- Professor of linguistics, prolific pamphleteer, highly influential leftist
- Known for his extreme views (e.g., that America is worse than Nazi Germany)
- “The so-called War on Terror is pure hypocrisy, virtually without exception”
Born to Jewish parents in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 7, 1928, Noam Chomsky earned a Ph.D. in linguistics from the University of Pennsylvania in 1955. In 1956 he was appointed to a teaching position in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, where he would remain on the faculty until his retirement in 2002. Because his scholarly work in linguistics during the late 1950s so thoroughly remade that field, Chomsky has often been compared to Einstein and other paradigm shifters. According to a 1993 piece in the Chicago Tribune, he was “the most cited living author” and, “among intellectual luminaries of all eras, [he] placed eighth, just behind Plato and Sigmund Freud.” “His audiences,” added the Tribune, “remain SRO [standing-room o nly].” A few years later, a New Yorker profile called Chomsky “one of the greatest minds of the 20th century.”
In short, Chomsky is, among other academics and their students, without question the most politically influential living academic. He has been promoted by rock groups such as Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam at their concerts the way the Beatles once promoted the Guru Maharaji, with the performers solemnly reading excerpts from his work in between sets and urging their followers to read him too. The devotion of Chomsky’s followers was summarized by radio producer David Barsamian, who once described the master’s effulgence in openly religious terms: “He is for many of us our rabbi, our preacher, our rinpoche, our sensei.” Manufacturing Consent, a documentary adapted from one of Chomsky’s books with the same title, achieved the status of an underground classic in university film festivals. And at the climactic moment in the Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting, the genius-janitor, played by Matt Damon, vanquishes the incorrect thinking of a group of sophomoric college students with a fiery speech quoting Professor Chomsky on the illicit nature of American power.
Indeed, American transgressions and atrocities have been the most frequently and passionately cited themes of Chomsky’s career as an author and public speaker. His intellectual obsession has been what he calls America’s “grand strategy of world domination.” In 1967, for instance, Chomsky wrote that the U.S. “needed a kind of denazification.” The Third Reich has provided him with his central metaphor for his own country ever since. Conservative author David Horowitz encapsulated Chomsky’s worldview by writing, two weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001:
“Noam Chomsky has turned out book after book, pamphlet after pamphlet and speech after speech with one message, and one message alone: America is the Great Satan; it is the fount of evil in the world. In Chomsky’s demented universe, America is responsible not only for its own bad deeds, but for the bad deeds of others, including those of the terrorists who struck the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In this attitude he is the medium for all those who now search the ruins of Manhattan not for the victims and the American dead, but for the ‘root causes’ of the catastrophe that befell them….
“The theology that Chomsky preaches is Manichean, with America as its evil principle. For Chomsky no evil, however great, can exceed that of America, and America is also the cause of evil in others. This is the key to the mystery of Sept. 11: The devil made them do it. In every one of the 150 shameful demonstrations that took place on America’s campuses on Sept. 20, these were the twin themes of those who agitated to prevent America from taking up arms in her self-defense: America is responsible for the ‘root causes’ of this criminal attack; America has done worse to others.”
Those who admire Chomsky’s achievements in linguistics but not his politics are at pains to explain what they take to be a disjunction between his academic work and his sociopolitical ideas. They see the former as so brilliant and compelling as to be unarguable — in all a massive scientific achievement — and the latter as so venomous and counter-factual as to be emotionally disturbing. Paul Postal and Robert Levine, linguists who have known and worked with Chomsky, take the view that the two aspects of his life’s work in fact manifest the same key properties: “a deep disregard of, and contempt for, the truth; a monumental disdain for standards of inquiry; a relentless strain of self-promotion; notable descents into incoherence; and a penchant for verbally abusing those who disagree with him.”
Chomsky’s work in linguistics allowed him to make a transition from the university to the public arena in the mid-1960s and to be taken seriously as a critic of the war in Vietnam. In a series of influential articles that appeared in the New York Review of Books and other publications, he distinguished himself by the cold intellectual ferocity of his attacks on American policy. Although a generation older than most members of the New Left, he shared the latter’s eagerness to romanticize the Third World.
Circa 1969, Chomsky was listed as a sponsor of the GI Civil Liberties Defense Committee, a front group for the Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyist entity.
