Noam Chomsky

(Avram Noam Chomsky)

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky
  • Born: December 7, 1928
  • Nationality: American
  • Profession: Activist

144

Quotes

33

Citations

149

Concepts

0

Videos

Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, political activist, and social critic. Sometimes called "the father of modern linguistics", Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He holds a joint appointment as Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and laureate professor at the University of Arizona, and is the author of over 100 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.

Quotes About
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Quotes
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A democracy doesn’t use force to control its citizens; it uses propaganda instead. Propaganda & Disinformation
At times of general malaise and social breakdown, it is not uncommon for … movements to arise to replace lost hopes by idle dreams: dreams of a savior who will lead us from bondage …. Some may yearn for a lost golden age, or succumb to the blandishments of the new Messiahs who come to the fore at such moments. Leaders & Leadership
But that's the whole point of corporatism: to try and remove the public from making decisions over their own fate, to limit the public arena, to control opinion, to make sure that the fundamental decisions that determine how the world is going to be run —which include production, commerce, distribution, thought, social policy, foreign policy, everything—are not in the hands of the public, but rather in the hands of highly concentrated private power. In effect, tyranny unaccountable to the public. Power ;Foreign Policy, World & International Affairs
Democracy is a value in itself. It doesn't have to be defended [justified] any more than freedom has to be defended. Democracies & Republics
Democracy is a value in itself; it doesn’t have to be defended any more than freedom has to be defended. Democracies & Republics
Democracy is always a threat to the powerful. Democracies & Republics ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
Democratic societies can't force people. Therefore they have to control what they think. Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
Economic growth has the marvelous quality of stilling discontent while maintaining privilege Development & Growth
For those who stubbornly seek freedom, there can be no more urgent task than to come to understand the mechanisms and practices of indoctrination. These are easy to perceive in the totalitarian societies, much less so in the system of brainwashing under freedom to which we are subjected and which all too often we are as willing or unwitting instruments Freedom & Liberty
Freedom without opportunity is a devil’s gift. Freedom & Liberty
I would like to see the United States live up to U. S. law and international law. Living up to international law is probably too much to expect, but at least they could live up to United States law. Law, Courts, Jails, Crime & Law Enforcement
If the past is any guide our [current] beliefs will be wrong as our past beliefs have been wrong. Human Nature
If we don't believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don't believe in it at all. Freedom & Liberty ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
If you assume that there's no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. Human Nature
In general the principle of the World Trade Organization … is that sovereignty and democratic rights have to be subordinated to the rights of investors Democracies & Republics ;Foreign Aid ;Capitalism
It’s very hard to predict the weather. Predicting human affairs is very difficult. Management & Managing Government
Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. Miscellaneous
The Bolsheviks called their system socialist so as to exploit the moral prestige of socialism. The West adopted the same usage for the opposite reason: to defame the feared libertarian ideals by associating them with the Bolshevik dungeon Liberals & Conservatives
The idea that you have to rent yourself to somebody and follow their orders, and that they own and you work there, and you built it but you don't own it, that's a highly unnatural notion. You don't have to study any complicated theories to see that this is an attack on human dignity. Economics, The Economy & Fiscal Affairs ;Capitalism
The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn't betray it I'd be ashamed of myself Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
The military system is, to a substantial extent, a method whereby the population provides a subsidy to the high technology industry. Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The people who are unemployed want to do the work, but the system is such a catastrophic failure that it cannot bring together idle hands and work. Welfare
The primary purpose of the media is to mobilize support for the controlling interests. Media, Journalism & The Press
The Queen of England opens every new Parliament by reading the government’s political program but no one asks if she even understands it. Presidency, Vice Presidency & Prime Ministership
The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum - even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there's free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate. Oratory, Discussion & Debate
