The Two Noam Chomskys: the military-sponsored scientist and the anarchist activist

  • Posted on: 11 September 2016
  • By: Anonymous (not verified)

I need to start by saying that I love Noam Chomsky. I have often watched television images of a US drone strike perpetrated on an Afghan wedding party, or perhaps by the Israeli state on a school in the occupied West Bank or Gaza. And then onto my screen comes Noam Chomsky, speaking loud and clear, in a monotone, absolutely steadfastly, telling it like it is. As his admirers say, ‘speaking truth to power’.

If politicians were honest, if they told the truth, if the mass media were not so mendacious, we would not need a Noam Chomsky. But, of course, as we know, politicians lie. The media is full of professional liars. So we do need a Noam Chomsky. If he did not exist we would have to invent him. What other academic who has something to lose says it like it is with such extraordinary tenacity and courage? He has been doing so since the 1960s and is still at it today, as lucid and effective as ever.

So what is my book, Decoding Chomsky – Science and revolutionary politics, all about? When people ask me, they usually want to know whose side I am on. Am I one of Noam’s fans, they ask, or a critic? I can never answer this question because it all depends on whether you mean Noam the activist, or Noam the scientist. You cannot give the same answer to both.

And it is not just me who says there are two Noam Chomskys. He says it himself. By way of explanation, he once suggested, with a bit of a smile, that if his brain is a computer, it is a special one with ‘buffers’ between its two separate parts.[1] He flits between the half of his brain that covers science and the other half that does activism. ‘[I live a] sort of schizophrenic existence’, he elaborated on another occasion. An interviewer once asked him ‘What do [the two Chomskys] say to each other when they meet?’ Chomsky replied that there was ‘no connection’. So I am not the only one who says there are two Noam Chomskys.[2]

The first Noam Chomsky is the one you most likely know about – the political activist who has spent his life denouncing the US military. But then there is this paradox: the man who made his reputation as the world’s most famous critic of the US military is also the man who has spent his whole working life in one of the world’s foremost research institutes specialising in weapons design. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has been central to the development of all the most ingenious helicopter stabilisation machines, multiple weapons guidance systems and much of what made Ronald Reagan salivate over the prospect of Star Wars during the 1980s. Many of these inventions were incubated inside the laboratories that Chomsky spent his life working in. So there we have the Chomsky paradox. One of those two Chomskys has spent his life attacking the US military; the other has been developing linguistics in the employ of a Pentagon-funded military laboratory.

(Click to see pictures: Riot police confronting students outside a nuclear missile laboratory at MIT in November 1969, and: Police attack the students.[3])

Let me begin by referring to a chapter near the middle of my book, entitled ‘The Cognitive Revolution’. I am always a bit surprised when I talk to Marxists, socialists, Jeremy Corbyn supporters, Occupy or Green activists about the cognitive revolution. Their eyes simply glaze over. So I tend not to start by talking about it. It is really strange that so many left activists show no interest in the cognitive revolution. It is as if they considered the biggest intellectual upheaval since Galileo’s discovery of a moving Earth to be unimportant.

The cognitive revolution is essentially the computer revolution. More accurately, it’s the effect of the invention of computers on how we think. From the early 1960s onwards, digital computation has been revolutionising the way that philosophers, cognitive scientists, psychologists – even archaeologists – think about what it means to be human. So let me just explain a little about this.

There is something about digital communication that is strange. As you know, if you have a vinyl disc and you make a pressing from it, and then make a pressing from the pressing, and so on, after a while you cannot hear the recording clearly – it degrades with each copy you make. It is the same with a photocopier – with successive copyings, eventually the pattern is lost. However, with a digital starting point you can make a million copies of copies and all of them in sequence will be perfect. That is because digital signals are either fully on or fully off and there is no intermediate position. Any digital piece of information is made up of lots of switches, each totally off or totally on, and therefore impossible to degrade.

Linked to that is the fact that when communication is digital it makes not a blind bit of difference what material you are using to encode the stream of signals. Whether you are sending your message using copper, fibre-glass optical cable, pigeons or whatever makes no difference at all. As long as the signal is either off or on and the receiver can tell the difference, a faithful copy of the message will be transmitted.

In other words, the information is autonomous with respect to the material in which it is encoded. Or you could say that information is now floating free of the composition of matter. When US philosophers discussed the implications of all this, they began to think that possibly it had solved the great problem that the ancient Greeks and Descartes faced long ago: how such an intangible thing as the soul can influence or be influenced by the material body. They imagined they now had the solution to the mystery: if mind can be seen as software and the body as hardware, all was now clear. It even meant that we might be able in the future to discard our hardware – our bodies – while remaining who we really are.

Take cognitive science’s Marvin Minsky – brilliant co-founder in 1958 of MIT’s artificial intelligence laboratory and described as the ‘father of artificial intelligence’. As I discuss in my book, Minsky’s main interest lay in building computer models capable of replicating the activities of human beings. Among other things, he was the scientist who advised Stanley Kubrick on the capabilities of the HAL computer in his 1968 film 2001: a Space Odyssey.

If the mind really is a digital computer, concluded Minsky, then our bodies no longer really matter. Our arms, legs and brain cells are all just imperfect and perishable hardware – essentially irrelevant to the weightless and immortal software, the information that constitutes who we really are.

At a public lecture delivered by Minsky in 1996 on the eve of the Fifth Conference on Artificial Life in Japan, Minsky argued that only since the advent of computer languages have we been able to properly describe human beings. ‘A person is not a head and arms and legs,’ he remarked. ‘That’s trivial. A person is a very large multiprocessor with a million times a million small parts, and these are arranged as a thousand computers.’

It seems that Minsky dreamed of banishing death by downloading consciousness into a computer. As he explained,

The most important thing about each person is the data, and the programs in the data that are in the brain. And some day you will be able to take all that data, and put it on a little disk, and store it for a thousand years, and then turn it on again and you will be alive in the fourth millennium.[4]

So you can see the imaginative dreams that emanated from this conception that we humans are computers and who cares about the hardware? If your current bit of hardware falls apart, you can always install the software somewhere else.

The point I am getting round to is this: all this would have only been of interest to computer nerds, technicians and engineers producing little gadgets, had it not been for Noam Chomsky. It was Chomsky who connected all this with what it means to be human. It was Chomsky who, with a great deal of authority, managed to persuade an awed scientific community that a human being can be treated as a digital computer. A characteristic of our species is that we have language, and this corresponds to the language organ in the brain. This organ is a digital computer!

Chomsky managed to convince virtually the entire scientific community of this claim. But you have to wonder how he did it. The answer becomes clear when we recall who exactly were these scientists who became so excited. They were not people engaged in studying the intelligence of monkeys, apes or human beings. They were not psychologists with a special interest in how children acquire language. They were not anthropologists interested in the world’s different languages or in how our species evolved. They were not even brain neurophysiologists. No, they were computer scientists.

They were computer scientists in the pay of the Pentagon, tasked with the science-fiction job of making English accessible to their digital machines. Even more thrilling, they dreamed of automatic machine translation, so that not only English, but any language in the world, would be available. The stuff they were doing was clever, but would have been of zero interest to all those other scientists, had it not been for Noam Chomsky. Chomsky told them what they wanted to hear: they were suddenly made to feel relevant beyond their wildest dreams! He said that their research applied to human beings. Children, he said, are able to quickly acquire the grammar of their first language because they are in essence digital computers wired up from the outset in the necessary way. You can see why the MIT scientists loved it, needed to believe it and insisted on the brilliance of the idea. You can also see why these same computer nerds and their Pentagon backers might have wanted to confer authority on anyone who told them it was true. The claimed presence of one of their computers inside each child’s head was the one thing which connected their otherwise boring technical expertise with grand issues of philosophy, psychology and meaning. If the human mind contains at its core a digital computer, then they were the experts in what it means to be human! It just had to be true.

Let me now turn to one of the consequences for Marxists of this cognitive revolution. Again, it seems to me strange that so many of us are unaware of what has been done to Marxism since the end of World War II. I am talking about the complete removal of science from our horizons. Marxists never talk these days of the science behind their activism. When did you last hear a Marxist commenting on the latest research in physics, chemistry or molecular biology? When I speak of science I mean that huge collective enterprise which these days has worked out more or less what happened in the first nanoseconds after the Big Bang, which can look at the whole universe and roughly work out how galaxies were formed. Science as in modern genetics, or as in the modern study of climate change.