While visiting North Vietnam with a group of anti-war activists, Chomsky delivered the following anti-American, pro-Communist remarks over the airwaves of Radio Hanoi on April 14, 1970:
“Yesterday and today, my friends and I visited Tanh Hoa province. There we were able to see at first hand the constructive work of the social revolution of the Vietnamese people. We saw luxurious fields and lovely countryside. We saw brave men and women who know how to defend their country from brutal aggression, but also to work with pride and with dignity to build a society of material prosperity, social justice, and cultural progress. I would like to express the great joy that we feel in your accomplishments.
“We also saw the ruins of dwellings and hospitals, villages mutilated by savage bombardments, craters disfiguring the peaceful countryside. In the midst of the creative achievements of the Vietnamese people, we came face to face with the savagery of a technological monster controlled by a social class, the rulers of the American empire, that has no place in the 20th century, that has only the capacity to repress and murder and destroy.
“We also saw the (Ham Ranh) Bridge, standing proud and defiant, and carved on the bills above we read the words, ‘determined to win.’ The people of Vietnam will win, they must win, because your cause is the cause of humanity as it moves forward toward liberty and justice, toward the socialist society in which free, creative men control their own destiny….
“We hope that there will continue to be strong bonds of comradeship between the people of Vietnam and the many Americans who wish you success and who detest with all of their being the hateful activities of the American government…. From our point of view there is first of all the deep sympathy that we felt for the suffering of the Vietnamese people, which persists and increases in the southern part of your country, where the American aggression continues in full force.
“There is, furthermore, a feeling of regret and shame that we must feel because we have not been able to stop the American war machine. More important still is our admiration for the people of Vietnam who have been able to defend themselves against the ferocious attack, and at the same time take great strides forward toward the socialist society.
“But, above all, I think, is the feeling of pride. Your heroism reveals the capabilities of the human spirit and human will. Decent people throughout the world see in your struggle a model for themselves. They are in your debt, everlastingly, because you were in the forefront of the struggle to create a world in which the chains of oppression have been broken and replaced by social bonds among free men working in true solidarity and cooperation.
“Your courage and your achievements teach us that we too must be determined to win–not only to win the battle against American aggression in Southeast Asia, but also the battle against exploitation and racism in our own country.
“I believe that in the United States there will be some day a social revolution that will be of great significance to us and to all of mankind, and if this hope is to be proven correct, it will be in large part because the people of Vietnam have shown us the way.
“While in Hanoi I have had the opportunity to read the recent and very important book by Le Duan on the problems and tasks of the Vietnamese revolution. In it, he says that the fundamental interests of the proletariat of the people of all the world consists in at the same time in safeguarding world peace and moving the revolution forward in all countries. This is our common goal. We only hope that we can build upon your historic achievements. Thank you.”
Chomsky was one of the chief deniers of the Cambodian genocide of the 1970s, which took place in the wake of the Communist victory and American withdrawal from Indochina. He directed vitriolic attacks towards the reporters and witnesses who testified to the human catastrophe that was taking place there. Initially, Chomsky tried to minimize the deaths (a “few thousand”) and compared those killed by Pol Pot and his followers to the collaborators who had been executed by resistance movements in Europe at the end of World War II. By 1980, however, it was no longer possible to deny that some 2 million of Cambodia’s 7.8 million people had perished at the hands of the Communists. But Professor Chomsky continued to deny the genocide, proposing that the underlying problem may have been a failure of the rice crop. As late as 1988, Chomsky returned to the subject and insisted that whatever had happened in Cambodia, the U.S. was to blame.
America’s long conflict with the Soviets, and the fact that it was fought out primarily in the Third World, allowed Chomsky to elaborate on his aforementioned analogy with the Nazis and to spin his narrative on the evils of American power. The Soviet dictatorship was not only “morally equivalent” to democratic America, in Chomsky’s view, but actually better because it was less powerful. The chief sin of Stalinism in his eyes was not the murder of millions, but the fact that he had given socialism a bad name.
In the mid-1970s, Chomsky served on the advisory board of the Political Rights Defense Fund, whose purpose was to fight to fight FBI surveillance of the Socialist Workers Party and its youth arm, the Young Socialist Alliance.
In 1994, Chomsky was one of the 100+ activists who helped establish the pro-socialist New Party, which counted among its members a young, aspiring state senator named Barack Obama. To view a list of additional key players in the New Party’s formation, click here.
