Noam Chomsky is a US activist and political theorist and institute professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Besides his expertise in linguistics, Chomsky is one of the most recognized intellectual internationally while critically engaging in public regarding the American foreign policy and its desire to establish geopolitical hegemony and spreading the neoliberal turn of global capitalism. I will therefore try to express his academical backround and followingly his take on the modern imperialism and United States’ military inventions as well as the nation-state critique. Over the past decades, Chomsky has taken a critical stand of U.S. foreign policy and its many military interventions across the world, pointing out that the United States’ support for failed and undemocratic regimes and hostility against minor movements would be easily make them a Rogue state. Apart from his point of view about the U.S. policies, I will try to express his ideologies of Anarchism, Anarchosyndicalism and his contributions as well as point of view in regarded cases.
Noam Chomsky – A life of Dissent
Avram Noam Chomsky was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on December 7, 1928. His father William Zev Chomsky, was an Ashkenazi Jew originally from Europe,Ukraine who migrated to the United States in 1913. His father William became school principal of the Congregation Mikveh Israel religious school after he graduated from Johns Hopkins University. After his duty as a principal, he was appointed to the faculty at Gratz College in Philadelphia in 1924. Elsie Simonofsky, Chomsky’s mother was born in Belarus. She was an activist and a teacher and met William, Chomsky’s father while working as a principal at Mikveh Israel Religious School. Noam was the family’s first child. He has a brother David Eli Chomsky, was born five years older than Noam Chomsky. The brothers were close, although David was more easygoing while Noam could be very competitive.1 Chomsky and his brother were both raised Jewish, he was taught Hebrew and discussing the political theories of Zionism regularly. The family was quite influenced by the Left Zionist writings of Ahad Ha’am.2 Barsky claims that, Chomsky faced anti-semitism as a child, particularly from the Irish and German communities living in Philadelphia due to him and his family for being Jewish. Chomsky described his parents as ordindary Roosevelt Democrats who had a center-left position on the political sense; however, he was interested to far-left politics through other members of the family who were mainly socialist. He was substantially influenced by his uncle who owned a newspaper stand in New York City, where Jewish leftists came to discuss and debate regularly about the daily problems of theirs.3
Barsky talks about how Chomsky frequently visited his uncle’s shop and spent time in left-wing and anarchist bookstores in the city, reading political literature. He later described his discovery of anarchism as “a lucky accident” because it allowed him to become critical of other far-left ideologies, namely Stalinism and other forms of Marxism–Leninism.4 Chomsky’s primary education was at Oak Lane Country Day School, an independent Deweyite institution that focuses social interaction and group learning over individual education and which became dominant influence on American education. When he was 10, he wrote his first article on the spread of fascism following the fall of Barcelona and Francisco Franco’s fascist regime in the Spanish Civil War. At the age of 12, Chomsky started his secondary education at Central High School. From the age of 13, he focused on anarchist politics.
Chomsky started his university study in 1945 in University of Pennsylvania. He developed an interest about exploring philosophy, logic, and languages and a primary interest in learning Arabic. He was living at home while he funded his undergraduate degree by teaching Hebrew to others. However, he was quite frustrated with his experiences at the university and considered dropping out and moving to a kibbutz(shared resident districts) in Mandatory Palestine for a while. His intellectual curiosity was increased through his interactions with the Russian linguist Zellig Harris, whom he first met in 1947. Harris introduced Chomsky to the field of theoretical linguistics and convinced him to major in the subject.5 Chomsky’s bachelor degree thesis was titled “Morphophonemics of Modern Hebrew”. Chomsky again focused on the previous thesis topic and eventually received his masters degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1951. He published this masters degree as his first book. He also developed his interest towards philosophy in university, with his teacher Nelson Goodman. From 1951 to 1955, Chomsky was named to the Society of Fellows at Harvard University, where he completed his doctoral dissertation. In 1952, Chomsky published his first academic article; “Systems of Syntactic Analysis” which was published in journal of linguistics and in The Journal of Symbolic Logic. He started giving lectures in behaviorist currents in linguistics in 1954 at the University of Chicago and Yale University. Although he had not been registered as a student at Pennsylvania for four years, he submitted a thesis to the University of Pennsylvania in 1955 on transformational grammar and he was awarded his Ph.D. After receiving his Ph.D. Degree, he had the chance to pass on mandatory military service which was due to begin in 1955.
