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Welcome to our collection of quotes (with shareable picture quotes) by Noam Chomsky. We hope you enjoy pondering them and that you will share them widely.

Wikipedia Summary for Noam Chomsky

Avram Noam Chomsky (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called "the father of modern linguistics", Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He is Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona and Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and is the author of more than 150 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.

Born to Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia, Chomsky developed an early interest in anarchism from alternative bookstores in New York City. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania. During his postgraduate work in the Harvard Society of Fellows, Chomsky developed the theory of transformational grammar for which he earned his doctorate in 1955. That year he began teaching at MIT, and in 1957 emerged as a significant figure in linguistics with his landmark work Syntactic Structures, which played a major role in remodeling the study of language. From 1958 to 1959 Chomsky was a National Science Foundation fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. He created or co-created the universal grammar theory, the generative grammar theory, the Chomsky hierarchy, and the minimalist program. Chomsky also played a pivotal role in the decline of linguistic behaviorism, and was particularly critical of the work of B. F. Skinner.

An outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which he saw as an act of American imperialism, in 1967 Chomsky rose to national attention for his anti-war essay "The Responsibility of Intellectuals". Becoming associated with the New Left, he was arrested multiple times for his activism and placed on President Richard Nixon's Enemies List. While expanding his work in linguistics over subsequent decades, he also became involved in the linguistics wars. In collaboration with Edward S. Herman, Chomsky later articulated the propaganda model of media criticism in Manufacturing Consent and worked to expose the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. His defense of unconditional freedom of speech, including that of Holocaust denial, generated significant controversy in the Faurisson affair of the 1980s. Since retiring from active teaching at MIT, he has continued his vocal political activism, including opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq and supporting the Occupy movement. Chomsky began teaching at the University of Arizona in 2017.

One of the most cited scholars alive, Chomsky has influenced a broad array of academic fields. He is widely recognized as having helped to spark the cognitive revolution in the human sciences, contributing to the development of a new cognitivistic framework for the study of language and the mind. In addition to his continued scholarship, he remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neoliberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and mainstream news media. Chomsky and his ideas are highly influential in the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements.

The reason academic disputes are so vicious is that so little is at stake.

--Noam Chomsky

There is a social responsibility to take care of vulnerable people. It seems that a sensible social responsibility is obligatory education, but also decent education, and that is not happening.

--Noam Chomsky

Organization and education, when they interact with each other, they strengthen each other, they are mutually supportive.

--Noam Chomsky

If something is repeated over and over as obvious, the chances are that it is obviously false.

--Noam Chomsky

The best defense against democracy is to distract people.

--Noam Chomsky

The general population doesn't know what's happening, and it doesn't even know that it doesn't know.

--Noam Chomsky

I don't want followers.

--Noam Chomsky

It doesn't take long to become aware of the presence of the CIA in Laos.

--Noam Chomsky

The fact that all normal children acquire essentially comparable grammars of great complexity with remarkable rapidity suggests that human beings are somehow specially designed to do this, with data-handling or 'hypothesis-formulating' ability of unknown character and complexity.

--Noam Chomsky

If the rewiring of the brain that yielded recursive generation of hierarchically structured expressions took place in an individual, not a group (and there seems to be no coherent alternative), then interaction must have been a later phenomenon.

--Noam Chomsky

The UN to some extent diffuses U.S. power. Therefore it's less direct an agency of the United States than the U.S. Army is. But still, it can't escape the distribution of power in the world.

--Noam Chomsky

On abortion: We are talking about ambiguous issues of a complicated kind where you have to balance conflicting interests and concerns.

--Noam Chomsky

Among all grammars meeting this condition (of adequacy), we select the simplest.

--Noam Chomsky

I'm sorry to say it has some historical analogs. It's kind of reminiscent of what happened in Germany in the late Weimar years.

--Noam Chomsky

Anarchists try to identify power structures. They urge those exercising power to justify themselves. This justification does not succeed most of the time.

--Noam Chomsky

In fact, it's doing it all over the world. Obama, first of all, is running the biggest terrorist operation that exists, maybe in history. The drone assassination campaigns, which are just part of it. All of these operations, they are terror operations.

