Cambridge Diarist: Taking the Bait
May 21, 2007
A FEW YEARS ago, I barely knew the name Norman Finkelstein. I was vaguely aware of his screed, The Holocaust Industry, which argued that Jews “fabricated” their victimhood. I had heard of his comparisons of Israel to Nazi Germany. (“[I] can’t imagine why Israel’s apologists ...
October 16, 2006
For a quarter of a century, Steven Pinker and I have been on opposite sides of major intellectual and scientific divide concerning the nature of language and the mind. Until this review, the divide was confined to the academic world. But, recently, the issue of the nature of mind and language has come into politics in a big way. We can no longer conduct twenty-first-century politics with a seventeenth-century understanding of the mind.
Venezuela's Top Chomskyite
September 22, 2006
As for President Chávez, he did his hero Noam Chomsky a big favor by holding up his book, Hegemony or Survival: America's Quest for Global Dominance, at the General Assembly podium. Now, Chomsky is no stranger to big audiences. But this kind of attention ... that may be a bit heady even for him. On the other hand, according to Helene Cooper in yesterday's New York Times, Chávez later lamented at a news conference that he hadn't met Chomsky before the great linguist died. Well, Chomsky is alive and, I assume, well. It's his ideas that are dead, dead, that is, intellectually.
April 10, 2006
What does Jerry Falwell have in common with Paul Wolfowitz and Howard Dean? What links columnist George Will with The New Republic? All, according to a recently issued "working paper," a shortened version of which appeared in the London Review of Books, are agents of an amorphous but incalculably powerful "Israel Lobby." That same inscrutable organization, the paper alleges, has dictated the decisions of politicians from George W. Bush to Jimmy Carter and determined the content of The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. The goal of the lobby?
March 05, 2006
For a return visitor, Baghdad International Airport offers a fitting portal into the new Iraq. Unlike the military side of the airport, where U.S. transport planes and helicopters operate in an industrious roar, the civilian side, which USAID renovated in 2003, now languishes in disrepair. Iraqi Airways flights, on which it was possible to light up a cigarette until recently, still come and go. But, in the terminal itself, the rest room floors are smeared with excrement, wires hang from the ceiling, and pay phones have been ripped from the walls. An emblem of war and poverty? Not really.
In Defense of Conventional Wisdom
March 19, 2001
There are certain ideas so beyond the pale they cannot be publicly defended. You never see politicians arguing for child molestation or op-eds defending Hitler. But there is one particular idea so disdained, so monstrous, that it must be pulled out and flayed almost daily: conventional wisdom. Since 1980 the New York Times editorial page has published at least 38 columns condemning world hunger, 241 against South African apartheid, and 465 containing the phrase "conventional wisdom"--and never once did the Times mean it in a nice way. Like muckrakers railing against J.P. Morgan and John D.