My own – perhaps controversial – view is that there is nothing more revolutionary than hard science. It is the most revolutionary thing there is. And yet Marxists very rarely take an interest in it. Our predecessors did. For example, in the 1920s and 1930s, they revelled in the new knowledge in the fields of astronomy and genetics, and many leading scientists were themselves Marxists or at least committed leftists. I am thinking of Haldane, for example, and even Einstein.

My book is an attempt to trace how this intellectual catastrophe came about. One theory is that it isn’t just the Stalin version of dialectical materialism which is rubbish, but any attempt to follow Marx in thinking dialectically. Chomsky generally goes along with this. If you do not accept that theory, you need a more convincing one. My theory is social and political: the ruling class found a clever new way to utterly discredit the dragon of Marxism, not by attacking it directly, but by ‘draining the marsh’ – removing the philosophical premises and intellectual environment in which Marxism had previously thrived.

It was the cognitive revolution that saw to it that the connection between science and activism was ruptured. And it was Noam Chomsky who most symbolised this revolution. His fundamental thesis is that science – though of interest to specialists – is not relevant to political activism! I know that even when enthusiastic activists ask him about his linguistics he discourages them from pursuing that trail.[5] ‘None of your business’ is the disappointing message they receive. Chomsky wants us to believe that science and life pass each other by, just as they do for him. Science, he claims, deals only with highly simplified questions devoid of human interest or significance.[6]

Again, it is the way that computer science draws on the distinction between software (or information) and hardware (or the body) which makes these claims seem natural, almost self-evident. Digital information is one thing; the body – matter – is another. Information does not weigh anything; it does not occupy space; it passes by the matter it is encoded in and interacts with. For Chomsky, there is a radical disjunction between information and matter – or, if you like, between mind and body, theory and practice. Noam Chomsky says that his activism has nothing to do with his scientific work, and vice versa. His work on language is politically neutral.

Chomsky makes no concessions at all in his programme of decontaminating his science of all political significance. In order to go the whole way, he removes any aspect of language that might remotely seem political. He does this by eliminating everything social about language, including even the idea that a child acquiring its first tongue might learn something from its carers or playmates, or the idea that language is for communicating thoughts and ideas to others. Strictly speaking, says Chomsky, a child does not need to learn from others how to speak its native tongue, since it is equipped with the basics already:

Learning language is something like going undergoing puberty. You don’t learn to do it; you don’t do it because you see other people doing it; you are just designed to do it at a certain time.[7]

You begin to see how, for Chomsky, one thing leads to another. Once he had decided that there could be no learning, he had to come up with something else – ideally the opposite of learning. And so, in pursuit of his own logic, he lights on the concept of forgetting. A child is said to acquire its first tongue by discarding one language after another from the vast repertoire of languages stored in its head from birth. For me, this following is the most amazing statement of all:

It is pretty clear that a child approaches the problem of language acquisition by having all possible languages in its head, but doesn’t know which language it’s being exposed to. And, as data comes along, that class of possible languages reduces. So certain data comes along and the mind automatically says, ‘OK, it’s not that language, it’s some other language.’[8]

So the child is equipped with all the languages that ever were, are or will be, but discards all but the one that it is actually raised in. If you are a scientific linguist you are apparently never interested in people talking to one another. You are only interested in this thing in the head of the individual who is said to be talking to himself or herself. To count as the study of nature, linguistics must exclude the investigation of human social interactions, politics, communication or culture. Yes, the bizarre logic goes that far. These are the basics of Chomsky’s linguistics, of the philosophical underpinnings of his whole life’s work.

I am not giving all these quotes to show that they are nonsense, by the way: I am doing it to suggest that we need to ask why this whole set of ideas dominated vast swathes of Western thought from the early 1960s onwards.

As I state in my book, I am approaching this as a social anthropologist would. In other words, if, say, you listen to a shaman or tribal elder – a person of importance who may be saying deep and meaningful things, even if they are nonsense to you – you have to investigate the causes of his authority, which gives this nonsense meaning and significance for the tribe. It is the same with Chomsky.

I am generally happy with my 1991 book, Blood Relations, but it had a huge hole in it: it did not get to language, a key element. Why did I leave it out? Well, because when I researched language I started reading Noam Chomsky, the world’s expert, but I could not make head nor tail of it – it was completely baffling. Naturally I thought it was my fault that I did not understand it – after all, I am not a mathematician, so I would not expect to fully understand Einstein either. After all, everyone says Chomsky is a genius, so I thought I would have to work really hard to get my head round it. It took me 20 years to fully understand it, but what I immediately worked out was that, although I loved Chomsky’s politics, his linguistics were so baffling that what I had to do was study the social tribe in which it was incubated.

What was the time, the place, the institution, the political circumstances in which all this nonsense took root? The ‘tribe’ I needed to investigate was the US war science community immediately after WWII. In other words, it was the inhabitants of a large number of Pentagon think-tanks who, just after defeating the Nazis, were beginning to turn all their attention to ‘Communism’. They were drunk with power at that time. Europe was in ruins, China was nowhere, they had just invented the nuclear bomb and dropped a couple; and now they were dreaming of using their computers as omnipotent command-and-control instruments for eavesdropping on the world’s communications and, above all, for guiding their nuclear weapons to hit their exact targets. That was what I needed to investigate and the resulting book is about this particular tribe.

What I am trying to argue is that, as soon as you do look at that period, you realise why the military needed someone like Noam Chomsky to solve a number of their problems. I should stress that nothing that Noam produced was even slightly useful militarily to the Pentagon. None of the language modules he developed ever worked and I do not think he wanted them to work: his anti-militarist conscience was too strong. To be able to look himself in the mirror each morning he needed to do the work for which he was paid, but refuse to step over the line from abstract theory into any military application.

My whole thesis is that there were good social and political reasons why it became acceptable to isolate theory from practice in this way. As Perry Anderson showed long ago, all the various schools of Western Marxism became mentalist in the way that I have discussed: mind over matter, software more important than hardware, turning Karl Marx upside-down.[9] Marx, of course, had the view that if you want to understand what goes on in the mind you need first to understand what happens in and through the body – eating, reproduction, cooperation, the relationship between the means of production and the relations of production – in order to work out what is in the head. The cognitive revolution proved so dangerous to the Marxist movement because it successfully turned this idea on its head.

Almost all supporters of the cognitive revolution acknowledge Noam Chomsky as their mentor, their founder. Many describe what he did as the triumph of mind over matter. In fact they go further: they say that with the cognitive revolution we scientists abolished matter. If you are serious, you no longer study matter – you study the mind.

So how did all this come about? To figure it out, I want you to put yourself in Noam Chomsky’s place. While you are not necessarily a pacifist, you have been strongly opposed to killing people since you were a teenager. When Chomsky heard about Hiroshima on a summer camp somewhere, he went very quiet. Everyone around him was very happy that the US had managed to ‘get the Japs’, but Chomsky found that he could not talk to anyone – the shock was just too much and he needed to be alone, as though he was in mourning.

In other words, he always felt a massive, deep and instinctive hostility to nuclear weapons. So imagine Noam Chomsky when he found himself not only with a well-paid job, but heaped with honours for what he was achieving in what he termed a ‘Department of Death’ – a laboratory on a campus heavily involved in the production of nuclear missile guidance systems and other weapons.[10] The question is, how did he manage to cope?

I have documented in chapter 4 of my book how, when his own students were just beginning to rise up and demand the closing down of MIT’s military laboratories, Chomsky wrote a letter, which was published in the New York Review of Books, saying that he was thinking of ‘resigning’, because MIT was up to its neck in actual or potential war crimes. Chomsky had not meant the letter to be published, but when it was, suddenly everyone must have assumed that he was resigning in disgust because of what his own institution was up to. After some time, Chomsky decided not to resign after all. He explained this decision by writing that his previous letter had been quite ‘unfair’. MIT was not an institution devoted to making weapons of mass destruction. Yes, he conceded, there might well be ‘individuals at MIT’ working on such weapons, but his university as such was an honourable, ‘libertarian’ institution, allowing him complete freedom to follow his own conscience without any pressure.[11]

I also document in the book Chomsky’s relationship at a later stage with a certain John Deutch, director of the CIA from 1995 to 1996. Chomsky tells us:

We were actually friends and got along fine, although we disagreed on about as many things as two human beings can disagree about. I liked him. We got along very well together. He’s very honest, very direct. You know where you stand with him.[12]

Chomsky voted for him in the election for principal of his college. Most of Chomsky’s friends said, ‘You can’t vote for that man’ – it was Deutch who invented the fuel-air explosives. When dropped from planes, they explode above the ground, destroying everything below and killing everybody, but hopefully leaving much of the equipment intact. Noam Chomsky was friends with this guy. There he was, in the evening denouncing the CIA to his anarchist friends. Then he gets up in the morning, goes to work and then sits down and perhaps has a coffee with his friend, John Deutch, the future director of the CIA.

