On November 8, 2015 linguist Noam Chomsky and Norwegian physician Mads Gilbert spoke at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The event drew harsh criticism from MIT students because Dr. Gilbert has explicitly supported the 9/11 terror attacks. In an opinion article published in the MIT Tech newspaper, one student asks “Why is a supporter of the 9/11 attacks being hosted at MIT?”
While many find Dr. Gilbert’s support of violence a dishonor to the victims of terrorism worldwide, particularly so soon after the Boston Marathon bombings and murder of MIT police officer Sean Collier, little has been said at MIT about the event’s other speaker, Noam Chomsky.
Chomsky has equated the actions of the terrorists who attacked the United States on 9/11 with the actions of the United States government. In a talk at Tufts given just one month after the 9/11 attacks, Chomsky said that the “real and ongoing crimes of the state [U.S.] … are far more serious than blowing up the World Trade Center…” I find it disturbing that a long-tenured MIT professor would believe, let alone publicly voice, that the United States’ “crimes” are worse than those of terrorists who purposefully hijacked planes filled with civilians and flew them into buildings with the sole intention of causing mass destruction.
More recently, Chomsky declared that President Obama’s drone program is “the most extreme terrorist campaign of modern times.” Really? We are living in a world where ISIS is routinely beheading people on YouTube, burning them alive, shooting innocents in mass graves, forcing women and children into sexual slavery, creating child soldiers, and leading innumerable other atrocities. In Syria, hundreds of thousands of civilians are subject to attacks, chemical weapons, and the threat of drowning at sea while leaving their homes to try to find safety. And yet, an ocean away from all this carnage, Chomsky can lounge back and claim that Obama’s drone program is the most extreme terrorism today?
This is not the only instance when Chomsky has compared a U.S. President to terrorists. In an interview with Wallace Shawn on October 19, 2004, Chomsky stated that “Clinton, Kennedy, they all carried out mass murder, but they didn’t think that that was what they were doing – nor does Bush. You know, they were defending justice and democracy from greater evils. And in fact, I think that you’d find it hard to find a mass murderer in history that didn’t think that.” It sounds as if Chomsky intends to compare them to criminals like Hitler and Stalin.
As we have seen, Chomsky is not afraid to loosely throw around the word “terrorist” when it suits him to do so, regardless of the lack of justification. After all, he even claims that the policies of President Obama are like those of a terrorist. And yet, ironically, he refuses to acknowledge actual terrorist groups for what they are. The Palestinian Islamic group Hamas is recognized as a terrorist organization by the United States, Egypt, Japan, Canada, Israel, and the European Union. But in a 2006 interview with the BBC, Chomsky stated that “we should recognize that the policies of Hamas are more forthcoming and more conducive to a peaceful settlement than those of the United States or Israel.”
Which Hamas policies, exactly, are more “conducive to peace?” Is it Hamas’ charter that explicitly defines Hamas’ governing purpose to “fight the Jews and kill them” and to replace Israel with an Islamic state? Is it Hamas’ firing rockets at Israeli civilian centers that are “conducive to peace”? While working for the summer at the Weizmann Institute in Israel through the MIT International Science and Technology Initiative, Hamas fired rockets on Israel and forced me to run for the bomb shelter daily at home, at the lab, in coffee shops, walking in the street and at the beach. “Peaceful” was the farthest word from my mind in those moments. Hamas was not aiming at military targets – the rockets were targeting laboratories, kindergartens, and ordinary civilians.
I am disappointed that Noam Chomsky holds political views that are so radically anti-American. Even as a linguist, he blatantly misuses language to toss around terms like “terrorist” and “peace,” and his own beliefs are far from peaceful. Chomsky should take his own advice when he said that “[it] is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.” Until then, I urge those who attend Chomsky’s talks, including those given at MIT and Boston College in November, to do so with a critical eye and a questioning ear. You will be listening to a man who dismisses the 9/11 attacks, compares President Obama to a terrorist, and is unable to unequivocally condemn terror committed against the United States. That’s not progressive; it’s plain wrong.
Contributed by MIT CAMERA fellow, Suri Bandler.