or “That’s Enough of Noam Chomsky”

something that should have been said louder and long ago by wiser, more learned, and better scholars than me

Noam Chomsky is the most overestimated and over-appreciated political theorist in modern history. He is maybe the worst “leftist” “intellectual” (I need more quotes, the sarcasm might not be resonating!) of them all. The amount of — not only unearned respect — but literally complete deference to Chomsky as the source of their opinions from so many anarchists, social democrats, and other so-called leftists — is the most undeserved and unearned approbation in leftist history. To call his following a cult is to do a disservice to its size. Noam Chomsky’s political hot takes are like a toxic brain fungus that infect all leftist discourse that they come into contact with.

The Fall of Noam Chomsky

Noam Chomsky the Linguist

Where to even begin with Chomsky? It really needs to start with his very claim to fame — Noam Chomsky the Enlightened Linguist. Chomsky became famous as an academic in the 60’s for his contributions to linguistics. This, indeed, is how Noam Chomsky rose to prominence and earned his reputation as an intellectual, and the original source from which this now flowing river of respect and reverence once began. But take a step back and look at this man’s legacy to academia. We are expected to give him time and credence for his political takes, because of his stature as a linguist. But many of his definitive ideas and contributions as a linguist are now in question and doubt, and the centerpiece of his life’s work is now almost definitively wrong.

Noam Chomsky the Great Debater

Perhaps you make the claim for Noam Chomsky, the great debater. But what exactly debates are we referring to? Historically, his debate with Foucault stands out as among his most interesting, but many consider it a Foucault victory— and if we Marxists are forced to choose between Foucault and Chomsky for philosophy, it’s Foucault and the contest is not even particularly close. Yet for many of the libertarian leftists (especially the non-anarchist Chomsky fans, in this case), their bookshelves are lined with Chomsky novels, but many cannot reference Foucault without using “everything is a prison” as a meme. It is worth noting that Chomsky himself, though often described as an ‘anarcho-syndicalist’ is not functionally an anarchist, despite how often anarchists reference him or cite him as an authority. But Chomsky is firmly established in the libertarian-left, and is held in a very high regard by many anarchists, social democrats, and left-leaning liberals (the latter is probably the most fair description for Chomsky).

The proper way to oppose the war is to politely ask the Pentagon to only use your research and work for defensive military projects, who will no doubt comply with those wishes once expressed.

Noam Chomsky the anti-Vietnam War advocate

Are we supposed to remember Noam Chomsky for his (quite soft) opposition to the Vietnam War? The general notion (against the war) itself, is all well-and-good, if unremarkable and extremely common, shared by nearly all of the (even remotely) left-learning individuals of the time; ranging from actual leftists like Angela Davis, to moderate social democrats like George R. R. Martin to establishment hacks like Tom Harkin. None of Chomsky’s takes are significantly better than his contemporaries on this topic, and in retrospect, often they are underwhelming.

Noam Chomsky the defender of the worst revolution

When it comes to the ‘red flag’ states of the world, Noam Chomsky’s political arguments take, decidedly, take a turn for the worse. While Chomsky’s defense of Pol Pot is often dismissed as some sort of right wing misrepresentation, (which Chomsky himself dismisses as pedantry over numbers and sources) or just a misreading of the numbers and sources; any sincere examination should raise alarm to Chomsky and his points made in defense of Pol Pot. He goes out of his way to excuse ‘excess deaths’ in the Pol Pot regime as “angry peasant mobs” rising up and various entirely natural causes, all unrelated to the intent or decisions of the Khmer Rouge regime. The problem here is not only that Chomsky made a mistake in defending, really, the worst revolution of them all, the problem is that Chomsky never offered this same level of defense or line of argument for Lenin or Ho Chi Minh or Kim Il Sung — he only makes this argument to this extent in defense of Pol Pot. How is it that, of all the revolutionary regimes ever to exist, the “venerable” Noam Chomsky speaks this way only for the Khmer Rouge? In Chomsky’s writings at the time, Pol Pot is quietly implied to be some noble exception with the best of intentions, but Vladimir Lenin is a ‘right wing opportunist self-serving dictator?’ Why does Chomsky offer the revolutionary benefit of the doubt only here, in the absolute most incorrect situation in the latter half of the twentieth century for which to have extended benefit of the doubt? Quite the “oopsie”:

