Some thoughts on Noam Chomsky's 9/11 stance

I’ve read that many believe Noam Chomsky's outright rejection of the 9/11 truth movement is incongruent with his many insightful writings on media and government control by a few elites and the illusions of choice we face. I've been curious about his position for a while and just wanted to share a few thoughts based on an interview I saw recently. ( I apologize in advance if the following has been raised previously on this forum:

1. When asked what he thought of a particular 9/11 skeptic’s writings, Chomsky replied:

“.. I am not persuaded by the assumption that much documentation and other evidence has been uncovered. To determine that, we'd have to investigate the alleged evidence. Take, say, the physical evidence. There are ways to assess that: submit it to specialists -- of whom there are thousands -- who have the requisite background in civil-mechanical engineering, materials science, building construction, etc., for review and analysis; and one cannot gain the required knowledge by surfing the internet. In fact, that's been done, by the professional association of civil engineers. Or, take the course pursued by anyone who thinks they have made a genuine discovery: submit it to a serious journal for peer review and publication. To my knowledge, there isn't a single submission.”

Chomsky details two methods of gaining mainstream approval by which he could be convinced. It led me to wonder what reasons were given by the Engineering Institutions’ rejections of the CD hypothesis. Also, what peer reviewed papers have been successfully published? If the journals in which the papers are published are not large mainstream publications, then what reasons were given for refusing to publish? I’m sure this has been covered elsewhere, so thanks in advance for indulging my ignorance.

It has been around 30 years since Chomsky co-developed his 'propaganda model' of understanding how media is controlled. His subsequent thinking has clearly been built on it. It would be strange therefore, if he did not consider that academic and professional bodies could also be controlled in some of the ways he himself describes and understands so intimately.

2. Chomsky dismisses the 9/11 movement as a distraction from more important work to be done:

“One of the major consequences of the 9/11 movement has been to draw enormous amounts of energy and effort away from activism directed to real and ongoing crimes of state, and their institutional background, crimes that are far more serious than blowing up the WTC would be, if there were any credibility to that thesis. That is, I suspect, why the 9/11 movement is treated far more tolerantly by centers of power than is the norm for serious critical and activist work.”

Chomsky seems to miss an important point when dismissing 9/11 queries as a waste of energy. If 9/11 can be blown open, then absolutely everything can be challenged, because evidence will exist of the huge scope of the supporting conspiracy.

In fact, if 9/11 truth were to be universally accepted and its implications digested, then a paradigm may emerge where the burden of proof shifts. It may become the norm that parties whose behavior suggests complicity; have to prove they were NOT implicated in various conspiracies. All of Chomsky’s pet projects would benefit from this.

In other interviews, when he is asked what the common person can do to change the world, he always responds that people should “organize” and cites the marvelous changes that have come about at MIT in his years spent there as a consequence of social movements, for instance that women and ethnic minorities are now welcome to study there.

The changes he describes are welcome of course, but he seems to miss the point. George Carlin said a few years ago, that all of the basic civil rights and equality steps which have been taken in recent decades have been merely accommodated by the special interests who own the place, but who had recognized that these were ideas whose time had come. I think that if Chomsky wishes to use examples of accommodations to argue that we should forget the 9/11 question, then he seems to have a different priority set. Maybe he has benevolent reasons for adopting this position? Maybe it’s his way of continuing to make the world a better place whilst accommodating the special interests? Just a thought.

Chomsky is an ideolouge

ideologues are victims of their own minds, trapped by rationalizations which prevent them from coming to terms with reality. There's plenty such people on both sides of any debate over a notable issue, even very intelligent people like Chomsky.


Maybe. What ideology do you think he espouses?

It's true that even very intelligent people can be as myopic as anyone else.

It's just odd that someone who lives to think critically should take this position. He defined a precise means of making sense of media manipulation a very long time ago and seems able to accept that amoral special interests which run our governments will do literally anything they can get away with, but doesn't think they would do this. His argument that they would easily be found out so wouldn't do it, isn't something he seems to take into account in other areas. He is more familiar with the 'hiding in plain sight' principle than most, yet he doesn't seem to countenance it here.

Alex Jones set about him on this topic recently during a radio interview and managed to turn an opportunity to pose challenging questions into an ugly assault on an old man. I admire Alex's commitment to fight a good fight, but my skin crawled to listen to that interview.

Maybe another interview opportunity will present itself and someone can challenge Chomsky in a respectful but persistent manner :)


Chomsky is a complecated man, not the type to simply latch onto a prepackaged and named idelogy, but rather one who's borrowed parts of many came up with his own. I've seen him at lest implicatly self-identify as an anarchist, but he's not one in the seteroptical sense that many would think of. Regardless of what you want to call it, a person's idelogy is better understood by looking at what they say than asking anyone else, at least when it comes to people who try to be honest, and best I can tell Chompsy is generally as honest with others as he is with hmself anyway. in that regard here are a couple notable examples which are relevant to the topic at hand:

By the way, Alex Jones is an ideologue too. Again all one has to do is look at what he's said to see as much.

Good videos

I've seen the second video before. He makes a few interesting points:

1. He says that anyone caught conspiring in this (and they would have been caught because people would have talked) would have been up against a firing squad and it would be the end of the Republican Party.

This is disingenuous; because it seems likely the preparations would have begun before the Republicans took power. Chomsky is not lazy in assigning blame to individuals or groups under normal conditions, so why here?

2. He says the conspirators couldn’t predict the planes would hit the towers, could easily have missed and the conspiracy failed.. Well, discussions have taken place on this forum where it has been plausibly suggested that advanced (at the time) GPS technology would have ensured the planes did exactly as programmed. Again, Chomsky isn't lazy, so why would he assume that only technology available to internet shoppers was available to the planners of the coup?