The U. S. business class is highly class conscious and its members have long seen themselves as fighting a bitter class war, except that they don’t want anybody to know about it. Equality & Equal Opportunity
There is a steady flow between corporate board rooms and government decision making centers. Business, Commerce & Finance
There's a very heavy burden of proof to be borne by anyone who calls for violence. Maybe it can be sometimes justified. Personally, I'm not a committed pacifist, so I think that, yes, it can sometimes be justified. War & Peace
U.S. international and security policy ... has as its primary goal the preservation of what we might call "the Fifth Freedom," understood crudely, but with a fair degree of accuracy, as the freedom to rob, to exploit and to dominate, to undertake any course of action to ensure that existing privilege is protected and advanced. Equality & Equal Opportunity
We are the only industrial democracy that does not have one political party that is labor based. Political Parties & Machines
We have a free society, and the totalitarian states are dungeons. We have totally different methods of population control…. We can’t control people so we have to control what they think. Propaganda & Disinformation ;Dictators, Despots, Autocrats, Autocracies & Dictatorships
We have a great deal of freedom in America, but there are mechanisms that inhibit us from using it. Freedom & Liberty
When the United States bombs South Vietnam, it is defending South Vietnam. War & Peace
A large majority of Americans believe that the U.N., not the U.S., should take the lead in working with Iraqis to transfer authentic sovereignty as well as in economic reconstruction and maintaining civic order.
A very large majority of the U.S. population is in favor of establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and has been for a long time with some fluctuations. And even part of the business world is in favor of it, too. But the government won't allow it. Time ;Government ;Business, Commerce & Finance
After the first International Days of Protest in October, 1965, Senator Mansfield criticized the 'sense of utter irresponsibility' shown by the demonstrators.
All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.
All through Latin America, there's sharp condemnation of the criminal atrocities of Sept. 11. But it's qualified by the observation that although these are horrible atrocities, they are not unfamiliar.
American imperialism is often traced to the takeover of Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Hawaii in 1898.
Any dictator would admire the uniformity and obedience of the U.S. media.
Anyone can be a moral individual, concerned with human rights and problems; but only a college professor, a trained expert, can solve technical problems by 'sophisticated' methods. Ergo, it is only problems of the latter sort that are important or real.
Anywhere in Latin America there is a potential threat of the pathology of caudillismo and it has to be guarded against.
As a Zionist youth leader in the 1940s, I was among those who called for a binational state in Mandatory Palestine. When a Jewish state was declared, I felt that it should have the rights of other states - no more, no less.
As far as U.S. intelligence knows, Iran is developing nuclear capacities, but they don't know if they are trying to develop nuclear weapons or not. Chances are they're developing what's called 'nuclear capability,' which many states have. That is the ability to have nuclear weapons if they decide to do it. That's not a crime.
As international support for Obama's decision to attack Syria has collapsed, along with the credibility of government claims, the administration has fallen back on a standard pretext for war crimes when all else fails: the credibility of the threats of the self-designated policeman of the world. Government ;War & Peace
Before the 1970s, banks were banks. They did what banks were supposed to do in a state capitalist economy: they took unused funds from your bank account, for example, and transferred them to some potentially useful purpose like helping a family buy a home or send a kid to college. Families, Children & Parenting
Britain kept its position as the dominant world power well into the 20th century despite steady decline. By the end of World War II, dominance had shifted decisively into the hands of the upstart across the sea, the United States, by far the most powerful and wealthy society in world history. Power ;History ;War & Peace
By curious accident of history and geography, the world's major energy resources are located pretty much in Shiite regions. They're a minority in the Middle East, but they happen to be where the oil is, right around the northern part of the Gulf. History
Changes and progress very rarely are gifts from above. They come out of struggles from below.
Chemistry, until my childhood, not that long ago, was regarded as a calculating device. Because you couldn't reduce to physics. So it's just some way of calculating the result of experiments. The Bohr atom was treated that way.
Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
Congressional Republicans are dismantling the limited environmental protections initiated by Richard Nixon, who would be something of a dangerous radical in today's political scene.
Debt is a social and ideological construct, not a simple economic fact.