So what could Chomsky do? One obvious solution was to keep his two constituencies at arm’s length from each other. He might keep the military people and their boffins over in one corner of his life, and his anarchist friends somewhere else. He might try to create a firewall between the laboratory work and his activism, so that the two camps do not speak to each other and cannot in any case understand what the other lot are saying. He would have to speak one esoteric, highly specialised language to one side and a completely different language to the other, with a firewall in between.

Because Chomsky was so highly respected, no-one could fault his moral integrity as an anti-war activist, and no-one could fault his standing as a scientist either. I am not blaming Chomsky for adopting the position he took. We all have to make compromises of some kind, given the conditions we live under. I am thinking particularly of people with jobs in the mendacious media, academics, people in the arms industry, bankers – we all have to earn a living and our work is not always what we would like it to be. But we have to be able to hold our heads high and think of ourselves as doing a good job.

Where this happens, there is a divide between what we are obliged to do as paid workers or professionals and what we might do as autonomous activists outside our jobs. It is not an easy matter to get the two to connect. But, while many of us face that contradiction, Noam faced in it more of an intense form than anyone else I can think of. The world’s number-one critic of the US military was working as a prominent scientist in a militarily funded laboratory. How do you square that?

If you are Noam Chomsky in this position, you need to find a way to make your linguistics as politically irrelevant as possible. So you define language in a new way. You define it as not even social. You have to remove every last trace of social science, of anthropology, psychology and so on. You make it like mathematics. So Chomsky’s strange conception of language is what happens if you must remove every last trace of politics from your linguistics.

We know quite a lot now about how words emerge. We know that there is some link between the sound of the word, its shape, and what it means. As language develops and we develop shorthand, that link eventually disappears. Certainly words are coined by people who may come up with a metaphor which seems to be quite clever and appropriate. Then someone else thinks of a different metaphor, and the first one becomes a tired, dead metaphor, then a purely grammatical marker. But the point is that words are historical, cultural products emerging out of social interaction.

But for Chomsky there is a problem with all this. He needs to be able to claim that words too are ‘natural’ and installed in the brain from birth. So what about the word, ‘book’? In the Stone Age, when the concept of a book was unknown, did people have the word in their heads? Chomsky says they did. How about ‘bureaucrat’? They didn’t have those in the Stone Age either. Chomsky said, yes, the word was always there in people’s heads. What about ‘carburettor’? Yes, that one too.[13] What I find is that, whereas Chomsky’s anarchist supporters know that he defines universal grammar as innate, they are astonished to be told that this applies to lexical concepts (words) as well. So I read them out all this stuff, expecting them to start laughing – Stone Age people with the lexical concept of a book, a bureaucrat, or a carburettor in their heads? Why would a world-renowned linguist need to say such strange things?

The point about language is that it is where nature meets society, politics and culture. If you want to know where language comes from you need to look at the big picture. You have to link up the Earth sciences – geology, the science of climate change during past periods, anthropology, the study of apes and monkeys and fossils of human ancestors. You have to join the humanities with the sciences to understand how we came to possess language. But Noam Chomsky was forced by his job to separate the two domains. He did this by placing language in the natural sciences, totally at the expense of anything social or political. So towards the end of my book I go into some detail on the question of how all these different sciences link up, converging on an adequate theory of the origin of language.

Over the 20 years since I published Blood Relations I have helped establish and sustain Evolang, the main international research community and conference series dedicated to the origin of language. To explain the origin of language you cannot just invent a theory. You need the international scientific community to study this hugely challenging and difficult problem. And over the years I think we have got somewhere. We know roughly how language evolved in our species. We have our disagreements, but I basically think we are on the verge of cracking it.[14] How does Noam Chomsky deal with what we say?

First of all he did not – he just refused. But then, after he came to some of these conferences, his friends were saying to him that he could not continue to assert that language was simply there in the brain: he had to have a theory about how it gets there. He came up with the idea of a 'great leap forward' – a sudden revolutionary transformation. But if we became human through a revolution, wouldn't that idea be politically subversive? Unable to propose anything which might seem remotely political (because for him science must never be political) Chomsky ended up with the most non-political, neutral, irrelevant version of a revolution you could possibly imagine. Finding a solution was no easy matter. How can you make the greatest revolution in all history – the one which constructed our humanity – appear unconnected with revolutionary politics? How can you make it all seem completely irrelevant?

Well, here was an answer. How about you have an ape-person wandering around who gets bombarded by a ‘cosmic ray shower’? These cosmic rays then cause a mutation which installs a language organ in the brain. Not just any old language organ, but a perfect one, fully formed in an instant, whereupon this ape-person begins talking to itself. That is Chomsky’s suggestion.[15]

Let me spell this out. Chomsky says that once the mutation had occurred, our fortunate ancestors were able to speak but never got round to doing so for ‘something like 50,000 years’. This did not matter, says Chomsky, because the organ was for private thinking, not talking aloud. ‘The capacity to think became well embedded. The use of it to communicate could have come later. Furthermore, it looks peripheral: as far as we can see from studying language, it doesn’t seem to affect the structure of language very much.’[16]

For Chomsky, then, making oneself comprehensible to others is ‘peripheral’, having no effect on what language is: ‘Language is not properly regarded as a system of communication. It is a system for expressing thought: something quite different. It can, of course, be used for communication, as can anything people do – manner of walking or style of clothes or hair, for example.’ So language is no more designed for communicating your thoughts than are your legs, clothes or hair. Language exists for talking to just one person – yourself: ‘Actually you can use language even if you are the only person in the universe with language, and in fact it would even have adaptive advantage. If one person suddenly got the language faculty, that person would have great advantages: the person could think, could articulate to itself its thoughts.’[17]

Chomsky says that although language is perfect in design, it is superficially imperfect. What he means by this is that humans do not use language like robots. We do not speak in digital code, but expect that a listener will use a little imagination and employ proper interpretation to understand the intended meaning, whether we are using metaphors or other figures of speech, or perhaps humour. We need a certain level of trust on the part of our audience. That is the reality: language relies upon a certain amount of goodwill, cooperation and trust. But for Chomsky the ambiguity of language is one of its defects. It prevents it from being perfect. For him the fact that people speak different languages is another imperfection. As are the differing phonetic structures. If things were perfect, we would all be speaking t he same language and all these ambiguities about meaning would not exist, because basically we would be talking to ourselves.

In conclusion, I have tried to explain why Chomsky’s science is everything which his political output is not. His science is individualistic to the nth degree; meanwhile, his politics celebrates solidarity and is basically socialist.
Chomsky has validated the idea that since these two modes of thought are so utterly different, activism is best conducted without reference to science. Conversely, he argues, scientists need to do their work completely autonomously, without worrying about any political implications. In opposition to Chomsky, I believe that nothing is more revolutionary than science and that to be revolutionaries we all have to be scientists. Science is intrinsically internationalist. Climate science in particular has urgent political consequences. Borders and states are getting in the way of putting things right – we have one planet, a living planet and we need to look after it.

(This article is an edited version of a talk given in August 2016.)

Chris Knight is author of Decoding Chomsky: science and revolutionary politics, Yale University Press 2016.

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Notes

1. N.Chomsky, Class Warfare (1996), p15.

2. CP.Otero, Noam Chomsky: Language and politics (1988), p98-9, 318.

3. In order to suppress activism against the Vietnam war, MIT had six of its students sentenced to prison terms. (The Tech, December 14 1971, p4 and August 4 1972.) Yet, surprisingly, Chomsky claims that MIT has ’the freest and the most honest and has the best relations between faculty and students than any other … [with] quite a good record on civil liberties. That was shown to be particularly true during the 1960s.’

