17 November, 2005

Battered Chomsky

It's a lazy inversion of a really ancient and over-used truism, but today's news is no longer just tomorrow's fish and chip paper.

The fact that The Guardian has had to remove from its website archive an interview with the writer Noam Chomsky is a potent reminder of how what used to have a 24-hour lifespan and exist solely in newsprint now hangs around forever online, waiting to be revisited, re-evalued and end up becoming news all over again.

I can't profess to be particularly au fait with the old Professor's mutterings, other than to know he shares some of that familiar and irritating "have cause, will shout" mentality of mercurial protest groups down the ages. Plus he seems to have an inordinate capacity for changing his mind, or even holding two conflicting theories in his head at the same time - a walking embodiment of George Orwell's doublethink.

I know he declared Clinton's erroneous bombing of a pharmaceutical plant in 1998 to be more of a crime than the attacks of 11th September 2001, and that back in the 1970s he refused to concede that Pol Pot was a maniac and a mass murder - ironically leaving such a task of admission to, of all people, Simon Groom off Blue Peter. Yet still the Professor professes to oppose all evidences of militarism and dictatorship - as long as it's being done unto others by the US, not vice versa.

The Guardian were clearly in the wrong this time, but while it's right to declare ownership of the intention of words, nobody can claim posession of their interpretation. Words mean whatever the reader wants them to mean, and if by shouting louder than everyone else you leave yourself open to ambiguity and double-meaning - let alone doublethinking - what can you expect but to turn as many heads as stomachs. As far as fish and chip paper is concerned, Noam's been properly battered.


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