Debt is a trap, especially student debt, which is enormous, far larger than credit card debt. It's a trap for the rest of your life because the laws are designed so that you can't get out of it. If a business, say, gets in too much debt, it can declare bankruptcy, but individuals can almost never be relieved of student debt through bankruptcy. Life ;Business, Commerce & Finance
Education must provide the opportunities for self-fulfillment; it can at best provide a rich and challenging environment for the individual to explore, in his own way. Education, Learning, Knowledge & Training
Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it's from Neptune.
Even in the 1950s, President Eisenhower was concerned about what he called a campaign of hatred of the U.S. in the Arab world, because of the perception on the Arab street that it supported harsh and oppressive regimes to take their oil.
Everybody's worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there's a really easy way: stop participating in it.
Everyone who is critical of Israeli policy is deluged by crazed messages intended to flood their email system or, more insidiously, passwords are accessed and messages sent out under their name! I'm sure it's illegal. It's also an effort to undermine free speech.
Free speech has been used by the Supreme Court to give immense power to the wealthiest members of our society. Society ;Power
Governments are not representative. They have their own power, serving segments of the population that are dominant and rich. Power
Governments are supposed to lie to their citizens.
History shows that, more often than not, loss of sovereignty leads to liberalisation imposed in the interests of the powerful. History
I don't join the New Atheists. So, for example, I wouldn't have the arrogance to lecture some mother who hopes to see her dying child in Heaven - that's none of my business, ultimately. I won't lecture her on the philosophy of science. Business, Commerce & Finance ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
I don't know if I officially proofread my father's book, but I read it. I did get some conception of grammar in general from that.
I haven't read Horowitz. I didn't used to read him when he was a Stalinist, and I don't read him today.
I like the cold weather. It means you get work done. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
I stated that Hiroshima and Nagasaki are 'among the most unspeakable crimes in history.' I took no position on just where they stand on the scale of horrors relative to Auschwitz, the bombing of Chungking, Lidice, and so on. History
If there was an observer on Mars, they would probably be amazed that we have survived this long.
If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion.
If you're in favour of any policy - reform, revolution, stability, regression, whatever - if you're at least minimally moral, it's because you think it's somehow good for people. And good for people means conforming to their fundamental nature. Nature
I'm about as monolingual as you come, but nevertheless, I have a variety of different languages at my command, different styles, different ways of talking, which do involve different parameter settings.
Immediately after 11 September, the U.S. closed down the Somali charitable network Al-Barakaat on grounds that it was financing terror. This achievement was hailed one of the great successes of the 'war on terror.' In contrast, Washington's withdrawal of its charges as without merit a year later aroused little notice. War & Peace
In many respects, the United States is a great country. Freedom of speech is protected more than in any other country. It is also a very free society. Society ;Freedom & Liberty
In November 2004, U.S. occupation forces launched their second major attack on the city of Falluja. The press reported major war crimes instantly, with approval. War & Peace
In November 2008, the day of the presidential election, Israeli military forces invaded Gaza and killed half a dozen Hamas militants. Well, that was followed by a missile exchange for a couple of weeks in both directions.
In September 1993, President Clinton presided over a handshake between Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat on the White House lawn - the climax of a 'day of awe,' as the press described it.
In the case of Yugoslavia v. NATO, one of the charges was genocide. The U.S. appealed to the court, saying that, by law, the United States is immune to the charge of genocide, self-immunized, and the court accepted that, so the case proceeded against the other NATO powers, but not against the United States.
In the early 1940s, as a young teenager, I was utterly appalled by the racist and jingoist hysteria of the anti-Japanese propaganda. The Germans were evil, but treated with some respect: They were, after all, blond Aryan types, just like our imaginary self-image. Japanese were mere vermin, to be crushed like ants. Respect
In the United States, one of the main topics of academic political science is the study of attitudes and policy and their correlation. The study of attitudes is reasonably easy in the United States: heavily-polled society, pretty serious and accurate polls, and policy you can see, and you can compare them. Society ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued - they may be essential to survival. Freedom & Liberty
International affairs is very much run like the mafia. The godfather does not accept disobedience, even from a small storekeeper who doesn't pay his protection money. You have to have obedience; otherwise, the idea can spread that you don't have to listen to the orders, and it can spread to important places. Money, Coins & Minting