4. K.Hayles, How We Became Posthuman (1999), p244-5.

5. Otero, p318; N.Chomsky, Radical Anthropology No.2, (2008), p23.

6. Otero, p592; N.Chomsky, New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind (2000), p115.

7. N.Chomsky, Language and Problems of Knowledge (1988), p174.

8. N.Chomsky, ‘Lecture at the University of Rochester’, 21/4/16 - available on Youtube (1hr17mins20secs).

9. P.Anderson, Considerations on Western Marxism (1976).

10. In 1969 the radical student newspaper, The Old Mole, described MIT in this way: ‘MIT isn’t a center for scientific and social research to serve humanity. It’s a part of the US war machine. Into MIT flow over $100 million a year in Pentagon research and development funds, making it the tenth largest Defense Department R&D contractor in the country. MIT’s purpose is to provide research, consulting services and trained personnel for the US government and the major corporations – research, services, and personnel which enable them to maintain their control over the people of the world.’ I.Wallerstein, University Crisis Reader Vol.2 (1971), p240-3.

11. New York Review of Books, March 23 1967 and April 20 1967; A.Davidson, Foucault and his Interlocutors (1997), p144.

12. N.Chomsky, Powers and Prospects (1996), p101.

13. N.Chomsky, New Horizons in the Study of Language and Mind (2000), p64–66.

14. D.Dor, The Social Origins of Language (2014).

15. N.Chomsky, The Architecture of Language (2000), p4; N.Chomsky, The Science of Language (2012) p 44, 51,78; N.Chomsky, Powers and Prospects (1996), p29-30.

16. N.Chomsky, ‘On the evolution of language’, UNAM Skype talk, 4/3/16, (40m); N.Chomsky, The Science of Language (2012), p44.

17. N.Chomsky, On Nature and Language (2002), p76, 148.

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Comments

Vote Hillary 2016!

I think I'll pass out on that one

My neighbor's dog for President! Vote Fido 2016!

Won't be DOA for the job.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcOuBggle4Y

I'm going to keep showing this video whenever anything Chomsky comes up. As far as I'm concerned, let alone him not being an anarchist, the man is just bad for anarchism and nothing for anarchy on the whole.

That was worth a watch. Chomsky's linguistic theories aren't given near enough attention (critical or otherwise) within anarchist circles as they tend to be mistakenly seen as irrelevant to his politics.

Generative Grammar theory is actually grossly deterministic, so much many contemporary linguists found it scandalous such a guy would come up with such theory in our age. One would say it is very compatible with neuroscience or behaviorist psychology, which definitely are not converging with any sort of anarchism.

Hey Snark, you just reminded me of the artwork in the Snark book. I liked that when I was a kid. Might take another look even now.

And btw, I actually meant 'anarchism' in the imaginary Bob Black book title. Would have posted that there, but thread appears closed since, presumably because of extreme necro.

Yeah, I had a feeling that's what you meant but I wasn't too sure, so I figured I'd press the issue a little in order to get some clarification. No biggie.

Anyway, I'm a little disappointed that that thread was prematurely locked down, but it was fun while it lasted.

click here

this comment re 'the grammar of happiness', which ties everett's findings to those of moonhawk, bohm, peat, leroy little bear and other north american native elders, includes the following;

"1. When we teach young children our European languages, are we doing them the terrible and irreversible disservice of imprisoning them in time, by neurologically encoding in their brains a concept of scarce, death-fearful linear “clock” time that will forever lock them out of the present, out of Now Time?
.
2. As intrigued as we might be by the idea (concept) of a language based on flow and relationship and not on “things”, are we adults, with our brains already fixed by the language/worldview we were brought up with, deluding ourselves to believe we can really imagine what that other language/worldview might be like? Is this like trying to understand a world with 13 dimensions (none of them temporal) made of strings that have no mass and only the probability of existence?

Since the OP doesn't cite critiques by Zerzan and Black, I will include them here for people who want a contrary opinion:

http://www.primitivism.com/chomsky.htm

https://theanarchistlibrary.org/library/bob-black-chomsky-nod

Ahaha, Chomsky thinks stone-age folk had the carburetor concept in their heads. I say he has a massive abstract dildo concept in his.

Fun story but I'm not sure that it's really as insightful or revealing as the author believes it is. Chomsky (a high-profile academic) works at MIT (a high-profile academic institution) which is funded by the state/military (all academic institutions are) along with a bunch of people who were working, had worked, or would go on to work for the state/military/CIA. So fucking what? This could be said, to one degree or another, about any academic at any college or university in the country if not on the planet. As for the theoretical stuff, I actually kinda agree with his broader premise about the de-politicization of science, but to attribute this to Chomsky would be giving him way too much credit. Sure, he was in the right place at the right time, but so were a whole generation of academics. Every field was revolutionized in one way or another during this era and it would be one hell of a stretch to name Chomsky as the catalyst for that. More to the point, though, what the author really seems to be describing is a shift from materialism to idealism, both academically and in radical spheres. I'll agree wholeheartedly that this is a problem, but there's about a hundred names I'd put forward as culprits before Gnome came up. How about Foucault? Deboard? How about all of postmodernism and the entire nation of France? They wore their politics (and Marxism) on their sleeves at work, and look where it got them (and us). If anything has led to demobilization it's the way their ilk turned leftism into an academic career path (and the effect this had on "theory"). In comparison, Chomsky's decision to pursue objectivity in his scientific work but stay active in his private life seems kinda noble, and a lot more successful.

I can almost see what you're saying about others who've done worse by allowing themselves to become tools via their involvement in academia, just not sure about your examples. Don't see how the legacy of the French Leftists is comparable to what the author here charges Chomsky with. Is recuperative philosophy worse than creating scientific theories that serve as the basis of cybernetics? There was that thing about the IDF getting into Deleuze a few years ago, but other than that I can't think of anything remotely as heinous as being one of the forefathers of cognitive science.

You sure you aren't mistaking cognitive science for neuroscience? I can't think of Jean Piaget as some heinous bubbleboy theorist from an evil top US university.

And what's with that funny thing about IDF getting into Deleuze?

IDF and Deleuze:
https://indecentbazaar.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/deleuze-and-the-idf/

Cognitive science and cybernetics (actually this kinda counters my point; didn't realize Dupuy was also a founder of cognitive science):
https://mitpress.mit.edu/index.php?q=books/origins-cognitive-science

So this must be the reason why Deleuze killed himself then... whoa.

"How, then, are we to revolutionize an order whose very principle is constant self-revolutionizing?"

By simply stopping worshipping Deleuze as some radical guru and become agnostic strategists. And also strategists, since most anarchists I've seen are stuck in the world of petty tactics.

I'm all for abandoning Deleuze "worship" if this is understood to mean knocking him down off his pedestal and engaging with his ideas in a more reflective and critical manner; but, if it means a moralistic refusal to even engage with any aspect of his theory because it's too "academic" or "pomo," then I call this anti-intellectual populism that doesn't warrant serious consideration.

But Deleuze is nothing but academic. As for porno, well he did use an ultra-sexed hermetic rhetoric in his texts that seem to be far too much than needed.

Basically just a slightly more long-winded and derisive way of saying "I don't get it."

Can't take out of my mind these hordes of petty-bourgeois academic "radicals" I've witnessed attempting to be as sophisticated as Deleuze's convoluted and hyper-inflated pomo writing.

Not being anti-intellectual. I'm just doubting the authenticity of the guy, just as with most post-moderns, saved Foucault, Anders, Habermas and perhaps Baudrillard. Literature has become a big business in social sciences and philosophy. My theory is that Heidegger at some point has butt-raped philosophy. And post-modern theory since then has been suffering from a chronic Stockholm Syndrome which probably can't be cured.

Can't take out of my mind these hordes of petty-bourgeois academic "radicals" I've witnessed attempting to be as sophisticated as Deleuze's convoluted and hyper-inflated pomo writing.

"Convoluted" because you don't understand it? Ever hear the expression "he who can't dance says the band can't play?"

Not being anti-intellectual.

Really? How do you figure?

My theory is that Heidegger at some point has butt-raped philosophy.