Marxist-Leninist Vietnamese heroes saving Cambodia from Pol Pot. Source: Vietnam News Agency

“Chomsky’s well known views helped lull many people throughout the world into the idle illusion that the horror stories about me Khmer Rouge were either planted by the CIA, fabricated by journalists or both. That is a sorry role. [You are] absolutely right to criticize him.“

— William Shawcross (who, himself, is rather shit)

Noam Chomsky the CIA Asset

This leads into the larger conspiracy theory territory for the criticism of Chomsky. I am neither a conspiracy theorist, nor the appropriate researcher to properly investigate this matter in sufficient detail, but nonetheless, there are loose threads here that need to be tugged at. Noam Chomsky’s connection to the Pentagon date back all the way to his earliest emergence as an intellectual. Chomsky’s loyal cult of lapdogs like Robert Barsky will forever suppress (and possibly cover-up) this relationship, while attempting to keep rank in the large scale intellectual retreat over Chomsky’s abstractionist linguistics. It nonetheless seems that Noam Chomsky’s close ties to the American state continue to this day. How many other radical leftists do you recall being good friends with the Director of Central Intelligence? (An irrelevant coincidence, surely!) Noam Chomsky is not an intellectual replacement for Lenin; he’s Ellen DeGeneres for the champagne socialist.

The New York Times has repeatedly labelled Noam Chomsky ”the most important intellectual alive.” That should really be a warning sign. This means that the corporate media would like you to share that same sentiment about Noam Chomsky — yet obviously not because of his (declining) credentials as a linguist, but neither can his (at best, mixed) political takes support the enormous mass of this statement. The claim rests overwhelmingly upon ideology.

Noam Chomsky the totally groundbreaking and original author

Of course, this is where we must discuss Noam Chomsky’s most lauded and celebrated work, and the gold standard source for critiquing the public news media misinformation, Manufacturing Consent. In case you are the last leftist on Earth to be made familiar with this book (and also movie), it is regarded as a landmark work, carefully detailing, describing, and unwinding the methods and mechanics of how news media delivers propaganda to the public, all without requiring some central ministry of propaganda to direct the numerous, separate, private news institutions. Even Marxists have a tremendous respect for the level of work and analysis that went into Manufacturing Consent, and continue to use it to this day as a tool for deconstructing media narratives. There is, however, a problem.

This meme has been around long enough that I have no idea of the original source.

If you click on and read only one of the hyperlinks in this entire essay, click on this one, (or this one) because Michael Parenti is the antidote to Chomsky’s poison.

Noam Chomsky the exceptional American Patriot

Despite being a vocal critic of so many of America’s crimes and atrocities through the years, it also seems that, for Chomsky, America can nonetheless, do no wrong (and seemingly never ever enough for anyone to be justified in taking the ‘oppose America with violence’ position). Noam Chomsky seems to be a man of great internal contradiction. He derides America as a one party state, but then praises it for it’s freedom while recommending that we vote for Bloomburg! He can look at and acknowledge American atrocitiesamong the worst ever committed — in one minute, but then proceed to defend and uphold the same United States committing the atrocities, in the following minute. And American atrocities know no limit, but somehow, to Chomsky, are always less-awful than the Reds.

Chomsky’s casual and callous dismissal of both Palestine and the American First Nations says a lot about the man: decolonization is not even up for discussion, just eat shit, obey your oppressors, and hope for the best!

