How Not to Interview One of the World’s Greatest Minds

There’s something over a controversy over a Chomsky interview with the Guardian. Chomsky claims he’s been misquoted, which wouldn’t surprise me, but I can’t really tell from here. Leiter has the basic set of links. What I did notice in the interview was the astonishingly stupid and petty attempts of the interviewer to discredit Chomsky. Here’s a gem:

So I am surprised when he says he only goes online if he is “hunting for documents, or historical data. It’s a hideous time-waster. One of the good things about the internet is you can put up anything you like, but that also means you can put up any kind of nonsense. If the intelligence agencies knew what they were doing, they would stimulate conspiracy theories just to drive people out of political life, to keep them from asking more serious questions … There’s a kind of an assumption that if somebody wrote it on the internet, it’s true.”

Is there? It’s clear, suddenly, that Chomsky’s opinion can be as flaky as the next person’s; he just states it more forcefully. I tell him that most people I know don’t believe anything they read on the internet and he says, seemlessly, “you see, that’s dangerous, too.”


Far be it from me to prove that people are more credulous while on the internet than when dealing with other media, but they certainly are more credulous than they should be. Probably most people say they don’t believe much of what they read on the internet, but they generally don’t have the metacognitive skills to identify reliable sources. Extra points to the interviewer for not realizing that Chomsky’s glib response was just to avoid getting in a petty fight with her.

Update: I regret not reading to the end of the article. It was intellectually dishonest of me not to get a complete picture of the interview before commenting. Forget everything written above. What you really need to know is that Chomsky is a hypocrite for having a stock portfolio.

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