Specifically which point would that be? Not that I necessarily have a problem with the whole idea of "butt-raping philosophy," but let's not just ignore the irony that, if Heidegger did in fact manage to do this, he would have used Philosophy to do it.

In any case, I think Agamben did a pretty good job in his essay, "Absolute Immanence" of establishing the disavowed affinity between Deleuze and Heidegger:

Thus liquidating the values of consciousness, Deleuze carries out the gesture of a philosopher who, despite Deleuze's lack of fondness for him, is certainly closer to Deleuze than any other representative of phenomenology in the twentieth century: Heidegger, the "pataphysical" Heidegger of the wonderful article on Alfred Jarry, the Heidegger with whom Deleuze, through his incomparable Ubuesque caricature, can finally reconcile himself. For Dasein, with its Being-in-the-world, is certainly not to be understood as an indissoluble relation between a subject - a consciousness - and its world; and alētheia, whose center is ruled by darkness and lēthē, is the opposite of an intentional object or a world of pure ideas. An abyss separates Heidegger's concepts from the Husserlian intentionality from which they derive, and it is this abyss that, in displacing these concepts along the line that goes from Nietzsche to Deleuze, makes them into the first figures of the new postconscious and postsubjective, impersonal and non-individual transcendental field that Deleuze's thought leaves as a legacy to "his" century.

But, to return to this intriguing idea of "butt-raping philosophy" for a second, am I giving you too much credit by assuming that this is an indirect reference to Zizek's concept of "philosophical buggery" in his book, Organs Without Bodies? If so, I will say that, while Zizek has his charms, I have grown increasingly less enamored with his thinking over the years. The fact that, in his article on the movie 300, he explicitly called for "the Left to (re)appropriate discipline and the spirit of sacrifice" was all but vomit-inducing. And, if that's not what you were referring to, I will just chalk this up to a cheeky (if you'll pardon the pun) turn of a phrase.

Wow that was an impressive attempt at 1/7th of an Emile comment! Keep it up!

Thanks, I fully intend to. Being the petit-bourgeois academic "radical" that I am, my unapologetic allegiance to ivory tower elitism compels me to fart in your general direction.

Yes, sacrifice is a problematic duty-bound concept hearkening out of primordial swamps of superstitious reciprocity formulas gone haywire, best left alone.

As the OP who first posted about pomo, etc, I feel like I should weigh in here. One does not have to be a "anti-intellectual populist" to have a critique of academia or of any particular group of academics. *As* someone with a background in the social sciences and the humanities, this crap is a particular beef of mine not because it's "academic" or "politicized" but because it so often ends up being bad at both. In that regard, I would point out, as so many fucking others have, that the "anti-intellectual populists" have a point: that this "theory", no matter how many radical pretenses it advances, primarily serves as a upper-middle-class social marker.

Whatever their motivations, Anon isn't wrong about "hordes of petit-bourgeois academic radicals" and the industry which has evolved to sell them debt. It's a virtual infestation at any university I've ever been to, most notable for how little effect it has on any life after or outside of school. Thousands, maybe millions of students are assigned the Situationists for first-year reading, but it's far more likely to be put to use in advertising firms than barricades.

As far as Chomsky goes, I view most of the haters and fanboys as grossly overstating his importance, but there are a few subjects in which he has some valuable insights and this is one of them. His observations that most of this kick-started around the time various prominent Marxist intellectuals got really disillusioned with Stalin then Mao, particularly in France, and turned their focus toward endless critiques and theories (along with the minor fame and comfortable lifestyle that afforded). His intellectual critique, echoed recently when he went up against Zizek, is essentially the same as Anon's - that this stuff is really fucking convoluted and that none of its insights are all that brilliant when not dressed up in pretentious rhetorical nonsense.

As far as the theories themselves go, there was a huge shift away from materialism toward idealism and a focus on words, symbols and culture. This provided endless opportunities for radical critique without much risk of affecting the real world, such as deconstructing pop-culture from a million different angles. The writing itself was thick with rhetoric and hyperbole (if you think Chomsky's out-of-context quotes sound absurd...), which seems mostly aimed at developing a personal brand by establishing one's self as the most "out-there" theorist.

As far as the effects this has had outside of academia go, it's hard not to see similarities here with the clusterfuck which is radical politics today (as far as that even exists). Look at the obsession with words and changing how people speak, compared with the relative indifference toward actual material poverty, etc. Look at the snobbish way in which radicals often look down on the same oppressed people they claim to fight for because they're not up-to-date with current theories and terminology. And, of course, look at the endless posturing and philosophical masturbatory naval-gazing.

Are more reflective of the greater structure of leftism, marxism and the academy then some of the thinkers themselves. Much of the deconstructive theory they brought to the table is quite good but it is missing that anarchist autodidactic touch. The rejection of Marx should have been the appropriation of Stirner as well as an abandoning of the academy. Chomsky is of no help in this regard as he is part of the pro rationalist old guard and as the doc that I linked shows he has VERY problematic followers in Brazil and other countries that are keeping rational authoritarian linguistics alive. The Franco radicals never spawned anything so reprehensible from their source.

I'm all for developing a systemic critique of 'academia' as an institutional bureaucracy, but this isn't what the OP was talking about. If you want to talk about the capitalist mental/manual division of labour and how it produces "the Expert" as a fixed social role, then, by all means, let's do that. However, self-righteous assertions about academic pursuits being an "upper-middle-class social marker" have nothing to do with developing this sort of systemic critique and everything to do with the same sort moralistic PC guilt trips that have been coming from the left-anarchist milieu for years. They're in the exact same vein as the anarcho-activist scene kid who drones on and on "anti-oppression frameworks" and the need to "unpack one's privilege" as a means of silencing any critique that violates his or her sensibilities.

To critique the institutional apparatus within which a particular set of ideas are formulated and the manner in which this apparatus shapes those ideas is an entirely different thing than falling back on the same tired moral platitudes about "elitism" and "class privilege." Furthermore, if you think that exploited and oppressed people aren't intelligent enough to wrap their heads around such complex concepts as those found in Nietzsche and Deleuze, then I would argue that you are falling into a paternalistic attitude in which "the Activist" replaces "the Academic" as the messianic social role that swoops in from the outside in an effort to "rescue" exploited people from their own conditions.

Besides, let's be honest here: it isn't out of some benevolent humanitarian impulse that most left-anarchists so vehemently object to such thinkers as Nietzsche and Deleuze. It's that they aren't able to assimilate the concepts put forward by such thinkers into their pre-fabricated and outmoded ideological programs. Why? Because such concepts can't be neatly pigeonholed into the rubric of Enlightenment rationality as it has appeared in classical anarchist thought throughout its 150+ year history. Their concern is more with protecting their own sacred cow than it is with effectively challenging the structures of domination.

A genuine critique of academia as an institutional apparatus would reject not only the mental/manual division of labour that produces "experts" as intellectual specialists, but also the sort of paternalistic anti-intellectual populism that, through guilt-based moral platitudes, alienates exploited people from all the intellectual tools needed to effectively attack their social conditions. If saying this makes me a bourgeois academic, then I'll wear those scarlet letters with pride.

"but also the sort of paternalistic anti-intellectual populism that, through guilt-based moral platitudes, alienates exploited people from all the intellectual tools needed to effectively attack their social conditions."

Sorry but you really got this huge dead angle when to people like Deleuze, who've been already alienating people from the very intellectual tools they pretended to provide with the most hermetic, pedantic, autistic and genuinely bureaucratic language since the Hermetics themselves.

But wait...

And besides my typo, I also wanted to add that there are far more useful thinkers like Foucault, Debord, Hannah Arendt, Wilhelm Reich who, despite the volumes some of them have written, have been using a fairly accessible language. So my libel is really after this trend of pomo reformulators from Sorbonne/Frankfurt School who seemed to be really on a death race to build and maintain themselves an elite status among academia.

If the full extent of your objection to Deleuze is that his language isn't "accessible" enough, then don't even waste my time. Your lack of reading comprehension or unwillingness to pick up a dictionary does not constitute a critique.

Ableism always makes for a very poor argument, especially when it comes to defending an academic guru, no thank you.

(was a response to Snarky Snark Hunter at 06:31)

"Ableism?" If I'm not mistaken, that's Item #4 on your Anti-Oppression Grocery List, isn't it? Better put a check mark beside it so you'll know it's already been taken care of.