Also in 1994, Chomsky was an endorser of the Peace for Cuba International Appeal (PCIA), which called for the lifting of America’s travel restrictions and trade embargo against Fidel Castro‘s island nation. PCIA was an affiliate of the International Action Center, which in turn was dominated by the Workers World Party. Other key supporters of PCIA included Philip Agee, Ramsey Clark, John Conyers, Alice Walker, Brian Becker, Teresa Gutierrez, Quentin Young, Gloria La Riva, Charles Rangel, Paul Epstein, and Kathy Durkin.
Chomsky was a sponsor of an October 1998 Brecht Forum event “to celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Communist Manifesto.”
In June 2001, Chomsky was a supporter of the the Boston Democratic Socialists of America‘s annual Debs-Thomas-Bernstein Awards reception, named in memory of high-profile socialists Eugene V. Debs, Norman Thomas, and Julius Bernstein.
In the post-9/11 political ferment, Professor Chomsky’s reputation, which had suffered because of his support of Pol Pot and his dalliance with figures like Faurisson, was revived by the anti-war Left. His following grew, particularly in Europe and Asia, where his views helped inform an inchoate anti-Americanism, and on the university campus, where divesting from Israel (a cause he has championed) and attacks against the War on Terror were de rigueur.
Chomsky dismissed the atrocity of 9/11 as one that was dwarfed in magnitude by Bill Clinton’s 1998 missile attack on a factory in the Sudan following the bombings of two U.S. embassies by al Qaeda, in which no one was injured.
In a speech delivered at M.I.T. on October 18, 2001, entitled “The New War Against Terror,” Chomsky asserted that by launching a military retaliation for 9/11, the United States was “apparently trying to murder 3 or 4 million people.” America was making “plans” and implementing “programs,” he added, “for the death of several million people in the next couple of weeks — not Taliban of course, [but] their victims.” Further, Chomsky claimed that the coming American strike against the Taliban and Osama bin Laden should be understood as “some sort of silent genocide.”
Chomsky also traveled to the Muslim world to repeat the charges of U.S. genocide and terror to millions in Islamabad and New Delhi, denouncing America as “the world’s greatest terrorist state.”
Chomsky saw the 9/11 attacks as a turning point in history when the guns that historically had been trained on the Third World by imperialist powers like America, were turned around. He saw this as a positive development because, in his eyes, unless American “hegemony” was destroyed, the world would face a grim future. Wrote Chomsky:
“During [the years between 1812 and 1941], the U.S. annihilated the indigenous population (millions of people), conquered half of Mexico, intervened violently in the surrounding region, conquered Hawaii and the Philippines (killing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos), and in the past half century particularly, extended its resort to force throughout much of the world. The number of victims is colossal. For the first time, the guns have been directed the other way. That is a dramatic change.”
In 2001 as well, David Horowitz cited Professor Chomsky’s views on a variety of key issues, noting that according to Chomsky: (a) when the postwar struggle with the Soviet Empire began, “the United States was picking up where the Nazis had left off”; (b) American Cold War operations behind the Iron Curtain included “a ‘secret army’ under U.S.-Nazi auspices that sought to provide agents and military supplies to armies that had been established by Hitler and which were still operating inside the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe through the early 1950s”; (c) U.S. support for legitimate governments against communist subversion in Latin America during the Cold War, led to U.S. complicity under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, in “the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads”; (d) there was “a close correlation worldwide between torture and U.S. aid”; (e) America had “invaded” Vietnam in order to slaughter its people; (f) after America left Vietnam in 1975, “the major policy goal of the U.S. [under Presidents Carter and Reagan was] to maximize repression and suffering” — with a “degree of cruelty” that was “quite astonishing” — in “the countries that were devastated by our violence”; (g) “the pretext for Washington’s terrorist wars [i.e., in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Chile, Guatemala, Iraq, etc.] was self-defense, the standard official justification for just about any monstrous act, even the Nazi Holocaust”; (h) America’s crusade against communism was actually a crusade “to protect our doctrine that the rich should plunder the poor”; and (i) “legally speaking, there’s a very solid case for impeaching every American president since the Second World War,” on the premise that “they’ve all been either outright war criminals or involved in serious war crimes.”
“Of course, the end of the Cold War brings its problems too,” added Chomsky. ” Notably, the technique for controlling the domestic population has to had to shift … New enemies have to be invented. It becomes hard to disguise the fact that the real enemy has always been ‘the poor who seek to plunder the rich’ — in particular, Third World miscreants who seek to break out of the service role.”
