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A Conversation with Noam Chomsky

Nov 9, 2008
Michael Hogan

Dear Noam:

You keep repeating your opinion I am a coward. I get it. You think I am a coward. Yet, you don\'t explain your opinion. Is it a visceral dislike of all Irishmen because Irish guys harassed you as a kid? Are you finally fighting back? Good for you.

I am not pretending. I really don\'t understand you. In fact, the older I get the less I understand. My guidance teacher advised me I didn\'t belong in Stuyvesant HS. I have come to view the test as just the luck of the relaxed.

You assert I have a position on education. Pragmatists (ala William James) don\'t have a single position. We view all categories of reality as valid and equal. We can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Any economist will agree that property taxes are a small part of the taxes of high income individuals.  However, my example specifically referred to vey low income pensioners. Property taxes represent a very large regressive tax for the folks you are no longer in solidarity with - the poor.

Why do you assume I don\'t object to all war and any taxes for war? How did you make that assumption? Yet, you did. I never pretended tax issues are restricted to education - never. You make it up. That\'s O.K. Good storytellers are allowed to make stuff up. Your pose as the only man on the planet against war is wearing thin. However, it was a great digression. I enjoy meandering. You used the word "us." If "us" means you are sharing our rants with Carol, allow me to say: Hello Carol.

You both look great on video. Aside from being handsome, you are both healthy.

You became very annoyed by the term "economic genocide." Actually I plagerized without providing you with a footnote. In reading Naomi Klein\'s "The Shock Doctrine" she quotes a University of Chicago economics professor who wrote to Nobel Prize winner Milton Friedman and accused Friedman of "economic genocide." In addition, international law has several definitions of genocide. It is considered genocide to relocate people - the way Stalin relocated the Chetchins, or Cromwell\'s relocation of the Irish.

After living in Holland for 8 years and having Dutchmen tell me how stupid Americans are in almost every cafe and coffee shop, I accept the European model of free education from preschool through college as in Denmark. Within that fre model, I would like to see a wide assortment selection of schools - including the type of school you went to.

You sat you did not accuse me of inauthenticity. Let\'s look at your second sentence below. You accuse me of pretense. Did you accuse any of the Irish kids in your youth of pretense? Insults are at the core of the American character. After a decade of council meetings and BOE Meetings in 9 towns, my survey of the American character is complete - bullies and liars. Insults are a form of bullying.

Teachers are the greatest bullies I met in life. This was true in my youth and it remains what I observe today.

You claim my "--- accusations and claims are refuted." No problem, I stand irrevocably, irretrievably, refuted. This is good. The questions about your solidarity have been examined and laid to rest, forever and ever.

In the following paragraph you ell me what to do. I see you do that with the young students you lecture. The preeminent psychiatrist Karen Horey wrote about the "tyranny of shoulds." You are not only tyrannized by your shoulds, you pass them on (projection?) to others. A young student asked if you weren\'t a colonist of the mind? Your following paragraph is a mystery wrapped in an enigma.

"*Thank you for making clear and explicit your contempt for the population, and for explaining that you do intend the gratuitous insult to them.  If indeed you find people who are so ignorant of the world as to know nothing about the actual tax burden to which they are subjected, then you should enlighten them, not insult them, and not write letters that make it very clear that you either share their ignorance or simply don\'t care about the actual tax burden, only the piddling amount that goes for education those whose parents are unable to send them to private school or take off from work for home schooling.  And that you believe that we should not be concerned about those children, as you demonstrate, once again."

***You may be driven by a mitzvah or desire to do good deeds. Therefore, you may expect others to be mitzvah men also - men who share your humanity. You have lived in a better finer world then I. While I have read about such folks, I never met anything but lowlifes and liars. You are fortunate to have lived among the swells.

Please allow me to quote another very confusing paragraph of yours on economics. What does it mean?

*"**Interesting evasion.  You claimed that value is determined by the marketplace, which is obviously false, for the reasons I mentioned, known by anyone who is not an "arrogant economic illiterate," to borrow your phase.  Your response is that home prices are determined by the marketplace, which -- true or false -- obviously retracts the claim to which I responded, by evasion."