Noam Chomsky the unreliable bad friend

Which leads into the more recent Noam Chomsky, which is more of an amalgamation of shit takes and imperialist propaganda, tied together with handfuls of perfectly adequate left-leaning think pieces that ultimately don’t offer much. But this is another of the times in which Chomsky goes from merely being frustrating and ideologically harmful, to becoming genuinely upsetting and materially harmful. It is a clear demonstration of what kind of a shitty political ally Noam Chomsky actually is, and should be seen as a dire warning to any fool placing any level of trust in Chomsky’s statements or convictions. Indeed, here we see he can be rolled back so easily and quickly, especially when refusing to roll over is what matters the most. We are, of course, discussing Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and his successor (both politically and ideologically) Nicolás Maduro.

“I’m starting to think that Noam Chomsky might be a little bit shit.” — Hugo Chavez is probably too dead to say it out loud, but even he is probably coming around to that conclusion after Chomsky’s ruthless betrayal.

Noam Chomsky the worse-than-absent defender of democratic socialism

These were the years in which ‘democratic socialism’ in Venezuela needed support most from it’s allies and from intellectual voices around the world. To his credit, Chomsky did, in as low-effort a manner as possible — sign a letter — condemning Juan Guaidó and the American’s blatant, reckless, failed coup. But this was sandwiched between essays and articles and interviews from Chomsky, all the while as he was criticizing and attacking Maduro from the sidelines, calling Maduro names, and reinforcing narratives provided from the fascists and reactionaries and imperialists and coupmongers. These are the moments when words and statements really count from something, and Chomsky deflected, with harsh, overblown criticism for the administration, at the worst possible time — in their hour of need. This was not a time for critical support, this was just a time for support, and Chomsky dined and dashed from the social justice restaurant just as the bill was coming due. You don’t release your largest and most condemning article, absolutely shitting all over a project you once supported, right in the middle of a time when the United States was illegally trying to stage a coup in that country! Even if the essay is full of constructive criticism, it only serves to benefit the coup by releasing it in that heated moment. That was a really, really shitty thing to do, Noam.

Chomsky seems to be deliberately blind to the level of cooperation and trust between these two. “We’re here to tell President Evo Morales that he can count on us. Whoever picks a fight with Bolivia, picks a fight with Venezuela.” — Nicolás Maduro in 2013
“We categorically condemn the consummate coup d’etat against our brother president [Morales]. The social and political movements of the world declare ourselves in mobilization to demand the preservation of the life of the original Bolivian peoples [who are] victims of racism.” — Maduro

“Chomsky has enormous respect for those who have failed at revolution, and enormous contempt for those who have succeeded.“ — Stephen Gowans

Noam Chomsky is still oddly silent about the obvious international war crime that was the Macuto Bay Raid (aka Operation Gideon). How does the famous “anti-imperialist” Noam Chomsky fail to offer so much as a verbal condemnation of this Bay of Pigs for the Loser. He has condemned Maduro so often and so frequently in his last five years of writing, but now that Maduro is clearly and explicitly the victim, Chomsky — like the American press — has nothing to offer. If only Chomsky’s categorical errors in support were limited to just this part of the world.

Noam Chomsky the democracy enthusiast

If only we had the time to travel to each and every country in this essay, but alas, we can only visit one more before we get to the meat (oh yes!, we are some forty paragraphs deep and we are only just getting past the frosting). Perhaps we could assemble an entire mock United Nations just from Chomsky shit-takes about the different nations of the world. But we have to take a special aside for one of Chomsky’s worst pet projects, insufferable and increasingly irredeemable, the horrible Shtriga of Bookchinist thought that is Rojava.

Comrade LegsGini offering a clear and brief accounting of the situation in Syria, involving the tensions between Syrian Army (SAA) and the military arm of the Rojavans (the SDF and YPG).
And before you start on “but the YPG fought ISIS!” please remember that the single biggest ISIS-smasher of the war were the ever-unappreciated Russians, backing Bashir al-Assad.

