Monday 4 March 2019


Noam Chomsky is Professor Emeritus at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Below, is a snapshot of the reasons why he is one of the truly great minds in the history of humanity.

Chomsky theory of language

In the 1960s, linguist Noam Chomsky proposed a revolutionary idea: We are all born with an innate knowledge of grammar that serves as the basis for all language acquisition. In other words, for humans, language is a basic instinct. The theory, however, has long been met with widespread criticism-until now.
Optimism over Despair - Noam Chomsky (2017)

Chomsky is not only a brilliant academic in the field of linguistics. He is also a political activist. Back in 1968 (or 1969), the late Glynis Richards and I were part of the mass of undergraduates, graduates and fellows crammed into the Examination Schools main hall in Oxford to hear the great man, then aged 41, deliver a special lecture. He had crossed the Pond to speak about his academic work and opposition to the Vietnam war. 

Now aged over 90, Noam Chomsky is still going strong. 'Optimism over Despair' was published as a Penguin Special in 2017 (see image above) and in it Chomsky shows how 

we have reached the present planetary crisis-point with illegal wars, global demagogues, populism, fake news, wage stagnation, millions suffering the effects of a climate change that President Trump denies, and rampant corporate expansion sanctioned by national governments who act in the interests of the few, rather than the many. It's an important read - and that title: 'Optimism over Despair' serves well as the message to accompany this post of mine which has been stimulated by my watching last night a film called 'Witchhunt'.

Here is a link to this disturbing and brilliant piece of writing and direction by Jon Pullman:

I cannot yet provide this link.

The YouTube share button has frozen.

I have called in technical support - no solution found.

I will continue trying - the film will be released formally later this month, on March 17 

I received the link from Koser Saeed (who complained that the link kept being taken down) - an online activist and fellow supporter of the values that are shaping the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, with its more than half-a-million members. We all need a socialism fit for the 21st century to change the face of our society and make it more civilised and us more content. 

This film is an exploration of some of the obstacles that we face. It speaks for itself. I started watching with the belief I had only a few minutes to spare. One hour was too much to devote to a single issue film such as this. Those first few minutes passed and I was hooked - utterly engrossed in the exposure of how Jackie Walker, a Labour Party activist with both Jewish and Afro-Caribbean parentage, has been vilified as anti-Semitic. 

Jackie Walker - anti-racist political activist, suspended from the Labour Party for anti-Semitism  

Here is a summary of some of the main themes and claims that are developed in the course of this film:  

  • Witchhunt is about the silencing of pro-Palestinian Labour party activists, who have been among the Israeli government's fiercest critics - in particular Jackie Walker;

  • Faced with campaigns such as the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, the Israeli government responded by establishing the Ministry of Strategic Affairs and Public Diplomacy to counter the threat that some claimed to be existential - the existence of the state of Israel was at stake; 

  • The Ministry of Strategic Affairs now seemed set on establishing that anti-Zionism is the new anti-Semitism. Criticisms of the actions of the Israeli government and Israeli settlers from a pro-Palestinian perspective were taken to be anti-Semitic; 

  •  Such an Israeli government perspective reduces the world to a false black and white version of reality. There are Jews in Palestine and elsewhere who do not share such a simplistic view. Leading Jewish academics and intellectuals are critical of such distortions. Not all Jews are Zionist. There are Jews in Israel and in the rest of the world who oppose the policies of the Israeli government and who organise to secure justice for Palestinians;  

  • However, the US government supports the Israeli government for strategic reasons in the Middle-East power game and US Christian evangelicals are fervently pro-Israeli due to their biblical fundamentalism;

  • Critically, the neo-liberal Conservative forces that have controlled the global economy since the end of the 1970s will seek to use political means to eliminate any left-wing challenge to their hegemony - and the election of a pro-Palestinian socialist - Jeremy Corbyn - as the leader of the Labour Party in 2015 posed a threat of the first order;

  • There is no surprise, therefore, that Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party in general, and specific individuals such as Jackie Walker, have found themselves identified as anti-Semitic.  

Jeremy Corbyn - anti-racist political activist and leader of the Labour Party - accused of allowing anti-Semitism to take root in the Party

The film begins with these words from Noam Chomsky in January 2019:

'Class war, ideological warfare in general, can be bitter, no holds barred, no referee to impose at least some rules …. 

In the UK one of the ugliest symptoms of this is the series of attacks in the media and among the political class on Jeremy Corbyn and his associates ….

This witch hunt has sunk to scandalous accusations of anti-Semitism against long-term anti-racist activists and supporters of Palestinian rights.'  

And this brilliant film ends with these words, also from Noam Chomsky at the start of this year:

'A great deal is at stake, for Britain and the world. It's a time to stand up forthrightly for justice and integrity, to dismiss harsh and unfair attacks with contempt, and to move forward with courage and dedication to undertake the very serious tasks that lie ahead.'

Amen to that - and deep respect to Jackie and Jon, and Jeremy and Noam, and all the others engaged in this struggle.    

Noam Chomsky - academic, intellectual and anti-racist political activist


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