--Noam Chomsky

Democracy was regarded as entering into a crisis in the 1960s. The crisis was that large segments of the population were becoming organized and active and trying to participate in the political arena.

--Noam Chomsky

It is only in folk tales, children's stories, and the journals of intellectual opinion that power is used wisely and well to destroy evil. The real world teaches very different lessons, and it takes willful and dedicated ignorance to fail to perceive them.

--Noam Chomsky

Isaiah Berlin's observation is accurate enough, and applies at home as well, and even more harshly for the reasons already mentioned: the apparatchiks and commissars could at least plead fear in extenuation.

--Noam Chomsky

Moral cowardice and intellectual corruption are the natural concomitants of unchallenged privilege.

--Noam Chomsky

The United States is going to continue to punish Iran because of its defiance.

--Noam Chomsky

I'm no expert on pornography. The core element of it, I think, is degradation of women, whatever else goes on. I don't think it should be outlawed, but I'm not in favor of the degradation of anybody.

--Noam Chomsky

Physics and those parts of other fields that grow out of physics -- chemistry, the structure of big molecules -- in those domains, there is a lot of progress. In many other domains, there is very little progress in developing real scientific understanding.

--Noam Chomsky

It is, indeed, virtual dogma that the function of language is communication.

--Noam Chomsky

It's designed to carry forward the neoliberal project to maximize profit and domination, and to set the working people in the world in competition with one another so as to lower wages to increase insecurity.

--Noam Chomsky

If Palestinian Authority refuse to join the US-run negotiations, their basis for support would collapse. They survive on donations essentially. Israel has made sure that it's not a productive economy.

--Noam Chomsky

Now is not the time to look at the past. Lets look forward to the future.
Diplomats know very well that these are standard slogans for those who are engaged in serious crimes.

--Noam Chomsky

The human digestive and visual systems did clearly evolve over a very long period.

--Noam Chomsky

These are fashionable people who call themselves philosophers.

--Noam Chomsky

The Republican and Democratic Parties are only factions of the Government Party.

--Noam Chomsky

It hardly takes more than a day in Gaza to begin to appreciate what it must be like to try to survive in the world's largest open-air prison.

--Noam Chomsky

Every time a candidate came up from the base, that is with popular support, the Republican establishment went into high gear to destroy them with massive propaganda attack ads and so on. It was one after another, each one crazier than the last.

--Noam Chomsky

Genocide is an invidious word that officials apply readily to cases of victimization in enemy states, but rarely if ever to similar or worse cases of victimization by the United States itself or allied regimes.

--Noam Chomsky

The ideal is to create a completely fragmented atomized society where everybody is totally alone, doing nothing but trying to pursue created wants, and the wants are created.

--Noam Chomsky

If you want to become a biologist, it doesn't help to go into the Harvard biology library and all the information is there for you. You have to know what to look for and the internet is the same, just magnified.

--Noam Chomsky

Donald Trump guru Steve Bannon is worse, he's much scarier. He probably knows what he's doing.

--Noam Chomsky

Hamas is a political party and political parties don't recognize other countries.

--Noam Chomsky

What can realistically be done depends on the historical moment. The same is true with regard to the agents.

--Noam Chomsky

These are questions for action, not speculation, which is idle.

--Noam Chomsky

I've occasionally been asked to talk on Israel-Palestine. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it elicits hysteria in the community.

--Noam Chomsky

In fact, anyone who merits attention and who promotes any cause at all is doing so on the basis of a belief that it is somehow good for humans, because of their inherent nature.

--Noam Chomsky

Another recollection is that Paul Johnson mostly kept away from ideas and dedicated activism, and concentrated on sex lives and other gossip.

--Noam Chomsky

Should a community... be free to enact legislation to say they don't want blacks? Now that's illegal. Fifty years ago it was legal. Is that progress or is that regress?

--Noam Chomsky

Latin America, for the first time in 500 years, is moving towards a degree of independence.

--Noam Chomsky

The point of advertising is to destroy markets.