Early Career: 1955-66
The work of anarcho-syndicalist Rudolf Rocker and democratic socialist George Orwell significantly influenced the young Chomsky.6 Chomsky was strictly against the Jewish nationalism and anti-Arab racism that he experienced in the country. His readings convinced him of the desirability of an anarcho-syndicalist society, and he became fascinated by the anarcho-syndicalist communes set up during the Spanish Civil War. Although rejecting its Marxist basis, Chomsky was heavily influenced by council communism, haring their views that the Second World War was orchestrated by Western capitalists and the Soviet Union’s “state capitalists” to crush Europe’s proletariat at the time. From 1957 to 1958 he was working in Columbia University as a visiting professor. That same year, Chomsky published his first book on linguistics after his dissertation, “Syntactic Structures.” In 1961 he was awarded an academic position and became a full-time professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics. He published his linguistic ideas in Aspects of the Theory of Syntax (1966), Topics in the Theory of Generative Grammar (1966), and Cartesian Linguistics: A Chapter in the History of Rationalist Thought (1966). Noam Chomsky is considered as the father of modern linguistics.
Anti-Vietnam War activism and rise to prominence: 1967–75
Chomsky has started to declare an interest towards political issues, mainly on the U.S Involvement in the Vietnam war in 1962. He was supporting the active political protest against the U.S by speaking on the subject in small gatherings such as churches and homes.His first publication regarding the critization of US foreign policy dated back to 1967, an essay about the “Responsibility of Intellectuals” in The New York Rebview of Books. He mainly critized the country’s involvement in the Vietnam conclicts and later on the contributed more about the topic in his first political book, American Power and the New Mandarins, which was published in 1969.
By then the U.S.-imposed client regime could no longer control the indigenous resistance evoked by massive state terror, which had killed tens of thousands of people. Kennedy therefore sent the U.S. Air Force to begin regular bombing of South Vietnam, authorized napalm and chemical warfare to destroy crops and ground cover, and initiated the programs that drove millions of South Vietnamese peasants to urban slums or to camps where they were surrounded by barbed wire to “protect” them from the South Vietnamese resistance forces that they were supporting, as Washington knew.
All in defense against the two Great Satans, Russia and China, or the “Sino-Soviet axis.”7
That book will be his first step in to becoming the American dissent. Later on he followed his first political book with several more books included At War with Asia (1971), The Backroom Boys (1973), For Reasons of State (1973), and Peace in the Middle East? (1975). Although The New York Review of Books published his book in the previous dates, following with many other writers, there was an editorial stop against the leftist and started to be virtually ignored by the rest of the mainstream media and press between 1960 to 1970’s. He also once arrested for being a part of an anti-war teachings outside Pentagon. Also he was publicly supported students who refused to be drafted by the military service.
During this period, he critized his university due to their involment of researching war materials; helicopters, smart bombs and counterinsurgency techniques for the war in Vietnam. Chomky’s says “a good deal of nuclear missile guidance technology was developed right on the MIT campus and MIT was about 90% Pentagon funded at that time while I was personally right in the middle of it.”In 1970,he visited the Vietnamese city of Hanio and gave a lecture in the Hanoi University of Science and Technology, also toured the refugee camps of Laos which was created by the war.He was named in the President Richard Nixon’s ‘Enemies List’. As a result of his anti-war activism, he had been arrested in the multiple occasions. Although he was under the pressure of the government due to his political thoughts, MIT refused to fire him due to his importance and influental position in the field of linguistics. In 1967, he received honorary doctorates from both the University of London and the University of Chicago . In 1971 he has joined a debate with French philosopher Michel Foucault on Dutch television network, which was named Human Nature: Justice versus Power.8 Although largely agreeing with Foucault’s ideas, he was critical of post-modernism and French philosophy generally, believing that post-modern leftist philosophers used obfuscating language which did little to aid the cause of the working-classes and lambasting France as having “a highly parochial and remarkably illiterate culture”9.
