Many people have been asking me about Noam Chomsky's appearance at the APA. I can only answer the most commonly asked ones:
How did he look? What was he wearing? Noam looked quite grandfatherly in a grey v-neck sweater and blue collared shirt. He looked quite healthy for a 76 year old anarchist. It looks like he managed to shake all the paparazzi on his way over from Cambridge, because I can't find any pictures of his APA appearance on the web.
Were there any other celebrities there? Was there hugging? Yes, there was celebrity hugging, which took me by surprise, because I never thought of Noam as a hugger. As Chomsky made his way through the throng at the APA group session meeting of the Society for Social and Political Philosophy, Cornell West, star of The Matrix and Princeton's African American Studies Department, jumped out and offered Chomsky a hug, as if they were old friends. Chomsky looked startled, as if thinking "Who is this person, and what is wrong with his hair?" Once he got a better look at West, though, he recognized him as a fellow rock star, and gave him one of those one armed, token hugs.
When will his remarks be published? Under the Chomsky Universal Transcription Act of 1980, every sound Chomsky makes in public must be published somewhere. My bet is that this will turn up in South End Press.
Were there any good Chomskyisms? His more devoted fans may be familiar with some of these, but they impressed me.
"The United States accomplished all of its major policy objectives in the Viet
(Because by crushing South Vietnam, it demonstrated that successful defiance of US policy aims will be punished. The fact that the US failed to establish a client state in SE Asia is a minor loss compared to the overwhelming success it had in preventing the growth of stable prosperous societies outside of its control.)
“There’s a slogan I really don’t like, although it comes from people I do like,and that is the Quaker slogan ‘Speaking truth to power.’ You can’t ever be sure you are speaking the truth; you shouldn’t speak to people, you should speak with them; and there’s no point in speaking to the powerful, because they know exactly what they are doing. A better slogan would be ‘seeking truth with the powerless’”
(I’m paraphrasing a little, but the rhythm of the remark is right.)
“Incidentally, 50% of Iraqis polled said something that no US intellectual would dare utter in public, that the US invasion was motivated by the desire to control the last major reserves of the world’s most important energy source.”
(Again, I’m paraphrasing, but remember, all good chomskyisms are introduced with the word "Incidently")
Also, for what’s its worth, I’m a US academic, and I’ll say it in public:
The war in Iraq was fought for oil.
The people who were tortured in Abu Graib, were tortured for oil. The thousand plus US soldiers who died, died for oil. The hundred thousand plus Iraqis who died, died for oil.
A few servings of Chomsky every month are part of a balanced intellectual diet. You can lose perspective without him.