--Noam Chomsky

It's a mistake to suppose that capacities must evolve gradually. There are many known examples of sharp changes -- slight genetic modification that yields substantial phenotypic effects, and much else.

--Noam Chomsky

The media are a corporate monopoly. They have the same point of view. The two parties are two factions of the business party. Most of the population doesn't even bother voting because it looks meaningless. They're marginalized and properly distracted. At least that's the goal.

--Noam Chomsky

We're now in a situation in which Capital is highly mobile and Labour is basically immobile.

--Noam Chomsky

If scientists and scholars were to become collectively self-organised and consciously activist today, they would probably devote themselves to service to state and private power. Those who have different goals should (and do) become organized and activist.

--Noam Chomsky

It takes one minute to tell a lie, and an hour to refute it.

--Noam Chomsky

I think this country and the world would be far better off if the US is not an outlaw state.

--Noam Chomsky

Policy is largely set by economic elites and organized groups representing business interests with little concern for public attitudes or public safety, as long as the public remains passive and obedient.

--Noam Chomsky

There's an awful lot you can find in the press. If you do what you really ought to do, start by reading every article from the end, back to the front; most of the lies are up in the front. Turns out there's a lot of stuff back there.

--Noam Chomsky

The developing world voice can be amplified enormously by support from the wealthy and the privileged, otherwise it's very likely to be marginalized.

--Noam Chomsky

US wars are going to be against much weaker enemies. And they have to be won quickly and decisively before a popular reaction develops.

--Noam Chomsky

After Vietnam the type of interventions that are carried out are designed so as not to elicit public reactions.

--Noam Chomsky

Arab public opinion does not regard Iran as a hostile entity. In fact it's so supportive of Iran that a majority would think the place would be better off if Iran had nuclear weapons. The main enemies are the United States and Isreal, in the 80, 90 percent range.

--Noam Chomsky

In fact, it's pretty dramatic when you get to 1975, very revealing, the Vietnam war ends. Everybody had to write something about the war, what it meant. You also had polls of public opinion, and they're dramatically different.

--Noam Chomsky

Governments are not representative.

--Noam Chomsky

Longer Version:

Governments are not representative. They have their own power, serving segments of the population that are dominant and rich.


Even Stalin proclaimed his love for democracy. We do not learn about the nature of systems of power by listening to their rhetoric.

--Noam Chomsky

Jean Kirkpatrick is the chief sadist-in-residence of the Reagan Administration.

--Noam Chomsky

One of the greatest dangers is secular religion -- state worship.

--Noam Chomsky

I do not feel that we should set up people as models; rather actions, thoughts, principles.

--Noam Chomsky

The first commitment is raise your salary. One of the ways to raise your salary sometimes is to have short-term profits but there are many other ways.

--Noam Chomsky

It doesn't matter what we cover, it matters what you discover.

--Noam Chomsky

Andorrans deserve much better than the rule of superstitious hysterics and extreme authoritarians, who try to instill obedience to their Holy Texts and chosen Divinities -- and we should not fail to see that the terms are appropriate, if anything too kind.

--Noam Chomsky

There are all the activist groups on every imaginable topic -- solidarity groups, environmental and feminist groups -- sectors of these movements do very valuable work.

--Noam Chomsky

The threat is that the public will know what the government is up to. Any system of power is going to want to keep free from public surveillance, that's natural. Its shouldn't be but, its very natural.

--Noam Chomsky

We don't use the term 'working class' here because it's a taboo term. You're supposed to say 'middle class,' because it helps diminish the understanding that there's a class war going on.

--Noam Chomsky

Yes, it's simple, really. If you're riding a bicycle and you don't want to fall off, you have to keep going -- fast.

--Noam Chomsky

I think that we have basically nothing in the field of human behavior. Maybe that is just a condition of temporary ignorance. But it may be that we are simply not intellectually equipped to develop such a theory.

--Noam Chomsky

In fact, most of what they're calling crime is a kid caught with a joint in his pocket. Why do people think of that as the problem?

--Noam Chomsky

States are violent institutions. The government of any country, including ours, represents some sort of domestic power structure, and it's usually violent. States are violent to the extent that they're powerful, that's roughly accurate.

