This is one of my group papers. It's probably around 2000 - 2500 words. Edited by me for grammar, spelling, factual correctness, content, and "flow". Specifically, I wrote the introduction paragraph, Mainstream Media, and the conclusion. I was the project leader since I love Noam's work so much, so enjoy the fruits of my leadership...
THESIS: Avram Noam Chomsky is an author, linguist, lecturer, political activist, and western philosopher. He is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has contributed since the 1950's to a naturalistic interpretation of grammar, language, and psychology. Chomsky has actively participated in political philosophy in addition to his linguistic expertise starting with his criticisms of the Vietnam War. His views are central to New Left ideology in which authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire capitalism in favor of society which prevents the accumulation of resources to an elite few through either a communist elite or capitalist monopoly. This political philosophy is called Libertarian Socialism.
Avrim Noam Chomsky
Avram Noam Chomsky is an author, linguist, lecturer, political activist, and western philosopher. He is a professor of linguistics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and has contributed since the 1950's to a naturalistic interpretation of grammar, language, and psychology. Chomsky has actively participated in political philosophy in addition to his linguistic expertise starting with his criticisms of the Vietnam War. His views are central to New Left ideology in which authoritarian socialism and laissez-faire capitalism in favor of society which prevents the accumulation of resources to an elite few through either a communist elite or capitalist monopoly. This political philosophy is called Libertarian Socialism.
Noam Chomsky was born on December 7, 1928 in Philadelphia Pennsylvania to a Hebrew family living in a sort of "Jewish ghetto," split into a Yiddish and Hebrew side (Harris, 1997). He exclaimed that his family brought him up "immersed Hebrew culture and literature" (Lamb, 2007). Chomsky's first language was Yiddish, but he says it was too much of a taboo for his family to speak it. Chomsky expressed pressures he experienced with Irish Catholics and anti-semitism in the mid-1930s when he stated, “I do not like to say it but I grew up with a kind of gut fear of Catholics. I knew it was irrational and got over. It was just the street experience” (Lamb, 2007).
Chomsky attended Central High School of Philadelphia and later began studying philosophy and linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania in 1945. He was educated by philosophers C. West Churchman, Nelson Goodman, and linguist Zellig Harris (Harris, 1997). Harris's teaching incorporated his findings of alterations as a mathematical examination of language structure. This structure included mappings from one subset to another in a set of sentences. Chomsky consequently reinterpreted these as procedures on the invention of a context-free grammar. Harris's political points of view were important in influencing those of Chomsky.
Noam Chomsky was cultured at the University of Pennsylvania, earning a Ph.D. degree in linguistics under the attention of American linguist Zellig Harris in 1955. Chomsky was pursuant early in life. Chomsky held an appointment from 1951 to 1955 at the Harvard University as a graduate student. He later joined the staff at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 1955 (Harris, 1997) teaching French and German. Chomsky later became Institute Professor of Linguistics at MIT in 1976.
As a scholar, Noam was profoundly influenced by Zellig Harris, former Professor of Linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania (Harris, 1997). Some of his research for his Masters was on the contemporary spoken Hebrew idiom. Chomsky has made a lasting repute in linguistics. It was Chomsky’s passion and humbleness to Harris’s political visions that steered him on the road as a graduate student in linguistics. Chomsky learned some of the historical beliefs of linguistics from his Hebrew scholar father William (Harris, 1997). Chomsky is most eminent for his effort on generative grammar which is generated from his attention in modern logic and arithmetical basics. Chomsky applied generative grammar to the explanation of normal languages.
Noam Chomsky lives two lives: one as a linguist and the other as a human rights activist. Chomsky is the founder of transformational-generative grammar (Harris, 1997). This is a system that transformed contemporary linguistics. Chomsky is the most frequently quoted person on the planet. Yet Chomsky does not seek supporters. He wants each person to see things for themselves, to think, and make decisions for themselves.