Chomsky further asserted that America’s greatest fear during the Cold War had been that the success of Marxist governments in Third World countries like North Vietnam, Nicaragua and Granada might discredit the capitalist economic model, and that the U.S. therefore regarded such governments as viruses: “Except for a few madmen and nitwits, none feared [communist] conquest [in the Cold War era] — they were afraid of a positive example of successful development.” “What do you do when you have a virus?” Chomsky then asked rhetorically. “First you destroy it, then you inoculate potential victims, so that the disease does not spread,” he answered. “That’s basically the U.S. strategy in the Third World.”
Chomsky made his position on the war against terror explicitly clear in a 118-page book titled 9-11, which was published soon after the September 11th attacks. The book consisted of a half-dozen email interviews with Chomsky conducted primarily by foreign journalists and focused around the events of 9-11. As the book got started, Chomsky wasted no time attacking America. He wrote: “During the past several hundred years the U.S. annihilated the indigenous population (millions of people), conquered half of Mexico (in fact, the territories of indigenous peoples, but that is another matter), intervened violently in the surrounding region, conquered Hawaii and the Philippines (killing hundreds of thousands of Filipinos), and, in the past half century particularly, extended its resort to force throughout much of the world.” Additional noteworthy excerpts from Chomsky’s book included the following:
- “When [the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City] was found to be domestic, with links to ultra-right militias, there was no call to obliterate Montana and Idaho.” The point that he is unsuccessfully attempting to make is that this case should be used as a precedent to prevent America from bombing foreign nations in retaliation for 9-11. But, for obvious reasons, this analogy makes no sense
- “To call it a ‘war against terrorism,’ however, is simply more propaganda, unless the ‘war’ really does target terrorism. But that is plainly not contemplated because Western powers could never abide by their own official definitions of the term, as in the U.S. Code or Army manuals. To do so would at once reveal that the U.S. is a leading terrorist state, as are its clients.”
- “The United States continues international terrorism . . . I don’t know what name you give to the policies [i.e., economic sanctions] that are a leading factor in the death of maybe a million civilians in Iraq and maybe a half a million children, which is the price the Secretary of State says we’re willing to pay. Is there a name for that?”
- “After many years of [American] terror beginning in late 1959, including very serious atrocities, Cuba should have the right to resort to violence against the U.S. according to U.S. doctrine that is scarcely questioned. It is, unfortunately, all too easy to continue, not only with regard to the U. S. but also other terrorist states.”
In 2002 Chomsky endorsed the founding of War Times, an anti-Iraq War newspaper established by a coterie of San Francisco leftists affiliated with Standing Together to Organize a Revolutionary Movement (STORM); one of the publication’s more noteworthy founders was the revolutionary communist Van Jones, who would later become President Barack Obama‘s “green jobs czar” in 2009.
Chomsky retired from MIT in 2002, but continued to conduct research and seminars on campus as an emeritus.
Professor Chomsky’s 2003 book, Hegemony or Survival, cast America as a threat to global survival. The New York Times and Washington Post both treated it as a significant work, with Pulitzer Prize winner Samantha Power writing in the Times that Chomsky’s book was “sobering and instructive.”
In June 2004 Chomsky was a guest speaker at an International Socialist Organization event, along with such notables as Marian Wright Edelman, Howard Zinn, Daniel Ellsberg, Tom Hayden, and Alice Walker.
In a September 2005 interview with Amy Goodman on her Democracy Now! program, Venezuela’s Marxist president, Hugo Chavez, said: “I would like very much to shake hands with Chomsky. I’ve been reading him for a while. I admire him enormously.” In a speech at the United Nations a year later, Chavez held up one of Chomsky’s books and said: “Noam Chomsky, and this is one of his most recent books, Hegemony or Survival: The Imperialist Strategy of the United States. I will just leave it as a recommendation.” The feeling was mutual, as Chomsky lauded Chavez and professed his own “solidarity with your politics and with the important social transformations that your government is developing for the well being of the majority of Venezuelans.”
