Monday, April 27, 2009

Noam Chomsky, How to be Wrong and not Give a Damn

Noam Chomsky is a man who has made himself heard for decades, denouncing almost everything good about the world, everything that frees satisfies and elevates the human body, mind and spirit, while, of course, living comfortably and freely among the people he despises, because the places he considers models of social rectitude are invariably places where nobody who has any choice would want to live. The people who do live in such places have no choice, of course, but they don’t matter, because they are not Noam Chomsky.

I have linked above to his Wikipedia page, as well as his own site, in case anyone needs an introduction, but don’t take any of it too seriously, as his own remarks about his childhood, earlier actions and beliefs are notoriously unreliable. And it is worth remembering that Edward Said was a communist and PLO collaborator, whose books did not seek truth of any kind, but only justification.

Chomsky is a classic example of pathological self-loathing. An American Jew who hates America, Judaism and Israel (to the extreme of doing a good line in Holocaust denial at times) a product of the freedom and prosperity that America’s people have repeatedly made for themselves, but to which he does not contribute, he has spend his life leaching off the country he despises, using that prosperity and freedom to do nothing of value, but rather to attack everything which has allowed him such a free and comfortable life, defending terrorists, tyrants and murderers, glorifying the imposition of slavery, poverty, repression, disease and despair, often with remarkably twisted logic and moral judgement, often with outright lies. (He is a full professor at MIT, and has said that he earns more from the Defense Department than he does from the University. Make of that what you will, but it is clear that he has never lost anything by speaking his mind, other than his grasp on the truth.)

Western Universities are still full of Communist stooges, most of them unread and unlistened to. Most have to limit themselves to trying to have people who believe in freedom, rigour and truth sacked or marginalised. But Chomsky has a voice which is still heard in

Even his contributions to linguistics are not what they are made out to be. His books show all the signs of idle speculation, and few of any real research. Transformational generative grammar is, in the end, no more than a name, given arbitrarily to his endless witterings about what Saussure and Bloomfield and Skinner did and did not say. It’s like listening to Jaques Derrida trying to explain what a cockroach is.

Universal grammar is a concept that he genuinely tries to defend, and to find examples of, but most of the real work has been done by others. His most recognised conceptual creation, the Language Acquisition Device, is explained by a great deal of flim-flam with no foundation in real research, let alone any attempt to provide a real physiological, genetic or psychological foundation for it. It is no more than a name for the trite observation that young children learn language with remarkable ease.

His contempt for the truth is beautifully demonstrated here, in an authoritative, carefully annotated and measured article by Paul Bogdanor. You get the impression that Chomsky just makes things up whenever he needs a new fact to support him, and then decrees that whatever he says must be true.

‘Colourless green ideas sleep furiously’ is possibly the truest, most meaningful thing he ever said.

Oh, and talking of Marxists and Linguistics, have another look at this, in which one of Chomsky's many bloodstained heroes gives an idealogically pure explanation of some abstruse points of language theory.

No comments: