These are the 2 countries that have practically wiped the country out in the last 20 years. They should be out of it. They should provide massive reparations. But that?s their only role. A UN initiative to bring together elements within Afghanistan that would try to construct something from the wreckage. It?s conceivable that that could work, with plenty of support and no interference. If the US insists on running it, we might as well quit. We have a historical record on that one. We certainly want to reduce the level of terror, certainly not escalate it. There is one easy way to do that and therefore it is never discussed. Namely stop participating in it. That would automatically reduce the level of terror enormously. But that you can?t discuss. Well we ought to make it possible to discuss it. So that?s one easy way to reduce the level of terror.

Beyond that, we should rethink the kinds of policies, and Afghanistan is not the only one, in which we organize and train terrorist armies. That has effects. We?re seeing some of these effects now. September 11th is one. Rethink it.

Rethink the policies that are creating a reservoir of support. Exactly what the bankers, lawyers and so on are saying in places like Saudi Arabia. On the streets it?s much more bitter, as you can imagine. That?s possible. You know, those policies aren?t graven in stone.

And further more there are opportunities. It?s hard to find many rays of light in the last couple of weeks but one of them is that there is an increased openness. Lots of issues are open for discussion, even in elite circles, certainly among the general public, that were not a couple of weeks ago. That?s dramatically the case. I mean, if a newspaper like USA Today can run a very good article, a serious article, on life in the Gaza Strip?there has been a change. The things I mentioned in the Wall Street Journal?that?s change. And among the general public, I think there is much more openness and willingness to think about things that were under the rug and so on. These are opportunities and they should be used, at least by people who accept the goal of trying to reduce the level of violence and terror, including potential threats that are extremely severe and could make even September 11th pale into insignificance. Thanks.



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
Not Amoral At All, IMHO (4.25 / 4) (#136)
by mech9t8 on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:23:14 PM EST

The thing that most strikes me about Chomsky's responses to the 9/11 attacks is his complete lack of moral perception.

I'd disagree with that totally. He's just far more concerned about our own moral perception - what is done by our government, in our name - the actions we have some degree of responsibility for.

So he's outraged by the millions are deaths from US actions throughout our history which the public and media ignores or excuses.

And when he talks about the reasons behind the hatred of Americans, he's not saying "excuse the terrorists because of these reason", he's saying "the attacks were in retaliation for these reasons." In other words, the best way to prevent future attacks isn't through killing thousands innocent Muslims through the bombing raids, but to stop the behaviour which enrages them. He's afraid that current US military action, despite whatever damage it does to the terrorist networks, is going to end up increasing, rather than decreasing, the attacks on US soil - and the way to stop the hatred of Americans is to truely act benevolent, instead of acting like terrorists in the name of being benevolent.

Now, whether that's a valid point of view or not is of course open to debate. But I certainly got no impression of "lack of moral perception" - it's just that is was focused on us instead of the easy targets of the terrorists. Yes, of course the terrorists are evil madmen - but we have to try to make sure that in our desire for revenge we don't end up creating more of them...

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

"amoral" perhaps not the best word (4.00 / 3) (#146)
by Licquia on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 08:46:41 PM EST

I would agree with you in that I do think that he's making moral statements, and that he comes at this from what appears, at first glance, to be a moral point of view.

I suppose what strikes me about what I've read so far is that it seems to betray a completely uncritical assessment of his own moral position - uncritical almost to the point of blindness. He doesn't seem aware of his own perspective.

The Hitchens dialogue at The Nation here seems to embody my thesis best. Hitchens is coming at this from a different moral perspective, and is disagreeing with some of Chomsky's fundamental moral axioms in his long discussions about equating the Sudan and New York bombings. Chomsky's responses are very condescending - labeling Hitchens's criticisms almost as non-intellectual, even describing them as anomalous. It just doesn't seem to occur to him that someone could rationally disagree with him about his fundamental moral precepts.

I've thought about it more, and it seems that Chomsky is falling prey to something I call "statistical utilitarianism" (wow, sounds good, eh? :-) It's a naive utilitarian view ("the greatest good for the greatest number") combined with statistical analysis, so as to put some numbers to that vague "greatest good" idea. As happens, it's much easier to collect statistics on evil than on good, so it becomes an argument for "the best action is that which causes the least number of casualties". That's a bit more crass than I think Chomsky is, but it gets the basic gist.

Of course, the problem with "statistical utilitarianism" of this form is that it has no predictive power. We can't look at something like this and say, in a particular situation, "we should choose such-and-so", especially in a lesser-of-two-evils situation. All he can do is look back with the harsh light of hindsight and pronounce judgment. While that's often the job of morality, it's not terribly useful on its own; if not joined with some predictive power, it can do nothing positive.

Thus, I am not surprised to hear from a Chomsky defender in this thread something along the lines of "his only problem is that he illuminates rather than provides practical guidelines".

Again, I should reiterate that I'm no Chomsky expert, and would love to hear arguments to the contrary.

[ Parent ]

Hitchens and Chomsky debate (4.50 / 2) (#178)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 06:32:26 AM EST

Hitchens is coming at this from a different moral perspective, and is disagreeing with some of Chomsky's fundamental moral axioms in his long discussions about equating the Sudan and New York bombings. Chomsky's responses are very condescending - labeling Hitchens's criticisms almost as non-intellectual, even describing them as anomalous. It just doesn't seem to occur to him that someone could rationally disagree with him about his fundamental moral precepts.
Hitchen's criticisms are anomalous. Hitchens says, and this is very telling, in the last paragraph of "Of Sin, The Left, and Islamic Fascism":

'Do "our" past crimes and sins make it impossible to expiate the offense by determined action? Those of us who were not consulted about, and are not bound by, the previous covert compromises have a special responsibility to say a decisive "no" to this. '

The question is then, why Hitchens feels it is necessary to expiate the offense of Sept. 11 by determined action, while the Sudan bombings (also an offense by Hitchen's very own admission in the same article) are deserving of no such expiation?

Hitchen's only - his only - reason for placing the Sept. 11 attack in a different moral category than any of the many other atrocities he listed in his article, was his opinion that the Sept. 11 attackers intended to maximise civilian casualties, while equally great or greater civilian casualties as a result of US terror actions against innocents in other countries were largely a side effect of gross indifference.

Chomsky's response to this was very short, and very simple:

'The reason for the reluctance [to reply to Hitchen's article] is that Hitchens cannot mean what he is saying. For that reason alone--there are others that should be obvious--this is no proper context for addressing serious issues relating to the September 11 atrocities'

The rest of his article and the ensuing exchange of rejoinders, do not directly touch on this topic any more. They are also rather one sided, as Hitchens insists on carrying out an argument over topics on which he and Chomsky are more in fundamental agreement than disagreement over. The main issue that seems to raise his gall, is Chomsky's refusal to view the Sept. 11 bombings in a different moral light from the Sudan bombings and other similar atrocities. As a result, he attempts to portray Chomsky's rationalization of the Sept. 11 attacks as justification for them. This is a strawman argument, and Chomsky rightly refuses to engage in debate over it.

[ Parent ]

Absolutely correct - and that's my point (3.00 / 1) (#189)
by Licquia on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:10:52 PM EST

You seem to have done a better job of describing the argument than I. However, this analysis only strengthens my conclusion.

Hitchens is, essentially, making his distinction based on the motivation of the perpetrators in each case. There is certainly room for debate here; I myself am not totally convinced that this is a good basis for making such a distinction.

Chomsky could have responded in such a way; he could have poked some holes in Hitchens's argument in several ways (by pointing out, for example, that the 9/11 people believed in a just cause and were responding to perceived oppression, while Clinton was just sacrificing the Sudanese to his political problems). Instead, he treats Hitchens's discussion of moral principle as if it were some form of mental illness, and suggests that such discussions of principle are "improper". He even implies that Hitchens is being racist, an accusation which (unfortunately) takes way too much of Hitchens's time after that.

I am not so much objecting to Chomsky's views here as his method. He may be right, for all I know. But I would argue that short-circuiting debate about the moral foundation for his arguments (especially in the cavalier and disrespectful manner he does) is very, very dangerous. We all take it for granted that we should question the moral upbringing we each receive from parents/church/etc.; why should we not do the same with the presuppositions and prejudices we acquire after that?

[ Parent ]

Because ... (5.00 / 2) (#196)
by StrontiumDog on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 12:59:23 PM EST

If you read Chomsky's other articles, you will discover that he holds the position that there is no moral difference between the Sept. 11 bombings and a long litany of US-sponsored or US-directed attacks against foreign civilians. Hitchens, who undoubtedly has been familiar with Chomsky's ideas for far longer than I have, knows this too. Chomsky has been sharply critical of what he perceives to be US atrocities and crimes against humanity for going on three decennia now, and there is no reason to think that the Sept. 11 attack, remarkable essentially only in its magnitude, would change his mind.

It was, to put it mildly, at best naďeve of Hitchens to expect that Chomsky would shift his views on terrorism for an attack that just coincidentally happened to be directed against US citizens for a change. Seen from Chomsky's perspective it can be construed as racist, to single out for intense moral scrutiny an action by Arabs while ignoring similar actions by Americans in the past.

[ Parent ]

Don't catch on quickly, I see (4.00 / 1) (#206)
by Licquia on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 04:12:11 PM EST

Yes, I understand what Chomsky's moral position on the subject is, and that Hitchens should not have been surprised by it, and so on.

If I may put it a little more strongly: How dare any mere mortal such as Hitchens presuppose to question the great moral intellect of Chomsky? He should sit in his little swivel chair and churn out analyses of the Sudan situation like a good boy, and leave the real thinking to his betters.

That was my take on Chomsky's rather dismissive response. It may not have been a fair take (see the thread with Simon Kinahan), but it was a valid concern.

You seem so completely taken by Chomsky that you can't separate his method from his message in your mind. No one is infallible, and back-and-forth debate is a good way of weeding out the occasional missteps that inevitably rise from even the best minds. Yet (as I saw it) Chomsky sees himself as better than the best minds, and unwilling to lower himself to such a level where his pronouncements could be considered wrong.

And as for Hitchens, I don't particularly think he cares so much to convince Chomsky as he does to convince others. I think he expected to differ in this regard with him (didn't he even jab a little at the "Chomsky contingent" or some such?). What surprised him (and me) was the arrogant dismissal and veiled accusations that formed Chomsky's response. That, I think, served as the impetus for his subsequent writings: a surprise at the sudden anti-intellectual turn Chomsky had just taken.

[ Parent ]

That's not the point. (5.00 / 1) (#233)
by StrontiumDog on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 12:37:39 PM EST

To put it bluntly, Hitchens was looking for a fight from the get-go. His original essay contained a strawman attack on Chomsky, who refused to engage him on that point. Put simply, Hitchens tried to picture Chomsky's rationalisation of the Sept. 11 attacks as a justification. The difference is crucial. Nowhere did Chomsky ever say the attacks were justified. But Hitchens acts as if he were, and tries to engage Chomsky in debate on these grounds.

Look, Hitchens made a lot of incendiary remarks such as "I am quite certain that in such a case Husseini and his rabble of sympathizers would still be telling me that my chickens were coming home to roost" and "To mention this banana-republic degradation of the United States in the same breath as a plan, deliberated for months, to inflict maximum horror upon the innocent is to abandon every standard that makes intellectual and moral discrimination possible".

Really, you are granting Hitchens way too much credit, and attaching way too much importance to the exchange. Personally, if I were to be confronted by such trolling ad hominem attacks I would not bother replying. Were I a respected real world political commentator, I would not grant the dignity of a reply to an essay accusing me of "abandoning every standard" up front without any fucking justification other than the fact that I fail to share the author's viewpoints. If you want to examine Chomsky's behaviour you'd best look for better examples than exchanges with a journalist who was quite frankly behaving like an asshole.

And no, you are mistaken, I am not a Chomsky fan.

[ Parent ]

He does offer a prediction. (none / 0) (#217)
by mech9t8 on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 10:43:49 PM EST

Of course, the problem with "statistical utilitarianism" of this form is that it has no predictive power. We can't look at something like this and say, in a particular situation, "we should choose such-and-so", especially in a lesser-of-two-evils situation. All he can do is look back with the harsh light of hindsight and pronounce judgment.

I would disagree with that. Chomsky offers the view that, based on the responses to past actions, the US should not be unilaterily bombing Afghanistan, but should follow internation law.

Based on past history and current facts, it can be postulated that these attacks will result in enormous civilian casualities. And that, as a result of these casualities and the arbitrary way the US is implementing them, sympathy for the terrorist cause will grow and, as a result, the terrorist threat to the US will increase rather than decrease.

So he offers a clear point of view on what should be done and what the consequences will be.

If, twenty years from now, in the harsh light of hindsight, it is found that the US actions practically eliminated the terrorist networks, the native Afghans and surrounding nations were pleased with the new government and the light civilian casaulties, and democracy and freedom are flourishing in the Muslim world, he'll be proved wrong.

If, on the other hand, Afghanistan collapses back to a decades-long civil war with enormous casualties, Pakistan and other Muslim nations are overrun by hard-line Islamic governments, and the US is hit by several more mass attacks, perhaps he'll be shown to have had a point.

Of course, what's going to happen in somewhere in the middle - and the Chomsky-ites will find evidence for their hypothesis, the war-supporters will find evidence for their hypothesis, and everyone will continue to disagree. Eventually, history may reach a conclusion, but this will never be an easy one to decide.

(Unlike other US actions, such as their support of freedom fighters/terrorists (take your pick) in South America, which the world has already pretty much decided were wrong.)

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

Did Chomsky Really Say That? (none / 0) (#218)
by On Lawn on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 01:15:30 AM EST

Chomsky offers the view that, based on the responses to past actions, the US should not be unilaterily bombing Afghanistan, but should follow internation law.

Where does he say this? That would be interesting since he would be singularly accusing the US of this. As far as I have researched and surmised from UN debates, America is following international law in military action on the grounds that was attacked, it can fight back. I believe Chomsky would be wrong if he said America was breaking international law.

Its evidence as to the people that attacked it are good enough for most nations including long time opponents of American actions as Pakistan, Iran, China, and Russia.

Not everyone likes the idea of bombing Afghanistan, that is true. But no one to my knowledge has even disputed the right under international law for America to do so. Chomsky might be that exception, but then what are his arguements? Why is he the only one siezing the opportunity when many of America's enemy's (including Al Queda) do not?

[ Parent ]

Probably should listen to the actual lecture ;) (5.00 / 1) (#229)
by mech9t8 on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 11:24:08 AM EST

In the lecture which this whole article's about, he says the US should be working with the UN and the UN Security Council to at least authorize this action. (There has been no UN Security Council authorization for the current US action, nor was the there, BTW, for the Yugoslavia bombings.) He also thinks the terrorists should be pursued through the mechanisms for the World Court - and that the evidence presented thus far as an excuse to bomb Afghanistan is ridiculously skimpy.

Countries like the one you mentioned are all over supporting the US "war on terror" because they use the excuse of "counter-terrorism" to abuse their own ethnic minorities (the most obvious example being the Russians and Chechnya, or the Yugaslavian actions in Kosovo, which were ostensibly the counter the terrorism of the KLA).

Chomsky even thinks there wouldn't be a problem for the US to get Security Council authorization for the Afghanistan bombing of because that self-interest, but the US should do it anyway just to give the UN some credibility. Countries just plain aren't supposed to use violence without Security Council authorization - of course, the US (and NATO) already ignored that with the Yugoslavia action. But the UN as the only entity allowed to authorize violence to enforce is one of the tenets of international law.

The reason you don't here about this from the UN, etc, is that no one wants to get on the US's bad side.