In 2006, Peter Sweitzer of Canada’s National Post laid bare the hypocrisy of Chomsky’s condemnations of tax-avoiding trusts, investments and money-making schemes:
“The iconic MIT linguist and left—wing activist frequently has lashed out against the ‘massive use of tax havens to shift the burden to the general population and away from the rich,’ and criticized the concentration of wealth in ‘trusts’ by the wealthiest 1%. He says the U.S. tax code is rigged with ‘complicated devices for ensuring that the poor — like 80% of the population — pay off the rich. But trusts can’t be all bad. After all, Chomsky, with a net worth north of US$2—million, decided to create one for himself. A few years back he went to Boston’s venerable white-shoe law firm, Palmer and Dodge, and, with the help of a tax attorney specializing in “income-tax planning,” set up an irrevocable trust to protect his assets from Uncle Sam. [….] Chomsky did say that his tax shelter is OK because he and his family are “trying to help suffering people.”
In a November 2008 interview, Chomsky told the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) that public opinion in the U.S. “overwhelmingly holds that Iran should have the right to develop nuclear energy.” His own view, he elaborated, was that Iran was “of course entitled to uranium enrichment.” Chomsky also lashed out at Western media for claiming that Iran was “defying the world” by trying to advance its nuclear program. “That’s a funny definition of the ‘world,’” he said. “The Non-Aligned Movement, for example, which is the majority of countries, endorses Iran’s right to enrich uranium.” Further, Chomsky stated that America’s hostile stance toward Iran was due to Iran’s refusal to “subordinate itself to U.S. will.” “In fact, that’s official policy going back to World War II in which the U.S. would try to create a world order in which it is dominant,” he said.
In 2010, Chomsky lauded Bradley Manning, the former U.S. Army intelligence analyst who had stolen and distributed, to the Julian Assange-founded website WikiLeaks, hundreds of thousands of classified documents containing sensitive information about the American government and its military. According to Chomsky, Manning was a man of “courage and integrity in serving his country by helping make the government accountable to its citizens, and to inform the world of what its people should know.” At one time, WikiLeaks listed Noam Chomsky as a volunteer administrator of its Facebook page, although Chomsky denied the association.
In January 2011, Chomsky characterized the recent Republican takeover of the U.S. Congress as “a kind of a death knell for the species.”
“It’s increasingly clear that the operation was a planned assassination, multiply violating elementary norms of international law. There appears to have been no attempt to apprehend the unarmed victim …
“Less is said about Pakistani anger that the U.S. invaded their territory to carry out a political assassination. Anti-American fervor is already very high in Pakistan, and these events are likely to exacerbate it. The decision to dump the body at sea is already, predictably, provoking both anger and skepticism in much of the Muslim world.
“We might ask ourselves how we would be reacting if Iraqi commandos landed at George W. Bush’s compound, assassinated him, and dumped his body in the Atlantic. Uncontroversially, his crimes vastly exceed bin Laden’s, and he is not a ‘suspect’ but uncontroversially the ‘decider’ who gave the orders to commit the ‘supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole’ [quoting the Nuremberg Tribunal] for which Nazi criminals were hanged: the hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of refugees, destruction of much of the country, the bitter sectarian conflict that has now spread to the rest of the region.
“Same with the name, Operation Geronimo. The imperial mentality is so profound, throughout western society, that no one can perceive that they are glorifying bin Laden by identifying him with courageous resistance against genocidal invaders.”
“I was saying that I’ve written plenty of unpopular articles, and one of the most unpopular had to do with the murder, not killing, of Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden was a suspect…. In fact, personally, I don’t have any doubt that he was responsible [for 9/11], but my personal opinion is nothing that stands up in a court of law. You have to have evidence. You have to have a trial, a serious trial. And it was pretty clear that the U.S. government didn’t want that. He was captured, apprehended, by, you know, the most skilled masters of war—to use the Somali warlord’s expression—that exist in the world, 80 of them, I think. He was defenseless…. [I]t was a criminal—in my view, just total—a complete criminal act. No justification.”
In October 2013, Chomsky denounced the U.S. “drone campaign” that targets terrorists overseas with deadly missiles, as “by far the biggest terrorist campaign in the world.” “It’s never described that way,” added Chomsky, “but of course, [that is] what it is. Furthermore, it’s a terrorist-generating campaign. From the highest levels and the most respected sources, it’s recognized that the drone attacks create potential terrorists on quite a substantial scale. So therefore, it is a threat to U.S. security, quite apart from being a terrorist campaign in itself.”
In a 2013 interview, Chomsky described the suggestion that Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez had suppressed freedom-of-the-press as “a bit of a joke.” He added: “There’s a strong opposition press bitterly attacking him all the time. There’s much more of an opposition press than there is in most of Latin America…. There is some repression of the press, but it’s mostly, you know, verbal intimidation.”