Chomsky also continued to publish in linguistics area apart from the political publications, he published Studies on Semantics in Generative Grammar (1972), an enlarged edition of Language and Mind (1972), and Reflections on Language (1975). Oftenly his public talks produced controversies, especially when he criticezd the actoins of the Israeli government and its military measures taken against the Palastine. Most of the time his political views clashed with the right-wing and centrist figures. Furthermore, during the early 1970s his book, Counter-Revolutionary Violence: Bloodbaths in Fact & Propaganda, a book which criticized U.S. military involvement in Southeast Asia and indicated how mainstream media covered stories about these activities 1973 falsely. However, his publishers parent company disapproved of the book’s contents and ordered all copies to be destroyed. Although Chomsky had criticized Nazism and totalitarianism many times, his commitment of defending the freedom of speech led him to defending a Holocaust denialist in France. His support to the French historian Robert Faurisson regarding the freedom of speech was condemned in France and his translation of political writings even delayed until the 2000’s.
Reaganite era and work on the media: 1980–89
After the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan won the elections and gained the U.S Presidency in 1980, an era has started regarding the U.S. military interventions in Central America. In 1985, during the Nicaragua’s Contra war, United States was supporting the Contra milita against the Nicaraquan Sandinista goventment.Most extreme terrorist violence of the horrifying Reagan years in Central America was almost entirely attributable to the state terrorist forces armed and trained by Washington.10 Just like the Vietnam war, Chomsky visited Managua to meet with refugees of the conflict as well as the workers’ organization and gave public lectures on linguistics and politics.Later on in 1988, Chomsky visited the Palestinian territories to witness the Israeli military occupation and it’s impact on the geography. In 1988, Chomsky published Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media, in which he indicated their propaganda model for understanding the mainstream media and it’s attitude towards the news. Hise book was adapted into a 1992 film, Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media. In 1989, Chomsky published Necessary Illusions: Thought Control in Democratic Societies, in which he critiqued what he sees as the Western capitalist states and their pseudo-democratic nature. On the Nicaraguan case, in one of Chomsky’s article he mentions on February 4, a headline in the Managua newspaper El Nuevo Diario read: “Peace gains points.” He says while the headline is accurate, as was the headline in the Sandinista press stating that “the U.S. Administration Will Evaluate New Forms of Aggression Today. 11 By the end of the 1980s, Chomsky had become a globally recognized figure in political spectrum regarding the rogue states and U.S. Military interventions and it’s victims.
If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged. — Noam Chomsky
Increased political activism: 1990–present
In 1990s, Chomsky step forward in political activism to a greater degree than before. His extended lectures on the subject of East-Timorese case published as Powers and Prospects in 1996.Which was a dispute between Portugal and Australia regarding an island Oceania. In 1974, Portugal abandoned its colony on Timor and Civil war broke out. Indonesia annexed East-Timor and conducted set of atrocities against the indigenous population. Guerrilla warfare was present at that time and Australian interest were already determined after the resignation of Indonesian President Suharto. Chomsky generated set of international publicity to the case and the East Timorese independence. After East Timor’s independence from Indonesia was achieved in 1999, the Australian-led International Force for East Timor arrived as a peacekeeping force; Chomsky was critical of this, believing that it was designed to secure Australian access to East Timor’s oil and gas reserves under the Timor Gap Treaty.12 Chomsky retired from full-time teaching and gained the Emeritus honor so he continued to arrange seminars and conduct researches at MIT.