*You asserted markets are monopolistic and oligopolistic. While this is true in markets that are hard to enter with few players, however the housing market is a very efficient, competitive market. Your not seeing that caused me to grade you harshly. But, after all, didn\'t Lord John Maynard Keynes tell reporters President Roosevelt was an "economic illiterate?" I figured ifthe phrase was good enough for Lord Keynes with you playing Roosevelt, it is good enough for me.

In the follwing paragraph you become angry and indignant:

*Once again, you reveal that you are a shameless liar and slanderer.  I spent many nights in jail (my wife did too).  But she went back to work when I was facing a probable long prison sentence for resistance -- the trials were called off after the Tet offensive -- and we had three children to support.  If you are not ashamed of yourself by now, it\'s a pretty remarkable comment on you.*

You seek to shame me. That\'s heavy dog. The documentary done by Quebec producers about your life 15 or 20 years ago, said you had spent a single night in jail. As to your losing your income, this was also asserted by the Quebec acolytes. This is your greatest fabrication. Why do you do it. Isn\'t your great academic career enough? When I lived in Amsterdam I wrote to you to say that part of the documentary was total bulls--t. You were a tenured professor and there was no chance of your losing your income. Therefore, the party about Carol possibly needing to go to work was also BS. You replied to my letter with a rather lame assertion you never previewed the Queqec documentary before it came out. However, w repeat the self promotion BS. You are to beautiful. You are a victim of your own hype.

What kind of work was Carol going back to. The Quebec documentary said Carol was in the teaching profession or administration.

Did MIT ever stop your paychecks?

What follows appears to be your summary paragraph. Please believe I am being sincere when I say I cannot understand it. Therefore, I am unable to reply.

*According to this letter, you are one of those who supports public education:  "I never wrote I want to do away with public education."  You now claim that you support it while asking who I think supports it.  That\'s a bit much.  If indeed you do support it but think that there should be alternatives, etc., then you should have written a completely different letter, beginning by saying that you agreed with the comment of mine that was the target of your opening insult.  But again, I don\'t read your mind.  Only what you write.  And in your new guise, retracting your original letter by evasion, you should face the three choices that you ignore.*

What can I say? As with most public men who seek immortality through fame ( Freud\'s thesis), you appear to have remade your public personna. Gone is the Anarcho Syndicalist of yesteryear and now the new bourgeois Noam. It is only natural for ones sense of solidarity to change.

All the Best / Mike Hogan

Noam Chomsky wrote:
Not surprised by your response.  As I already wrote, I expected you to take the coward\'s way out, and pretend that you did not understand that your charges are false, and in some cases outrageous, and your claims utterly untenable.
If you want to find someone who wants education to be restricted to children of the rich, just look in the mirror.  I assume that you are capable of thinking through the consequences of your position, once the fallacies are eliminated -- and as I expected, you simply evade the refutation.
What you say below is quite revealing.  Brief comments on your efforts to respond.  I\'ll skip the rest.


You are presuming I seek or was seeking an answer. Answers are always optional. Nor was I defending anything. I was just clarifying. As to your comments, I don\'t understand your accusations, upset and anger. You seem hysterical. Calm down man. Your indignant act is bit over the top.

You might step out of the Ivory Tower and meet the people. Some of us are disgraceful by bourgeois standards. Others may seem pathetic by upper middle class folks. Throughout public school teachers agreed with your opinion of me.

You actually play "head games" like lower middle class folks. I suppose there is no shame in that. It is a tad immature. Your pettiness is a shock. At 65, I have few illusions left.

Do you remember exchanging notes with me for about 5 years when I lived in Amsterdam Holland? You can be charming when acolytes are genuflecting to you.

All the Best / Mike Hogan

Noam Chomsky wrote:
Thank you for making it clear that you know that you cannot defend a single comment as you made, or even try.  I rather expected that you\'d take the coward\'s way out, pretending you didn\'t understand and blowing smoke to try to cover it up.
Of course I won\'t respond to these pathetic and disgraceful comments.  If you\'d sent them to me out of the blue, I would have responded, out of courtesy.  But when they are just your way of slinking away with what you know are evasions, no dice.
Dear Noam:

Please allow me to make a few additional comments:

1. You claim idealists have only one option - to live as hermits. The hermit life is certainly a very valid American option. Are you far from Walden Pond?