Why is he the only one siezing the opportunity when many of America's enemy's (including Al Queda) do not?

Becuase they're lousy public speakers? Or perhaps we haven't been listening to everything their saying? Probably they're just dumbasses.

The Taliban statements have repeatedly criticized the US for illegally bombing Afghanistan, and have said the only reason they haven't handed bin Laden over is that the US hasn't presented any evidence.

Chomsky thinks that evidence should be provided to the Taliban on the theory that no one wants to be bombed, and if we handed over evidence they'd use it as an excuse to hand him over and stop the bombing.

Me, I think that's bullshit, as the Taliban already has been given evidence, including evidence about the Embassy bombings, UUS Cole, etc., and if they were going to give him up, they would've. For some dumbass reason they're not.

But I still think it's worthwhile listening to what Chomsky has to say. ;)

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

Thats good, I just wanted to know (none / 0) (#231)
by On Lawn on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 12:13:07 PM EST


I'm glad he didn't try to accuse the US of breaking international law. I agree, I would like to see more "world court" action. But I don't think the US is outside or playing above international law. I haven't heard any real critizm launched along those lines. Not that it must not be there, but its not that I don't go out of my way to read international news from other countries either.

It is interesting however, mentioning the Taliban. I was listening to NPR yesterday and hearing reports from Aid stations in Afghanistan. They provided three or more quotes along the lines of "The Taliban and Mujahadeen killed tens of thousands in indescriminant attacks on Kabul alone. Where were these Islam clerics demanding protection of civilians then?" They also mentioned that it is obvious to them from the ground that America is targeting military installations, and that the attacks from Taliban and Mujuhadeen were not.

It would be interesting if the Joe-farmer of the country really did credit the US for being so respectful of civilians and remembered the atrocities commited against them by the Taliban and Mujuhadeen.

[ Parent ]
what IS his chosen field? (1.00 / 1) (#167)
by rebelcool on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 02:04:47 AM EST

i see this guy's name everywhere..kinda bugs me, really. I even found his name in a sociology textbook the other day. What qualifications does he have to speak about anything in particular?

He seems like the typical slashdotter on steroids. A semi-informed (though not well-informed) opinion about everything and can't stop ranting and raving about them.

COG. Build your own community. Free, easy, powerful. Demo site
[ Parent ]

Chomsky's field (3.00 / 1) (#174)
by xmutex on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 05:15:14 AM EST

His chosen field is linguistics and he's incredibly brilliant in that arena. His politics.. well.. they basically define the far left.

bullet the blue sky

[ Parent ]
I disagree (none / 0) (#185)
by epepke on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 11:38:46 AM EST

I did some work in computational linguistics during the mid-1980's (automatic generation of utterances from a knowledge base using Filmore deep cases and HPSG) and also some anthropological linguistics.

Chomsky is to linguistics what Aristotle was to physics. Brilliant and logical maybe, but anti-empirical. Unfortunately, due to his influence, skill as an academic, and political (in the sense of University politics) power, at a conservative estimate, I'd say as a conservative estimate that he has held linguistics back three decades.


The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


[ Parent ]
Yeah... (4.00 / 1) (#220)
by Kaki Nix Sain on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 02:37:42 AM EST

... maybe:
at a conservative estimate, I'd say as a conservative estimate that he has held linguistics back three decades.
But that was after he sat it forward forty years, so it all works out well and to his credit.

Perhaps the giants beneath us didn't see over the hills that we can; that can't justify not giving them proper credit for our view. If you have seen farther,...



[ Parent ]

While we're on the topic... (2.00 / 3) (#127)
by Anatta on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 06:44:58 PM EST

Anybody know anything about these allegations that Chomsky is a neo-Nazi? The text is long, large print, and has a horrid yellow background, so be forwarned... but it is still an interesting piece.

I didn't check any of the sources, so I don't know how accurate it is, nor do I know the reputation of the guy who wrote it, however he is a Prof. of Sociology at the University of British Columbia.

I have always tended to ignore Chomsky because he seems to lie by omission, however these accusations (if true) take him to a whole different, much more malevolent level.

Here is Chomsky's reply to the accuser.
My Music

Better to dispute the arguments presented... (4.60 / 5) (#138)
by mech9t8 on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 07:45:48 PM EST

then slander the man. Even if he was a new-Nazi (which I doubt), it would be better to defeat his arguments with facts and reason than to just dismiss him with name-calling. If there was clear evidence, maybe you could just go "he's a neo-Nazi" and ignore him... but since the arguments in the article are apparently filled with lies and half-truths, the time spent trying to figure out the truth would be better spend debating the actual issues.

It's fairly common for those that think Israel is an oppressive occupying force to be labelled as neo-Nazis or anti-Semetic or whatnot.

I tend disagree with Chomsky's overall position on Israel, but I don't think it comes from any deep-seated hatred of Jews - he just sees it more like an oppressive European nation oppressing non-Europeans. In other words, if one wanted to accuse him of something, it would be closer to "white guilt" than anti-Semitism.

I have always tended to ignore Chomsky because he seems to lie by omission

Every source of information will lie by omission. If you ignore Chomsky, you have to equally careful to ignore those that disagree with him.

The better solution is to not ignore Chomsky, but to look for information against his points of view as well.

Or find a source of information that properly explores all sides of an issue. But those are exceedingly rare.

--
IMHO
[ Parent ]

anti-Chomsky zealots not looking good (5.00 / 1) (#225)
by glasnost on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 04:34:34 AM EST

I checked out that first link, on the ugly yellow background (isn't horrid web design in the internet crackpot checklist?) The author makes some valid points about some intellectual dishonesty in Chomsky's writing - essentially Chomsky does not hide his distain for those he speaks out against. In addition, Chomsky seems obsessed with simply the US and Israel as the demons to be slayed, but I don't see how it is dishonest to simply stick with one thesis. Sure, more could be important than what is mentioned, but that is irrelevant.

Now on to the anti-anti-Chomsky part. It is particularly obnoxious to see the anti-Chomskyists repeat almost perfectly the very things they accuse Chomsky of. They accuse him of characterizing his opponents as saying things they did not say, yet, (for instance), Mr. Cohn starts off by asserting that Chomsky meant X when he used scare quotes in passage Y. When I read the passage, before Cohn kindly told me what it meant, I ended up with a completely different interpretation. I don't even really remember the myriad of other examples of Cohn demonstrating the very evils that he accused Chomsky of, but there were so many of them I stopped reading at 1/3 of the way through. It was just too sickening.

In general, it seems that Chomsky can look really bad if you begin by assuming Chomsky is not trying to pursue the truth, or intellectual honesty, whatever you want to call it, and is instead pushing an adgenda. Suddenly, all sorts of hidden meanings pop up in Chomsky passages. I can see how these might possibly be true, but my overall impression of Chomsky is that he tries to be impartial and logical. People just try to read into Chomsky too damned far, and their own expectations of what they THINK he is trying to say (or even WANTS to say) end up appearing right there between the lines. Besides, why limit this to Chomsky? Isn't everyone just pushing an adgenda? Shouldn't we therefore just disregard everything, and cut off all communication with other human beings? (No need to respond.)

You might say at this point that we should throw our hands up in despair, as we will all be presupposing something when we read Chomsky. The supporters will see only golden truths spewing forth, the opposers will see dishonest mud slinging and lies of ommission. But I think it is possible to read Chomsky and suspend judgement first. In fact, when I began reading some of his works, I knew basically nothing about him, so I enjoyed a relatively unbiased starting point. I took things at face value. Consequently, I have been shocked by this entire discussion. It seems like Chomsky has been elevated to "God" status, and is either entirely right or entirely wrong. I will continue to dissent, however, and assert that he is sometimes right and sometimes wrong, but regardless, he has important things to say. Or better yet, important issues to draw our attention to.

Here's an interesting theory: Everyone is insanely jealous that Chomsky is so well known for so many contributions and activity in so many diverse intellectual realms. Realizing that elevating themselves to such revered status would take too much work, too much personal risk, and perhaps much more intelligence than they possess, they determine that the only option to appease their egos is to dismiss everything Chomsky has done entirely. He can't just be wrong about some things: he has to be an asshole, or a crackpot, or an isolated intellectual in an ivory tower, etc, and hence worthy only of complete dismissal. Unfortunately they are so small-minded, they cannot help from reproducing some of the very flaws they imagine him making, and of course they are human, so they cannot help but repeat the same human, emotional intrusions into intellectual discourse that Chomsky must inevitably make.

In conclusion, I am saddened to have had to post this.

[ Parent ]
don't read, I'm sick of saying it also. (5.00 / 1) (#228)
by On Lawn on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 11:12:23 AM EST

Here's an interesting theory: Everyone is insanely jealous that Chomsky is so well known for so many contributions and activity in so many diverse intellectual realms. Realizing that elevating themselves to such revered status would take too much work, too much personal risk, and perhaps much more intelligence than they possess, they determine that the only option to appease their egos is to dismiss everything Chomsky has done entirely.

This sums it up doesn't it. Where the anti-chomsky's (which I'm becoming more and more on their side after continueing to see more wholesale dismisals from chomsky supporters) have presented direct and blatant evidence that Chomsky uses journalistic tactics and emotional arguments more akin to yellow journalism, you would simply dismiss it as jealousy? We call that ascribing an evil motive to an action, since your only support for that is that they are against Chomsky. If you could show some evidence of jealousy other than disagreement, then it could be a viable accusation. There is another accusation in there, that people are dismissing Chomsky altogether. That may be true, but it is justified on far more grounds than jealousy. I for one do not dismiss his evidence, but his tactics. I do become wary of evidence presented in such a yellow journalistic way also, but I do not dismiss it.

Does Chomsky not litteraly claim that people that don't see how he does is is voluntarily blind? Have not particular supporters litteraly dismissed anti-chomsky's as first resorting to simple anti-american labeling, pre-forming biases, and now simply jealous? What kind of tactics are these?

Indeed I've seem more lucid arguments, more extensive presentation of facts and fair journalism from the anti-chomsky's than the pro-chomsky's that so honor such practices.

I came in to the conversation pretty innocent of Chomsky bias. My first tip off was the guy that said "Everyone dismisses Chomsky as Anti-American." I pointed out that such charachterization was simply stereo-typing his competition. Now instead of providing what sure-fire would be instant refutations one has resorted to simply rating those who disagree with him with ones.

My next tip was the people that argued "Show me where Chomsky does these tactics" yet have not come to his defence when such evidence was laid out plainly with plenty of supporting evidence. With the exeption of you who quickly resorted to an appeal that there are two ways to look at it and then slander the people who don't see things your way as initially biased and jealous.

Meanwhile on K5, the prevailing anti-chomsky wind was that he was simply a deck-stacking, opposition belittling master of sophistry, not that he was anti-american. Many quotes were provided in evidence of this. In fact as one has recently pointed out that even anti-americans dismiss his flagrant style.

Also, I assure you that many read his works without preconcieved notions of him. I think it would be very unfair to wholesale the competition as simply "biased against Chomsky from the get-go." Would you presume that everyone that has said they are against him had to be from the beginning?

I can only speak for myself in that I started out simply dismissing the urge to follow any character judgements Chomsky required in his reasoning. Now after an afternoon of reading it was plain to see that these character judgements are key emotional arguments to support his reasoning. Is a reluctance to follow charachter judgements an initial bias? If it is, toward what side is it biased?

In any case, an argument that there are two ways of looking at something should be an olive leaf, not a platform for a motive attack.

[ Parent ]

The deal with the neo-nazi allegations (none / 0) (#265)
by eean on Sun Oct 28, 2001 at 12:54:23 PM EST

He has defended the right to neo-Nazi's and those who allege the Holocaust occured the right to free speech. He wrote a paper about the importance of free speech and told someone in the latter camp he could do whatever he wanted with it, so the Holocaust-revisitionist put it as the introduction to his book that was censured by the French.

That doesn't make him a neo-Nazi. His name is Chomsky for crying out load; he got interested in linguistics because his father wrote a book about Hebrew gammar and he was raised in an Orthodox Jewish family. He simply argues for free speech.

[ Parent ]
seemed logical ... (3.58 / 12) (#150)
by mc2kleen on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 09:42:24 PM EST

Want to stop terrorism? Stop antagonizing the terrorists. Seems pretty logical. It's like, want to stop your headache? Try an aspirin. Want to avoid getting hit by a train? Don't step in front of one. And on and on.

I agree with Chomsky when he says that by stopping our own terror activities in other nations, we would reduce the threat-level of terror to ourselves significantly (he didn't say stop). Not everone sees our actions as Americans do, when you look up and see a plane with American markings dropping bombs on your house and killing your family, you don't stop to question who is trying to kill you, thus it isn't hard to see who your enemy is. Is blood simple really, it's caveman logic, thousands of years of genetic coding. It doesn't take some pedantic, self-important MIT Professor to make me realize this. Hey sorry Noam, but you come off as a pampared academic snob. But he has a good point or two. Unfortunately, in between those facts he just tries to wear you down with details and little sound-bytes.

"Operation Enduring Hard-On" HAS to succeed at all costs. George W. Bush's political future rides upon it. After all he's a true patriot, rich, separatist ... just like everyone else. I really loved seeing him next to the guys gutting it out down at Ground Zero. What a twerp, he looked like he was about to break and blow away. All that'd be left is that Cheshire Smirk of his.

I wish more people would get pissed off at being swindled by big government. Do you really care what happens to Afghanistan? More-pointedly, should we have ever cared what happened to Afghanistan? One minute the US is some jack-booted policeman going around beating up nations fighting out their own shit and passing out weapons like condoms (oh wait we don't even do that really); the next minute we're the scruffy fireman, bruised but not defeated, erecting a new more united nation. Sniff. Spielberg couldn't have done it better. (when exactly did we change back into Dr. Jekyl?)

My thoughts were always, so what if Kuwait got invaded? Do the R&D, use that big collective brain of ours to figure something else out: alternative fuel Sources, better means of travel, better, more renewable materials. So Hussein wants to better leverage himself on the global petroleum market and make a financial killing, yeah? and? I don't see what the problem is. Pull up stakes and tell the Middle-East to go fuck themselves, they can have their useless land and oil, we're going to "endure" into something else. You'd see just how well somebody goes out of business when you stop buying their product.

But that is all beside and after the point, I mean we already screwed everything up by perfecting nuclear weapons and then letting them proliferate. As a child of the cold war, the notion of mutually assured destruction just doesn't make me feel safer.

And all of this Disney sponsored let's-buy-the-nation-a-big-Hallmark-card-shit drives me crazy. The FBI publicly acknowledged that a significant threat faces everyday citizen of the US and its allies. In the same breath almost our President turns around and tells us to go shopping. What? Excuse me? Some gibbering monkey asshole tells me to go out and buy something from Spencers because it's the American way?

How the hell can a threat be overcome when I'm being told to pretend the threat doesn't exist (popularly spun as practice good judgement). I don't have agree with Chomsky whole-heartedly but it's just good practice to find things you do agree with and conversely, don't agree with.

So why the hell is it so hard for Americans to question their own actions and the government's for that matter? I truly can't answer, I don't know. I'm at a loss to explain it to people from other nations. Really all this "patriotic" cheese with the SUV's with the little flags and the stupid little flag pins everyone is wearing on their clothes. Please, I feel like I just stepped into some warped Twilight Zone episode written by Rosie O'Donnell. There blood-thirsty men being recruited as suicide bombers to kill me solely on the basis of my heritage and I'm supposed smile and buy a Britney CD?