In 2013 as well, Chomsky cited climate change as one cause of Syria’s bloody civil war. “There was a drought of unprecedented scale in Syria,” he said. “… Therefore, the tragedy that has unfolded in Syria is partly a consequence of global warming.”
In a March 2014 interview with Chris Hedges, Chomsky blamed the “Sunni-Shia conflict” in the Middle East on the 2003 “U.S.-British invasion of Iraq.” Said Chomsky: “Well, the U.S.-British invasion of Iraq is a textbook case of aggression. And one of the things it did, one of the crimes was to ignite a Sunni-Shiite conflict which hadn’t been going on.”
In a December 2014 interview with GRITtv, Chomsky emphasized the many ways in which America had been, and continued to be, “a very racist society.” The U.S. states in the post-Civil War and Reconstruction era, he said, “threw mostly black males, but also women, into jail where they become a perfect labor force, much better than slaves.” Then, after a period in which black life improved somewhat with the rise of labor unions, “by the 1970s and 1980s [it went] back to criminalization of black life. It’s called the drug war, which is a racist war.” “Ronald Reagan was an extreme racist,” Chomsky continued. “And the whole drug war, so-called, is decided from policing up to eventual release from prison to make it impossible for the black male community, and more and more the women and more and more Hispanics, to be part of this society.” He lamented, further, that the mass of the African-American population “has been re-criminalized and incidentally also turned into a slave labor force, through prison labor, for example.” “This is American history,” Chomsky continued. “To break out of that is no small trick. In fact, if you take a look at the … last election, in many ways it’s the Civil War. The red [Republican] states are the Confederacy. It extends a bit beyond, but that’s pretty much what it is.”
“For many MIT faculty, staff, and students, the election and inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States is cause for alarm. The words and actions of the President have for us animated a real fear: that this administration may undo the gains that have pressed the United States to become an increasingly just and equitable society for everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, identity, gender, sexuality, religion, ability, or class. Many of us are afraid that normalizing the actions of this administration will erode concern for the suffering of others and undermine aspirational American commitments to human rights and dignity for all people…. We believe that collective acts of resistance are necessary…. Many of us believe that Trump is moving toward authoritarianism, and we believe that this represents an attack on democracy. Those of us who have studied the history of fascism believe Trump’s administration represents a significant step in this direction.”
In an April 2017 interview with Democracy Now!, Chomsky said he believed that President Donald Trump might stage an “alleged terrorist attack” in order to “maintain control” politically. “Sooner or later this con game is not going to work,” he stated. “People will understand he’s not bringing back jobs, he’s not going to recreate the partly illusory, partly real picture of what life was like in the past with manufacturing jobs, and a functioning society where you can get ahead and so on and so forth. He’s not going to create that. So what happens at that point, something has to be done to maintain control. The obvious technique is scapegoating. Blame it on the Muslims, on immigrants, on somebody. But that can only go so far. The next step would be, as I said, an ‘alleged terrorist attack,’ which is quite easy, in fact almost normal…. The other possibility is a staged attack of a minor kind, and how hard would that be?”
In a May 2017 interview with the BBC, Chomsky characterized the modern-day Republican Party as the most dangerous organization “in human history” — worse, even, than the Islamic terrorist group ISIS. “Is ISIS dedicated to trying to destroy the prospects for organized human existence?” he asked rhetorically. “What does it mean to say not only are we not doing anything about climate change,” Chomsky added, “but we’re trying to accelerate the race to the precipice? It doesn’t matter whether they genuinely believe it or not if the consequence of that is, ‘let’s use more fossil fuels, let’s refuse to subsidize developing countries, let’s eliminate regulations that reduce greenhouse gases.’ If that’s the consequence, that’s extremely dangerous.” In addition, Chomsky stated that Donald Trump’s recent victory over Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election had been fueled by “white supremacy.” “White supremacy is very deeply rooted in the United States,” he said. “It ranks higher than even South Africa. There’s no doubt there was a racist motivation behind [Mr. Trump’s victory].”
