Letter from Noam Chomsky 3

I just received a very nice letter from Noam Chomsky. I am so proud and excited, I am going to blog it, as there is nothing especially personal in it.


May 16, 2007

Dear Mr Murray,

I have a feeling I may never have written to thank you for sending Murder in Samarkand, which I actually enjoyed reading, between shudders. I was reminded of that oversight as the accolades were pouring in for Blair’s unwavering dedication to human rights. It really is a remarkable achievement, what’s recorded, and the record.

You might be interested in an article in the Christian Science Monitor, May 15, by Michael Jordan, called “Less free speech in Uzbekistan since Andijan massacre.” It describes how the country “that Washington had enlisted in its War on Terror had since clamped down on dissent,” unlike before, when it was a US ally, and it was all apparently just fine.


Noam Chomsky

3 thoughts on “Letter from Noam Chomsky

  • nextus

    Now, that's impressive! A glowing panegyric from one of the most influential critics of US foreign policy. That's got to merit a quote on the cover of the next edition. Chomsky is a pioneer and legend, though some find him too anarchic and contrary.

    One of his former students, George Lakoff, is the director of the Rockridge Institute, a progressive liberal think-tank (http://www.rockridgenation.org/). Despite his bitter disputes with Chomsky about psycholinguistic theory, their political views are much more consonant. Lakoff maps out a better theoretical foundation, though. In 'Moral Politics', he argues that the psychological roots of conservative and liberal thinking lie in models of family interactions. 'Murder in Samarkand' beautifully embodies the clash between paternalist and nurturing ideologies at the centre of his political analysis. I suspect he's already acquainted with it. I'll sound out his views next time I drop him a line.

    My own thinking is very much in the Lakoffian mould, and when I discussed my theories with him in 2001, his enthusiasm was positively dizzying. He alluded to Kuhn's dynamics of paradigm shifts in 'The Structure of Scientific Revolutions' and suggested I could help to usher in the next revolution in interdisciplinary thought. However, he was concerned by the authoritarian tactics being used to suppress my work (and, by implication, to condemn his own approach), and cautioned that the conservative establishment would go to extraordinary lengths to defend the status quo and obstruct my progress. He urged me to move to a more progressive institution, otherwise I may have to await a change of faculty. His prophecy proved to be uncannily accurate. I'm just about to give him an update, so I'll make a point of mentioning your book – I think he'd turn out to be every bit as keen as Chomsky, and could perhaps recommend it to a sizable liberal movement in the US. The Rockridge website heavily criticizes the anti-liberalism of US foreign policy, but so far there is nothing relating to Uzbekistan.

    I hope Chomsky incorporates something from your story in his work as well. He is a true heavyweight in political theory and it is notoriously difficult to elicit any sort of commentary from him, never mind such a positive commendation. You have every right to be well chuffed.


    "Progressive Values Unite"

    Rockridge motto

    "Rockridge? Rockridge?? Splendid!"

    Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

  • Craig


    Thanks. I confess to not knowing of George Lakoff. Would you recommend "Modern Politics" as the starting point for his thought?

  • nextus

    Try "Don't Think of an Elephant: Know your values and frame the debate" – a shorter, more accessible analysis of the 2004 US election: http://www.chelseagreen.com/2004/items/elephant&q

    Lakoff's method may seem obscure to begin with, but when he finally applies the analysis the payoffs come streaming out like coins from a one-armed bandit: http://www.wwcd.org/issues/Lakoff.html

    The analysis reveals the beguiling moral simplicity of the Bush-Blair-Straw outlook, and how they manage to lead the electorate around by the nose by exploiting blatant metaphors when rational counterarguments fall on deaf ears. It isn't just rhetoric: people actually structure their thinking this way. Well worth a look.

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