Hey, IMO, my life is just as important as yours, Noam Chomsky's or the President's. All I see is a bunch of people blaming everyone else and taking sides. Did everyone's personality and good sense just completely evaporate during the dot.com craze? I feel like this nation has gone completely mad and I'm sitting in the front row.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm getting off this rambling soapbox so I can return a movie.
-- I'm not a troll, but I play one on TV.
Hate the Government (4.00 / 3) (#159)
by On Lawn on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:59:35 PM EST

Hmmm, from what I've read and heard of firsthand and secondhand from people in third world countries, they don't quite have the "America is punishing us with their intervention" view.

For everyone who had their houses bombed, there are a million of people that never see Taliban or american forces. They do see packets of food from relief workers with USA on them though. Those that do see the Taliban regularly see people hanged in public courts, or with appendages amputated for breaking laws that we let people off in parole for in less than five years for.

Remember the world is a very large place. In Arab countries they think that America is really a puppet to Israel (Bin Laden even said this.) In other countries any piece of scientific equipment the US installs is suspected as a military device. In a large part of the world America is the people hoarding all their wealth and not doing enough in the world.

For just such a perspective read the words of P.J. O'Rouke a renouned foriegn correspondant. Someone who actually lives most of his life outside the US.

I think that it is just as popular a view to consider our own self-righeousness as it is to do the dissassociative white-guilt-trip and think we are opressers of the world. In truth both those perspectives are pretty ego-centric and false. As I said, the world is a big place.

And another thing...

I wish more people would get pissed off at being swindled by big government.

I could write on this for hours. But suffice it to say that you would be entirely dumbfounded if you really saw how the government saw people. I think even you would realize that the government is truely a mirror of its people. And if all we are going to do is complain then they won't tell us anything. Just like your parents, if all they did was pick on what you did, you'd soon stop telling them anything.

I wish more people who got mad at the government would do something other than lob pseudo-intellectual smart bombs from their cozy armchairs, aimed with the visibility afforded them of hindsite.

[ Parent ]

Noam and expertise... (3.25 / 4) (#156)
by mikelist on Mon Oct 22, 2001 at 10:35:45 PM EST

Dr.(?) Chomsky seems no more or less brilliant than anyone else I've been able to pin down to a serious conversation about the terrorism issue. Of course, I work in a precast concrete plant, and most of the people I've talked to work there also.

HTML transcript here: (5.00 / 4) (#199)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 02:04:32 PM EST

http://www.zmag.org/GlobalWatch/chomskymit.htm

"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
grep "bias" Chomsky (3.85 / 7) (#201)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 03:13:41 PM EST

I recently made some accusations that Chomsky is less than a fair reporter of evidence. Accounting for the general unfairness of the ratings I see against anyone anti-Chomsky here, I thought it only fair to sum up my opinion in a quote for quote way.

Lets take an example essay "East Timor Retrospective, By Noam Chomsky." I will show that he resorts to simular tactics used by anti-anything propagandists such as Rush Limbaugh, and is not unbiased reporting.

For brevity we'll consider just one method of the anti-propagandists. This is to belittle the dissenting viewpoint. This happens through a dagger here, and a charachter judgement there, and a grandstanding their own opinion here and there.

They usually paint the oposition in an absurdly idiotic light, taking away their rationale and free thought. This tactic then ropes the audience by making his opposition feel ashamed, and his supporters feel stroked.

I choose this example becuase this is the most unfair tactic in my eyes that a rhetorician can make. I should also write how his arguments do not support such judgement, but that would take way to long. I do in part, when it seems most needed but other times the belittling is so blatant that I feel it stands on its own. Lets look at some of the statements he makes...

"Horror and shame are compounded by the fact that the crimes are so familiar and could so easily have been terminated." This is an obvious jab at the policy makers, and indirectly accuses them of being blind to the facts.

"The recent events will evoke bitter memories among those who do not prefer 'intentional ignorance'" This is another direct jab that anyone that does not agree with him is blind, but it goes a step further. It conjers a charachter judgement of the opposition that they are wanting to be blind for comfort rather than look at the facts.

"The lessons were applied within days in the standard way, as all but the voluntarily blind must understand after many years of the same tales, the same outcomes." This is more of the same, but it is worthy of note that the pattern he refers to has not been spelled out yet. I would invite a Chomsky supporter to enlighten me as to what that pattern is. But for now, in this article he only alluded to as obvious the pattern to anyone who isn't voluntarily blind.

"The term 'stability' has long served as a code word, referring to a "favorable orientation of the political elite" -- favorable not to their populations, but to foreign investors and global managers." Although this more fits in another catagory of undermining by re-defining the oppositions words (They say A which is harmless but really mean B which is deadly) I'll put it here becuase it insinuates a charachter judgement of the opposition. (This is a favorite tactic of Rush, btw.)

The character judgement comes in what is required to believe in the justification of the definition swap. One has to assume "they", here the political elite, are wanting to do harmful things and pull the wool over everyones eyes. I generally choose not to follow such suppositions, and grow weary of other evidence put across by someone who tries it. The judgement itself is believable and is allowed to be assumed but not substantiated.

"The survivors of U.S.-backed crimes in a 'tiny impoverished territory' are not even a 'small dog.'" Where the first part of the quote comes from is anyones guess. However the small dog quote comes from a very brief excerpt of an unnamed senior government official. But that is minor to the character judgement weilded against a "U.S." as a whole. It claims this U.S. entity backed crimes. The first quoting of 'small dog' was scant, this one is with a supplanted context.

He did do a good job of aligning that U.S. backed people, and they commited crimes. However such evidence is circumstantial until one can actualy connect the two events under a single motive, purpose, understanding and intent. That connection left as a character judgement one must find obvious and already believing for his reader to make. To me its believable in a hollywood story, but not substantiated enough to take to heart.

"Other powers too sought to participate in the lucrative aggression and massacre, always following the principles that have been lucidly enunciated." Here he takes a moment of self indulgence to tell the reader what they should think of his arguments. Rush tells people all the time what to think if his arguments also, btw.

"...undertook careful planning with 'the aim, quite simply,...to destroy a nation.' <i>The plans were known to Western intelligence, as has been the case from the outset.</i> TNI recruited thousands of West Timorese and brought in forces from Java. More ominously, the military command sent units of its dread U.S.-trained Kopassus special forces, and as senior military adviser, General Makarim, a U.S.-trained intelligence specialist with experience in East Timor and 'a reputation for callous violence.'" That this the motives was known, and intent supported I have already pointed out is important to show. However, the accusation is mearly couched in evidence of a different nature, and again only shows that U.S. had trained them in the past.

As another editorial aside, Who does the next paragraph support as "responsible"? Its a complete reversal. However one already needs to and is asked by Chomsky to make the supposition that the U.S. is evil and wanted it to happen in the first place.

"All of this was understood by the 'foreign friends,' who also knew how to bring the terror to an end, but preferred evasive and ambiguous reactions that the Indonesian Generals could easily interpret as a "green light" to carry out their work." This is an accusation of a sin of omission. It states handily that there were signs of impending disaster, and that they were dismissed. Based on said charachter judgments made so far, one would naturaly put the evil motives Chomsky desires to the actions. However he relies wholly on hindsite and a few memo's as proof. Surely enough for people who follow his character judgements, and somewhat persuasive to me. However it makes me want to investigate the whole circumstance rather than convict judgement. I hope that can be considered the rational approach.

Now the last paragraph is left as an excersise for the reader. Can you detect any bias or audience roping by the anti-anything propaganda tactics already mentioned?

"Surely we should by now be willing to cast aside mythology and face the causes and consequences of our actions, not only in East Timor. In that tortured corner of the world there is still time, though very little time, to prevent a hideous consummation of one of the most appalling tragedies of the terrible century that is winding to a horrifying, wrenching close."

Maybe I'll go through again and show evidence of Chomsky's stacking the deck. But that would take a lot of time as only two real obvious examples come from this article from my current knowledge of the situation. The remaining research required to show the comsistency is very exhausting but if there is enough desire I could be persuaded.

I find most Chomsky's supporters would like (as I find Rush Limbaugh's suppoters would like) to have an argument on the facts. Well thats not the point here, the facts are not in question and usually accurate. All to often it is the judgements that are couched almost disjointedly in those facts that comes out as wrong.

This is why I accept Chomsky and Limbaugh as people who supply information I wouldn't get anywhere else. However I refrain from making the charachter judgements they require.

Critical commentary versus news (5.00 / 1) (#243)
by srichman on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 10:33:00 AM EST

I will show that he resorts to simular tactics used by anti-anything propagandists such as Rush Limbaugh, and is not unbiased reporting.
Of course neither Chomsky nor Limbaugh delivers unbiased reporting. That's not what they're for. They exist to present viewpoints for folks to debate, for the other side to respond to. They provide factual evidence to support their views, and you would hope (because they're reasonably intelligent people) that they take all facts into accounts when formulating their views and arguments. But you expect them to elide facts that weaken their arguments.

Chomsky is the opinion page of the Anytown Herald, not the front page. If you want news, you read the front page. If you want analysis, interpretations, and opinions, you read the opinion page. The difference seems to get confused in the case of Chomsky, because he cites facts that aren't presented in the mainstream media or have faded from the collective consciousness, and thereby winds up serving as a damn good news source for obscure events.

[ Parent ]

Alright! Someone wary on the information road also (none / 0) (#249)
by On Lawn on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 02:14:18 PM EST

Allow me to explain, I started in the debate mentioning how I consider Chomsky as a good source of information I wouldn't find anywhere else, but I don't readily follow the charechter judgements he requires.

It is a stance I came up with many years before for Limbaugh after hearing him for the 100th time and realizing that although his facts support his claims, he's relying too much on claims to support his arguments. And some times his information is infallible, but his conclusion is still "off".

After that I read Chomsky I found many of the same patterns of personal philosphy mingled with information in such a way that their claims were both the result of, and the initial support of their arguments. There is room for this, and it is not entirely bad. But it does warrant a wary outlook in my book.

With the opposition I recieved to that viewpoint, and requests for evidence for what I levied at Chomsky (some did not consider Chomsky as biased I guess), I wrote the post above. It wasn't meant to dismiss Chomsky as evil outright but just bring an awareness that there is a limit to accepting information presented in that fashion, and yes it *is* presented in that fashion.

I can add that there is definately a need for such discourse as Chomsky and Limbaugh wage becuase it does offer information overlooked by "the whole world presented in thirty minutes at six-o'clock" reporting. I listen to and read from them both.

So I'm glad you came along, another treading cautiously on the information superhighway but searching it without fear. The post above this one contains such a thread also. My post in particular however, does seem to lose its sensibility taken as a whole outside of the discussion. I hope I am not out of bounds in assuming that is what motivated your post. Either way, I find it wise words and very useful.

[ Parent ]
chomsky, pros, cons, blindly feel up the elephant (3.62 / 8) (#205)
by killmepleez on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 03:58:13 PM EST

meta-chomsky discussions seemingly have become de rigueur in almost every political realm outside of the vacuous sunday morning tv personalities.

i do not claim any particular expertise on chomsky or his in/accuracy, generative grammar, afghanistan, radicalism, antiradicalism, post-antiradicalism, or the effects of the actions of america on anyone anywhere except my house and my job and my life.

what i continually find so bizarre about this whole "democratizing force" called the internet is how it turns everyone into their own private political expert talking head. it used to be simple for the Apathetic: find an editorialist, expert, imam, emissary of God, or essayist, and align yourself with them and their ideas.

these days everyone not only is questioning everyone else's expert, but they are becoming meta-experts who no longer much discuss the issue at hand, but rather present detailed refutations and rebuttals of others' detailed refutations of the interpretations of the detailed refutations provided by their chosen expert. it makes my head hurt.

reading back over this discussion, i begin to feel sorrow for chomsky, a man who spends his time writing page after page, book after book, speech after speech recording his attempts to unravel the frightful gordian knot of the modern world. what happens, of course, is that he is going to be innacurate because much information, no matter how convincing it seems at the time, is inaccurate, especially for large-scale issues in which individual data bits seem to take on several different interpretations in the aggregate.

and then the pack descends, citing and refuting and rebutting and counter-rebutting.

i suppose this is all standard philosophical discourse, and deciding which inaccuracies we are willing to live with is ever the central argument. but it seems empty to quarrel over whether Chomsky is a linguistic genius who is also in possession of profound socio-political insight, or whether he is a tired contrarian crank who never grew out of painfully anal collegiate zealotry.

hello, my name is killmepleez, and throughout my life i have been horribly, frequently, wrong about many things - sometimes because of misinformation or inexperience, sometimes out of emotional weakness. it might be agreed that moral perfection and factual accuracy are admirable goals. but the mere feeling of certainty, as supplied by experts and counterexperts, too often is used as a stopgap in which people find an Authority to validate whatever philosophical directions their lives have laid out for them anyway.

i'm just some poor schmuck, though, and have the luxury of being wrong. i would hate to have the pressure of starting off trying to share my concerns with a wide audience only to have it end in a melee between the people eager to put you up on a pedestal for their own ideological security and the people who want to pull you down from where they think you arrived by your own arrogant self-righteousness.

the discussion as it stands resembles nothing so much as a group of baptists and charismatics discussing the doctrines of "once saved always saved" and "speaking in tongues". each group comes armed with quotations from the holy texts and the traditional interpretations of their sect, as well as their respective personal epxeriences.

*****
FOLLOWERS: ...Look! Ah! Oh! Oh!
ARTHUR: He has given us a sign!
FOLLOWER: Oh!

SHOE FOLLOWER: He has given us... His shoe!
ARTHUR: The shoe is the sign. Let us follow His example.

SPIKE: What?

ARTHUR: Let us, like Him, hold up one shoe and let the other be upon our foot, for this is His sign, that all who follow Him shall do likewise. EDDIE: Yes.

SHOE FOLLOWER: No, no, no. The shoe is...
YOUTH: No.
SHOE FOLLOWER: ...a sign that we must gather shoes together in abundance.

GIRL: Cast off...
SPIKE: Aye. What?
GIRL: ...the shoes! Follow the Gourd!

SHOE FOLLOWER: No! Let us gather shoes together!
FRANK: Yes.
SHOE FOLLOWER: Let me!
ELSIE: Oh, get off!

YOUTH: No, no! It is a sign that, like Him, we must think not of the things of the body, but of the face and head!
SHOE FOLLOWER: Give me your shoe!
YOUTH: Get off!

GIRL: Follow the Gourd! The Holy Gourd of Jerusalem!
FOLLOWER: The Gourd!

HARRY: Hold up the sandal, as He has commanded us!
ARTHUR: It is a shoe! It is a shoe!
HARRY: It's a sandal!
ARTHUR: No, it isn't!

GIRL: Cast it away!

ARTHUR: Put it on!

YOUTH: And clear off!

SHOE FOLLOWER: Take the shoes and follow Him!

GIRL: Come,...
FRANK: Yes!
GIRL: ...all ye who call yourself Gourdenes!


__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "Jumpers" in The New Yorker, October 13, 2003.
How do you know (none / 0) (#207)
by M0dUluS on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 04:17:09 PM EST

that it's an elephant if you're blindly feeling it up? The trunk? The trumpeting? The sheer size? But then it might be in a pit, or perhaps someone amputated the trunk.
it seems empty to quarrel over whether Chomsky is a linguistic genius who is also in possession of profound socio-political insight, or whether he is a tired contrarian crank who never grew out of painfully anal collegiate zealotry.
OK, so let's not do that then.
i would hate to have the pressure of starting off trying to share my concerns with a wide audience only to have it end in a melee between the people eager to put you up on a pedestal for their own ideological security and the people who want to pull you down from where they think you arrived by your own arrogant self-righteousness.

