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Jul 29 2008

Breaking! Some famous guy said something! Must credit Famous Soviet Athlete!

To further accentuate my laziness, in lieu of an original post, I reproduce here in its entirety an email from Famous Soviet Athlete. She suggests, for my viewing pleasure, a YouTube interview with Noam Chomsky, about Noam Chomksy’s 2004 (or 2005) interview in Hustler magazine.

Not to applaud him for stating the obvious or anything, but here’s Chomsky talking about why he’s not a fan of porn.

(If it isn’t there maybe you can find it here. While searching youtube I also unearthed another version that had Chomsky’s voice dubbed over by a porn enthusiast. Surprisingly, it wasn’t funny at all!)

Your quality friend,
Famous Soviet Athlete

It’s kind of funny to hear Chomsky disavow, in his eccentric-white-haired-professor way, any prior acquaintance with “the Hustler.” Is such a contingency even possible for a white English-speaking dude? Just how reliable a narrator is this Chomsky character?

Update: Blamer Samantha sent me a similar email that I didn’t find until just now. Clearly, Samantha, you and Famous Soviet Athlete should get married. If marriage weren’t a tool of the patriarchy.

44 comments

  1. Famous Soviet Athlete

    Fame! Fortune! Exclamation points!

  2. Rebecca

    There are vanishingly few men that I would believe when they say they didn’t know what Hustler was, but Noam Chomsky is one of them.

  3. gimmeaminute

    The claim lacks any credibility.

    The publicity produced by various court cases and the Milos Forman movie would surely have been all but unavoidable in the US.

  4. Mary Tracy9

    Noam Chomsky is awesome. I already knew it, but now I am more convinced :D Thanks for publishing this, I’m very glad I saw it.

  5. Crys T

    Actually, I find it oddly endearing that Chomsky calls the magazine “the Hustler.”

    And yes, I do believe that he had no idea: he’s famously (and by his own admission) clueless about anything relating to popular culture.

    Which is one reason why, although I love much of what he says, I have my reservations. After all, how much propaganda do we get shoved at us from “non-political” sources like TV programmes?

  6. Femsei

    Yes, I would agree with Crys T.

    Much of what I have read on Chomsky is critical of mass media and “the capitalist system” in general. “The propaganda model” is an excellent read, but does have its shortcomings. Although he is critical of systems and institutional frameworks there is a lack of any real sort of understanding on how individuals are caught up in these frameworks.

    In the case of pornography and why women “choose” to do it and get paid for it, Chomsky is pretty clear that it is not about that, it is about how the system or institutional framework continues to subjugate, demean, and demoralize women into believing they must do it to “free” themselves while complicit in the illusion of the “power to choose”. There is no real choice there, and therefore, no argument in suggesting that women “choose” this kind of “labour”.

    Pornography and prostitution provide no “real choice” and the perogative of these industries are to create a market of power, privilege, and profit through dehumanization. And for those who even remotely suggest pornography is eroticism–they can go fuck themselves sideways and see just how erotic that is~!

  7. monika

    I like Chomsky’s parallel to child abuse. I am unconvinced that sex work would exist in a truly egalitarian society. While sex workers are my sisters, and I support them in their struggles to be safer and have more autonomy, the trade is based on ownership of people, and I don’t know if there is any way around that!

  8. Boreoboreo

    Good post. First time I ever heard Chompsky comment on a feminist issue ever! I always get the feeling that his politics are pretty “male’ / left centric.

    But good for him putting it out there simply and to the point. I do believe he didn’t know what “Hustler” was; he might be one of the very few leftist men not secretly reading porn these days or buying prostitutes.

  9. Helen

    What Rebecca said. Chomsky is one of the very few where I would find such a statement believable.

  10. Jonathan

    @monika:

    “While sex workers are my sisters, and I support them in their struggles to be safer and have more autonomy, the trade is based on ownership of people, and I don’t know if there is any way around that!”

    There isn’t. Even if that magical prostitute-yet-still-unabused-and-autonomous-human-being balance was physically possible (which I doubt), it is completely impossible under a Patriarchy. And such balances, if they did exist, would only be available to a small number of affluent and privileged women and men. That is little comfort for the millions of women who are right now trapped in the prostitution/slave industry.

  11. Tammie

    Just wanted to add my voice to the choir. If there is any male who doesn’t look at Hustler, it’s Chomsky.