In a November 2018 interview with Democracy Now!, Chomsky asserted that the Trump administration’s failure to address climate change meant that the president’s “dedication” to destroying human life was more intense than that of Adolf Hitler. Said Chomsky:
“[T]he Trump administration, right now, is opening up new areas of the West for fracking, for increasing the use of fossil fuels. You’ve probably seen maybe discussed one of the most amazing documents I have ever seen. The Trump department of highway standards, whatever it’s called, just issued a long report, hundred-page report, urging that all regulations on automotive emissions should be ended. And they had a very logical argument. They said if we extrapolate current trends by the end of the century, the climate will have warmed several degrees Centigrade, meaning a huge rise in sea level, which they underestimate. So, basically, we’re going over the cliff anyway, and automotive emissions really don’t add much to this, so there’s no point cutting them back. The assumption of the department is that everyone in the world is as criminally insane as we are, and isn’t going to do anything about it…. I can’t think of anything like this in human history. You just can’t find words to describe it. And at the peak of the monstrosity is, in fact, the Trump administration….
“You can just imagine what the world would be like if the sea level rises, say, 10 or 20 feet or even higher, which is within the range—easily within the range of predictions. I mean, the consequences are unimaginable. But it’s as if we’re kind of like the proverbial lemmings just happily marching off the cliff, led by leaders who understand very well what they’re doing, but are so dedicated to enriching themselves and their friends in the near future that it simply doesn’t matter what happens to the human species. There’s nothing like this in all of human history. There have been plenty of monsters in the past, plenty of them. But you can’t find one who was dedicated, with passion, to destroying the prospects for organized human life. Hitler was horrible enough, but not that.”
Chomsky, Israel, the Jews, & Arab Terorism
Chomsky’s contempt for America has long been mirrored by his hatred for the state of Israel, a country he regards as playing the role of Little Satan to the American Great Satan and functioning strategically as an “offshore military and technology base for the United States.”
In May 1978, Chomsky was a sponsor of “A National Organizing Conference” held at American University by the Palestine Human Rights Campaign.
In 1980, Chomsky authored the preface to a book by the French writer Robert Faurisson, a Holocaust denier who claimed that Jewish organizations had fabricated tales of the Holocaust in order to extort war reparations from Germany and to cultivate international support for the establishment of a Jewish state. Though Chomsky’s preface did not explicitly endorse Faurisson’s thesis, neither did it criticize that thesis. Moreover, the preface depicted Faurisson as “a relatively apolitical liberal” whose “extensive historical research” contained “no hint of anti-Semitic implications.” Soon thereafter, Chomsky, in a private correspondence with the Australian journalist William Rubenstein, said that there was nothing inherently anti-Semitic about denying that the Holocaust had in fact taken place: “I see no anti-Semitic implications in denial of the existence of gas chambers, or even denial of the holocaust. Nor would there be anti-Semitic implications, per se, in the claim that the holocaust (whether one believes it took place or not) is being exploited, viciously so, by apologists for Israeli repression and violence. I see no hint of anti-Semitic implications in Faurisson’s work.”
In a January 1990 column published by the magazine The Lies of Our Times, Chomsky wrote that “the Jews do not merit a ‘second homeland’ because they already have New York, with a huge Jewish population, Jewish-run media, a Jewish mayor, and domination of cultural and economic life.” In a subsequent interview, entitled “Anti-Semitism, Zionism and the Palestinians,” he said:
“By now Jews in the U.S. are the most privileged and influential part of the population…. Anti-Semitism is no longer a problem, fortunately. It’s raised, but it’s raised because privileged people want to make sure they have total control, not just 98% control. That’s why anti-Semitism is becoming an issue. Not because of the threat of anti-Semitism; they want to make sure there’s no critical look at the policies the U.S. (and they themselves) support in the Middle East…. We should bear it in mind when there’s talk in the U.S. about anti-Semitism.”
According to the website Stand4Facts.org, Chomsky at various times has made the following statements about Israel, Jews, and the Holocaust:
- “I objected to the founding of Israel as a Jewish state. I don’t think a Jewish or Christian or Islamic state is a proper concept. I would object to the United States as a Christian state.”
- Israel is “a state based on the principle of discrimination. There is no other way for a state with non-Jewish citizens to remain a Jewish state…”
- “Israel is virtually a U.S. military base, an offshoot of the U.S. military system.”
- “There are a great many horrible regimes in the world. To take just one, the world’s longest military occupation. There’s little doubt that those under the military occupation would be much better off if the occupation were terminated. Does it follow that we should bomb Tel Aviv?”
- “Of course [suicide bombers are] terrorists and there’s been Palestinian terrorism all the way through. I have always opposed it….But it’s very small as compared with the U.S.-backed Israeli terrorism.”