Yes, so is racism and sexism as items #3 and #2, right? Let's throw these out and accept that ableism, sexist, racism, homophobia, transphobia, and specisism can be non-incongruent and acceptable mindsets to your anarchy, just because Identity Politicians and stuff.

Please tell me more. I'm very interested to hear what else The Big Book of PC Guilt Trips has to say on the subject of "ableism." Meanwhile, I'd be happy to serenade you with the world's smallest violin just to provide dramatic effect.

This would be why people hate PoMo. When you respond to all criticisms by pretending your critics are too stupid or lazy comprehend the brilliance of your theories people are just gonna start assuming you're just a pompous git.

"However, self-righteous assertions about academic pursuits being an "upper-middle-class social marker" have nothing to do with developing this sort of systemic critique and everything to do with the same sort moralistic PC guilt trips that have been coming from the left-anarchist milieu for years."

I fucking love the temper-tantrums that butthurt academics throw when people point this shit out. Call me a "anarcho-activist scene kid" if ya like but the same blatantly obvious point could just as easily have come from a Trump supporter (those guys really love anti-intellectual populism, and this is a big part of why). University is really fucking middle-class. It's where people learn to *be* middle class in speech and behavior. In a lot of ways a university education is a better measure than income of who is "middle class". If we're gonna talk about the potential for resistance via academia then that context is relevant. When most people think of Deleuze, etc, they envision martinis, not molotovs, and there's a reason for that. Acknowledge it or not, the main use of these theories is more like a rolex (demonstrating that you're wealthy and cultured) than as an actual critique - personally I don't feel like that speaks well of the insurrectionary potential of an author or their writing.

"Furthermore, if you think that exploited and oppressed people aren't intelligent enough to wrap their heads around such complex concepts as those found in Nietzsche and Deleuze, then I would argue that you are falling into a paternalistic attitude"

Again, I'm not the one claiming people are too dumb to get this stuff, but it does seem like that kind of exclusion is the intent.

"A genuine critique of academia as an institutional apparatus would reject not only the mental/manual division of labour that produces "experts" as intellectual specialists, but also the sort of paternalistic anti-intellectual populism that, through guilt-based moral platitudes, alienates exploited people from all the intellectual tools needed to effectively attack their social conditions."

Except it's not "paternalistic anti-intellectual populism" that's holding back poor kids from learning this stuff. It's actual material conditions like poverty and tuition fees. One could imagine, I guess, that the profs, grads and students could make a collective effort to make these writings and theories accessible outside academia, especially to those "exploited people" who allegedly need it, but that just doesn't happen. If anything there's a lot less effort put into public education than the hard sciences, etc. Even if there was, tho, one has to ask: what exactly are these "intellectual tools" and why are they so "essential"? What does a prisoner, a sweatshop worker or a black kid in the ghetto gain from reading Deleuze that better allows them to attack their social conditions?

When you respond to all criticisms by pretending your critics are too stupid or lazy comprehend the brilliance of your theories people are just gonna start assuming you're just a pompous git.

Go ahead and think I'm a pompous git. It's no skin off my ass either way. Nor does it make a difference to me how "middle class" you think I am. Hell, I don't really even care whether you or anyone else takes the time to read Deleuze. What does make a difference to me is when lefty scenesters purport to be speaking on behalf of the poor and oppressed when, in fact, they're only speaking on behalf of themselves and their geriatric ideology. This presumption that intellectual pursuits are the sole province of the bourgeois elite and that it is for the anarcho-lefty scenester cult to decide whether oppressed people "can afford" to engage them is an absolute joke. And the fact you think that such a point could just as easily have been made by a Trump supporter is a selling point for your position only bolsters the punchline.

You think there are still leftists hanging out on this site? Or any serious post-left anarchist as well? Racist, sexist, bigoted comments are allowed to be posted by the same no-lifer visitor for years by now. Thecollective's recent experiment was useless as they were apparently unwilling to remove the usual drivel in the comment section, and especially remove the registered users.

I feel that this site is no longer be taken serious by anybody out there taking part in any real life anarchy, whatever that means. Leftists are far too religious-like to be coming back "here".

If you're correct in saying that there aren't any leftists posting here anymore, then there is a strange new breed of moralistic, anti-intellectual post-left anarchists who do an uncanny impression of them. I remember back in 2008 when I first started posting here before my extended hiatus, there were regular visits from Platformist shills like Wayne Price and Rowan Duffy. That, of course, was back when cool people like Lord Rambler and Eyedea were also contributing their thoughts to provide a much-needed counterbalance to the influx of outdated anarcho-lefty dogma. There was actually some really provocative (if often quite heated) discussion going on here at the time. I guess a lot has changed since then. In any case, at least we can agree that this website is a miserable shadow of its former self.

Oh FFS. Nice straw man. Or rather, interesting choice of straw-man. I mean..."anarcho-leftist scenesters"... that's a pretty fucking pomo group right there. Does anybody really feel that the big problem with "anarcho-leftist scenesters" is that they haven't spent enough time at university studying pomo theories? I hate to break it to you dude, but all that privilege-checking PC identity-politics shit you keep complaining about comes right out of the pomo textbook.

As for my local scene, I avoid my local scene like the plague largely for these reasons. It's dramatic, really, how much of this translates through into how radicals operate outside academia. From the tendency to alienate everybody with pretentious language to the petty posturing over which brand of theory is in vogue this week, it's all like some sort of pale imitation of the academic world, which would make sense since it's dominated mainly by former humanities students.

I guess the whole "deconstruction" thing is more fun when nobody's applying the same standards to you...

I hate to break it to you dude, but all that privilege-checking PC identity-politics shit you keep complaining about comes right out of the pomo textbook.

That may very well have been your experience but it hasn't been mine. Maybe the manner in which so-called "pomo" theories are interpreted in anarchist circles varies from geographic region to geographic region but, where I'm from, it has always been the more orthodox leftists who have been the most militant enforcers of PC moralism and privilege-checking "anti-oppression frameworks." These are the very same people who I've consistently seen regurgitate the very sorts of anti-intellectual arguments that you're making here. At the risk of sounding too "pomo," I guess perspective is everything.

Ok, so basically you just don't understand what "postmodernism" is. Got it.

Well, Your Honour, I think I'll invoke the "I'm rubber, you're glue" defence.

The ability to say what this term means is obviously hindered by the different schools that oppose modernity. If postmodern just means "against Essentials (platonic forms) such as Beauty, Truth and Goodness", then it would seem we have a genuine resolution to what JZ means by tossing around the term pejoratively.--Note: the tern essence doesn't carry that connotation in medieval metaphysics... Obviously pomo has use against new seemingly necessary forms, like, for instance, Privilege, Material conditions, the working class, Patriarchy, Heteronormativity; all of which, it seems a little too obvious to say, but all of which are spooks.. which seems to read straight out of a post-structuralist playbook. Until one prescinds the term poststructuralist from Postmodern it seems hopelessly confusing to address what the term means.

Some solid points in there. A few that I would have made myself if I was still taking this discussion seriously.

Is not primarily responsible for the PC privilege retardation thatn plagues radicalism. It actually goes back to academic Marxist Maoism if you research enough. It does unfortunately converge withn pomo discourse which would be A LOT better without it but the pomos do not bearm primary responsability for the pc privilege nonsense. POMO post structural analysis is on the high subjectivist side of things. Privilege analysis comes from objective born assumptions of better and worse, assumptions that from a deconstructive non objective analysis are baseless. There are no grounds to declare white privilege class privilege or any privilege outside of contrived barometers.

" if you think that exploited and oppressed people aren't intelligent enough to wrap their heads around such complex concepts as those found in Nietzsche and Deleuze, ..."

i don't think anyone is not intelligent enough to grok complex concepts such as those - what is "elitist" is the language that is used around those concepts, including to describe and express the concepts. i know, all you academics can blow your horn about "well what's wrong with having to look up a word in the dictionary?" yeah, having to look up a word or two is no problem for any critical thinker. but let's be honest, reading that kind of writing requires the dictionary a dozen times per paragraph, for anyone that did not choose to succumb to the institution of academia.

if it is anti-intellectual to dismiss academics that go out of their way to be completely opaque and use the biggest, most unclear words and phrases possible, then i'm guilty as charged.