--Noam Chomsky

There are many concepts of spirituality, among them, various notions of divinity developed in the Judaeo-Christian-Islamic religions. Within these the concepts vary greatly.

--Noam Chomsky

If you owned everything and a tiny little piece gets out of control, then your world's gone. Like some unusual child who has a million toys and one of them is stolen, he's going to perish.

--Noam Chomsky

The first thing you ought to do is verify what I present. Just because I say it doesn't make it true. So check it out, see what looks correct, what looks wrong, look at other material which wasn't discussed, figure out what the truth really is. That's what you've got a brain for.

--Noam Chomsky

Education should not be a matter of pouring water into a vessel ... it should be conceived as laying out a string along which learners proceed in their own ways, exercising and improving their creative capacities and imaginations, and experiencing the joy of discovery.

--Noam Chomsky

In the Occupied Territories, what Israel is doing is much worse than apartheid. The South African Nationalists needed the black population. That was their workforce. The Israeli relationship to the Palestinians in the Occupied Territories is totally different. They just don't want them.

--Noam Chomsky

There's a radical insurgency, which is a large part of the Republican base, which is willing to do anything, destroy the country, whatever, in order to get rid of this Affordable Care Act. That's the one thing that they're able to hang onto.

--Noam Chomsky

The uniformity and obedience of the media, which any dictator would admire.

--Noam Chomsky

It is familiar to mainstream academic scholarship. One very prominent political scientist, in his standard text American Politics 20 years ago, observes that The architects of power in the United States must create a force that can be felt but not seen.

--Noam Chomsky

We have to be a little cautious about not trying to kill a gnat with an atom bomb. The performances are so utterly absurd regarding the post-truth moment that the proper response might best be ridicule.

--Noam Chomsky

The idea that people should be allowed to decide something about their own fate is just anathema to European elites.

--Noam Chomsky

The public is easily amenable to lies: the more lies there are, the greater the support for war. For instance, when the public was told that Saddam Hussein would attack the U.S., this increased support for the war.

--Noam Chomsky

With government deregulation and the triumph of financial liberalization, the dangers of systemic risks, the possibility of a financial tsunami, sharply increased.

--Noam Chomsky

I don't think all thinking is a kind of rational structure. But I don't think it is correct to identify the rational-nonrational dichotomy with the linguistic-nonlinguistic dichotomy.

--Noam Chomsky

Workers in different countries can easily be played off against each other.

--Noam Chomsky

Radical activists can't ignore the fact that we live in this world, like it or not, and have to make difficult decisions about which paths are the best -- or sometimes, the least harmful. There are no abstract formulas. Have to think through each case on its own.

--Noam Chomsky

The two tendencies are antithetical in significant respects. These are distinctions that should be kept in mind, however one feels that the problems and dilemmas that constantly arise should be resolved.

--Noam Chomsky

I had no expectations about Barack Obama and I'm not in the least disillusioned.

--Noam Chomsky

There are many cases around the world in which the presence of UN peace-keeping forces has had a somewhat beneficial effect.

--Noam Chomsky

The general principle is that the victors don't look at themselves or concede anything. The defeated typically have to, except when it's beneficial to the powerful for them not to.

--Noam Chomsky

I think we can be reasonably confident that if the American population had the slightest idea of what is being done in their name, they would be utterly appalled.

--Noam Chomsky

The basic principle, rarely violated, is that what conflicts with the requirements of power and privilege does not exist.

--Noam Chomsky

A basic principle of modern state capitalism is that costs and risks are socialized to the extent possible, while profit is privatized.

--Noam Chomsky

My intellectual achievement was retarded when I went to high school. I sort of sank into a black hole because I had to go to the high-achieving, academic public high school.

--Noam Chomsky

We need not stride resolutely towards catastrophe, merely because those are the marching orders.

--Noam Chomsky

The labor movement had been pretty much killed in the 1920s, almost destroyed. It revived in the 1930s and made a huge difference. By the late 1930s the business world was already trying to find ways to beat it back.

--Noam Chomsky

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