For a start he's doing this voluntarily, so I think we can assume that that particular elephant likes being felt up in the dark. And then, if that elephant has interesting shapes that we haven't experienced before, why not have a good grope? Now, as you point out, we do run the risk of feeling each other up in the dark and the confusion in the mistaken belief that it's the elephant. Naturally this causes resentment and some anger, but hey! what else can we do? Sit in our corners feeling ourselves up denying that there's no elephant? Pretend that we are the elephant?



"[...]no American spin is involved at all. Is that such a stretch?" -On Lawn
[ Parent ]
life imitates art, art imitates chomsky (5.00 / 1) (#230)
by killmepleez on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 11:47:53 AM EST

[How do you know] that it's an elephant if you're blindly feeling it up? The trunk? The trumpeting? The sheer size? But then it might be in a pit, or perhaps someone amputated the trunk.
for Unidentified Feelable Objects this is true -- once ya start down the road of questioning things, ya gotta question 'em all; eventually you either come to some prime motive that "feels right" to you or you end up wearing an aluminum teepee on your head while muttering about cubic time.

in the version of the story i've seen most often, however, the blind men are specifically told they are touching an elephant and then offer their descriptions, whereupon their conflicting assertions become arguments become agressions.

For a start he's doing this voluntarily, so I think we can assume that that particular elephant likes being felt up in the dark. And then, if that elephant has interesting shapes that we haven't experienced before, why not have a good grope?
i can't propose to know noam chomsky's motives, so i can't say for certain whether he likes being felt up ideologically or not. he does publish and editorialize incessantly, but he doesn't seem to be angling for a spot on The McLaughlin Group or as a third-party congress/presidential nominee -- both of which i think he easily could 'leverage' his moderate name-recognition into doing. i would theorize that any well-known public speaker will appear to be doing it mostly for the attention, especially when there are legions of people willing to give them attention in exchange for reassurance.
Now, as you point out, we do run the risk of feeling each other up in the dark and the confusion in the mistaken belief that it's the elephant. Naturally this causes resentment and some anger, but hey! what else can we do? Sit in our corners feeling ourselves up denying that there's no elephant? Pretend that we are the elephant?
i'll be honest in saying that i tilt more towards the relativist view that we are essentially always "feeling ourselves up" and telling ourselves that we are experiencing the elephant. of course, such a position leaves me looking ridiculous and irrelevant when we come to the question "what else can we do", because i don't think there is anything else, aside from completely opting out, that we can do other than continuing to blindly go where we've collectively been six million times already, hoping each time that we are making some slight gain in our approximation of the elephant. naturally, this philosophy is neither robust nor contagious and does not lend itself to the aims of Conquistadores of any stripe. on the other hand, those who live their lives in the blessed land of Certainty [as well as the cynically pragmatic] tend to end up holding the reins of power, spreading their view of the elephant by hook or crook.

***
Eletelephony
by Laura E. Richards

Once there was an elephant
Who tried to use the telephant ­
No! No! I mean an elephone
Who tried to use the telephone ­
(Dear me! I am not certain quite
That even now I've got it right.)
Howe'er it was, he got his trunk
Entangled in the telephunk;
The more he tried to get it free,
The louder buzzed the telephee ­
(I fear I'd better drop the song
Of elephop and telephong!)

i memorized that around age seven and have found it more, not less, relevant as i grow older.

__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "Jumpers" in The New Yorker, October 13, 2003.
[ Parent ]

Round and Round in circles (4.33 / 3) (#208)
by On Lawn on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 04:32:57 PM EST


The shouting match goes on, and we lob from the trenches. But just becuase the internet gives us some battleground to shoot at generals and privates alike doesn't make this an amateur hour, or a meta-argument battle ground.

It does provide the frontier in Fredrick Jackson Turner terms, a ground for personal trial and error, where we stand on our own arguments (and how we argue.)

With so much information available, and personal stake in the outcome it does allow for debunking certain people in the merits of how they argue. After all we are looking for razors that cut through the junk to find what we want.

That Chomsky may be debunked becuase of the dauntless vastness of his task or becuase he is actually a two-bit propagandist is left for the common joe to find out. As a collective body we engage the words of the demagogues in crucibles of unorganized mob-law, regardless of his outcome. Its our outcome that matters.

However, in a court when an accusation is made it needs to be refuted or accepted. Why?

When some new imam claims the world is astray, it needs to be refuted or accepted. Why?

In the ivory tower of meta-meta-debate there seems no real answer, it is lost somewhere in the transendence and dissacociative nature of abstract thought.

Perhaps that is why we engage so handily in the trenches where the payment and concequences are real and immediate. Perhaps that is why we venture out into this FJT frontier is so everyone can be their own expert with our hands squarely in the dirt of human concequence.

[ Parent ]
the free exchange of idle speculation (none / 0) (#238)
by killmepleez on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 06:49:46 PM EST

thanks for your response, On Lawn. you refer well to precisely the state of mind suggested by the "information frontier" - a constant questioning and testing of spirits, a crucible into which we toss our opinions. your questions point out that the rituals of refutation are essential to proceedings having important physical consequences.

i'm certainly the last person to say that everyone should stop arguing. for me, argumentation is a natural communication style, and i find that during a long session of passionate debate over microscopic details i invariably discover some personal inconsistency that deserves further analysis, or suddenly state a concept i hadn't developed previously yet which contains a valuable insight.

but these are usually small affairs of two or three persons. "it is possible for two people to agree / the same is believable for three / but four or more? / i am not sure that this can ever be." i don't know if the ability to reach consensus, if not about principles then at least about how to proceed, scales well. while large groups have proven effective in narrow questions with definite answers [eg the majority is usually right when polled about the answer to multiple choice trivia questions], they seem not nearly so accomplished at sorting out complex situations expressly because of their size. the overall issue is never satisfactorily settled because at any given moment one subset reaches reconciliation on one sub-issue while another subset has just foundered upon another nuance. you only negotiate once, but you re-negotiate endlessly.

it is absolutely true that the outcome is the thing which matters, but what, really, is the outcome of online discussion? a quick visit to alt.atheism demonstrates the utter lack of a conclusive dialectic in the electronic forum thus far. technically i must allow for the possibility that someday an overall understanding may emerge from the millions of posts over the years, but if it did, what kind of being would be capable of encompassing it? could a human mind truly grok such an archive and see the directions in which it may lead? "Karl Marx", i think to myself. as i understand it, marxist historiography takes the emergence of socialism from feudal and industrial aristocracies to occur by a World Dialectics between the People and their political-socio-economic structures. of course, capitalists view the world in the same way, and take as proof of their principles the continued existence of a sometimes dizzyingly virile american civilization. but even someone without any formal philosophical training can see that winning an argument is not necessarily evidence that the winner's position is Right. how much more confusing online where nobody even "wins" in the first place.

i agree that it is then up to the average joe to discriminate between subtle shadings of truth. it seems to me, though, that the 'blog proliferation has really changed nothing other than inserting another layer between Joe and Understanding, this time comprised of "amateur experts". the total understanding remains constant, but the clarity for average Joe is drowned by the sheer volume of discussion. in this regard, "democratizing information" appears less effective than the relatively controlled Hierarchy Of Ph.D Experts which precedes it.

***
7: The Age Of Information
by Momus, from his album Ping Pong

This is a public service announcement

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now entering
The age of information
It's perfectly safe
If we all take a few basic precautions
May I make some observations?

Axiom 1 for the world we've begun:

Your reputation used to depend on
What you concealed
Now it depends on what you reveal

The age of secretive mandarins who creep on heels of tact
Is dead: we are all players now in the great game of fact instead
So since you can't keep your cards to your chest
I'd suggest you think a few moves ahead
As one does when playing a game of chess

Axiom 2 to make the world new:

Paranoia's simply a word for seeing things as they are
Act as you wish to be seen to act
Or leave for some other star

Somebody is prying through your files, probably
Somebody's hand is in your tin of Netscape magic cookies
But relax:
If you're an interesting person
Morally good in your acts
You have nothing to fear from facts

Axiom 3 for transparency:

In the age of information the only way to hide facts
Is with interpretations
There is no way to stop the free exchange
Of idle speculations

In the days before communication
Privacy meant staying at home
Sitting in the dark with the curtains shut
Unsure whether to answer the phone
But these are different times, now the bottom line
Is that everyone should prepare to be known
Most of your friends will still like you fine

X said to Y what A said to B
B wrote an E mail and sent it to me
I showed C and C wrote to A:
Flaming world war three

Cut, paste, forward, copy
CC, go with the flow
Our ambition should be to love what we finally know
Or, if it proves unloveable, simply to go

Axiom 4 for this world I adore:

Our loyalties should shift in view according to what we know
And who we are speaking to

Once I was loyal to you, and prepared to be against information
Now I am loyal to information, maybe I'm disloyal to you
My loyalty becomes more complex and cubist
With every new fact I learn
It depends who I'm speaking to
And who they speak to in turn

Axiom 5 for information workers who wish to stay alive:

Supply, never withhold, the information requested
With total disregard for interests personal and vested

Chinese whispers was an analogue game
Where the signal degraded from brain to brain
Digital whispers is the same in reverse
The word we spread gets better, not worse

[incidentally, i've always found fjt historiography to be an elegant way of analyzing american history. i would love to slip 300 years into the future and read a history book to see if the 'frontier' angle still seems applicable, and if so, did it turn out that the biotech frontier eclipsed the network-computing frontier; and just how long does it take for space to become the frontier of the common human?]

__
"I instantly realized that everything in my life that I thought was unfixable was totally fixable - except for having just jumped."
--from "Jumpers" in The New Yorker, October 13, 2003.
[ Parent ]
Double "yup" (none / 0) (#241)
by On Lawn on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 12:51:18 AM EST

Recently I wrote about a five page essay on this subject, and I like how you put the points across. The song was pretty good also.

Like you, I've often found that instead of a crucible debates turn in to more of a centrifuge. We get no where new in the circle of debates, rarely is any new information given. Your still left with everything you had. The only newness of the state is that settled in the bottom are the things most people find agreeable.

Often the truth gets spun out. Why? Well truth is not only often indistinguishable from fiction, its often stranger. Strange things are easy to dismiss.

I can dismiss the internet as a source or even acid test of truth without dismissing its usefullness in finding "usefullness"? At least that is what it boils down to for me. Anyways thanks for all the good analogies and insite.


[ Parent ]
Sign Me Up for Noam's Gig... (3.37 / 8) (#215)
by phylum on Tue Oct 23, 2001 at 07:31:44 PM EST

Wow. It must be super-cool to be Chomsky, a sacred cow of learning, holed up in MIT with a few decades of tenure, utilizing his career as a linguistics professor in order to bring the full brunt of the English language (along with a good share of ad hominem and false cause fallacies) down upon the ears of any self-proclaimed intelligensian who's willing to listen (unless, of course, that person happens to be Camille Paglia...) <g>

Does anyone else see the irony that Chomsky is nothing more than a contrarian against (apparently) all public policy and institutions, yet conveniently ignores that it is the framework of his own nation's government that allows him to so voraciously, vocally (and quite legally) condemn it? What a "rock star" cliche.

Well, that rant certainly felt good...

-phylum


Punk rock rebuttal (4.66 / 3) (#239)
by MrEd on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 06:55:33 PM EST

From one of my favorite bands

"And yes I recognize the irony - that the system I oppose affords me the luxury of biting the hand that feeds. But that's exactly why privileged fucks like me should feel obliged to whine and kick and scream - until everyone has everything they need."


Watch out for the k5 superiority complex!


[ Parent ]
Ignores? (4.00 / 3) (#244)
by srichman on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 11:01:18 AM EST

Does anyone else see the irony that Chomsky is nothing more than a contrarian against (apparently) all public policy and institutions, yet conveniently ignores that it is the framework of his own nation's government that allows him to so voraciously, vocally (and quite legally) condemn it?
Chomsky doesn't ignore the accommodativeness of the framework; he revels in it.

In the Q&A session at the end of the talk, he states that, despite (what he perceives as) the propagandistically censorial actions of the US government, Americans are very free to engage in public criticism and debate. Our freedom for public speech is much greater than in many other countries in the world, and anyone who doesn't recognize this and take advantage of this is foolish. Or something like that. The HTML transcript doesn't include the Q&A, so I can't find the exact quote.

Further, in the lecture proper, Chomsky closes with:

It's hard to find many rays of light in the last couple of weeks but one of them is that there is an increased openness. Lots of issues are open for discussion, even in elite circles, certainly among the general public, that were not a couple of weeks ago. That's dramatically the case. I mean, if a newspaper like USA Today can run a very good article, a serious article, on life in the Gaza Strip... there has been a change. The things I mentioned in the Wall Street Journal... that's change. And among the general public, I think there is much more openness and willingness to think about things that were under the rug and so on. These are opportunities and they should be used, at least by people who accept the goal of trying to reduce the level of violence and terror, including potential threats that are extremely severe and could make even September 11th pale into insignificance.
Sounds like he notices and appreciates the opportunities for public discourse available in this country. His comment in the Q&A more directly addresses your criticism that he ignores how the framework of American government is somehow at fault.

Besides, when did he ever criticize the framework of American government? Chomsky may be a red-blooded commie for all I know, but I don't see him criticizing the tenets of American democracy, just pointing out that our country does some shady, evil shit sometimes. Yes, democracy, Bill of Rights... all that is good and right and wholesome, but our country still does some shady, evil shit. And I'm of the opinion that the staunchest critic of government policies can still be a patriot. A staunch critic is certainly a better American that someone who steadfastly agrees with government policy, and thereby removes himself from the democratic process.

[ Parent ]

Chomsky's a contrarian, not a critic. (3.50 / 2) (#247)
by phylum on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 01:42:43 PM EST

A critic provides reasonable, logical explanations as to why something is wrong. Chomsky, on the other hand, is a contrarian -- that is, he opposes for the sake of opposition. In my opinion, this is because he can sell a lot more books and make a lot more on the lecture tour by standing around and saying, "everything we do is shockingly horrible", rather than by standing around and saying, "we do some good stuff, and we do some bad stuff, too."

Besides, when did he ever criticize the framework of American government?

Ever read his "Deterring Democracy"? Chomsky apparently thinks that it's OK for elitist academics (but I repeat myself... :-) to avail themselves of free speech (a right that was created out of the amendment process defined in our Constitution), but tries to convince us that it's not OK for CNN to do the same thing. Moreover, he implies that corporations, the military, and government institutions that were created and/or legalized using the exact same consitutional framework as the First Amendment cannot do the same, either. That's called hypocrisy.

I think Chomsky has an idea of what his concept of a "good" American democracy is (based on my reading of "Profit Over People"). However, it, like the other Chomsky books I've read ("The New Military Humanism" and the Barsamian interviews in "The Common Good"), consists of little more than the following:

  • "The USA does x, and x is bad";
  • "[Insert your first-world nation here] also does x, and that's bad, too"; and
  • "The mass media will never let you know the truth."
In particular, he seems to indicate that there's no place in a "good" democracy for a strong military presence, large media outlets, or (his favorite whipping boy) capitalism. I'll be the first to stand in line and bitch with him about the highly selective nature of the mass media, and will agree wholeheartedly that capitalism (as it's practiced in the U.S.) is hardly a kind, fair, or merciful endeavor. However, the fact remains that these institutions are a part of our nation, and are allowed (and in some cases, defined) under the constitution. So, while everything I've read from Chomsky indicates that he's a proponent of democracy, he can't seem to find anything good to say about our specific instance of it (all the while, relying on its open nature to bitch about it).