- “[Y]ou’d have to go back to the worst days of the American South to know what it’s been like for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.”
- “What this wall [separation barrier] is really doing is … helping turn Palestinian communities into dungeons, next to which the bantustans of South Africa look like symbols of freedom, sovereignty and self-determination.”
Regarding the January 2006 elections in which Hamas rose to political dominion over Gaza, Chomsky subsequently wrote: “In January 2006, an election took place in Palestine, pronounced free and fair by international monitors. The instant reaction of the U.S. (and of course Israel), with Europe following along politely, was to impose harsh penalties on Palestinians for voting the wrong way.”
- “The United States considers Hizbullah a terrorist organization, but the term terrorism is used by the great powers simply to refer to forms of violence of which they disapprove. So the U.S. was of course supporting the Israeli invasions and occupation of southern Lebanon. Hizbullah was instrumental in driving them out, so for that reason they are a terrorist organization.”
- “Personally I’m very much opposed to Hamas’ policies in almost every respect. However, we should recognize that the policies of Hamas are more forthcoming and more conducive to a peaceful settlement than those of the United States or Israel. So to repeat: the policies, in my view, are unacceptable, but preferable to the policies of the United States and Israel.”
- “Hamas has called for a long-term indefinite truce on the international border. There is a long-standing international consensus that goes back over thirty years that there should be a two-state political settlement on the international border, the pre-June 1967 border, with minor and mutual modifications. That’s the official phrase. Hamas is willing to accept that as a long-term truce. The United States and Israel are unwilling even to consider it.”
- “The demand on Hamas by the United States and the European Union and Israel… The demand is first that they recognize the State of Israel. Actually, that they recognize its right to exist. Well, Israel and the U.S. certainly don’t recognize the right of Palestine to exist, nor recognize any state of Palestine. In fact, they have been acting consistently to undermine any such possibility. The second condition is that Hamas must renounce violence. Israel and the United States certainly do not renounce violence. The third condition is that Hamas accept international agreements. The United States and Israel reject international agreements.”
- “So, though the policies of Hamas are, again in my view, unacceptable, they happen to be closer to the international consensus on a political peaceful settlement than those of their antagonists, and it’s a reflection of the power of the imperial states — the United States and Europe — that they are able to shift the framework, so that the problem appears to be Hamas’ policies, and not the more extreme policies of the United States and Israel.”
That same month, Chomsky had a friendly meeting (click here for video) with Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon, lauding them for their noble fight against injustice and oppression. He smiled, shook hands with them, and exchanged hugs and kisses with them. One of those whom he embraced and kissed was Hezbollah’s secretary general, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. In response to a reporter’s question about Lebanese expatriates who had praised U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton, Chomsky replied: “Well, you know, they have their own choices to make. There is pressure they have to deal with. When Japan occupied Asia and committed atrocities there, some Asians honored Japan because they were subject to imperialism.”
In a May 23, 2006 interview with LBC TV in Lebanon, Chomsky addressed a question suggesting that he had compared some of Israel’s past actions to those of Hitler. “I have never described Israeli policies as being like Hitler,” he said, “or anyone else’s policies as being like Hitler. Hitler was unique. It’s a historically unique, hideous, development in human affairs. I don’t think anyone is like it. On the other hand, I do say that some of the policies announced happen to be very similar to those of Hitler. So Hitler’s quoted remarks when he took over Czechoslovakia – they are familiar from every other great power, and we should recognize that. That’s not to say that everyone else is committing the Holocaust. No, of course they’re not. That was unique. But we should recognize similarities in planning, policies, and thinking, when they are real.”
In a November 2018 interview with i24NEWS, Chomsky condemned the “humiliation” and “degradation” to which Israel allegedly subjected the Palestinian people, and he likened the Jewish state to a “jackboot on somebody’s neck.” “Take Gaza,” Chomsky added. “If you are going to place two million people in a concentration camp, which is in effect what it is, and put them under a vicious siege, you have to ask yourself: am I justified in doing this?”
More About Chomsky
Chomsky has been a longtime member of both the Democratic Socialists of America and the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. He also has served as a board of advisors member with the Free Gaza Movement; an endorser of the Campaign for Peace and Democracy; and an advisory editor for Against the Current, a bimonthly magazine produced by the revolutionary socialist organization Solidarity.
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