Chomsky, NoamAlternative names
Avram Noam Chomsky (1928- ) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, author, lecturer and political activist. Beginning with his opposition to the Vietnam War, he established himself as a prominent critic of U.S. foreign and domestic policy. Chomsky has become a profoundly influential voice on the left, lecturing widely and publishing numerous books on foreign policy, Mideast politics and related subjects.
His self-professed commitment to freedom has led him to champion the free speech rights of some rather unpopular groups and individuals, including Robert Faurisson, a French professor and Holocaust denier. Faurisson had been prevented from teaching French Literature at the University of Lyon in the late 1970s on the grounds that he could not be protected from attacks against him as a result of his views about the Holocaust. He was brought before the French courts in 1979 and found guilty of defamation and incitement to racial hatred because he denied the existnce of the gas chambers used by the Nazis to exterminate Jews. Approximately five hundred people, including Noam Chomsky, signed a petition defending Faurisson's freedom of speech and expression. Because this resulted in accusations of supporting, or at least adding credibility to, Faurisson's views, Chomsky subsequently wrote an essay attacking his critics for failing to respect the principle of freedom of speech and stressing the conceptual distinction between endorsing someone's views and defending his right to express them. The essay, "Some Elementary Comments on the Rights of Freedom of Expression," was used, without Chomsky's knowledge, as the preface to a book by Faurisson. This episode led many to label Chomsky as anti-semitic and a Holocaust denier. Chomsky continued to defend his actions and took the position that freedom of speech must be extended to all viewpoints, no matter how unpopular or fallacious.
Robert Faurisson continues to express his views and, as recently as 2006, was given a three-month suspended sentence by a Paris correctional court for denying the Holocaust on an Iranian television channel.
From the guide to the Chomsky, Noam: Materials Relating to the Faurisson Case, 1980-1994, (Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives)
- Holocaust, Jewish (1939-1945)