To fully understand Noam Chomsky’s stand on libertarian social, one must understand the meaning of libertarianism. It is defined as an advocate of free will, a person who upholds the principles of individual liberty especially of thought and action (Merriam-Webster, 2007). This word and thought in particular is sometimes one and the same with anarchism which is to be without leaders. Anarchists’ school of thought is that the government is harmful and unnecessary. However, libertarian socialism is about freedom from exploitation of all means of wealth making into the hands of the leading minority of industrialists.
Noam Chomsky’s view on libertarian anarchists is stated in an interview by Kreisler (2002).
“….socialist and anti-state branch of socialism, which meant a highly organized society, completely organized and nothing to do with chaos, but based on democracy all the way through. That means democratic control of communities, of workplaces, of federal structures, built on systems of voluntary association, spreading internationally. That’s traditional anarchism. You know, anybody can have the world if they like, but that’s the mainstream of traditional anarchism.”
Chomsky feels that power is always unlawful unless it can be proven to be lawful. For instance, a parent who stops a child from running into the street is considered an example of the lawful use of power based on its justification. The child could have been killed if not prohibited by the parent. Chomsky believes that it’s the responsibility of those who exercise the power in this instance the government, to show its authority or justification of its authority.
David Hart (2006) quotes Chomsky as: “Even the state defines “terror” as the use of violence against civilians in order to achieve certain political aims. Chomsky then provides a lengthy list of state actions in the 20th century which qualify as terrorism (under the state’s current definition) on acts of individual terrorism (lone suicide bomber); repeated acts of terrorism (organized by terrorist groups like Al Qaida); then state terrorism which uses acts of terror on a mass scale (like bombing of civilian cities during World War II).”
Although Chomsky is aware and conceded that violence works, he believes strongly that there are constructive ways of dealing with the threat of terror. One way is to deal with the man in the mirror (America). It is never an easy task but a necessary one. In his book Failed States, The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy, Chomsky states, “US and UK planners were well aware that the invasion of Iraq was likely to increase terror and WMD proliferation, as many analysts and intelligence agencies warned.” (2006, p.18)
Chomsky believes that the UN should take the lead in international crises and that America should rely on discreet and profitable measures rather than armed forces in confronting terror. Chomsky also believes it is imperative to give up the Security Council veto and that there should be a cut in military spending and substantial increase in social spending.
Peace in the Middle East
Chomsky’s general consensus is that the United States government claim to provide democracy in the Middle East is just as detrimental to Arab society as Saddam Hussein was to his own people. Chomsky stated, “The third argument that’s given, which at least has a merit of truth, is that Saddam Hussein is a monster. In fact if you listen to Tony Blair, Bill Clinton, Madeline Albright, or almost anyone who comments on this, they justify the sanctions repeatedly by saying that this man is a monster…using weapons of mass destruction against his own people in the horrendous gassing of the Kurds. True, he committed the ultimate atrocity…WITH OUR SUPPORT…..He remained a favored friend and trading partner and allay quite independently of these atrocities.” (2001) Chomsky believes that we must push for changes within the US policies that would support peace, as present policies have been fueling injustice for decades.
Chomsky has argued that inherent within private media is a systemic bias which is the anti-thesis of objective journalism. He developed the “Propaganda Model” in a 1988 book written with Edward Herman called Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media. The theory postulates that a media corporation's main objective is to profit from the selling of a product. The product is the news broadcast but the customers are not the audience which watches the broadcasts. Advertisers are the greatest interest of any media broadcaster because they are the primary source of revenue for any private media company. The model postulates a series of 5 filters of media which influence the coverage of news events (1988)...
The majority of the mass media is owned by a select few multi-national corporation's such as General Electric or News Corp. The first filter postulates that these companies have financial interests far exceeding simple media. If these companies encounter a news event which may be detrimental to their corporate interests, their coverage of that event will probably be censored to protect such interests. Media companies must also protect their sources of revenue which is the advertisers. News is not the product of mass media but rather their advertisements. According to the “Funding Filter” (1988), publications and broadcasts are not designed for the best method of news coverage, but rather, are designed to attract readers and viewers to their brand. Doing this enables the media company to sell more of their advertising space (which is their main product) and so ratings become much more important than news coverage.
