Noam Chomsky Quotes

“We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum….”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s really an easy way: Stop participating in it.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“I was never aware of any other option but to question everything.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“All over the place, from the popular culture to the propaganda system, there is constant pressure to make people feel that they are helpless, that the only role they can have is to ratify decisions and to consume.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Education is a system of imposed ignorance.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“I think it only makes sense to seek out and identify structures of authority, hierarchy, and domination in every aspect of life, and to challenge them; unless a justification for them can be given, they are illegitimate, and should be dismantled, to increase the scope of human freedom.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines that everybody else is saying,… [o]r else you say something which in fact is true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“It’s not radical Islam that worries the US — it’s independence”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“The more you can increase fear of drugs, crime, welfare mothers, immigrants and aliens, the more you control all of the people.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“That’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody’s going to be against, and everybody’s going to be for. Nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“How it is we have so much information, but know so little?”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“That is what I have always understood to be the essence of anarchism: the conviction that the burden of proof has to be placed on authority, and that it should be dismantled if that burden cannot be met.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“See, people with power understand exactly one thing: violence.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“It is quite possible–overwhelmingly probable, one might guess–that we will always learn more about human life and personality from novels than from scientific psychology”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Neoliberal democracy. Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless.

In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet, and will be for the foreseeable future.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“How people themselves perceive what they are doing is not a question that interests me. I mean, there are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, ‘That person I see is a savage monster’; instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. If you ask the CEO of some major corporation what he does he will say, in all honesty, that he is slaving 20 hours a day to provide his customers with the best goods or services he can and creating the best possible working conditions for his employees. But then you take a look at what the corporation does, the effect of its legal structure, the vast inequalities in pay and conditions, and you see the reality is something far different.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Responsibility I believe accrues through privilege. People like you and me have an unbelievable amount of privilege and therefore we have a huge amount of responsibility. We live in free societies where we are not afraid of the police; we have extraordinary wealth available to us by global standards. If you have those things, then you have the kind of responsibility that a person does not have if he or she is slaving seventy hours a week to put food on the table; a responsibility at the very least to inform yourself about power. Beyond that, it is a question of whether you believe in moral certainties or not.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“…the Bible is probably the most genocidal book in the literary canon.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Do you train for passing tests or do you train for creative inquiry?”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“It is important to bear in mind that political campaigns are designed by the same people who sell toothpaste and cars.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Science is a bit like the joke about the drunk who is looking under a lamppost for a key that he has lost on the other side of the street, because that’s where the light is. It has no other choice.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Most problems of teaching are not problems of growth but helping cultivate growth. As far as I know, and this is only from personal experience in teaching, I think about ninety percent of the problem in teaching, or maybe ninety-eight percent, is just to help the students get interested. Or what it usually amounts to is to not prevent them from being interested. Typically they come in interested, and the process of education is a way of driving that defect out of their minds. But if children[‘s] … normal interest is maintained or even aroused, they can do all kinds of things in ways we don’t understand.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Modern industrial civilization has developed within a certain system of convenient myths. The driving force of modern industrial civilization has been individual material gain, which is accepted as legitimate, even praiseworthy, on the grounds that private vices yield public benefits in the classic formulation.

Now, it’s long been understood very well that a society that is based on this principle will destroy itself in time. It can only persist with whatever suffering and injustice it entails as long as it’s possible to pretend that the destructive forces that humans create are limited: that the world is an infinite resource, and that the world is an infinite garbage-can. At this stage of history, either one of two things is possible: either the general population will take control of its own destiny and will concern itself with community-interests, guided by values of solidarity and sympathy and concern for others; or, alternatively, there will be no destiny for anyone to control.

As long as some specialized class is in a position of authority, it is going to set policy in the special interests that it serves. But the conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole and, by now, that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass-communication, and should use this power as they tell us they must, namely, to impose necessary illusions, manipulate and deceive the stupid majority, and remove them from the public arena. The question, in brief, is whether democracy and freedom are values to be preserved or threats to be avoided. In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than values to be treasured, they may well be essential to survival.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum — even encourage the more critical and dissident views. That gives people the sense that there’s free thinking going on, while all the time the presuppositions of the system are being reinforced by the limits put on the range of the debate.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“If you quietly accept and go along no matter what your feelings are, ultimately you internalize what you’re saying, because it’s too hard to believe one thing and say another. I can see it very strikingly in my own background. Go to any elite university and you are usually speaking to very disciplined people, people who have been selected for obedience. And that makes sense. If you’ve resisted the temptation to tell the teacher, “You’re an asshole,” which maybe he or she is, and if you don’t say, “That’s idiotic,” when you get a stupid assignment, you will gradually pass through the required filters. You will end up at a good college and eventually with a good job.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“It’s only terrorism if they do it to us. When we do much worse to them, it’s not terrorism.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Our ignorance can be divided into problems and mysteries. When we face a problem, we may not know its solution, but we have insight, increasing knowledge, and an inkling of what we are looking for. When we face a mystery, however, we can only stare in wonder and bewilderment, not knowing what an explanation would even look like.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“In this possibly terminal phase of human existence, democracy and freedom are more than just ideals to be valued – they may be essential to survival.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, it’s unlikely you will step up and take responsibility for making it so. If you assume that there’s no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, there are opportunities to change things, there’s a chance you may contribute to making a better world. The choice is yours.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“The death penalty can be tolerated only by extreme statist reactionaries who demand a state that is so powerful that it has the right to kill.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“If you look at history, even recent history, you see that there is indeed progress. . . . Over time, the cycle is clearly, generally upwards. And it doesn’t happen by laws of nature. And it doesn’t happen by social laws. . . . It happens as a result of hard work by dedicated people who are willing to look at problems honestly, to look at them without illusions, and to go to work chipping away at them, with no guarantee of success — in fact, with a need for a rather high tolerance for failure along the way, and plenty of disappointments.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

‘s wrong when they do it, it’s wrong when we do it.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“The key element of social control is the strategy of distraction that is to divert public attention from important issues and changes decided by political and economic elites, through the technique of flood or flooding continuous distractions and insignificant information.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“When I was in high school I asked myself at one point: “Why do I care if my high school’s team wins the football game? I don’t know anybody on the team, they have nothing to do with me… why am I here and applaud? It does not make any sense.” But the point is, it does make sense: It’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority and group cohesion behind leadership elements. In fact it’s training in irrational jingoism. That’s also a feature of competitive sports.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“The number of people killed by the sanctions in Iraq is greater than the total number of people killed by all weapons of mass destruction in all of history.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“The beauty of our system is that it isolates everybody. Each person is sitting alone in front of the tube, you know. It’s very hard to have ideas or thoughts under those circumstances. You can’t fight the world alone.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“If anybody thinks they should listen to me because I’m a professor at MIT, that’s nonsense. You should decide whether something makes sense by its content, not by the letters after the name of the person who says it.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“We still name our military helicopter gunships after victims of genocide. Nobody bats an eyelash about that: Blackhawk. Apache. And Comanche. If the Luftwaffe named its military helicopters Jew and Gypsy, I suppose people would notice.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

“If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged.”
― Noam Chomsky

 

 

 

“People who call themselves supporters of Israel are actually supporters of its moral degeneration and ultimate destruction.”
― Noam Chomsky

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