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Bob From Brockley: Chomsky and the semi-colon
An e-mail from Jogo:
This is a lovely story about a NYC public servant who composed a sentence for a subway placard using the semicolon aptly, dare one say perfectly.
Fine stewards of English, such as Lynne Truss and Louis Menand, praised this man. But Noam Chomsky did not. As you'll read in the story, he had something entirely different to say about it. His evil and inhuman coldness have never been better illustrated than by the few words he spoke when asked for his comment. I know that you comprehend the depth of his monstrousness. May you teach your children well.
What was sourpuss Chomsky's contribution?
The linguist Noam Chomsky sniffed, “I suppose Bush would claim it’s the effect of No Child Left Behind.”
First: I guess Chomsks was asked about the use of the semicolon as an expert on grammar but chose to reply as an "expert" on political science.
If he were so lucky as to be profiled by Norman Geras on his blog, to the question: "If you were to relive your life to this point, is there anything you'd do differently?" he would answer: I would have studied political science and be Norman Finklestein.
And wouldn't we all be better off if he gained his reputation for his dubious Leftist theories rather than become a legend in linguistics which then gave him the momentum to stick his nose where it doesn't belong?
"Evan Solomon: I just talked to Noam Chomsky, and I asked him about what went wrong, and he said, 'I'll tell you what went wrong, and this is what Bernard Lewis won't tell you. What went wrong is that we had profound support of repressive regimes, we had British imperialism that destroyed national industries in Egypt, we had American support of repressive regimes, like the Shah, that is not a move towards modernization, but rather a repressive regime. And what it is, the trouble there that is we have created artificial boundaries throughout Africa and our imperialist impulses that created problems they can't solve. It's not their problem. How do you respond?
Bernard Lewis: Well, Mr. Chomsky's views on Middle Eastern history are about as reliable as my views on linguistics, but I'll let that pass."
Second: Bob is such a nice interlocutor. But really, Bob, I ask you, in what possible context could Chomskey's "I suppose Bush would claim it’s the effect of No Child Left Behind" be in any way relevant to a question about the perfect grammatical application of the semi-colon?
Whatever happened to his sense of fun, of humour?
“A sense of humor always withers in the presence of the messianic delusion, like justice and truth in front of patriotic passion”(Henry Louis Mencken)
Manufactured "delusion" and unbridled "passion" being indeed symptoms of Chomskyitis.
Engage posted this about Norman Finklestein's appearance on Lebanese TV
Engage's editor (David Hirsh) made this observation in the comments. This is just an excerpt:
.. MEMRI should trust people to make their own judgments. The way that MEMRI cuts, and offers only exerpts from the texts, sometimes gets in the way of serious understanding. It offers encouragement to those who desperately want to claim that MEMRI misrepresents its material. Given that often MEMRI is the only public source, in English at least, it needs to offer enough of the material to enable readers to contextualize it properly and to satisfy themselves that the text is not presented in a one-sided and therefore inaccurate way.
It is not a secret that MEMRI has links to Israeli intelligence. Neither is the word of Israeli intelligence universally respected and trusted.
I took umbrage to the statement I highlighted in red. Here is my comment:
"It is not a secret that MEMRI has links to Israeli intelligence."
That's like "Jews sans frontieres" claiming that David Hirsh has no moral credibility because he is the editor of Engage which is a Zionist website, a position that is underlied by a few unsubstantiated premises:
Who decides what is morally credible?
Is Engage a Zionist website?
And what if it is, does that negate its moral credibility?
And does David Hirsh lie when he denies that he is a Zionist?
MEMRI's founders, like everyone else, seek to translate their special skills and experience where they might be needed and rewarded. If, as Israeli Intelligence employees they specialized in gathering, translating and interpreting information from the Arab media, then it is perfectly plausible that upon quitting their jobs, that they will look for a niche where their expertise might be needed. A physicist who worked in a highly specialised R&D field would seek employment where this experience and accumulated knowledge would be an advantage. Why then, suggest that there is something fishy about MEMRI just because of their founders' background?
"Civilization is not self-supporting. It is artificial. If you are not prepared to concern yourself with the upholding of civilization -- you are done." (Ortega y Gasset)
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
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