Noam Chomsky the leftmost Neocon

So when Donald Trump announced that he would be pulling American troops out of Syria (indeed an enormous victory for the people of Syria and for the world), it was none other than Noam Chomsky who answered the call — insisting that American occupation of the Middle East continue, with “saving the Kurds” being a pretext (please tell me again about how well it went for the Americans saving the Iraqis, the Afghans, and others) Indeed, the entire Noam Chomsky libertarian-left one-hit-wonder book club answered the call alongside him! A fresh new pretext for continued American occupation of the Middle East, and it’s coming from Noam Chomsky! John Bolton can only get so erect.

Famous “anti-imperialist” Chomsky, arguing for continued American intervention in the Middle East, because we all know than the United States spends trillions deploying its troops for purely altruistic reasons.

Noam Chomsky the Unlikely Ally

It is perhaps, domestically, in Chomsky’s home turf of the United States that we get one of his most singularly terrible takes. Indeed, the Donald Trump era has marked a decided turning point in American politics, as it was really the first time since before the fall of the Soviet Union that Western leftists began to drift away from Noam Chomsky’s non-violent, freedom-of-speech respecting philosophies. Not coincidentally, this was when leftists (real leftism, not benign welfare-liberalism) began to slowly retake ideological ground in the United States for the first time in, perhaps, 50 years. Which leads into a historic American moment — the Unite the Right Rally (aka the Charlottesville Protests; aka that time a bunch of fucking Nazis marched through American streets chanting “blood and soil”).

Alexa, play This Is America again.
Chomsky’s Liberal notion of free speech is a proven ineffective method for combating fascism. In no small part because the liberal assumes we are in a state of misunderstanding, argument and disagreement with fascism, rather than in a state of conflict against it. The communist position on speech is quite different.

Noam Chomsky the not-all-bad

It is here that I shall break to take but one paragraph to speak in defense of Noam Chomsky. Indeed, one paragraph hardly seems fair, but Chomsky is so showered in praise and so overrated, that it seems that spending even a paragraph in Chomsky’s defense is like a million dollars to Elon Musk out of pity for his twitter meltdowns. But nonetheless, it must be said. Chomsky is not just good, but truly amazing at recalling specific data points on command — yes, like a human encyclopedia. Taken at their most genuine and sincere, Chomsky’s positions suggest that he meaningfully wishes for a considerably nicer world. Many of his essays and novels are not just good, they are often great. They are well written, well sourced, and contain enormous amounts of relevant, specific information that can be quickly referenced. As a researcher, he’s frequently outstanding, and his work can be deeply informative. Yes, Noam Chomsky absolutely has his merits and credentials, and is obviously a brilliant mind. His defence for Palestine and the Palestinians has been mostly above par, and as a critic of American foreign policy, he’s still excellent despite also being very much their servant. The larger conclusion being drawn is that Chomsky is not without his merits, and his merits are not insignificant. But at the same time, the good takes do not wash out the bad, and Chomsky’s shortcomings, deceits, and failures are ultimately far more harmful to the left than whatever good he is providing us.

Noam Chomsky the anti-Marxist

This is Noam at his worst and most harmful. There are two components to this, the Marx component and the Lenin component. The Marx component largely involves marginalizing Marx and treating him as a somewhat minor, but-still-maybe-noteworthy philosopher, for whom he will credit and attribute virtually nothing specific. But the larger theme of what Chomsky does with Marx is something rather sinister — and it is not even clear how much he has actually read Marx in any meaningful attempt — he’s obviously read some, but he’s also obviously not read enough to avoid glaring misconceptions, as Chomsky’s takes on Marx are (frequently!) demonstrated to be inaccurate and confused.

Chomsky’s claim here is shattered and proven false by the Communist Manifesto, alone.
Noam Chomsky, the “philosopher,” conceding that he has no idea what actual philosophers are talking about. Marx does not use ‘dialectics’ often or frequently, but he does use it.
Noam Chomsky, suggesting that the Marxist categorization of proletariat be abandoned or rewritten. I wonder whose interests are most served by such a suggestion?