3. He says that anyone who knows anything about science would instantly discount the evidence, since unexplained factors are observable even after lab tests and the 9/11 truth community has become dazzled by unexplained details.

I wonder if he took account of the fact that the collapses are perfectly explicable by the CD hypothesis. Or, that NIST adamantly refused to seriously look at the most likely explanation and instead adopted a hypothesis they themselves consider very unlikely to have occurred.

4. He adds that evidence against a JFK conspiracy is also overwhelming, which is also a remarkable statement to make.

In recent years, I've wondered if perhaps Chomsky had a scare of some sort earlier in his career and came to the conclusion that he wanted to continue contributing to general enlightenment and promoting social change and in order to continue doing so safely, would be better off avoiding some topics. Alternatively, it could just be hubris. At the strongest, I would expect someone of his capability, if he was merely blinkered, to say he hadn't seen convincing evidence and didn't intend to waste time looking for any, but to claim to have seen evidence that convinced him of the opposite position, is astonishing.

You skipped over what I conisder the money quote

"I think it's diverting people away from serious issues.... I mean even if it were true, who cares? I mean It doesn't have any significance." From that perspective one is bound to fall into failures in reasoning regarding the matter like the ones you point out. Put simply, he's so focused on what he believes are serious issues that will lead to significant change if society comes to address them that he's never bothered critically analyze the establishment's positions on matters such as 9/11 and JFK. Or perhaps you're right that he's been coerced into avoiding such topics, but I figure he is intelligent enough to come up with better arguments if he were being intentionally dishonest to others rather than fooling himself.

Selective half-heartedness

I saw another video a few years ago (I fail to find it now), where his derision towards the 9/11 truth movement was even more caustic and he used precisely the same rhetoric: "Who cares?" and "It's like JFK". It's the unconvincing, half-hearted analyses he delivers almost petulantly on these issues that led me to speculate that he may have received some unwelcome attention at some point in his life.

One alternative explanation is that he is as cavalier with facts in all his analyses and we are just more acutely aware of it in this case. This seems less likely however.

Peter Dale Scott has the best explanation of Chomsky

See this interview:

Scott, who is a long-time friend of Chomsky, notes the model of power-politics employed by the Left. The Truth Movement had failed to predict Chomsky's reaction to 9/11. We should have saw it coming given the way he dismissed the JFK assassination. Why is this the case? As Scott explains, Chomsky is a structuralist. He believes there are two layers in society: the oppressors at the top and the oppressed at the bottom. Chomsky thinks the system is rational and the people at the top know what they are doing. The "State", or "oppressors", are a homogenous medium complicit in the crimes of war so there is no need to zoom into personality/character analysis (i.e., Cheney, Wolfowitz, etc). You can't charge the whole State and so he leaves the entire structure of criminality intact.

Scott, however, does zoom into the State and finds there are some good government officials and I agree with him. In particular, he finds that there are competing factions in the State, one trying to eliminate the powers of another faction. The system is profoundly irrational. The best example of this is the Continuity of Government (COG) plan that came into power on 9/11. Scott, in his book "The Road to 9/11" (University of California Press), traces the history of the back-up government to the works of Cheney and Rumsfeld. He also quotes a high ranking pentagon official with detailed knowledge of these plans saying that these guys are a part of a secret government waiting to come into power. That was a shock to me when I read that. Scott has also written about how a congressman asked about oversight into the COG and was declined as they said no one has the national security clearance to look into COG. So Scott pierces Chomsky's superficial Leftist model and shows that there is a government above government without any oversight yet plays the biggest role before, during and after deep events. I think Scott is on the right track. He has also written about the growth of SCADs (prospering research in State Crimes Against Democracy). We shouldn't use the term "State" as there are good people inside it. We should use the words "Deep State" to refer to political activities that exist without any accountability or oversight.

"A well organised, ruthless engine of domination"

Great video. PDS offers a plausible explanation for NC’s thinking: he draws a system boundary around the ruling classes and assumes that the system’s output will be rational. If he says that the system acts inefficiently (due to power struggles) in a way which benefits those within it, taking almost no account of cost or effect on those outside it (except in controlling them), then maybe you can say it is rational? Perhaps a psychopath is only irrational if we try to judge the person by conventional behavioural and ethical standards?

I think the key point is that PDS implies that Chomsky actively chooses not to delve into the governing system, but confines his (published) analyses to its output effects. That is consistent with what we see in these interviews. Why would he choose to do that, since as PDS says, it leads to superficial analyses?

Chomsky's blind spots on peer-review

Also, Chomsky has written that 9/11 truthers should submit their work to the numerous independent peer-reviewed journals out there. His blind spots are enormous. He himself has written about "The Responsibility of Intellectuals" and notes how the responsibility and ironically, the irresponsibility, of intellectuals, is to be servants of Power. So how can peer-reviewers, who are power servers, be perfectly independent? He's just getting grumpy over the years and we need to move on. Think of all of his high level friends who asked him or are known to have looked into 9/11 and he simply brushed them aside .. this includes Richard Falk, Marcus Raskin, John McMurtry, and Graeme MacQueen. I think we just need to move on.

Moving on...

Maybe it is a futile exercise, but at least NC seems to be cooling his fiery attacks on the 9/11 truth movement over time, probably because of the criticism he has faced. The fact that he goes so far as to make comments which are inconsistent with models he has written about (and can therefore be challenged more precisely), is a very small step forward, in my opinion.

I agree with your suggestion that he is getting grumpy. Having followed a few of Chomsky's Q&A sessions with public audiences, it appears that his most emotional put-downs are reserved for those who ask him to talk about who is responsible for the events he talks about.