After 9/11 has occurred in 2001, media organs were quite interested in interviewing Chomsky and these interviews were published in October 2001. Chomsky argued that the U.S. War on Terror was not a new phenomenon but a continuation of the U.S. Foreign policy for years after the Reagan’s presidency in 1980s.
Later on in 2003, following the U.S. Intervention on Iraq, Chomsky
published Hegemony or Survival, in which he mentions the “imperial grand strategy” of United States and critiqued the hall war and war on terror and its aspects generally. Chomsky went around the world with increased regularity during 2000’s, in 2002 he visited Republic of Turkey to attend a trial of a publisher who was accused of treason due to printing one of Chomsky’s books. He insisted on being a co-defendant and the media attention throughtout the world made it possible for Security Courts to dropped the case on the first day. During his visit in Turkey, Chomsky also visited the Kurdish areas of Turkey, which was disputed due to Turkey’s oppression against the Kurdish people of the Southeast region of Turkey for 20 years. He was a prominent defender for the K
During that trip, Chomsky visited Kurdish areas of Turkey and spoke out in favour of the Kurds’ human rights. He claims that Turkey was replaced El Salvador which held the key position as a major recepient of U.S. Military aid. After receiving the military and financial aid from United States, conducted some of the worst atrocities of the 1990s, targeting its harshly oppressed Kurdish population. Tens of thousands were killed, 3,500 towns and villages were destroyed, huge numbers of refugees fled (three million, according to analyses by Kurdish human rights organizations), large areas were laid waste, dissidents were imprisoned, hideous torture and other atrocities were standard fare.13
A supporter of the World Social Forum, he attended a forum event in India.He was a supporter of a Indian spokesperson of the anti-globalization movement and a critic of neo-imperialism and U.S. foreign policy, Arundathi Roy.14 She was a supporter for the independence of Kashmir which later on charged with sedition for her speech at a convention on Kashmir Campaigned along with activist Medha Patkar against the Narmada dam project due to the reason of the dam will not provide the projected irrigation, drinking water, and other benefits to the public. She was sentenced by the court to a “symbolic” one day’s imprisonment and fined.15 Moreover, Chomsky was quite interested in the activisim and energy of the Occupy movement. He delivered many talks at the gatherings and produced the first Occupy pamplets in 2012 and 2013 respectively, Occupy: Reflections on Class War, Rebellion and Solidarity. In late 2015, Chomsky announced his support for U.S. senator Bernie Sanders in the 2016 United States presidential election which Bernia Sanders failed to secure the Democrat Party’s candidacy to Hillary Clinton. In early 2016, Chomsky was publicly scolded by the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdo?an after he signed an open letter, which he condemns the Turkish leader for his anti-Kurdish oppression and supporting terrorism in Syria openly. Chomsky accused Erdo?an of hypocrisy and argues about how Turkish president aided al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front. In an interview with Al Jazeera television, Noam Chomsky called Donald Trump, U.S. president, an “ignorant, thin-skinned megalomaniac” and a “greater evil” than Hillary Clinton. He was asked about claims that Russia interfered in the U.S. presidential election throught hacking the elections and Chomsky said: “It’s possible, but it’s a kind of strange complaint in the United States. The U.S. has been interfering with, and undermining, elections all over the world for decades and is proud of it. Chomsky announced that will be leaving MIT and start teaching at the University of Arizona in 2018.
By coming back to the U.S. Foreign policy critization, Chomsky wrote about how the U.S. established close ties with Saudi Arabia and their involvement in Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, highlighting that Saudi has “one of the most grotesque human rights records in the world”.
Proponents praise the United States as the world leader and sole superpower, and detractors denounce it as an imperialist oppressor.16
Arundhati Roy called him “one of the greatest, most radical public thinkers of our time”, and Edward Said thought him to be “one of the most significant challengers of unjust power and delusions”.