A more realistic option for educational idealists is Home Schooling. Many newspaper stories claim the best colleges and universities are eager to admit students who have been home schooled.

Then there are experimental schools that have no tests and do not require attendance - Summerhill or the school you went to are examples of alternative schools. Why would you deny others the type of education you enjoyed?

2. You have described your town as upper middle class. It seems that not only is median household income high but you indicate it is uniformly high with a profile of upper income professionals.

The Township of Washington in Bergen County, NJ is comprised of many older folks (19% in the 2000 census) who are working class. They moved here in the mid 1960\'s in so-called "White Flight." These folks now live on meager pensions. I have witnessed many move out of town because of taxes. My barber Augie has seen old women crying at the thought of being moved out.

3. You spend your days teaching and lecturing the children of the super rich. Your colleagues are upper middle class folks like yourself. According to videos, you report you live among the upper middle class.

You traveled far from the Anarcho Syndicalist of your youth.

All the Best / Mike Hogan

Dear Noam:

I wrote because I thought you might be unaware of the points I made. You replied with dimissive, defensive scorn. You don\'t show the aggressive side of your nature in your video recorded talks. Why is that? Does someone else answer your e-mails?

In your first paragraph, you take an unbelieveable extreme example. I have never met anyone who doesn\'t want poor kids not to have an education. I certainly don\'t want to end education for the poor. Like a lawyer, you put words in the mouths of others. In fact, I don\'t know of anyone who advocates ending public education - as it is a monopoly. Another alternative system would need to be built. However, this is unlikely because the public school monopoly precludes any alternatives. Without diversity there cannot be democracy.

When you attack those critical of America\'s education model as partisans, are you projecting your own inflexible partisanship on others? According the Susan Jacoby the American education system is producing students to dumb to govern themselves. You must be familiar with Jacoby\'s work. I mentioned Paul Goodman one of America\'s most respected social critics. Are Jacoby and Goodman just rank partisans who don\'t give a damn?

Please allow me to comment on your individual comments below:

Noam Chomsky wrote:
It\'s possible that there are a scattering of people who simply don\'t give a damn whether children who don\'t have rich parents should have a chance to go to school.  And there is no doubt that the partisans of wealth and privilege make enormous efforts to try to ram such ideas into people\'s minds.  But those who really don\'t give a damn should have the honesty to come out and say so, instead of giving arguments that are transparently invalid.  Of course, we expect the partisans to stoop to anything, even arguments like these.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Mike Hogan" < <>>
To: < <>>
Sent: Monday, February 18, 2008 3:33 PM
Subject: Education, Taxes & Solidarity

> Hello Noam:
> Please allow me to comment on something you said in a talk you gave. A
> video recording appeared on Free Speech TV. The title was something like
> Rebel with a Cause.
> In any case, you observed that folks who don\'t support education taxes are not acting in Solidarity with their neighbors.
> I am paraphrasing you.
> Your comment seemed presumptious in the sense you presume to know why folks don\'t support education taxes. In addition to your thesis, there are two other very real realities:
> 1. There are poor folks, both old and middle aged, who are being forced into bankruptcy by education taxes.
*That is false.  Education taxes are a very small fraction of taxes, so if they are being forced into bankruptcy by taxes, it is not by education taxes.  Of course you know all of this.  Hence what you are saying, in effect, is that you personally have no problem with the great mass of taxes, such as those used invade and destroy other countries, but that you object to the piddling taxes that provide opportunities for children who do not have rich parents.
_I live in Bergen County NJ where the property taxes are in the $10,000 - &12,000 range. School taxes account for about a third of that tax tab or about $6500 to $8000 per year. You ignored my second sentence (seen below) that noted folks are forced to move out of their communities by this economic genocide. I speak to such folks routinely on my website It covers 9 towns in NJ.

You put words in my mouth. My debating team teacher at Stuyvesant HS would not approve. You have no knowledge of my station in life or how I got here, nor do you know what my position is on taxes generally or war. Yet, you presume to know. You cannot be the real Noam Chomsky.