If this essay isn’t nearly long enough for you, here, enjoy this archived Michael Parenti vs Noam Chomsky book.

Noam Chomsky the anti-Leninist

Somehow, Noam Chomsky’s takes on Lenin and the Soviet Union are exponentially worse than his takes on Marx. Whereas Marx, to Chomsky, is a kind and confused unremarkable old man who may had inadvertently stumbled across a clever notion or two about history, Lenin (despite spending his entire life’s work devoted to further developing Marxism and socialism) was actually a big mean sinister trickster, actually right wing, who then saw the opportunity and seized all the power for himself to become the evil self-serving dictator of Russia (I’m embellishing, but not by a noticeable amount). The following video is widely circulated among the libertarian left — often as their primary source when rejecting Lenin (or even offered as excuse for refusing to read Lenin!) — and it is both ill-informed and damaging:

This is the most damaging video to the Western Left in all of youtube history. Except for this one.

If you are in need a quick detailed breakdown of specific points where Chomsky is either misleading or outright lying, kc_socialist has an excellent short written response, explaining the first several minutes of the video. And for a a more comprehensive historical materialist breakdown, see IanBurke’s brilliant, fulfilling answer below.

Here (and in this popular video) we see Chomsky making an analysis of Lenin that is completely devoid of historical materialism. Now, Chomsky makes multiple errors of historical fact here**, but I want to focus on his method of analysis specifically, which is from a more idealistic perspective.

Noam Chomsky the anti-Communist

At least this is a position that both myself and Noam Chomsky agree on. Noam Chomsky is a frothing anti-communist, with matching bad takes. He calls the fall of the Soviet Union a victory for socialism (ah, yes, that really worked out, didn’t it Noam). In all fairness, he, on rare occasions, speaks nicely about Cuba and other small, isolated socialist projects (again, ignoring Cuban-Soviet ties and friendships, depicting it falsely as a purely political strategic alliance rather than one of fellow communists fighting oppression). But when it comes to those with the size and capacity to shake the foundations of capitalism, Chomsky is overwhelmingly critical and unsupportive.

Are you sick of Chomsky Hot Takes yet? It’s almost over, stay strong.

Noam Chomsky the ever unrevolutionary Philosopher King

It is finally here, in the penultimate block of this behemoth of a essay, that we finally calcify our central thesis. The libertarian-left, who have largely been the one’s running and representing the leftist movement in the anti-communist United States — have deferred to Chomsky as their defacto intellectual leader and mastermind of much their philosophical framework and intellectual grounding. If there was a single figure that the average libertarian-leftist would overwhelmingly place as being the intellectual muscle of the left, ‘the brains of the operation,’ from even before the 1990’s all the way through until about 2016, the left movement could have easily been described as followers of Chomskyism (there’s no such thing but take my meaning). I’ve lived through all this, been an activist through all this, seen all this among my fellow activists, and I’ve seen what useless and ineffective leadership Chomskyism and Chomsky-thinkers offer.

No one knows what it’s like, To be the bad man, To be the sad man…

Noam Chomsky the unremarkable and disposable twitter liberal

So, finally, we reach our last question. What is Noam Chomsky? With this enormous and troubling legacy, how can anyone go on holding him up as the paragon of intellectual thought or leftist theory. His ultimate theory of linguistics, his contradictory politics, his slanted history, his dead-end philosophy, and his inability to provide revolution — is there a person whose ideas and contributions have failed more in each category than Noam Chomsky? Yet he continues to be upheld as not merely as a leader in the discussion of each field, but often as the leading voice! (In all fairness, I’m being shittily hard on him being a linguist, he was actually pretty useful and important in that field, but like, the rest of his shit . . . )

How much more of this can you take? Really.

Marxist-Leninist, Rouge Philosopher. Dialectical Materialist. Communism’s top salesperson.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store