It cannot be too often stressed that Israel had no credible pretext for its 2008-9 attack on Gaza, with full U.S. support and illegally using U.S. weapons.
It is a virtual reflex for governments to plead security concerns when they undertake any controversial action, often as a pretext for something else.
It is easier to go to the Internet than to go to the library, undoubtedly. But the shift from no libraries to the existence of libraries was a much greater shift than what we've seen with the Internet's development.
It is easy to dismiss the world as 'irrelevant,' or consumed by 'paranoid anti-Americanism,' but perhaps not wise.
It's a near miracle that nuclear war has so far been avoided. War & Peace
Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.
Libertarian socialism is properly to be regarded as the inheritor of the liberal ideals of the Enlightenment.
My father was a great sympathizer of Ahad Ha'am. Every Friday night we would read Hebrew together, and often the reading was Ahad Ha'am's essays.
My own feeling is that one should refuse to participate in any activity that implements American aggression - thus tax refusal, draft refusal, avoidance of work that can be used by the agencies of militarism and repression, all seem to me essential. Work, Workers & The Labor Force
Nationalism has a way of oppressing others.
NATO was constructed on the - with the reason, whether one believes it or not, that it was going to defend Western Europe from Russian assault. Once the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union was beginning to collapse, that reason was gone. So, first question: why does NATO exist?
Nicaragua dealt with the problem of terrorism in exactly the right way. It followed international law and treaty obligations. It collected evidence, brought the evidence to the highest existing tribunal, the International Court of Justice, and received a verdict - which, of course, the U.S. dismissed with contempt.
Obama's policies have been approximately the same as Bush's, though there have been some slight differences, but that's not a great surprise. The Democrats supported Bush's policies.
On October 15, 1965, an estimated 70,000 people took part in large-scale anti-war demonstrations.
Our only real hope for democracy is that we get the money out of politics entirely and establish a system of publicly funded elections. Hope ;Money, Coins & Minting ;Politics, Politicians & Political Campaigning & Fund Raising
People seem to know about May Day everywhere except where it began, here in the United States of America. That's because those in power have done everything they can to erase its real meaning. Power
Public opinion can be influential, the media can be influential.
Rational discussion is useful only when there is a significant base of shared assumptions.
Reagan was extreme. Beginning of his administration, one of the first things was to call in scabs - hadn't been done for a long time, and it's illegal in most countries - in the air controller strike. Time
Reviewing the record of American intervention in Indochina in the Pentagon Papers, one cannot fail to be struck by the continuity of basic assumptions from one administration to the next. Never has there been the slightest deviation from the principle that a noncommunist regime must be imposed and defended, regardless of popular sentiment.
Some international law specialists compare the invasion of Iraq to the 'crimes against the peace' for which Nazi leaders were indicted at Nuremberg. War & Peace
Some may remember, if you have good memories, that there used to be a concept in Anglo-American law called a presumption of innocence, innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Now that's so deep in history that there's no point even bringing it up, but it did once exist. History
Some of the most moving experiences I've had are just in black churches in the South, during the Civil Rights Movement, where people were getting beaten, killed, really struggling for the most elementary rights.
Thanh Hoa itself is a rich agricultural province. Rice fields, a pattern of many shades of green, stretch far into the distance along the road, which also winds through foothills and the fringes of heavy jungle where tigers are said to roam. The vegetation, wild or cultivated, is lush.
The 1950s and 1960s had been a period of enormous growth, the highest in American history, maybe in economic history. History
The Democrats have pretty much given up on the white working class. That would require a commitment to economic issues, and that's not their concern.
The first democratic revolution was England in the 1640s.
The first scholarly edition of Magna Carta was published by the eminent jurist William Blackstone. It was not an easy task. There was no good text available.
The greatest progress is in the sciences that study the simplest systems. So take, say, physics - greatest progress there. But one of the reasons is that the physicists have an advantage that no other branch of sciences has. If something gets too complicated, they hand it to someone else.
The intellectual tradition is one of servility to power, and if I didn't betray it I'd be ashamed of myself. Power
The internet could be a very positive step towards education, organisation and participation in a meaningful society. Society ;Science, Mathematics, Engineering & Technology
The invasion of Iraq, particularly, gave a big shot in the arm to the jihadi extremists.