Quite a paradox, I think, and the reason for my "cliche rock star" comment. I think it's a lot easier to complain about the system when you're clearly so far removed from it as Chomsky is. It's particularly ironic when you consider that most corporate and government leaders (those who are perpetrating all these bad things that Noam keeps telling us about) are educated people, trained in the same academic framework in which Chomsky himself is so deeply entrenched. Yet, strangely, I don't see him advocating the complete tear-down and rebuild of our academic system...

He's like The Man complaining about how "The Man keeps us all down..."

-phylum

[ Parent ]

Longer, but not better (none / 0) (#255)
by Pihkal on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 08:58:44 PM EST

I think either you are misunderstanding Chomsky's arguments or (more likely) you have not read his writings on the media, primarily "Manufacturing Consent". He is not opposed to the right of individuals to free speech as secured in the first amendment, but there is no reason he couldn't be opposed to the right of corporations to free speech. If you read it, the first amendment is unfortunately vague in its wording in that while it was intended for the use of people, it made no caveats for corporations, which at the time, were carefully controlled and chartered. (There was still severe distrust of corporations as agents of the British Crown - remember the Boston Tea Party?) But with the Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, all that got overrun and a corporation was ruled legally the equivalent of a human being, and thus had the same rights under the Constitution. For a basic history of the situation, click here

So you see, it was never the original intent that corporations have an equal say to even a single citizen. Your argument, then, that "However, the fact remains that these institutions are a part of our nation, and are allowed (and in some cases, defined) under the constitution" is irrelevant. There is nothing sacred or special about corporations that should entitle them to get away with mass deception. Besides, the Constitution is not some sort of "sacred cow", to borrow your words. If it has flaws, they should be rectified, not endured forever. This is why the founding fathers made it possible to alter the Constitution if needed.

For those interested in Chomsky's writings on the media, I have found a few links that will serve as good starting points:




"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!"
-- Number 6
[ Parent ]
"Original Intent" -- Not Valid. (none / 0) (#258)
by phylum on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 09:39:55 PM EST

Not trying to bait you here, but I'm curious to know whether you believe that this applies to other similarly-worded amendments -- specifically, the second. It's clear that, at the time of its writing, the second amendment was intended to allow individuals the right to keep and bear arms (in addition, it implied that citizens were, by definition, militia). I'm curious whether you believe that, today, this same original intent should be our interpretation.

But with the Supreme Court case Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad, all that got overrun and a corporation was ruled legally the equivalent of a human being, and thus had the same rights under the Constitution.

That is correct. This ruling, through the judicial body that ultimately decides the constitutionality of law, affirmed a lower court's decision. This means that, instead of bitching about how corporations utilize their constitutional rights under the law, Chomsky's efforts would be better applied to lobbying his legislators (and others citizens) to change the law. Otherwise, he comes off just sounding old, tired, and bitter.

My interpretation of our Constititution (which is an opinion shared by at least four sitting Supreme Court justices), is that it is a document that can be altered through the legislative process (subject to executive veto and judicial review), and its interpretation is not to be viewed through the prism of a 226-year old society.

-phylum

[ Parent ]

"Original Intent" -- not what I was tryi (none / 0) (#268)
by Pihkal on Sun Oct 28, 2001 at 04:11:01 PM EST

I think I didn't specify all the connections I was trying to make very well. My own feelings on the Constitution are irrelevant. What I was trying to point out was that it's not necessarily "hypocritical" of Chomsky, as you said, to be in favor of citizen's rights and against corporate rights in the area of free speech just because the current legal framework equates the two. I don't think I've ever actually heard him say that specifically, but he's been a critic of modern media long enough to realize that it has not served humanity very well in terms of truth-to-bullshit ratio, and I think he'd agree with assessment. To be explicit, I was not saying that "original intent", as a principle by itself, needed to be upheld.

I think Chomsky knows that his influence is primarily in influencing other people (or "bitching" as you put it), and not in writing letters to his congressman, or even getting others to write their congressmen. He's not really focused on that side of things.

Personally, I do favor more modern interpretations of the Constitution, and the right to alter the Constitution if needed, as I said in the second paragraph of my comment above, but I think the original intent of the First Amendment is worth fighting for in particular. The original intent was to allow people to criticize their government, but I view it really as the right to criticize those in power without being dragged into the streets and shot.

As an aside, one thing I would like to see is an acknowledgement, that while the right to speak has been upheld over the years, there is not yet a right to be heard. This may not have even occurred to the Founding Fathers because, at the time, to be heard all you needed was a press and your own efforts. Since the First Amendment forbade government interference, and corporations had next to no power to control public discourse, the right to speak entailed the right to be heard. Nowadays, corporate control of the airwaves, despite being public resources theoretically stewarded by the government for the public good, means that the right to speak does not mean you also get to be heard. This is a problem, and one that needs fixing. Incidentally, this is also one of the truly good things about the Internet so far - you are primarily limited only by your own efforts in being heard. Unfortunately, the supportive legal climate for that appears to be slowly changing.

Now onto my own Chomsky criticisms. Even though I find Chomsky's arguments (in his books, anyway) very well made and extensively documented, even when I agree with him there are certain things I don't like about him. He comes across nowadays as very cold, and while his arguments are good, he doesn't seem to have the sense of indignation necessary to really move people. I suspect he knows that he is limited to influencing other intellectuals, and that he doesn't have what it takes to be more than that. He can also come across as very scornful of his critics, which, while I think he is secure enough in his arguments to be so, turns off people who might otherwise listen to him with a more open ear. Nobody wants to hear him be smug and condescending, even those who agree with him.




"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!"
-- Number 6
[ Parent ]
Chomsky's irony (1.50 / 2) (#245)
by losang on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 11:15:51 AM EST

Chomsky constantly acknowledges how much freedom we have in America. Particularly with respect to his political work. Before you condem someone perhaps you should know more on the subject.

[ Parent ]
Perhaps you should read more carefully. (4.50 / 2) (#248)
by phylum on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 01:54:49 PM EST

I didn't say anything about "freedom". What I addressed was the framework of our government, which is instantiated as the U.S. Constititution. The Constitution defines a clear set of rules by which our nation operates. In Chomsky's case, he avails himself extensively of the first amendment to the Constitution, which was created out of the constitution's ability to modify itself based on representative votes. And yet, when CNN does the same thing, Chomsky brands them as mass-market sell-outs, and implies (but never overtly states) that what they're doing is somehow illegal or un-American. This is hypocrisy.

While my exposure to Chomsky has been limited (in comparison to his entire body of work), the three books and dozen-plus articles I've read from him are all consistent: mass media is bad, capitalism (as we practice it) is bad, and all active U.S.-led military campaigns of the 20th century were bad. This isn't criticism, it's contrarianism.

-phylum

[ Parent ]

Blargh (2.00 / 1) (#252)
by Pihkal on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 07:35:13 PM EST

It must be super-cool to be Chomsky, a sacred cow of learning, holed up in MIT with a few decades of tenure, utilizing his career as a linguistics professor in order to bring the full brunt of the English language (along with a good share of ad hominem and false cause fallacies) down upon the ears of...
Does anyone else see the irony that Chomsky is nothing more than a contrarian against (apparently) all public policy and institutions, yet conveniently ignores that it is the framework of his own nation's government that allows him to so voraciously, vocally (and quite legally) condemn it? What a "rock star" cliche.
While my exposure to Chomsky has been limited (in comparison to his entire body of work), the three books and dozen-plus articles I've read from him are all consistent: mass media is bad, capitalism (as we practice it) is bad, and all active U.S.-led military campaigns of the 20th century were bad. This isn't criticism, it's contrarianism.

No offense, but why couldn't we turn around and say the same thing about you? What you have said is not in any way a serious criticism of Chomsky. You offer no facts, figures, analysis, theories, citations, etc. to bolster your point. You even commit an ad hominem fallacy in the same sentence you accuse Chomsky of making them. I could paraphrase you and say "this isn't criticism, it's contra-Chomsky contrarianism". You might be right; but I'm not going to believe it based on these comments. Well-reasoned arguments, please!

Excerpted from the previous two comments by phylum. All text bolded by me for added emphasis.




"I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!"
-- Number 6
[ Parent ]
Although unsupported (none / 0) (#253)
by On Lawn on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 08:00:38 PM EST

I didn't see the posters statements as contrarianism. The accusation waged is in my eyes a legitimate criticism, although not well supported as you mentioned.

In fact the poster never once mentions that Chomsky is wrong, off, false or lying. The arguments would have to pretty much show a prevelant pattern of such accusations to be a contrarian, let alone mention it at all. The grounds seems to be that Chomsky is a one key piano, pounding the same argument over and over again without taking a grander picture into account.

The ad-hominem is there as you point out. How ever I'd consider that a jab at Chomsky supporters more than Chomsky. A sacred cow is more about how people treat him and defend him more than how he treats himself or even labels himself.

[ Parent ]
Does exemplification via irony count for nothing? (none / 0) (#256)
by phylum on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 09:16:41 PM EST

No offense, but why couldn't we turn around and say the same thing about you? What you have said is not in any way a serious criticism of Chomsky. You offer no facts, figures, analysis, theories, citations, etc. to bolster your point. You even commit an ad hominem fallacy in the same sentence you accuse Chomsky of making them.

The difference is that my commentary is not taken by anyone as sacred word (nor should it be, since it's intentionally filled with the same vitriol that permeates Chomsky's commentaries). Moreover, I'm not making millions of dollars by publishing this drivel, then leveraging some people's innate gullability and intense desire to look smarter than others by going out on the lecture circuit and banging out the same tired false arguments like a coked-up monkey on a snare drum (apologies to Dennis Miller for that one...)

Well-reasoned arguments, please!

While I was short on citing specific examples, I did point out that ad hominem and false cause fallacies perforate his writings.

-phylum

[ Parent ]

Manufacturing Dissent (4.85 / 14) (#222)
by Lode Runner on Wed Oct 24, 2001 at 03:34:28 AM EST

I listened to Chomsky's talk and I greatly appreciated that he exposed us to facts about which Americans should be much more aware. But I also came away from his lecture with the firm sense that Chomsky is still stuck in an ideological rut.

Yes, the facts he presented were mostly true and I just loved listening to him tear apart both Leftie and Rightie peabrains during the Q & A session. (say, what was that woman shouting anyway? I couldn't make it out...) I must also say that he seems to have mellowed a bit too, which I think helped him get some important points across; if you think calling the USA a "terrorist state" every other minute is Chomsky at his most incendiary, you've got to go read the stuff he wrote in the late '80s.

Chomsky's conclusions, however, revealed that he still hasn't overcome his old problems:

  • his tendency to make the facts fit into his ideological model rather than the vice-versa (this causes his little lying by omission problem)

  • his tendency towards paranoid theories of grand collusion (although to Chomsky's credit he shot down that Rallite's "it's all about the Afghan oil pipeline" claim during Q&A)

  • his tendency to claim that controversial groups and figures with known biases are somehow more objective than groups he dislikes (e.g. Al Jazeera and Robert Fisk versus CNN and the NYT)

The way Chomsky worked with his sources regarding the upcoming Afghan famine nicely illustrates all of his aforementioned problems. It's time to ask a simple question: why does Chomsky believe that the Afghan refugees are suffering and will starve if the bombing persists? The answer is that he has consulted the aid agencies responsible for feeding millions of Afghans and they have told him that they presently cannot do their job in Afghanistan. He reinforces this (correct) claim by citing the normally loathsome US mainstream press, which verify the aid agencies' claims albeit not on the front page. So far so good, right? Wrong if you dare apply Chomsky's own criteria for objective reporting and commentary to Chomsky's argument.

Let me tell you a story, one that those of you who think that Chomsky dissents for dissent's own sake may want to consider...

Back in the late '70s Noam Chomsky commented on a similar humanitarian disaster, this one in Pol Pot's Cambodia. As in the present situation in and around Afghanistan, highly reputable aid agencies like the IRC declared that unless the West (and especially the USA) drastically changed its stance towards Cambodia there would be a humanitarian catastrophe of immense proportions in that country. These pleas were picked up by the US press and enjoyed the same marginalized status as the pleas of the Afghans. How did Chomsky react? He wrote an article in The Nation called "Distortions at Fourth Hand" in which he dismissed as lies and exaggerations the Cambodian refugees' claims of genocidal persecution. To back his claim that the Cambodian genocide was not taking place Chomsky cites a 27 March 1977 letter by W.J. Sampson to The Economist. Here's the critical part:

[Samson's] European friend who cycled around Phnom Penh for many days after its fall [and] saw and heard of no ... executions apart from "the shooting of some prominent politicians and the lynching of hated bomber pilots in Phnom Penh." He concludes "that executions could be numbered in hundreds or thousands rather than in hundreds of thousands," though there was "a big death toll from sickness."
Ta dah! So, like, a friend of this one guy, W.J., was like, biking through Indochina and like didn't see hardly any, you know, executions, and, like some people got sick and died, I think... Uh huh, right! Noam, that's even not up to IndyMedia standards. And I don't think anyone here would have trouble imagining Chomsky just ripping into some CNN hack for citing similarly flimsy evidence on a different subject.

Now, before anyone cries "bad analogy!" I'll preempt by declaring that I don't care how the humanitarian disasters in Afghanistan and Cambodia arose, I only care that in both scenarios aid agencies and refugees warned that disaster loomed and that catastrophe would only be averted if the USA changed its behavior towards a particular nation. In the case of Afghanistan the USA needs to finish the war quickly (one way or another) whereas in the case of Cambodia the USA had to stop propping up Pol Pot. Dissent from US foreign policy was badly needed but Chomsky was still repeating his 1973 claim that Pol Pot's organization, FUNSK (Front Uni National pour le Salut du Kampuchea -- check out what that acronym stands for, it should send a chill right up your spine), would bring about "a new era of economic development and social justice" in Cambodia.

It gets worse, after irrefutable evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities emerged, Chomsky started to assail the US government for not being more active in opposing the Khmer Rouge. (see: Chomsky, After the Cataclysm -- 1979) Granted, Chomsky's correct that the USA bears enormous responsibility for what happened in Cambodia because it was protecting the PRC-backed Khmer Rouge in order to help prevent the USSR-backed Vietnam from dominating Indochina. But, Chomsky in "Distortions at Fourth Hand" played a significant role in manufacturing American consent when it came to US protection of Pol Pot. Lots and lots of people smelled an ideological rat, the stench of which became unbearable when Chomsky refused to explain his flip-flopping in regards to Pol Pot and when he refused to apologize to the Cambodian refugees whose true accounts he branded as lies. Through the course of the 1980s he began to lose backing among his comrades in the intellectual Left. For instance, Christopher Hitchens vocally defended Chomsky in '85 but not anymore.

The reason I dwell on this is that Chomsky's hypocrisy when it comes to siding with Afghans but not Cambodians undermines his assertion that he's saying what he's saying in order to prevent not some but all crimes against humanity. That he's being selective with his sympathy is his prerogative, but I find it profoundly irresponsible that he couples his selective pity with claims to objectivity. I also find it sad that so many people don't realize that Chomsky's conclusions are derived from his ideological leanings and then they go shape their own beliefs around this white knight of pseudo-objectivity.

As for me, I will write to my representatives and urge them to do everything in their power to keep innocent Afghans fed, and I'm going to keep listening to Chomsky when he speaks but I'll be damned if that means I'll believe anything he utters after the words "therefore" or "thus."



Chomsky is not an apologist for genocide (5.00 / 1) (#251)
by BlackAndRed on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 06:40:27 PM EST

As someone who greatly admires Chomsky's political work (yes, I am biased here), I took it upon myself to find Internet sites opposed to him. I found very few, but there was a reoccuring theme: Chomsky as an apologist for Pol Pot and Cambodian genocide.

