December 14, 2003

HUNT THE PHILOSOPHER

A commenter at this Damian Penny post has the inside word on Noam Chomsky:

I once had dinner with a rather famous Australian philosopher whom I'd rather not name who related stories of Chomsky's activist antics back during the sixties at (I believe) Harvard. As he warmed to the subject over beers, this fellow recalled how he'd never seen Chomsky lose a single campus debate during that turbulant era. He said he admired Chomsky's "incredible recall" of facts and figures, but also admired that Chomsky would, when needed, MAKE UP WHATEVER FACTS AND FIGURES HE REQUIRED to win a verbal joust. When I asked how such behavior could be viewed as admirable, I was told, in essence, that Chomsky's ends (getting the US out of Vietnam) justified his means.

"Famous Australian philosopher" is a small field. This guy qualifies -- and the beer reference rings true -- but I donít think he attended any university, much less Harvard. As for me, Iím simply too young. Put your money on Peter Singer.

Posted by Tim Blair at December 14, 2003 02:30 AM
Comments

"The ends justify the means?"

Cool. I believe even Chomsky has said that Saddam was a bad man. I guess he thinks the war was justified.

In fact, I think it would be good to have Chomsky's (and Peter Singer's) ridiculous ideas defeated. So he would agree that it's okay to...

Posted by: Ken Summers at December 14, 2003 at 02:42 AM

I assume the philosopher's name was Bruce.

Posted by: Michael Lonie at December 14, 2003 at 08:04 AM

Ah yes, Bruce -- He's particularly missed,
A lovely little thinker,
But a bugger when he's pissed.

Posted by: slatts at December 14, 2003 at 11:17 AM

The first joke I ever heard from anyone I ever met at MIT (through the MIT Science Fiction Society) was "Noam Chomsky is a cunning linguist." I am embarasssed to admit that I did not immediately get the pun.
Chompsky was and is at MIT, but MIT is only a mile or so down the street from Harvard (two MBTA subway stops in fact)and I suspect he fought lots of his battles there too.

Posted by: John Costello at December 14, 2003 at 01:17 PM

"Oh Kent, statistics can be used to prove anything...seventy-five percent of people know that."

Homer Simpson

Posted by: Jerry at December 14, 2003 at 02:10 PM

So let me get this straight. Some random person on a random weblog writes that he had dinner with an anonymous australian philosopher, who said (over beers) that back in the sixties at Harvard (even though he was at MIT) Chomsky used to make up whatever facts he required.

Uh-huh.


Posted by: Steve at December 14, 2003 at 02:54 PM

I agree, Steve. This would be much more believable if it had been written by a nationally-known journalist at a major metropolitan newspaper.

Posted by: tim at December 14, 2003 at 03:26 PM

someone once told me that chomsky also likes to dress as a woman in private. i dont know if it's true or not but you heard it here first...

Posted by: roscoe at December 14, 2003 at 03:59 PM

> someone once told me that chomsky also likes to dress as a woman in private.

I heard that Chomskey dressed as a woman pirate.

Posted by: Andy Freeman at December 14, 2003 at 05:04 PM

If you want evidence Chomsky's a liar, simple go to Brad DeLong's website for a set of links

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/

Chomsky: 'In the early 1990s, primarily for cynical great power reasons, the U.S. selected Bosnian Muslims as their Balkan clients'.

What a loon.

Posted by: Adam at December 14, 2003 at 05:55 PM

If you want evidence Chomsky's a liar, simple go to Brad DeLong's website for a set of links

http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/Politics/chomsky.html

Chomsky: 'In the early 1990s, primarily for cynical great power reasons, the U.S. selected Bosnian Muslims as their Balkan clients'.

What a loon.

Posted by: Adam at December 14, 2003 at 05:56 PM

I heard that Chomsky dresses up as a woman's privates...

Posted by: rick mcginnis at December 15, 2003 at 01:58 AM

Actually, Chomsky dresses up as woman corporals.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at December 15, 2003 at 05:52 AM

This is hardly a secret. In the hardcover edition of "American Powe and the New Mandarins" he uses a speech by Truman to show, if I recall correctly, that Truman had publicly stated that the primary foreign policy concern of the U.S. had to be business expansion.

Robert James Maddox devoted a chapter to Chomsky in "The New Left and the Origins of the Cold war." He showed that Truman in fact had made a speech on the day Chomsky cited him, but had in fact said precisely the opposite. I don't recall if the paperback edition corrected the quotation or simply dropped it.

This didn't harm Chomsky's reputation. I guess proving that Old Joe Stalin was really put upon by the nasty Truman was more important that such bourgeois concerns as "facts" and "accuracy."

Posted by: Alex Bensky at December 15, 2003 at 06:26 AM