It is insulting to have someone say another is inincere or inauthentic, How did you become so insulting? Were you this insulting when you were visiting your uncles newsstand in NYC at 72nd Street?
That\'s even apart from the distribution of the burden of taxes, which does raise real questions, but unrelated to your misrepresentation of the facts.*
_/Property taxes and the embedded school tavxes are regressive in the extreme./_
 At a minimum, folks are forced sell and leave their lifelong communities
 Teachers and administrators sit at BOE meetings and tell those about to be forced out of their communities by higher education taxes, to be grateful that the excellence of education has greatly increased value of their homes. In fact, inflation has increased the cost of everything and the value of anything is determined by the marketplace (the last transaction by a buyer and seller).
*We agree that this is a purposeful insult to teachers and administrators.    I suppose, however, that you do not intend the gratuituous insult to the general public, who surely are not stupid enough to believe that it\'s education taxes that are making it impossible to stay in their communities.*
_Here again, you do not appear to be aware of Susan Jacoby\'s work. People are to dumb to govern and will believe anything people in power tell them. My annectdotes are all based on real experiences I have reported on in almost 7000 articles in covering 9 towns and the BOE meetings of the 9 towns for 51/2 years on On at least a half dozen occassions I have observed teachers telling those about to be genocidally relocated by high property taxes they should be grateful the excellence of the education system will mean a higher sale price when folks are forced out.

** *Turning to the irrelevancy you add, i**f they actually believe the mythology that value is determined by the marketplace -- in an oligopolistic economy that relies heavily on state intervention -- they should learn something about the world.  But plainly that has no bearing on your claims and charges.*

_My ecomomics degree from The City College of New York tells me you are an arrogant economic illiterate. It is mysel who was taught the marketplace determines the price of homes. It is teachers who claim it is the excellence of education that determines home values._
> 2. There are many who object to education as a complete failure and do not wish to have public money poured into a failure that is nothing more then a propaganda mill for the state. Paul Goodman\'s book "Compulsory Miseducation" is a very good critique of education that remains valid today.
*There may be a minuscule number of people who think that there should be no public schools, for Goodman-style or other reasons.  There are also plenty of people who object to government expenditures for Medicare and Medicaid.  They have three choices: (1) be members of the community and undertake the obligations that go with that commitment, and through the political process seek to eliminate taxes they don\'t like, or increase taxes where they think they should be greater; (2) go off and live by themselves as hermits, giving up the benefits and avoiding the responsibilities of being members of the community; (3) be principled tax resisters, as I was for many years in protest against the Vietnam war, and face the risks that go with that.*
_We agree the number of people critical of education is small.This is a tribute to the teachers union. They do a good job of representing teachers. Again you put words in my mouth. I never wrote I want to do away with public education. I am for recognizing it is a failure and changing it through implementing diverse alternatives. It is you and yours who are apparently against diversity and change in the failed public education model. You are not to good at debating. You are never tested. You routinely speak to children who lap it all up. It\'s gone to your head man.

You characterize me as someone who doesn\'t want to pay taxes. Again, you presume without asking questions.

What risks did you face as a tenured professor? You spent one night in jail with Norman Mailer and were worried Carol would need to go to work.

> Allow me to ask who you are in solidarity with? Homeowners about to be relocated or teachers & administraors? Idealists or teachers & administrators?
*Since the choices you offer are absurd, I won\'t respond.  But I do not join you in your solidarity with the rich and powerful, and indifference to the fate of children whose parents are not rich enough to send them to private school.*
_Why are my trade offs absurd? You are, in fact, in solidarity with the rich and powerful by your support of public education. Who do you think supports public education?_
Wasn\'t your wife, Carol, a teacher or administrator in a public school system?
*By rights, I should not respond to that disgusting question, and you should be ashamed of yourself for raising it.  But out of excessive and unwarranted politeness, I\'ll respond.  No, on all counts.*
When I lived in Amsterdam in the mid 1990\'s I saw a documentary about your life. The documentary said youe wife Carol was a teacher or school administrator. In fact, the documentary said you feared Carol would need to teach if your one night stand in jail became a long term adventure.

Man oh man, are you arrogant in the extreme. You appear to be losing it. I don\'t find you polite at all.

Live and Be Well / Mike Hogan
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