Put aside for a moment all of Chomsky's works opposing genocide in Indo-China, East Timor, Indonesia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Turkey, and other places. Yes, he likes to criticize bloodbaths that appear to be tolerated or supported by the West. Does it follow, then, that he supports Communist bloodbaths?

Put aside his anti-authoritarian, libertarian socialist views that have consistantly opposed war, the state, and capitalist excesses. Chomsky is not a communist; he is an anarchist, and admits quite freely to his background. Anarchists and communists disagree on the role of the state in future societies.

Imagine that Chomsky is capable of writing sophisticated apologetics for state terrorism.

I investigated this a little bit, and concluded that Chomsky's main point was that the American media accepted and amplified unverifiable claims of Cambodian genocide while ignoring much more rigorous, balanced and verifiable accounts. If you read "Distortions at Fourth Hand", this is the major theme. In fact, please read Distortions at Fourth Hand for yourself, and you will find that it does not conform to the poster's representation of it as a dismissal of Cambodian atrocities under Pol Pot. It is something quite different.

What does Chomsky conclude here? That the media is deliberately distorting the events in Cambodia. That certain facts are presented, and others omitted, to serve an ideological goal; that media distortions are designed to portray Communist governments in Indo-China as uniformly murderous while minimizing Western culpability for the humanitarian crisis.

That was the theme of an earlier collaboration between Chomsky and Herman, the 100+ page volume entitled "Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact and Propaganda". It is one of Chomsky's main theses about the function of mass media in a democratic society.

For example, in "Distortions at Fourth Hand", he points out that the Washington Post published a photograph of purported forced labor conditions inside Cambodia that turned out to be a forgery produced in Thailand. The Washington Post refused to publish a correction when confronted with the facts.

Another example is the comparison between Ponchaud's account of the atrocities, which Chomsky claims are poorly documented and full of inconsistencies, and Hildebrand & Porter's accounts, which Chomsky claims are much more rigorous and balanced. The Bouchard account is widely published, while Hildebrand and Porter's languishes in obscurity.

Finally, let me quote the conclusion of "DA4H" to dispel any notion that Chomsky strongly rejects the idea of Communist atrocities in Cambodia:

We do not pretend to know where the truth lies amidst these sharply conflicting assessments; rather, we again want to emphasize some crucial points. 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 U.S. role, direct and indirect, in the torment that Cambodia has suffered. Evidence that focuses on the American role, like the Hildebrand and Porter volume, is ignored, not on the basis of truthfulness or scholarship but because the message is unpalatable.

When the poster says that the critical part of Chomsky's analysis is based on some guy bicycling around Pnom Penh, that's wrong. That's a deliberate lie, in my opinion. Nobody could be so stupid as to draw that conclusion from DA4H. Again, read it yourself! Don't trust this troll to tell you what Chomsky meant.

And as someone who claims long familiarity with Chomsky's works, stretching back over some 20 years, it's strange to see the poster make glaring errors like:

> But, Chomsky in "Distortions at Fourth Hand" played a significant role in manufacturing American consent when it came to US protection of Pol Pot.

Anyone familiar with Chomsky and Herman's __"Manufacturing Consent"__ will know that their propaganda model is based on a set of ideas (an ideology) being transmitted via mass media along with a suppression of genuine dissent, presenting a very slanted view of the world to the ordinary citizen. Chomsky, as a dissenter, cannot be part of the "manufacture of consent". The manufacturers of consent are the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, ABC, and the like. Chomsky's ideas almost never appear in major media outlets, thus making it impossible for him or those with similar viewpoints to play a significant role in shaping public opinion.

My feeling about this post is that it is a highly sophisticated smear attack based on anti-Chomsky writings on the Internet. I don't think the poster has any real knowledge of Chomsky's work. His assertions are easily disproven, if you do a little investigation.

I admire the poster's skill at putting together a seemingly intelligent criticism, but I don't think it has much credibility at all.

[ Parent ]

Chomsky simply rode the wrong horse (2.00 / 1) (#257)
by On Lawn on Thu Oct 25, 2001 at 09:33:32 PM EST

At least in my opinion. It is evident to me after reading it that Chomsky was concentrating on how some members of the American Media sometimes didn't have their facts straight.

Howevery your analysis is a bit skewed in my opinion. For example The Washington post, according to Chomsky in the excerpt, chose not to print a letter he wrote about the photographs. That is different than "refusing to print a correction." I'll add that in an intermediary search I cannot find a correction either, but I haven't the foggiest how to find it if it was there.

It is my assesment that Lode Runner's take is true also, although maybe taking a lot of liscence. Chomsky was definately going further than attacking the media for ignoring tales of a peaceful Cambodia, he was dismissing that killing on such a grand scale could even be occuring. Chomsky starts with opposing peaceful accounts of what is going on and leads a lot of his own creedance to them.

Later he starts ceeding that certain numbers of deaths could have happened. He starts with a strong hundred, then gives to maybe a thousand, and then gives a very off chance to a hundred thousand.

That would possibly let him off the hook here except that he consistently repeats that the death he ceeds might have happened (mostly from lack of food or adequate farming) was the product of American involvement mismarked on the Kmer Rouge. The only exception to this is where he ceeds to an account of killing in the thousands in areas where the Kmer Rouge had little control or involvement. And he concludes that definately the killing on the scale of seven digits must be a fabrication or exaggeration.

The trend is pretty plain. I kind of feel sorry for him actually. The very thing he was distancing from likelyhood, ended up being exactly what happened.

I think he could have simply been so eager to run his mouth that he jumped on the wrong horse. But he definately jumped, firmly stradled, stirruped and spurred that horse for what he could get out of it. There is no doubt in my mind of that.

Chomsky might have even been trying to protect the Kmer Rouge out of ideological compassion. Maybe he considered that the enemy of his enemy was his friend. Who knows? But although I never found a retraction from the Washington Post, I never found a retraction or appology from Chomsky either.

[ Parent ]
Riding horses makes your ass really sore. (none / 0) (#259)
by BlackAndRed on Fri Oct 26, 2001 at 01:29:13 AM EST

> Chomsky might have even been trying to protect the Kmer Rouge out of ideological compassion. Maybe he considered that the enemy of his enemy was his friend.

Well, let's see if I remember correctly. Chomsky supported the Vietnamese (by that I mean the NLF/"Viet Cong" and NVA) in their struggle against American and Saigon forces. Then, not long after the liberation of southern Vietnam, the Vietnamese army declared war against the Khmer Rouge and drove Pol Pot and his band of thugs into Thailand. So, Chomsky was the friend of the enemy of the Khmer Rouge -- your theory looks a little weak.

And then, to top it all off, the Reagan administration gives support to a rebel alliance that includes the Khmer Rouge in their bid to drive out the Vietnamese-backed government that replaced Pol Pot. It was, for the United States, a case of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend"?

But, since the US was supporting the Khmer Rouge, and America is one of Chomsky's enemies, doesn't it follow logically that Chomsky must have opposed the Khmer Rouge?

If you don't believe me, that the US could support the Khmer Rouge, look at this 1999 Time magazine interview with the P.M. of Cambodia, or Chomsky's own interpretation of events (second paragraph), or William Blum's excellent piece

> Chomsky starts with opposing peaceful accounts of what of what is going on and leads a lot of his own creedance to them. Later he starts ceeding that certain numbers of deaths could have happened. He starts with a strong hundred, then gives to maybe a thousand, and then gives a very off chance to a hundred thousand.

Not true at all. Especially the part about there being alternative "peaceful accounts" of the Khmer Rouge's activities. The only question was: what were the real numbers? Chomsky, IMHO, tries very hard to figure out what the real numbers are and fails. He finds that the media adopt inflated figures, and use blatantly false information, and informs us. There is nothing like what you described in the actual article.

[ Parent ]

Your sore where? (5.00 / 1) (#260)
by On Lawn on Fri Oct 26, 2001 at 12:46:21 PM EST

Lets look at the evidence then.

"Chomsky supported the Vietnamese (by that I mean the NLF/"Viet Cong" and NVA) in their struggle against American and Saigon forces."

Next, Chomsky comes to the aid of Kmer Rouge (anti-US at the time) in these awful sladerous accusations of mass murder that must be the workings of an American Media Plot against its own people.

Then, "after irrefutable evidence of Khmer Rouge atrocities emerged, Chomsky started to assail the US government for not being more active in opposing the Khmer Rouge. (see: Chomsky, After the Cataclysm -- 1979)" --Lode Runner

Later as you claim he even argues "the Reagan administration gives support to a rebel alliance that includes the Khmer Rouge in their bid to drive out the Vietnamese-backed government that replaced Pol Pot." After the atrocities are brought to light.

I think that shows a pretty definate pattern of flip flopping entirely on the axis of "the enemy of the US is his friend". But I'll give him the benefit of the doubt for now and still say "maybe".

Now, to the other point you raise...

The only question was: what were the real numbers? Chomsky, IMHO, tries very hard to figure out what the real numbers are and fails.

That may be your question but not Chomsky's. Lets start with the peaceful accounts.

Lode Runners quote could fit here since even though an estimated one out of every five people were killed in Cambodia, he quotes a friends aquaintance who bicycled and saw no evidence of executions. But there are more

"in contrast, there are lengthy reports by Carol Bragg on a visit to Vietnam earlier this year by a six-person AFSC delegation, including two who had worked in Vietnam and are fluent in Vietnamese. The group traveled widely in the South and spoke to well-known leaders of the non-Communist Third Force who are active in the press and government, as well as ordinary citizens. They report impressive social and economic progress in the face of the enormous destruction left by the war, a 'pioneering life' that is 'difficult and at times discouraging,' but everywhere 'signs of a nation rebuilding' with commitment and dedication."

"there is...ample expert eyewitness testimony, including that of journalists of international repute, visiting Vietnamese professors from Canada, American missionaries and others who have traveled through the country where they worked for many years. Jean and Simonne Lacouture published a book in 1976 on a recent visit, critical of much of what they saw but giving a generally very positive account of reconstruction efforts and popular committment."

Now to the Maybe not peaceful accounts, but wrongly accused.

"Even if the [Washington Post] photographs had been authentic, we might ask why people should be pulling plows in Cambodia. The reason is clear, if unmentioned. The savage American assault on Cambodia did not spare the animal population."

"Hildebrand and Porter present a carefully documented study of the destructive American impact on Cambodia and the success of the Cambodian revolutionaries in overcoming it...In another editorial on the 'Cambodian Horror' (April 16, 1976), the Journal editors speak of the attribution of postwar difficulties to U.S. intervention as 'the record extension to date of the politics of guilt.'"

And we haven't even gotten to the part where he starts ceeding to the possibility of deaths yet. Read on, but it is more of the same. Although this sentance sticks out strangely...

"In brief, Hildebrand and Porter attribute "wrecking" and "rebuilding" to the wrong parties in Cambodia."

However the context of this seems to be that they attribute the wrecking and rebuilding to wrong parties according the the media and therefore don't get published, rather than they are simply wrong (as was evident in the years to follow.) Or as Chomsky says, "the mass media are not grateful for the Hildebrand-Porter message, and have shielded the general public from such perceptions of Cambodia." Yep, rather than any motives like truth and accurate reporting are dismissed as it must be a plot against the American people.

Now to the ceeding of casualties in the order Chomsky presents it.

"In contrast, the media favorite, Barron and Paul's 'untold story of Communist Genocide in Cambodia' (their subtitle), virtually ignores the U.S. Government role. When they speak of 'the murder of a gentle land,'" Will someone double check and verify that the title of the story is about the 'Communist Genocide in Cambodia', and not a cut and paste conspiracy in my American propagandist Computer? Becuase if that is so, then why would they talk about the US's role? Is this a Stallmanesque demand for their trademark values to be included in everyone elses writings also?

Then he disputes that they are even credible for mentioning the genocide becuase..."Their point of view can be predicted from the 'diverse sources' on which they relied: namely, 'informal briefings from specialists at the State and Defense Departments, the National Security Council and three foreign embassies in Washington.' Their 'Acknowledgements' mention only the expertise of Thai and Malaysian officials, U.S. Government Cambodian experts, and Father Ponchaud. They also claim to have analysed radio and refugee reports."

The Refugee reports he later mentions are obviously tainted becuase of the state that the US left the country in.

"Thus they claim that Ponchaud attributes to a Khmer Rouge official the statement that people expelled from the cities 'are no longer needed, and local chiefs are free to dispose of them as they please,' implying that local chiefs are free to kill them. But Ponchaud's first report on this (Le Monde, February 18, 1976) quotes a military chief as stating that they 'are left to the absolute discretion of the local authorities,' which implies nothing of the sort."

So they are wrong. How? In a quote that implies the murderous attitudes of an official, becuase he can dig up another quote from the same authors writings that someone else that says something more benign. Now, there are probably lots of interesting facts in that book. But we are to dismiss it on that? Why?

Because "Published in France in January 1977, it has become the best-known unread book in recent history, on the basis of an account by Jean Lacouture (in the New York Review of Books), widely cited since in the press, which alleges that Ponchaud has revealed a policy of 'auto-genocide' (Lacouture's term) practiced by the Communists." means that it must be what the media wants you to hear.

Now for the ceeding to deaths, with more mention of who really is to blame.

"and others elsewhere, have provided analyses by highly qualified specialists who have studied the full range of evidence available, and who concluded that executions have numbered at most in the thousands; that these were localized in areas of limited Khmer Rouge influence and unusual peasant discontent, where brutal revenge killings were aggravated by the threat of starvation resulting from the American destruction and killing. "

Look at that one closely, becuase it is a close as you'll get to ceeding that the Kmer Rouge caused any deaths, and the number is one hundredth of what really took place. And although they might have pulled the trigger, America (although not supporting the Kmer Rouge as he later claims) made it happen.

The next few lines are pretty telling (were still on the ceeding deaths and sticking the blame on America)...

"These reports also emphasize both the extraordinary brutality on both sides during the civil war (provoked by the American attack) and repeated discoveries that massacre reports were false. They also testify to the extreme unreliability of refugee reports, and the need to treat them with great caution, a fact that we and others have discussed elsewhere (cf. Chomsky: At War with Asia, on the problems of interpreting reports of refugees from American bombing in Laos). Refugees are frightened and defenseless, at the mercy of alien forces. They naturally tend to report what they believe their interlocuters wish to hear. While these reports must be considered seriously, care and caution are necessary. Specifically, refugees questioned by Westerners or Thais have a vested interest in reporting atrocities on the part of Cambodian revolutionaries, an obvious fact that no serious reporter will fail to take into account."

I quoted a lot there, becuase at every corner he ceeds he includes a jab that America is still to blame becuase they caused the reports, interpretations, killings, and circumstance. Lode Runners point is put across clearly here also. If such care and consideration is neccissary, then he is hippocritical in what he is saying about Afghanistan, predicting doom and massive killings before the fact. I see where Lode Runner has every reason to question Chomsky's commentary. Also Lode Runner did mention how Chomsky later directly charges the US as not doing enough to stop the Kmer Rouge, after all this evidence of what the US was trying to do to bring it to light.

