Noam Chomsky celebrates his birthday today. After 40 years of activism he remains a potent symbol of dissent.
Chomsky remains a coherent critic of United States foreign policy. His predictions about society come with such clarity that Christopher Hitchens remarked that they "are of a banal accuracy." He stands out for his militant commitment to honesty, resistance to injustice, illegitimate authority and general intolerance to bullshit. For instance earlier this year when asked about Slovenian philosopher Žižek:
"Žižek is an extreme example of it. I don't see anything to what he's saying. Jacques Lacan I actually knew. I kind of liked him. We had meetings every once in awhile. But quite frankly I thought he was a total charlatan. He was just posturing for the television cameras in the way many Paris intellectuals do. Why this is influential, I haven't the slightest idea. I don't see anything there that should be influential."
Influenced by Bertrand Russell, Orwell, John Dewey and Rudolf Rocker his thought is situated between ideas of "enlightenment and classical liberalism, with enough revolutionary fervor.
Chomsky quotes the Russian anarchist Michael Bakunin in introducing his collection, For Reasons of State:
"There is no horror, no cruelty, sacrilege, or perjury, no imposture, no infamous
transaction, no cynical robbery, no bold plunder or shabby betrayal that has not been or is not daily being perpetrated by the representatives of the states, under no other pretext than those elastic words, so convenient and yet so terrible: 'for reasons of state.'"
Reason of the State was an electrifying introduction to the mind of the State. It was the first time I had read and owned a Chomsky. The book made me look up Bakunin and Rudolf Rocker.
In an age of compromised intellectual and plagiarizing pundits he remains committed to public discourse, Socratic dialogue, and his role as a public intellectual.
Thanks, Prof. Chomsky, for inspiring generations of men and women through your dissent and politics.