The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor led to many very good things. If you follow the trail, it led to kicking Europeans out of Asia - that saved tens of millions of lives in India alone.
The Latin American debt that reached crisis levels from 1982 would have been sharply reduced by return of flight capital - in some cases, overcome, though all figures are dubious for these secret and often illegal operations.
The major advances in speed of communication and ability to interact took place more than a century ago. The shift from sailing ships to telegraph was far more radical than that from telephone to email!
The more you can increase fear of drugs and crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all the people.
The murder of Lumumba, in which the U.S. was involved, in the Congo destroyed Africa's major hope for development. Congo is now total horror story, for years. Hope
The Oslo Accords in 1993 determined that the Gaza Strip and the West Bank are a single territorial entity which cannot be divided. Immediately, the United States and Israel set about separating the two and making sure that they would not be united.
The probability of apocalypse soon cannot be realistically estimated, but it is surely too high for any sane person to contemplate with equanimity.
The process of shaping opinion, attitudes, and perceptions was termed the 'engineering of consent' by one of the founders of the modern public relations industry, Edward Bernays.
The respected intellectuals are those who conform and serve power interests. Power
The rise of capitalist practice and morality brought with it a radical revision of how the commons are treated, and also of how they are conceived.
The truth is, I have absolutely no professional credentials - literally, which is why I'm teaching at MIT. Truth
The U.S. increasingly has taken on the characteristics of what we describe as 'failed states.'
The United States is unusual among the industrial democracies in the rigidity of the system of ideological control - 'indoctrination', we might say - exercised through the mass media.
The United States was seriously defeated in Iraq by Iraqi nationalism - mostly by nonviolent resistance. The United States could kill the insurgents, but they couldn't deal with half a million people demonstrating in the streets.
The Washington leadership has put aside non-proliferation programmes and devoted its energies and resources to driving the country to war by extraordinary deceit, then trying to manage the catastrophe it created in Iraq. Leaders & Leadership ;War & Peace
There are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, 'That person I see is a savage monster;' instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do.
There is no body of theory or significant body of relevant information, beyond the comprehension of the layman, which makes policy immune from criticism.
There were plenty of other hominids, but they disappeared, probably because humans exterminated them, but nobody knows for sure.
There's a lot of fuss on the Left about election irregularities, like, you know, the voting machines were tampered with, they didn't count the votes right, and so on. That's all accurate and of some importance, but of far more importance is the fact that elections just don't take place, not in any meaningful sense of the term 'election.'
There's a tremendous gap between public opinion and public policy.
There's a War Crimes Act in the United States passed by a Republican Congress in 1996, which says that grave breaches of the Geneva Convention are subject to the death penalty. And that doesn't mean the soldier that committed them - that means the commanders. Death ;War & Peace
To summarize, draft resistance can make use of the inegalitarian nature of American society as a technique for increasing the cost of American aggression, and it threatens values that are important to those in a decision-making position. Society ;Nature
Two days after the Boston marathon bombings, there was a drone strike in Yemen attacking a peaceful village, which killed a target who could very easily have been apprehended. But, of course, it is just easier to terrorise people. The drones are a terrorist weapon; they not only kill targets but also terrorise other people.
We can, for example, be fairly confident that either there will be a world without war or there won't be a world - at least, a world inhabited by creatures other than bacteria and beetles, with some scattering of others. War & Peace
What happened in the missile crisis in October 1962 has been prettified to make it look as if acts of courage and thoughtfulness abounded. The truth is that the whole episode was almost insane. Truth
When General Allenby conquered Jerusalem during World War I, he was hailed in the American press as Richard the Lion-Hearted, who had at last won the Crusades and driven the pagans out of the Holy Land. War & Peace
When George W. Bush came into office, North Korea had maybe one nuclear weapon and verifiably wasn't producing any more.
With the development of industrial capitalism, a new and unanticipated system of injustice, it is libertarian socialism that has preserved and extended the radical humanist message of the Enlightenment and the classical liberal ideals that were perverted into an ideology to sustain the emerging social order.
You go back to the 17th century, the commercial and industrial centers of the world were China and India.
You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it.