43 Priceless Noam Chomsky Quotes

Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, and political activist and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. With more than a hundred books authored by him in his lifetime, he is one of the most cited scholars in history. Here is a look at some of the most notable Noam Chomsky quotes ever recorded.

“A language is not just words. It’s a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It’s all embodied in a language.”

“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.”

“All public resources go to the rich. The poor, if they can survive in the labor market, fine. Otherwise, they die. That’s economics in a nutshell.”

“As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome.”

“Democratic societies can’t force people. Therefore they have to control what they think.”

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


“Education is a system of imposed ignorance.”

“Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune.”

“Every single one cabinet appointment: education, environment, labor – every single one is selected to undermine any aspect of government that’s of any help to people, and that doesn’t benefit the super-rich.”

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

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

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

“Hypocrites are those who apply to others the standards that they refuse to accept for themselves.”

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

“If it’s wrong when they do it, it’s wrong when we do it.”

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

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

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

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

“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.”

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

“It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation?”

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

“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.”

“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.”

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

“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.”

“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.”

“States are not moral agents, people are, and can impose moral standards on powerful institutions.”

“Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think.”

“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.”

“That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital.”

“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.”

“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.”

“The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know.”

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

“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…”

“The world is a very puzzling place. If you’re not willing to be puzzled, you just become a replica of someone else’s mind.”

“There’s a good reason why nobody studies history, it just teaches you too much.”

“Wanton killing of innocent civilians is terrorism, not a war against terrorism.”

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

Here is an interview with Noam Chomsky as he discusses his book ‘Requiem for the American Dream.’

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