Most media companies form a special sourcing relationship with the government, specifically, the White House and Pentagon. The relationship can best be described as symbiotic; I will help you if you help me. In the event a journalist decides to challenge government policy by asking tough questions to policy officials, they are more likely to be shut out of future press conferences or denied future interviews. Most avoid asking such questions to preserve their place in future press conferences and interview time. The government or Pentagon becomes the source of facts while the journalist merely writes them down for publication. This is in detriment to objective journalism.
Flak is a term used to describe any backlash of a publication or broadcast which goes against the status quo. This is important because in the event a journalist publishes a highly critical piece which criticizes a powerful corporate or governmental interest, the flak received could be influential enough to derail the entire media company. So publications or broadcasts must be censored to protect the company from special interest groups, lobby groups, shareholder petitions, FCC inquiries, etc. This is one more filter of news coverage.
Anti-ideologies compose the 5th filter and probably the most important. Mass media companies take advantage of the public's fears against real, potential, or exaggerated dangers. Anti-communism was the ideology which took advantage of the people's fear of the Soviet Union, and was used as a means to silence those critical of elite interests as communist sympathizers. Today, the anti-ideology is Islamism. Little coverage is given in the mass media of very important Muslim grievances against the West. Media companies such as Fox News take advantage of the public's fear of terrorism and uses it to justify all American interests in the Middle East as a “War on Terror”.
The propaganda model in essence labels all mass media corporation's as capitalist propaganda and justifies this conclusion with the premises of 5 filters which news coverage must fall through before publication or broadcast. The solution to such propaganda is independent media such as the BBC, PBS, and a myriad of news organizations which are publicly funded.
Many especially those who adamantly opposed the communist regime in any capacity would regard Chomsky as an unpatriotic anti-Vietnam war activist bordering on treason. Conversely, given the fact that over half the country passionately opposed the Vietnam war efforts, Chomsky would have been lauded as an enlightened diplomatic facilitator of peace by others. Whether or not Chomsky pledged to treason or allegiance is open to interpretation.
In 1970 Chomsky visited North Vietnam and upon his arrival he immediately made an amiable connection with fellow anti-war activists. This was a suspicious gesture during an era when America , the leader of the democratic world, is at war with all communism. He expresses sympathy for the plight of the Vietnamese while condemning the actions of the United States. Chomsky makes some pretty serious indictments when he alleges that America is guilty of barbarism, imperialism, and is incapable of anything greater than campaigns of destruction. He continues by stating that a nation that has not advanced beyond its primitive disposition of savagery has no place in the 20th century. Chomsky’s sympathy eventually transforms to that of remorse as he laments, “We are deeply grateful to you that you permit us to be part of your brave and historical struggle. 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.” (Starr, 2005, ¶5)
He effectively dehumanizes the nation by reducing it to a war machine. In retrospect one must consider the legitimacy of Chomsky’s claims; perhaps America’s role in the Vietnam War is far more suspect than anyone other than Chomsky is willing to concede. It is interesting to note that according to Chomsky, “Kennedy involved US forces in counterinsurgency, bombing, and "population control" [measures] (1975, ¶2). This begs the question of the rumored use of excessive deadly force in scenarios where deadly force was unwarranted and completely unjustifiable. Additionally, it also suggests that there may be some merit to the alleged December bombings, search-and-destroy missions to name a few. With that in mind it is evident Chomsky’s anti-America sentiment can be argued from many different vantage points dependent upon whether or not these claims can be substantiated.
It is a foregone conclusion the Vietnam War era has left its mark on the world especially in American history. The same could be said of the Vietnamese who have had to endure destruction to the point of obliteration. We may never know the unequivocal with absolute certainty; nevertheless, Chomsky challenged the status quo even though many considered it subversive to the country.