Noam Chomsky has been a leading apologist for the worst form of fascism in the last 100 years.
His 60's thesis on Spain is tainted by seeming personal animus for a particular historian ( Gabriel)
His 90's stuff on anarchism may be read as supporting a Marxist colonization ( entryist) push. Praise for obscure ' council communists' & etc. Then, in the noughties he was for Kerry then today, he's for some other equally unpalatable 'lesser evil'.
Its good his pseudo-scientific efforts are being exposed, but he needs condemning for his left-fascism first and foremost.. Its an absolute disgrace he's become associated with us.
Yrs in revolutionary anarchism etc

Please start with /r/anarchism. The place has been infiltrated by the Chomsky cult for quite a while.

Chomsky is useful when you're 15 and trying to deprogram your head regarding history and geopolitical reality, beyond that, most of these critiques fly

He is a left-liberal,Libertarian Socialist. He is not an anarchist. His views on technology are absurd. There is nothing in his numerous political writings that has any value for anarchists. As for his linguistic theory, I know too little about it to offer an opinion one way or another. I went to the link for Chomsky's interview with Radical Anthropology. I was mostly puzzled by his comments. What did he mean by "some part of the human genetic endowment " is involved in language acquisition? Which part?

Linguistics can cause about as profound a cognitive shift in perception as a large dose of hallucinogens. Just be ready to be about burned at the stake when people ask and you break everything down for someone and they suddenly realize they're this strange creature making sounds on a ball floating around fire in a blackness they'll never begin to comprehend. Prescriptivists will want to choke you when they find out that not using informal words like 'ain't' doesn't make them superior (that context is everything).

Anyway, Chomsky gets his linguistics from no linguists at all. He's a follower of that binary, abstract fucker Decartes, as well as Baron Von Humboldt, the inventor of the Prussian military system US compulsory education is based on. Literally, Chomsky believes there's an inherent, innate language producing faculty in the brain. Don't ask him to test this, or point out where the language organ is in the brain. He hasn't and won't. He's rather bothered by other people's attempts to (re: the studies done with the chimpanzee Nim Chimpsky). He never tested out his Univeral Grammar theory in different languages. So, with the military angle this article/essay takes, the application of his theory is more suited for machines, computer programming.

I doubt Chomsky will be on board for that obvious anarchist position seeing that he isn't one.

Speaking of which why hasn't this been formalized into a position by any anarchist at any point thus far? Stirner gave us enough ingredients to begin with.

Hey Einzige, what do you think of Karl Popper's approach to knowledge?

From what I've parsed of Popper. He's to crudely Western for my tastes. I don't really care for science all that much particularlyn as a mono method. Feyarabend rejects him for that reason. I am more with the pure empiricists quite frankly and am more in line with verification principles then I am with falsification principles as I see the former as more in line with experiential criteria.

To use the Piraha as an example, the reason why Everette could never convert them was because they always demanded verified experience of this Jesus. Conversely many other tribes buckeled because they saw their reality as now being false via clever semantic delivery from the converters. Falsification principles require some kind of nascent will to truth.

if there is only the continually transforming now, then the benefits contributed by notable ancestors are going to be enfolded in the now. past events have no meaning as outliers in themselves. words spoken earlier on and/or stone tablets or canoes delivered earlier on, ... and places made sacred earlier on, are part of the continuing now, as is the dust of the ancestors.

for a people that do not have numbers much less the concept of 'past' or 'future', while worshipping icons of 'earlier' notable ancestors [via totems etc.] may fit, 'a second coming' makes no sense.

"Prescriptivists will want to choke you when they find out that not using informal words like 'ain't' doesn't make them superior (that context is everything)."

Have you got some brain damage too? What's this sentence and since when "prescriptivism" is a thing?

Did you ever stop to think about how 'education' and the purported reality of 'the future' are tightly coupled?

When people get together and use language to 'make plans' as education seems to contribute to, does this really 'shape the future'?

How do 'savages' like the Pirahã make out since they don't have any future, they only have the continually unfolding 'now'. They don't get a chance to 'shape their future' because there is no future in their conception of the world. Are we 'doing better' than the Pirahã because we 'do have a future' and we can use our science and education to help craft 'the future'?

The funny thing is, that scientific thinking and planning that goes into shaping the future is all in terms of logical propositions and these logical propositions are very subjective and incomplete. So, even though we can use them to shape the future [DDT kills mosquitoes, US military technology eliminates Saddams] and rightfully declare 'mission accomplished', there always seems to be a lot of 'externalities' engendered in the physical reality of our actual experience, that associate with our logic-directed interventions, that were not addressed within our scientific models and propositions. In other words, maybe our rational, scientific thinking about things is 'disconnected' from the physical reality of our actual in-the-now experience.

sure, education is like science, its aim is to help us construct a desired future. BUT, ... what if there were no 'future', but only the unfolding 'now'?

working our butt off to construct a desired future would be nonsense.

Western people, but not indigenous aboriginals, believe that 'the future' is something real, that our actions can help to shape. Is this not the insanity of Western civilization; i.e. that we have 'twisted off' from the primary reality of the continually unfolding now?

In the video of the Pirahã pointed to by SirEinzige, at about 31:50 into the video, a Pirahã man going fishing is reflecting in the now on the unfolding now of his fishing trip.

Notice the ambiguity as to how much ‘reflecting’ can seem like ‘predicting the future’;

[Hiahoaai] I speak. I am here. It is nice.
My family speaks. We are hungry, let’s eat fish.
[Wife] The man is a good hunter. He kills monkeys by himself.
[Hiahoaai, now in boat, reflecting] My wife speaks. Kill a big fish. There are no fish. I won’t find any. My wife will be angry. She will speak. “Where is my fish?”
[Wife, watching from the river bank] Hiahoaai kills nothing. The Pirahã man kills no fish.
Hiahoaai sees a fish, kills the fish and brings it back.

All of this happens in the continually unfolding now of actual experience. There is what is unfolding, and there is reflecting on what is unfolding.

Now, the Pirahã call themselves ‘straight’ and they call the white people ‘twisted heads’, can you think of why that might be?

It is because, in the white man’s head, ‘reflection’ becomes ‘prediction’ and ‘the future’ takes on a ‘reality of its own’.

[Twisted head] “if i am unable to catch a fish, my wife will give me hell and this is a very undesirable future. I must go to school to improve my fish-catching knowledge so that I shall be able to construct a desirable future for myself and my wife.”

‘Science’ and ‘education’ are born when ‘reflection in the now’ becomes a new reality-in-itself whereupon it is seen as a ‘thought-process’ that is driving and directing one’s actions that causally determine ‘the future state of affairs’.

The reality of our sensory experience is that we reflect on what is unfolding in the now and these reflections are not reality, but the ‘twisted head’ white man imputes ‘reality’ to the reflections so that ‘reflections’ become ‘rational thoughts’ that are seen to ‘direct the actions’ of the thinker so as to causally determine/shape 'the unfolding future'. This ‘dreaming in the now’ [reflecting on what is unfolding in the now] is then taken to be ‘thinking’ that is driving one’s behaviour and shaping/determining ‘the future’. The package of ... "thought that directs the actions of the subject which shapes what unfolds in 'the future'" replaces 'reflecting in the now' on what is 'unfolding in the now'. That is what 'head-twisting' is all about, according to the Pirahã.

Even though one is situationally included in the unfolding pool of activity of the transforming relational continuum, once we impute 'reality' to these reflections as in ‘real thoughts’ that we purport to be using to ‘direct our behaviour’, then the scenario becomes one in which our thoughts are driving our actions and shaping ‘the future’. In other words, by imputing 'reality' to 'the future' and 'reality' to our 'reflections', we make ourselves over into 'organic machines internally driven by intelligent programming' that causally shape 'the unfolding future'. we are no longer relational activities within a transforming-in-the-now relational continuum, like the Pirahã and other indigenous aboriginals whose languages do not employ the concepts of 'being' and 'time' [past, present, future].

In our version of these ‘dreams and reflections’, we become the directors of our own actions and thus in control of the results of our actions; i.e. we are in control of the future outcome.

We are the ‘twisted heads’ unlike the ‘straight-headed’ Pirahã who acknowledge that they are NOT things-in-themselves with internal thought-process directed behaviours [dualist inhabitants that operate independent of the habitat], but activities situationally included within the overall pool of activities aka the transforming-in-the-now relational continuum.