The next paragraph was what Lode Runner mentioned even,

"To give an illustration of just one neglected source, the London Economist (March 26, 1977) carried a letter by W.J. Sampson, who worked as an economist and statistician for the Cambodian Government until March 1975, in close contact with the central statistics office. After leaving Cambodia, he writes, he "visited refugee camps in Thailand and kept in touch with Khmers," and he also relied on "A European friend who cycled around Phnom Penh for many days after its fall [and] saw and heard of no ... executions" apart from "the shooting of some prominent politicians and the lynching of hated bomber pilots in Phnom Penh." He concludes "that executions could be numbered in hundreds or thousands rather than in hundreds of thousands," though there was "a big death toll from sickness" -- surely a direct consequence, in large measure, of the devastation caused by the American attack. Sampson's analysis is known to those in the press who have cited Ponchaud at second-hand, but has yet to be reported here. And his estimate of executions is far from unique."

What was that estimate? Lets see if I can quote... "executions could be numbered in hundreds or thousands rather than in hundreds of thousands," and is it of little concequence of America? Is it just some concequence of America? Not it is a "a direct consequence, in large measure, of the devastation caused by the American attack." Again no mention of any support of Kmer from the Americans yet, but they are to blame in any case. (And later to blame for not doing enough.)

Next he goes on how the more accurate estimates are really over-exagerated, and mis-marked on blame. I have to go to work now, so I won't get in to it.

But it is evident already that Chomsky's question is not just the real numbers but who really is to blame, either indirectly by circumstance or directly to blame in use of B52's. After reading it I support Lode Runners position that he was directly downplaying and even dismissing the attrocities in Cambodia. Not only does he call in to question the accurate numbers, but that there are any numbers at all. He questions all of it with a few instances of journalism he can bring in to doubt, rather than the whole of it, or even the most convincing portions of it.

And never in the article does he accuse the Kmer Rouge of direct US backing. I guess that is saved until after he found out what they did, and then they I suppose he concludes that anyone who kills millions has to have been backed by the US somehow.

[ Parent ]

Read the article before you Cut and Paste (none / 0) (#261)
by BlackAndRed on Fri Oct 26, 2001 at 02:00:02 PM EST

You make a lot of quotes without saying much. And much of what you say is wrong.

For example:

> Lets start with the peaceful accounts. Lode Runners quote could fit here since even though an estimated one out of every five people were killed in Cambodia, he quotes a friends aquaintance who bicycled and saw no evidence of executions.

Chomsky's not quoting a "friend" of his, he's quoting a letter from a Westerner that worked in Cambodia until 1975, a letter that appeared in the London Economist. And the actual quote was "in the few days after the fall [of Pnom Penh, the observer] saw or heard of no [mass] executions" in the capital city. This would, I assume, contradict wild press reports about mass executions in Pnom Penh following the Khmer Rouge takeover. In either case, it has nothing to do with the "1 in 5" statistic that applies to the full two years (at least) of Khmer Rouge rule. You're comparing apples and oranges here.

>But there are more.. [quoting Chomsky] "in contrast, there are lengthy reports by Carol Bragg on a visit to Vietnam earlier this year by a six-person AFSC delegation, including two who had worked in Vietnam and are fluent in Vietnamese. The group traveled widely in the South .. They report impressive social and economic progress in the face of the enormous destruction left by the war"

Of all the distortions in your reply, this one is the biggest. Huge. What you failed to mention was that the quotes were referring to VIETNAM (!) and it's rebuilding efforts, not to Cambodia. Which could be easily determined by READING the quote itself, irrespective of the context. Unbelievable.

So, I say again, there were no "peaceful accounts" of the Khmer Rouge advanced by Chomsky.

>Now to the Maybe not peaceful accounts, but wrongly accused.. [quoting Chomsky] "Even if the [Washington Post] photographs had been authentic, we might ask why people should be pulling plows in Cambodia. The reason is clear, if unmentioned. The savage American assault on Cambodia did not spare the animal population."

Interesting that you make no comment about the American bombing campaign. You don't mention that "between 1969 and 1973, American bombers killed 750,000 Cambodian peasants with explosives the equivalent of five Hiroshimas." (Pilger). No comment?

> If such care and consideration is neccissary, then he is hippocritical in what he is saying about Afghanistan, predicting doom and massive killings before the fact.

Chomsky has been careful to quote the aid workers and people knowledgable on the ground, who predict massive starvation in Afghanistan unless aid is resumed immediately. It's not his personal feelings about what might happen.

>And never in the article does he accuse the Kmer Rouge of direct US backing. I guess that is saved until after he found out what they did..

No, I brought the subject up. The article Chomsky wrote, "Distortions at Fourth Hand", was written in 1977. The Vietnamese expelled the Khmer Rouge in 1979, whereupon covert American assistance to Pol Pot and the exiled Khmer Rouge began. A slight problem with timing, unless Chomsky has some kind of magic powers to fortell the future.

Why are we even discussing this, when the United States is about to commit mass murder in Afghanistan? When it is dropping bombs on devastated peasants, killing and maiming, creating widespread fear and panic, resulting in tens of thousands of refugees? When it is preventing food and medical aid from reaching people that will be unreachable, helpless once winter sets in? Why is this happening, and why are we trying to discredit Chomsky for telling us things we don't want to hear?

[ Parent ]

American propagandist Window Manager is to blame? (none / 0) (#263)
by On Lawn on Sat Oct 27, 2001 at 08:47:49 AM EST

Yet another attempt to ascribe indolence on to those who see differently by a self-admitted Chomsky supporter.

First, you dispute the bicycling through the country side in vain I'm afraid. It is some guys friend, according to Chomsky. I never actually accused Chomsky of having a friend. If I gave that impression I'll appologize, it was not intended.

It is none the less a quote of a peaceful Cambodia, although I enjoyed your galloping to Chomsky's rescue with more meaning. It would have been sufficient to show that the same quote contains estimates of executions, but wait I already did that.

But that isn't an excuse for me and my propagandist computer's guilt of not looking in your brain and adding those words you thought should be there in the "real quote". It must be some kind of plot that it pasted only what Chomsky wrote. Is this like Chomsky holding up quote after quote *not included* by people? Like where the book on Communist atrocities should have mentioned American atrocities as well? Any answer? I guess not since you didn't include one the first time I mentioned it. As an aside, I read my previous post over and realized that there is still a lot you haven't responded too.

The statitics are accurate, by the way, that Chomsky discredits as fabrications and exagerations an the Kmer Rouge horrors. One in five, or about 20% executed. Its hard to miss the killing when its one out of every five, don't you think? Its pretty dang serious and should be looked into I'd wager. Yet Chomsky tries to dismiss anyway a whole year after the height of it by digging up old letters and quotes. In this case, two years old.

Now, this one I actually chuckled over. Lets look at this again...

"But there are more.. [quoting Chomsky] "in contrast, there are lengthy reports by Carol Bragg on a visit to Vietnam earlier this year by a six-person AFSC delegation, including two who had worked in Vietnam and are fluent in Vietnamese. The group traveled widely in the South .. They report impressive social and economic progress in the face of the enormous destruction left by the war"

Of all the distortions in your reply, this one is the biggest. Huge. What you failed to mention was that the quotes were referring to VIETNAM (!) and it's rebuilding efforts, not to Cambodia."

Is it a distortion? Was it really *not* mentioned? Did I delete the part that it was about Vietnam or something? I mean, my propagandist cut-and-past here could have just added that in now. Look again at what you quoted from me and make sure.

But in any case the Viet Cong-Kmer Rouge connection is documented by none other than encyclopedia.com. Their war against each other is still more than a year off at the time Chomsky writes this.

Whatever connection there is its abvious enough for Chomsky to lump them together when talking about American media injustices against that area, and not just becuase they are the only two being unfairly treated.

He could have included others, I mean he mentions Chile briefly (twice), why not go there while on a role? Seems like that would be the obvious thing to do if he was looking for amunition to shoot at the media like you say he is. No there is definately more of a connection that was known then and now, and he was out to do something more.

But I digress to point out that Viet Nam was also not the quite place Chomsky would have you believe either. Why he wanted us to believe they were peaceful or not-that-bad is not as important as that he was wrong. Probably just ideologicaly blinded but wrong none-the-less.

But in the light of his comments about Afghanistan it isn't sufficient to remind you that was Chomsky wrong, but also he was hippocritical in the caution he warranted for Cambodia but doesn't afford now. I start with a quote from you to elaborate...

Chomsky has been careful to quote the aid workers and people knowledgable on the ground,

These are just the refugee's and aid workers whom Chomsky discredits in "Fourth Hand Distortions"...

"They also testify to the extreme unreliability of refugee reports, and the need to treat them with great caution, a fact that we and others have discussed elsewhere (cf. Chomsky: At War with Asia, on the problems of interpreting reports of refugees from American bombing in Laos). Refugees are frightened and defenseless, at the mercy of alien forces. They naturally tend to report what they believe their interlocuters wish to hear. While these reports must be considered seriously, care and caution are necessary."

Aid workers? Remember this little diddy when discrediting Father Ponchaud?

"Ponchaud's book is based on his own personal experiences in Cambodia from 1965 until the capture of Phnom Penh, extensive interviews with refugees and reports from the Cambodian radio. Published in France in January 1977, it has become the best-known unread book in recent history, on the basis of an account by Jean Lacouture (in the New York Review of Books), widely cited since in the press, which alleges that Ponchaud has revealed a policy of 'auto-genocide' (Lacouture's term) practiced by the Communists."

According to this quote, not only is this aid worker uncredible becuase he is unpopular, but becuase he is held up to our eyes anyway becuase he is just saying what the media wants you to hear. Jean Lecouture only "alleges" that Ponchaud revealed a policy of auto-genocide? Ponchaud pretty much says that himself, in that very book! There was no reason that it should be dismissed as an obscure source someone picked up on and twisted into the media machine. Chomsky should have simply known better, and maybe he did.

At the least one could argue that he learned his lesson, but if he did learn his lesson I suspect he would have appologized by now. Where can that appology be found again?

Lets see what you got out of the talk about Afghanistan,

When the United States is about to commit mass murder in Afghanistan? When it is dropping bombs on devastated peasants, killing and maiming, creating widespread fear and panic, resulting in tens of thousands of refugees? When it is preventing food and medical aid from reaching people that will be unreachable, helpless once winter sets in?

I'd like to point out some recent claims the must-be-media-dogs-of-GW at NPR (All things considered, yesterday or the day before) recently quoted. Three aid workers in Afghanistan squarley attest to the indescriminate war waged by the Taliban and Mujuhadeen, and detest the Muslim clerics hippocrisy in their sudden hatred of Muslim deaths when America is dropping the bombs. They attribute the US war planes as clearly targeting military installations, and being so much more respectful of human life.

However, are these aid workers to be dismissed for the same reasoning as mentioned in D4H? How about the aid workers that blame America for starvation. (Oh wait, none of the aid workers he quotes actualy blame america, that was the sole conclusion of you. Or did Chomsky say that also?)

This is why we are talking about this. Well that is aside from your wringing and twisting small pieces of error into my post. You never even answered a conservative 70% of it, let alone the wresting of the other 30%.

In the end I have explicitely stated that I don't accuse Chomsky of joining or even abetting the Kmer Rouge. He took evidence and supported a wrong side of interpretation every chance he got in their favor, but I never actualy said it was for the Kmer Rouge's sake.

His wrong horse was not the Kmer Rouge itself but the reporting of attrocities he chose to fight against. He looked pretty dumb doing it as his own zeal lead him to denounce such accusations to an extent far beyond the call of duty. And hasn't posted his own appology or retraction.

I end with one last refutation.

"Now to the Maybe not peaceful accounts, but wrongly accused.. [quoting Chomsky] 'Even if the [Washington Post] photographs had been authentic, we might ask why people should be pulling plows in Cambodia. The reason is clear, if unmentioned. The savage American assault on Cambodia did not spare the animal population.'

Interesting that you make no comment about the American bombing campaign. You don't mention that "between 1969 and 1973, American bombers killed 750,000 Cambodian peasants with explosives the equivalent of five Hiroshimas." (Pilger). No comment?"

No, I didn't mention it nor do I make a habit of quoting Pilger. Why should I? The person pulling the plow was a staged event, right? The point is that even staged events are good enough for Chomsky to keep beating his drum on, when the timing is right. By the way, the accusations of human slavary in Cambodia turned out to be true also.

And the last jab, that this is simply something we do not want to here is wrong and cheap. Just another attempt to label those who don't see things the way you do isn't it.

[ Parent ]

OT: Blockquotes (none / 0) (#275)
by Anonymous 6522 on Fri Mar 22, 2002 at 05:32:38 PM EST

In the future, when you quote large passages, it would be helpful if you used the <blockquote> tag to make your comments easier to read.

[ Parent ]
Chomsky the tired old ideologue (5.00 / 3) (#262)
by Lode Runner on Fri Oct 26, 2001 at 03:16:29 PM EST

Before I respond to your argument, I'll put my background and politics on the table so you know where I'm coming from. I'm white, I'm from the South (USA), I'm a lapsed Protestant, I usually vote Democrat, I have issues with Libertarians, I have problems with the anti-globalization movement, I am a secular Zionist, I don't think that the USA bears full responsibility for 9/11... In short, I'm what you might call a "square" or a "bastion of the Establishment."

Now for the feature attraction...

You begin by asserting that Noam Chomsky is not an apologist for genocide. With this, I wholeheartedly agree; to my knowledge, Chomsky has never, ever defended any individual or group for committing genocide. You're also right on the mark when you point out that many groups slander Chomsky by calling him an apologist for genocide, a charge successfully countered in Hitchens's The Chorus and Cassandra.

This is all good and well, but I think you missed the crux of my argument: Chomsky's analyses, for all of their eloquence, are limited by his ideological bent and his prejudices. For all of his genius at dredging up obscure but important facts, Chomsky tends to wear blinders. This limitation I believe, causes him to overlook (and I daresay intentionally ignore) important information. To illustrate, I'll start with Cambodia and move on to Afghanistan.

Cambodia: Chomsky never exculpated the Khmer Rouge for their atrocities after the fact, but he was, in his own idiosyncratic way beholden to Pol Pot. Back in the '60s and early '70s Chomsky hung out with a loose coalition of European leftists who opposed capitalism, colonialism, imperialism, racism, and religious fanaticism. Many in this cadre, including Jean Lacouture, had earned their stripes by swaying French public opinion against the wars in Indochina and Algeria. By the '70s they were focusing their attention on Vietnam and sought to boost anti-colonial movements. Such movements included the communist High Military Command of the Peoples National Liberation Armed Forces of Kampuchea (PNLAFK), whose military chief was a charismatic, Sorbonne-educated Khmer named Saloth Sar. The PNLAFK was going to free Cambodia from the yoke of oppression and Cambodia was going to be rational-Marxist, so the Western leftists lapped up whatever it said.

    NOTE: Seems I've got the FUNSK thing backwards. As an e-mailer pointed out, Chomsky never supported FUNSK and Pol Pot never belonged to FUNSK. Rather, FUNSK was the Vietnam-backed group that helped remove Pol Pot. Shame on me...

Later, Saloth Sar changed his name to Pol Pot, and took over the country and did some very, very bad things. But before Pol Pot's atrocities were revealed he and the Khmer Rouge spent a lot of time denying charges of mass-murder and continued to broadcast the same essentially pacifist rhetoric to the West. Pol Pot's first victims were the royalty, the rich, the capitalists, and the colonial sympathizers, hence the Left (here) had little trouble concluding that cries of atrocities were fictitious. After all, the South Vietnamese had constantly fabricated North Vietnamese and Vietcong atrocities while hiding their own. When papers like the NYT and the Washington Post began carrying stories about Khmer Rouge atrocities, the informed left smelled something fishy... and so acted accordingly.