Timor is a small Southeast Asian island slightly larger than the state of Maryland located 1,000 miles south of the Philippines and about 400 miles northwest of Australia. It is divided into two parts, the West being part of Indonesia while the East gained independence from Portugal in the mid 1970’s. In 1975 Indonesia launched a full scale invasion of East Timor using the pre-text that it was maintaining order due to civil war, the real motive was to take advantage of a presumably easy target adding to their territory and gaining resources, namely oil (Albert, Chomsky & Shalom, 1999). As a political activist and humanitarian, Chomsky spoke out publicly on his suspicions of U.S. involvement on the invasion of East Timor. According to Chomsky, Gerald Ford and his administration gave a green light to Indonesia to invade even supplying 90 percent of the weaponry used by the Indonesia army despite a U.S. law that bans the use of military aid for offensive purposes. The quiet support continued even into the Clinton administration. Over two decades, the East Timorese suffered from such atrocities as torture, rape, starvation, and countless deaths. Chomsky believes that due to lack of media coverage, the war raged on unnoticed by the public, otherwise, there would have been a more organized resistance and protests to pressure the governments into stopping the war.
“By the mid-1990s there were substantial organizations in many countries, and they were beginning to have an impact. The issue was finally being covered in the mainstream media, if not always accurately” (Albert, Chomsky & Shalom, 1999, pg.1). Under intense pressure by East Timor activists, the U.S. Congress was increasingly placing restrictions on U.S. military aid to Indonesia, often evaded, however, by the Administration. Finally, mass demonstrations in Indonesia, financial crisis, and massive corruption combined in 1998 to force Indonesia’s leader, Suharto, from office. Following a change of power a referendum was approved by the next elected President of Indonesia under international scrutiny which would allow the people of East Timor to vote on either independence or to accept Indonesian rule. Chomsky states that in the months leading up to the elections, Indonesian militia’s turned up the heat on the East Timorese in an effort to intimidate them and dissuade their votes. But on August 30, 1999, in an astonishing display of courage, virtually the entire population of East Timor went to the polls with about eighty percent voting for independence. “Having failed to cow the Timorese people into accepting Indonesian rule, the army and its militias then proceeded to unleash a ferocious attack on the civilian population, displacing hundreds of thousands, killing an unknown number, but certainly thousands, burning, and looting” (Albert, Chomsky & Shalom, 1999, pg.1).
Today, East Timor is still a long way from becoming a free standing and self supporting nation, but thanks to outspoken activists such as Noam Chomsky and other brave journalists, the ongoing atrocities of the last 25 years have finally subsided and an independent democratic government established.
Noam Chomsky's critical analysis of today's current events is one of the definitive world views shaping today's political spectrum. According to a recent survey by the Institute for Scientific Information, only Marx, Lenin, Shakespeare, Aristotle, the Bible, Plato, and Freud are cited more often in academic journals than Chomsky, who edges out Hegel and Cicero (Hughes). Chomsky is one of the definitive authorities on progressive liberal politics. The realization of such a view may bring about a more fair capitalism and reduce conflict around the world.
Albert, M., Chomsky, N. & Shalom, S.R., (1999). East Timor Questions and Answers.
Retrieved April 6, 2008 from: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/199910--02.htm
Chomsky, N. (2006). Failed States, The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy (1st ed., pp.18, 262). New York, NY 10010: Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt & Company, LLC.
Chomsky, N. A Special Supplement: The Meaning of Vietnam. Retrieved April 4, 2008 from http://www.chomsky.info/articles/19750612.htm
Harris, Z. “The Transformation of Capitalist Society”, published 1997.
Hughes, S. “Speech!”, The Pennsylvania Gazette, July/August 2001.
Kreisler, H. (2002). Activism, Anarchism and Power. Retrieved April 2, 2008, from
Lamb, B. “Book TV: Interview with Noam Chomsky”, June 1, 2000 on Book TV C-Span.
Starr, T. (2005). Noam Chomsky: Viet Cong Cheerleader. Retrieved April 4, 2008 from
Last edited by Krypton on Apr-20-2008 at 07:37