Monday, May 09, 2011

Chomsky's Game


Chomsky inked a column describing his reaction to the news that Osama bin Laden is dead. It's a good example of his sophism.

Chomsky is by training a linguist. When I objected to a particularly egregious and damaging usage of words - the same phrase meant the opposite thing in two cultures, but the same op-ed was intended for both - he replied that it was "all part of The Game." "The Game" - stretching words to their limits so their individual use may be technically correct but their application in context adds up to a falsehood - is what he does for kicks.

He snows people because not everyone grasps (as Chomsky does) that different words can describe the same thing but only apply in particular contexts. By using the word inappropriately he compels the unwary reader to change his or her characterization of an act. For example, he refers to the 1944 Normandy landings as "the U.S. invasion of France". This is technically true, but contextually and emotionally false: France had already been invaded by the Nazis and was under Nazi occupation; furthermore, the French did not consider it a hostile invasion ("hostile" is usually implied when the word "invasion" is employed, but that's a cultural not linguistic truth, get it?) but instead as liberation.

But if you listen to Chomsky and you didn't truly understand events or context you might be convinced that the U.S. was an aggressor in WWII and the Nazis (and French) mere victims. He's recognized as a dishonest academic; that's why he couldn't get a lecture hall when he visited my campus and had to lecture in the coffee shop instead.

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