He's dead Jim (Chomsky)
nobody at cass156.ucsd.edu
Tue Oct 4 11:09:30 PDT 1994
Amazing, absolutely amazing!
Perhaps we should stop reading Chomsky (if we ever did) and read James A.
Donald--he obviously has not only a grasp of what it is people *really*
mean, but also has the spurious arguments to back himself up!
The Chomsky quote of the day:
> In my opinion, not only mainstream intellectuals but also others
> who produce a constant stream of lies, distortion, racist screeds,
> etc., should be permitted freedom of speech. The state should not
> have the power to stop them. The same freedom extends to
> hypocrites, like faculty senates who choose one particularly and
> usually quite marginal example because career and power interests
> are served thereby, while ignoring vastly more significant and
> awful cases because the opposite is true. And Congress, of which
> the same is correct.
In this, James A. Donald finds:
>To put this in its proper context, Chomsky also believes
>in socialism, in the sense of the "people" controlling the
>means of production, distribution, and supply, and in
>particular, the "people" running the mass media.
What? Non sequitur! No where in Chomsky's quote do we find any remote
resemblance of a reference to mass media; neither to production,
distribution, nor to supply (nor to economics of any kind). If I had to
piece this together, Mr. Donald erroneously finds the quote: "The state
should not have the power to stop them" to mean that Mr. Chomsky is
advocating that the "people" *should.*
Mr. Donald continues:
>In my previous writings on this thread I have shown
>examples where Chomsky carefully chooses words so as to
>convince us that freedom of speech is not freedom, and
>that control of speech is freedom.
Wrong again. In his previous writings, James A. Donald *tried to show*
that Chomsky "chooses words so as to convince us that freedom of speech is
not freedom, and that control of speech is freedom." Unfortunately (or
fortunately, depending on one's personal bias), Mr. Donald's "arguments"
were nothing more than simple speculations which lacked cohesiveness.
>You will notice that Chomsky has carefully expressed
>himself in the manner that is least likely to make us feel
>favorable to freedom of speech. [snip]
No, what I *have* noticed is that obviously Chomsky "has carefully expressed
himself in the manner that is least likely to make" James A. Donald feel
favorable to freedom of speech. I have no problem with the manner in which
Chomsky has expressed himself--then again, I also see that Chomsky's quote
is directed at more than one issue.
>The intended effect is to make us feel that such "extreme"
>freedom of speech is a bit excessive and not really
>necessary or desirable.
>In the above quote Chomsky implies that freedom of speech
>is divisible -- he implies that we can suppress wicked,
>obnoxious, and obviously false ideas, without closing down
>everyone's ability to communicate political thought.
Unfortunately, I think that James A. Donald is again missing the point.
Let me help...it is just those "extreme" views which must be protected.
Chomsky does imply that freedom of speech is divisible, but he also implies
that freedom of speech *should not be.* Furthermore, Chomsky neither
states nor insinuates that "we"--and I assume that James A. Donald is
refering to "the people"--can "suppress wicked, obnoxious, and obviously
false ideas" of any kind! What he does say is that those persons who form
the power structure of this country--the mainstream intellectuals and the
state--have the power to suppress ideas and speech. (Remember, Chomsky
says "should not," instead of "does not" in reference to the state's
>Let us also look at the examples he gives of people abusing
>freedom of speech. Notice that every example that he gives
>are powerful and priviledged people who plainly need no
>protection, never the weak and vulnerable silenced by the
>powerful and arrogant:
>> hypocrites, like faculty senates who choose one
>> particularly and usually quite marginal example because
>> career and power interests are served thereby, while
>> ignoring vastly more significant and awful cases because
>> the opposite is true. And Congress, of which the same is
>Let me give a counter example to Chomksy's implied argument
>that it is safe to silence dissidents, and that dissidents
>are powerful and priviledged servants of capitalism.
That's really an amusing twist of logic: 1) I have never heard anyone call
a hypocrite a dissident, and 2) I have never heard Congress being referred
to as a bunch of dissidents! Because Chomsky refers to faculty senates and
Congress, James A. Donald automatically assumes that Chomsky views them as
dissidents. A more logical approach would be to hunt for what role both
faculty senates and Congress play in Chomsky's quote--i.e. the role of
hypocrites who *are extended* freedom of speech, as opposed to racists and
other ideological unsavories who "should be permitted" freedom of speech
but are not. Chomsky does not call these people dissidents, just as he
does not call mainstream intellectuals dissidents; none of these groups,
because they are powerful, privileged, and *mainstream*, may qualify as
dissident. Furthermore, how in any way, shape or form, can it be safe to
silence dissidents if they are powerful and privileged!
>I did not see this quote: I am relying on Todd for the
>accuracy of this quote, but I have seen plenty of similar
>hypocritical smears against liberty by Chomsky. The above
>piece of catty nastiness is classic Chomsky, and I could
>easily dig up a dozen similar examples of the kind of
>support that he gives liberty.
Apparently, Mr. Donald did not *read* this quote as well. It would be
quite, quite horrifying to have James A. Donald "dig up a dozen similar
examples." Quite, quite horrifying.
>Is he a fool, or is he a monster?
My question exactly.
For those interested in what Chomsky really has to say, good or bad, ftp to
the Chomsky archives at:
(note that there is no slash at the beginning of the pathname).
On the Web:
_/_/_/ _/_/_/ _/ _/ _/_/_/ _/ _/ I detest what you write,
_/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/_/ _/ but I would give my life
_/_/_/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/_/_/ _/ _/ _/ to make it possible for
_/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ _/_/_/_/ _/ you to continue to write.
_/_/_/ _/_/_/ _/_/_/ _/_/_/ _/ _/ _/_/_/ --Voltaire
_/ (in a letter to M. le Riche)
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