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January 10, 2004


Eve Garrard

Thanks for this really interesting analysis. Your proposal that the common feature between Chomsky's linguistics and his politics is the slide from methodology to ontology sounds very convincing.

Joe Baxter

I'm not a member of the Chomsky cult, if such a thing exists, however, I was stopped short by the following statement, which you put in direct quotes -

"I'm only going to deal with US crimes" becomes "the only real crimes are US crimes"

Is this actually a direct quote from Chomsky? I would really like to know.

Mick Hartley


No, sorry, they're not direct quotes from Chomsky, rather my precis of the slide in his approach. If you think the quotation marks implied that these were direct quotes, (and put like that, it does seem a fair assumption) then I'm sorry, that wasn't my intention.

Combustible Boy

It's no exaggeration, by the way, to say that Chomsky tends to see people who disagree with him as morally deficient, since he often argues his case in terms of what he calls "moral truisms" (just search in Google for Chomsky and "moral truisms" sometime), seemingly blind to the way many people see the concept of a truism as a question-begging logical short-circuit...


Years before Alterman wrote his best seller there was Chomsky and Herman's The Myth of the Liberal Media. Yes; Alterman makes an effort to control his polemical tendencies, and Chomsky lets his run free. But is Chomsky so wrong?

Is it enough to point out a red herring, to knock down a strawman as Alterman does? Is it not necessary to go further -- to argue that the NYT and WaPo are myth makers, that they are the expression of the superstructure of a conservative society, that they promote anomie and marginalize the impulse to community all to the principal benefit of the upper class? And this, Chomsky does.

Yes; le style c'est l'homme. And here, Chomsky (he doesn't suffer opponents lightly) doesn't help his cause. But to call him a leader of a cult seems, at least to me, overdone.


Chomsky may not be a cult leader (I don't think he is, and I don't that's what Mick is alleging), but he undeniably has a cult following.

That said, I can't help but feel that the characterisation of "the liberal media" is a bit of a "No True Scotsman" fallacy; a deliberate obfuscation of the distinction between "the media, who are liberal" and "the media who are liberal." That comma makes all the difference. From what I understand of Chomsky, however, he commits the same fallacy only going the other way.

Interesting analysis, Mick, and quite compelling.


On our side of the pond "the liberal media" is not an obfuscation (and I do understand if not take Jurjen's point) but rather, a term of art.

The New York Times and the Washington Post are, among elite political discussants, held to be liberal if not left-leaning papers [I don't believe I'm wrong in thinking that the overwhelming majority of liberals think the Times is centrist and the Washington Post is right of center]. The rest of the media is, of course, below the salt (is that how you say it?).

With no liberal media the fulcrum of our discourse is right of right of center.



Let me suggest that you have not laid a single substantive charge against Chomsky's writings on US foreign policy.

For all that are intersted, check out this amazing debate between Chomsky and Richard Perle in 1988. The debate is ferocious, as they each go after the other with great vigour. By the end of the debate Chomsky has factually destroyed the dreamlike vision of US foreign policy that Perle articulated. The crowd gives Chomsky repeated ovations while occasionally booing Perle. Makes for great listening. Here's the link:


Roger Cohen


I must concur with Steve. Your comments on Chomsky are essentially rambling impressions. You reference nothing that Chomsky has actually said or written, and much of what you write here are rehashed, warmed over charges that are made against Chomsky routinely. I am not Chomsky "cultist" and I find, like you, his seemingly singular emphasis on US crimes and atrocities problematic. But if you are going to take on Chomsky, I'd advise you do so in a scholarly and better-researched fashion. This, of course, require doing some homework, and hard work, both of which are sorely lacking in the blogosphere.

Mick H

Roger (and Steve),

Sorry, but I wasn't trying for a definitive point-by-point rebuttal of Chomsky. His arguments, many of them, are perfectly fine as far as they go. What I'm saying is, by totally ignoring the context (the cold war, the fight against terrorism, etc.), his charges lose a great deal of their force. It's like describing a boxing match by concentrating on only one boxer. It's not wrong, but as a description of what's going on it's useless.

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