Then more reports of horror came in and the numbers of dead rose by orders of magnitude. Chomsky remained suspicious and savagely attacked the mainstream press for attacking Pol Pot (and communism in general). Hence "Distortions at Fourth Hand". Human rights activists didn't know what to do. On the one hand there seemed to be evidence of a catastrophe in the making in Cambodia; but on the other hand, Chomsky (and others like Lacouture) was saying that Khmer Rouge "atrocities" were just a fabrication of the mainstream press (this includes The Nation, which is about as "alternative" as Pearl Jam) and were a mechanism to further the interests of The Man. And so the Left waffled and essentially remained silent.

The upshot of this is not that Chomsky approved of the Khmer Rouge genocide but that he ignored a large number of facts while putting together his argument. He dwelled on American lies and dismissed (one way or another) Cambodian claims of persecution. What really caused him to do this I do not know, but it happened. Sometimes even the most intelligent people don't see things they don't want to see and their subsequent analyses, no matter how thorough, have the fatal flaw of being based on incomplete data. This seems to happen a lot to Chomsky.

As an aside, I don't buy the argument that Chomsky was really just interested in analyzing the media. I like to read Chomsky and I personally don't give a rat's ass about bias at this paper or that. Chomsky's a foreign policy wonk and his attacks on the media are a means to the end of getting Americans to rethink American foreign policy (and other things too, but mainly that).

Afghanistan: Today we have dying Afghan refugees telling similar tales as those from Cambodia, and Chomsky does not subject the Afghan accounts to nearly to scrutiny as he did those of the Cambodians. Why? Because the dying Afghans serve his arguments whereas the dying Cambodians did not.

Chomsky's problem of omitting crucial facts is present in other aspects of his argument about Afghanistan. Take, for instance, his assertion that the USA and Russia are where we can find the roots of Afghanistan's problems. Indeed, the the USA and the USSR each played a significant role in screwing up that country, but in terms of today's specific problems, Pakistan played an even more important role. Does Chomsky mention Pakistan's role in fostering and arming the Taliban? No... his only mention of Pakistan was in its complicity with the CIA.

To claim to understand the phenomenon of bin Laden and of the Taliban without mentioning Pakistan's direct role in creating this environment is folly! Why doesn't Chomsky mention that the Taliban is Pakistan's brainchild and stooge? Many Pakistanis seem to know about Pakistan's role in creating this mess. I don't see how anyone is going to make reasonble decisions about Afghanistan or US foreign policy without considering the element of Pakistan. Yet Chomsky, who swims like a fish through the sea of the international media overlooks the Pakistan-Taliban-Kashmir connection. There's no way he could've missed it; it's been front page news in Pakistan and India for five years running. But, Pakistani generals nurturing the Taliban (to replace the murderous rabble of not so pro-Pakistan American-backed mujaheddin guerrilas) to suit their own ends does not warrant mention from Chomsky because it cripples his argument. Instead, we hear again and again about Latin America...

Okay, that's enough about Chomsky's distortions for now, let's move on to you. Most people I know who stick with Chomsky do so because they like his discussions on power. That's what I liked when I first read him as a teenager. Chomsky really opened my eyes to the havoc power wreacked in our supposedly free, open society.

But then I grew up. In college I discovered Jurgen Habermas and Michel Foucault, whose discussions of the way power worked its way through and around society and individuals made Chomsky's arguments appear lopsided, and hopelessly bound to ideological constraints. For me, a physics major who hates postmodern flakes, this is one of the few good things about Foucault. Essentially I feel the same way about those who have buy Chomsky's theories as I do about those who have mastered ptolemaic astronomy; in each case the model works well, but only with a very limited amount of data. And as we have seen Chomsky, when faced with data that his model cannot account for, simply drops it.

(Just for fun, and this is a bit off-topic, here's an interesting discussion.)

Parting Shot: In this time of national crisis, the American Left needs to find its voice, and Chomsky is no longer the man for the job.



[ Parent ]

Why he doesn't mention Pakistan (none / 0) (#264)
by eean on Sun Oct 28, 2001 at 10:51:35 AM EST

One point Chomsky makes is that we should care a lot more about what our country does then others. If Pakistan aides the Taliban, what can we do?

Continuing the Cambodia example, though we may have had something to do with propping it up (such a by bombing their country, creating the chaos necesary for Pol Pot) we supported Indonesia in 70s in a much bigger way. However, Cambodian genocide was reported more then reports of the atrocities in East Timor (which started a few days after Nixon visited Indonesia) occuring at the same time. We gave Indonesia military aide. Seems like we should care a lot more about what they do (and the atrocities in East Timor were at near-genocidal levels) then Cambodia, a country we had little influence over. In fact, last I heard East Timor was having a Constitutional Convention of their own, partly because of international pressure put on Indonesia. Imagine if we had put pressure on them in the 70s?

Note I said near-genocidal levels. Calling what is happening in Afghanistan or happened in Cambodia genocide is an example of mild Holocaust-revisionism.

[ Parent ]
American Introspectracism (none / 0) (#269)
by On Lawn on Mon Oct 29, 2001 at 10:44:13 AM EST

One point Chomsky makes is that we should care a lot more about what our country does then others. If Pakistan aides the Taliban, what can we do?

I think you didn't mean it this way, but a statement like that is entirely too introspectral. One of the problems I've read consistantly from American News Foriegn Corespondants is that America thinks only about itself.

Foreign news rarely makes it to main stream, becuase as the former editor of CNN states "It simply doesn't sell." We don't buy it as a whole in America.

Although it is good to clean the inner vessle, I often see a sence of whipping ourselves for the actions of others. The Taliban is one instance. A K5 piece recently explored the allogations that Clinton played Afghanistan like a chess game where he controlled the black and white pieces. He opened up the Mujuhadeen, and suplied training and weapons to the Taliban.

Now in a very "we are the center of the world" view that works just fine. But when we look entirely at ourselves we miss the maybe more important forces in the equation. When we see revolts in Pakistan, we in large measure miss the duality Pakistan has shown towards the Taliban and America and simply think "they hate us."

So although it is true that in large measure we can only change ourselves and we should start with ourselves when we change the world. But it is important to consider a whole world of desicion in the equation, or we wind up like the nerdy girl that thinks she is worthless becuase the Football team Captain keeps turning her down.

[ Parent ]

Responsible for own actions != Introspectracism (none / 0) (#270)
by eean on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 08:56:25 AM EST

The point I was trying to make (wheter I made it or not is another matter; apparently I didn't) is that the US media spends too much time on the unhumanitarian actions of our enemies and not enough on our allies. Cambodia and Indonesia is one example. Another is the attention given to the atrocities commited in Yugoslavia againist the Albanians as opposed to the ones in Turkey againist the Kurds. We heard a lot more about Yugoslavia, enough though we have more influence over Turkey and our partly responsible for anything they do since we supply them weapons. Perhaps a even better example is the attention given to the Kurds in Iraq (and then only after Saddam stopped being our friend), when with nothing but a border seperating, we heard little about the Kurds in Turkey. True, knowing the greater context of things is always good. Certainly the Kuro5hiner can seak it out in history and articals from some magazines. But the pop-media seems to have very little "bandwidth" for stories - they can only have a few that they latch onto. I am questioning their choice in stories.

[ Parent ]
A definate agreement there (none / 0) (#271)
by On Lawn on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 02:01:21 PM EST


I remember a German friend of mine who pointed out that the collective cries of Europe were going unheard about Milosevich.

That is until Monica....

The problems in the Sudan were unheard...

Until WhiteWater....

Then mistakes happened in the treatment with Sudan and instead we got Kasinski and UniBomber.

In any case, I think you are right the bandwidth of the american ear is much too small for world events. The need to cut things often invites cutting along entirely too personal a lines.

[ Parent ]
A Different Perspective (1.00 / 1) (#272)
by ComradeSeraph on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 07:18:34 PM EST

I'd like to comment on the accusations of close-mindedness and stereotype usage that went back and forth in this discussion. I'm going to wander a bit and build some background, so if you've heard it all before, I apologize. I get the impression most of you have not heard this before or have ignored it before, though, so it bears repeating. If Postmodernism has accomplished anything, I'd like to think it has been discrediting this kind of argumentation. It's depressing to see so many brilliant minds who haven't learned much about the most important idea in the social sciences in the late 20th century. The truth is that we're all biased. None of us are not wide open logic processing machines. The greatest delusion of the human species has always been that it can free itself from delusions. The physical sciences work because they deal with relatively simple systems in isolated environments. The 'hard' sciences are often considered more difficult than the arts- a viewpoint stemming from the calculations and numbers involved. What few people stop to consider is that we don't make many calculations in the arts because the complete set of relevant operations would be much too complicated for all the world's intellects and computers to perform, let alone formulate. To quote Carl Sagan- "If you want to create an apple from scratch, first you have to create the universe." By extension in forming a somewhat accurate model of the human world we must first model the entire physical universe, including our entire evolution, the growth and decay of ecosystems, every human society, of each man, woman and child, and the way they lived their life. These lower level models don't have to be perfect, but each model must be significantly more accurate than the ones above it, or we are building on a house of cards. The attempt to bring science into the humanities in the 1960s was just such a pseudo-scientific attempt to jump over all the intermediary steps, and unsurprisingly it failed badly. It is true that the future will probably push the physical sciences a great deal closer to the human world of politics and emotion. Unfortunately each step in that direction will exponentially increase the complexity of the complete model. The more we learn, the less any one of us will be able to understand the overrall pattern. When and if great truths are discovered, they will be handed down to us by collectives of individuals or intelligent AI programs working on a diverse array of small, highly specific tasks. They will be (and increasingly are) articles of (reasonably well-founded) faith, empirically unverifiable by the individual human being. So for one's personal appreciation of the world, we're left with sets of highly relativistic systems, separable by their degree of usefulness to ourselves as individuals rather than absolute truth/falsehood. Many claims are more or less empirically disprovable- if I told you the president of the United States was a practicing cannibal, you could perform a background check of him (and me!), look at missing person rates in G.W. Bush's proximity over his lifetime, or conduct a thorough medical inspection of G.W. and see what he's been eating lately. This does leave the possibility of a massive cover-up, which keeps the individuals who believe in massive Satanic cults across America happy. For most of us the probability of this kind of cover-up is small enough that we don't worry about it. The remaining models can only be evaluated according to their usefulness in describing some aspects of our world. It might interest some readers to learn that Chomsky's supposedly extreme analysis is a moralistic version of the Realist perspective in international relations, the same perspective that dominates analysts and governments to this day. Thulicydes successfully employed the very same framework to analyze the Greek city-states some 2400 odd years ago. What makes Chomsky special is his strong guiding moral beliefs, willingness to perform extensive research to support his viewpoint, and (most importantly) his focus upon US foreign policy. This focus naturally makes him of much greater interest to the general public in North America than writers and professors who focus on Soviet or European foreign policy. Few in the US spend time criticizing Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for not speaking at greater length about US Foreign Policy, though what he has expressed has not been entirely favourable. So then, is Chomsky's model useful? I think so. It does not and cannot possibly accord with every part of human experience, and pointing out incidents and facts that stand outside it is very useful in delineating the limitations of the model. Should it be taken as THE model of international politics? No. Those who reject a realist or chomsky-ist viewpoint, though, are rejecting a great deal of effective explanatory power in evaluating world events. To do so in a system like international relations where actions flow directly from ideas is dangerously foolish.

Ugh, screwed formatting- Fixed here (4.50 / 2) (#273)
by ComradeSeraph on Wed Oct 31, 2001 at 07:21:47 PM EST

Sorry, I'm new at this...

I'd like to comment on the accusations of close-mindedness and stereotype usage that went back and forth in this discussion. I'm going to wander a bit and build some background, so if you've heard it all before, I apologize. I get the impression most of you have not heard this before or have ignored it before, though, so it bears repeating.

If Postmodernism has accomplished anything, I'd like to think it has been discrediting this kind of argumentation. It's depressing to see so many brilliant minds who haven't learned much about the most important idea in the social sciences in the late 20th century.

The truth is that we're all biased. None of us are not wide open logic processing machines. The greatest delusion of the human species has always been that it can free itself from delusions.

The physical sciences work because they deal with relatively simple systems in isolated environments. The 'hard' sciences are often considered more difficult than the arts- a viewpoint stemming from the calculations and numbers involved. What few people stop to consider is that we don't make many calculations in the arts because the complete set of relevant operations would be much too complicated for all the world's intellects and computers to perform, let alone formulate. To quote Carl Sagan- "If you want to create an apple from scratch, first you have to create the universe." By extension in forming a somewhat accurate model of the human world we must first model the entire physical universe, including our entire evolution, the growth and decay of ecosystems, every human society, of each man, woman and child, and the way they lived their life. These lower level models don't have to be perfect, but each model must be significantly more accurate than the ones above it, or we are building on a house of cards. The attempt to bring science into the humanities in the 1960s was just such a pseudo-scientific attempt to jump over all the intermediary steps, and unsurprisingly it failed badly.

It is true that the future will probably push the physical sciences a great deal closer to the human world of politics and emotion. Unfortunately each step in that direction will exponentially increase the complexity of the complete model. The more we learn, the less any one of us will be able to understand the overrall pattern. When and if great truths are discovered, they will be handed down to us by collectives of individuals or intelligent AI programs working on a diverse array of small, highly specific tasks. They will be (and increasingly are) articles of (reasonably well-founded) faith, empirically unverifiable by the individual human being.

So for one's personal appreciation of the world, we're left with sets of highly relativistic systems, separable by their degree of usefulness to ourselves as individuals rather than absolute truth/falsehood. Many claims are more or less empirically disprovable- if I told you the president of the United States was a practicing cannibal, you could perform a background check of him (and me!), look at missing person rates in G.W. Bush's proximity over his lifetime, or conduct a thorough medical inspection of G.W. and see what he's been eating lately. This does leave the possibility of a massive cover-up, which keeps the individuals who believe in massive Satanic cults across America happy. For most of us the probability of this kind of cover-up is small enough that we don't worry about it. The remaining models can only be evaluated according to their usefulness in describing some aspects of our world.

It might interest some readers to learn that Chomsky's supposedly extreme analysis is a moralistic version of the Realist perspective in international relations, the same perspective that dominates analysts and governments to this day. Thulicydes successfully employed the very same framework to analyze the Greek city-states some 2400 odd years ago. What makes Chomsky special is his strong guiding moral beliefs, willingness to perform extensive research to support his viewpoint, and (most importantly) his focus upon US foreign policy. This focus naturally makes him of much greater interest to the general public in North America than writers and professors who focus on Soviet or European foreign policy. Few in the US spend time criticizing Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn for not speaking at greater length about US Foreign Policy, though what he has expressed has not been entirely favourable.

So then, is Chomsky's model useful? I think so. It does not and cannot possibly accord with every part of human experience, and pointing out incidents and facts that stand outside it is very useful in delineating the limitations of the model. Should it be taken as THE model of international politics? No. Those who reject a realist or chomsky-ist viewpoint, though, are rejecting a great deal of effective explanatory power in evaluating world events. To do so in a system like international relations where actions flow directly from ideas is dangerously foolish.

[ Parent ]

Chomsky on "The New War Against Terror" | 275 comments (254 topical, 21 editorial, 1 hidden)
Display: Sort:

kuro5hin.org

[XML]
All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective companies. The Rest © 2000 - Present Kuro5hin.org Inc.
See our legalese page for copyright policies. Please also read our Privacy Policy.
Kuro5hin.org is powered by Free Software, including Apache, Perl, and Linux, The Scoop Engine that runs this site is freely available, under the terms of the GPL.
Need some help? Email help@kuro5hin.org.
My heart's the long stairs.

Powered by Scoop create account | help/FAQ | mission | links | search | IRC | YOU choose the stories!