This is where ‘twisted head Western’ man steps out of his inclusion as a relational activity within the overall relational activity, and depicts himself as an ‘independent being’ driven by his internal thoughts, mistaking his ‘reflections’ for ‘realities' that he assumes are directing his behaviour so as to shape the unfolding future in a intended way [to craft a 'desired future'].

Of course, as Nietzsche says, Western man’s ego is so exalted by this language-based ‘head twisting’ of what is going on since it endows him with God-like powers of controlling ‘the future’, that it is not going to be easy to back him out of this belief.

As it turns out, these ‘rational thoughts’ that man has, such as, ‘If I spray this DDT in the habitat, I will eliminate mosquitoes’, or, ‘if I apply this military technology, I will eliminate Saddam and his regime’, are subjective and incomplete ‘logic-based semantic realities' which can be experimentally proven true [this is just a language game]. BUT, what's the value in proving them true if they are subjective and incomplete and thus disconnected from the physical reality of our actual experience. What is ‘really physically going on’ will be inferred by the ‘externalities’ that associate with man’s logic-based intervention, ... ‘externalities’ that are typically never addressed within the simple, subjective and incomplete logical propositions that constitute the ‘thought’ that is directing his behaviour with the intention to construct his desired future.

The ‘reflections’ of Hiahoaai were idealizations that he could put words to, but they were not, in the case of his language and worldview, directing his behaviour and shaping/constructing the unfolding ‘future’. To notionally endow those ‘reflections’ with ‘reality’ hijacks the physical reality of our sensory experiencing in the ‘now’ and demotes the ‘now’ to a stepping stone that leads us into the future.

Have you noticed that that’s all that Western politicians ever talk about? What’s going to happen to us in the future if we do this or don’t do that etc. etc. The ‘now’ is getting thoroughly trashed and trampled on because we have elevated our ‘reflections’ into an unnatural semantic-reality-primacy over the physical reality of our sensory-in-the-now experience. We are galloping off on the wrong ‘reality option’ [semantic reality based on reflections and logical propositions rather than the physical reality of sensory experiencing in the now of the transforming relational continuum] and that 'twisted head' thinking is what Bohm’s ‘incoherence’ is all about.

Try to make THAT point with the political leaders and the followers of politics of the Western world, who have locked on to reflections-based ‘semantic reality’ and rallied the people into making it the ‘operative reality’ in orchestrating and shaping individual and collective behaviour.

Maybe you just felt a whopping big elephant walk into this discussion forum and when this happens, the common response is ‘for chrissake, someone change the subject’ so that the elephant’s reality cannot persist and overturn our semantic operative reality so as to reground us in the physical reality of our actual in-the-now experience. Our denial of the existence of this 'elephant' is rooted in 'ego' built into noun-and-verb language, as Nietzsche points out.

“In its origin language belongs in the age of the most rudimentary form of psychology. We enter a realm of crude fetishism when we summon before consciousness the basic presuppositions of the metaphysics of language, in plain talk, the presuppositions of reason. Everywhere it sees a doer and doing; it believes in will as the cause; it believes in the ego, in the ego as being, in the ego as substance, and it projects this faith in the ego-substance upon all things — only thereby does it first create the concept of “thing.” Everywhere “being” is projected by thought, pushed underneath, as the cause; the concept of being follows, and is a derivative of, the concept of ego. In the beginning there is that great calamity of an error that the will is something which is effective, that will is a faculty. Today we know that it is only a word.” – Nietzsche, ‘Twilight of the Idols’

The reflecting thinking distinction is similar to the distinction between meaning and sensing that byrd made a while back. Stirner made a useful distinction between thinking and thought(individual thought patterns vs collective/reified thought patterns) but you can take it further, as you do, to reflection and sensation juxtaposed to thinking and meaning.

rgr, and to 'elaborate' a bit;

Colonization is globally dominant and so are noun-and-verb languages like English. Bundled in with noun-and-verb language-and-grammar comes 'being' which is a language game logical element that 'notionally' (in our thoughts and reflections) transfers animating authorship from 'relational activities' as begets storm-cells, to spooks (named beings (re)presented as things-in-themselves). Newtonian physics and science as in mainstream practice are language games built for this application. In the physical reality of our actual sensory relational experience, there are just relational activities within more relational activities [within the transforming-in-the-now relational activity continuum or 'all' of modern physics].

'Being' is an artefact of language and so is 'time' and so are 'life-cycles' as in 'the rise and fall of the American Empire'. If there were no noun-and-verb languages, there would be no 'United States', no 'Canada', no 'Mexico'. These are just words that we endow with notional subjecthood and local powers of authorship in 'semantic realities' crafted with subject-verb constructs. 'States' are the stuff that noun-and-verb language games are made of and without noun-and-verb language these 'states' do not exist, nor does 'their future and their historical past' exist outside of the global language game play.

'Politics' is all about sustaining language games and giving pep talks that eulogize or demonize 'spooks' (grammatical 'beings'), depicting them as jumpstart causal agencies. Different groups argue over 'what we stand for' and 'what we are going to achieve' [forgetting that 'we' are relational activities within a larger relational activity], the 'we' being a grammatical subject representing the vital contents (atomic constituents) of a notional, large composite 'being' called 'the nation', an unbounded relational activity pattern in the global relational social dynamic [as far as our actual sensory experience goes] that is 'talked up' into existence as a 'thing-in-itself' with notional internal process driven and directed behaviour, as part of the popular global 'language game'.

How would you respond as a Pirahã if you are told that you are squatting on land which belongs to a 'Brazil', and that you are subject to being 'administered' by a central government which has supreme decision making power over all who reside within its self-declared and self-delineated boundaries? Such language game play would be dismissed as the idle reflection (thinking) of secularized theological fanatics, the 'twisted heads', as the Pirahã call 'us', were it not for the massive police forces and armies that these language-game players maintain to use violence/force to 'make believers out of any who resist 'playing the language game'.

The meaning of one's life, for the Pirahã or any people without a noun-and-verb being-based language is certainly NOT to be found within the play of this being-based language game. The meaning is going to be found in the sensory experience of relations (harmonious and otherwise) with one another and the habitat (relational forms with one another and the greater relational activity) in the continually unfolding 'now' of the transforming relational continuum.

In gathering within the relational world, we are all like these indigenous aboriginals, offered a 'deal that we cannot refuse' (we will be incarcerated or have to go into hiding if we resist), and that is to play the language game with the 'twisted heads' of global colonizer society, and become celebrity-worshipping flag-suckers 'working together to build a better future' as we trash and trample the 'now' of our sensory relational experience under the behaviour-manipulating advisement of 'twisted heads' language games'.

Chomsky is right, the way things are working right now, language unloads as if from a genetic code, except that the code is not 'nature-encoded' but more like an electronic chip inserted at birth to provide background or bootstrap processes which host the foreground idea-processing (thinking machine) activities. the "twisted heads" are the not yet conscious recipients of the 'being' and 'time' based logical chips [that's what makes them "twisted heads"] while the "straights" get relational or 'flow-based' versions, as described by Bohm and Peat in 'Blackfoot Physics'. B and P observe that 'Rheomode', a theorized relational language architecture capable of non-being-based articulation as required in real world (modern) physics, has already been implemented in indigenous aboriginal languages [such as Pirahã], allowing its users to avoid the reduction of relational activities to notional local, being-driven (spook-driven) temporal-logical-causal mechanics.

inserting the patriarchal finger into the bodily orifices of sleeping babes and/or excising clitorises and prepuces is not nearly as sinister as diddling with their bootstrap mental processing routines so that they will wake up primed and ready to go for furthering the continuance of being-based language game-play.

Scientists are servants or riches, scientists depend from rich sponsors for their researches. that's the result of liberal capitalism. those who target Chomsky can be collaborators of the secret service, the FBI sabotaged private life of martin luther king, they surely do the same to chomsky. just chomsky is white and jew, therefore they don't kill him ads they did with martin. artificial intelligence is shit created to serve NSA/CIA, to help them to build totalitarian capitalism.
all in all, article/book like this can serve purpose to discover who is thinking like una bomber, eco-terrorist, etc, therefore those who use weapons should avoid to give comments on the Internet.

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