  12. darms

    Boreoboreo, I am a left-leaning male (a liberal) who has zero interest in pornography and as for ‘prostitution’, my only connection with that was when I was working (35 yrs until 4/29/08), by selling my time to the particular employers, even though fully clothed at all times, twas I who was the prostitute. ‘Sex work’ is an abomination.

  13. norbizness

    He’s confusing it with a magazine that covers pool games in shitty locations featuring a Jackie Gleason centerfold.

  14. Jen

    Although I am really really apt to lift a brow and compose mental scorn for any privileged white dude that recants a patriarchal faux pas, I’m seconding the rest of the commenters with the sentiment that I am willing to entertain the notion that Chomsky actually did not know what Hustler was. I might be doing this out of my unwillingness to burn his books that I paid good money for and liked quite a lot.

    Regardless, I’m not going to idolize him as some destroyer of the patriarchy. He might be a nice icon of anti-capitalism and anti-corporatism, but I save my feminist worship for people informed enough to know what the fuck Hustler is.

  15. Twisty

    “I save my feminist worship for people informed enough to know what the fuck Hustler is.”

    Hell yeah.

    He almost seems to be making up his views on porn on the spot, as though the billions-dollar sexploitation industry just came to his attention five minutes ago. As Shulie Firestone points out in IBTP’s first and only book club selection, The Dialectic of Sex, the glaring flaw in both Freudianism and Marxism is that they fail to take into account the hidden-in-plain-sight slavery of half the human population. White dudes just overlook it because in the whole of human experience, women = sex is an absolute.

  16. Cassie

    To second or third everyone who agrees Chomsky would not have known what Hustler was: yes, it’s believable.

    I was a student at MIT in my activist days and met him and even worked with him quite a few times. He’s a super decent, concentrated guy. His daughter is a prof at Berkeley, and if I remember, a fine leftist feminist out lesbian. Chomsky works a little with her and cites her sometimes. He also has no problem with seeing and hearing women as human beings, it just comes natural to him, which is damn damn rare in academia.

  17. xochitl

    It was Nikki Craft who informed him about what Hustler is. She published her exchange of emails with him here:

    http://www.hustlingtheleft.com/chomsky/index.html

  18. ks

    No darms.

    You may have been doing a job which you did not like, but I surmise that it did not involve being raped. Thus you were not a prostitute.

    This should not be difficult to understand.

  19. Tammie

    ““I save my feminist worship for people informed enough to know what the fuck Hustler is.”

    Hell yeah.

    He almost seems to be making up his views on porn on the spot, as though the billions-dollar sexploitation industry just came to his attention five minutes ago.”

    Get acquainted with the guy before you bash him. He might not be as informed about the sexploitation industry as one would like him to be, but somehow I doubt you’re as informed as he is on a whole host of issues affecting the well-being of humans across the planet. Furthermore, his activism is relentless, which can’t be said for very many people.

  20. K.A.

    I wish men would consider women’s oppression as important as race-based and class-based oppression. Guys like him scarcely mention it, though it is one of the most serious, if not THE most serious, human rights abuses worlwide.

    I remember Nikki Craft got in touch with him after he did the interview, and he explained the way these scumbags operate to get interviews out of people. He is completely divorced from pop culture, the way I wish more people were. I believe him. However, why is someone who is so focused on oppression completely ignorant of basic stuff about women’s oppression? Men don’t even see their own blatant hypocrisy when they’re involved in social justice; the perennial message from oppressors and liberal peaceniks alike is “bitches ain’t shit.”

    When I was in a program in High School centered completely on social justice issues, we learned about every human atrocity and social problem in the world–except the oppression of women, which was far more prevalent, serious, and enduring than any other issue we covered. It’s that last bit–”enduring”–that seems to be the problem with recognizing this war on women. It’s perpetual.

  21. K.A.

    *worldwide, hyphen issues

  22. Jen

    If he was as feminist as you claim, Tammie, I could go to my local bookstore and see a feminist treatise alongside his compilation of fifty or so lectures on anti-globalism. I don’t doubt that he is a feminist sympathizer and probably an ally. I’m not willing to put him up there with Dowrkin, however, because his modius operandi is more focused on disenfranchisement along the lines of class and nationality than along the lines of gender. A foot note does not a feminist make.

  23. xochitl

    What is striking to me is that he’s saying something about porn that even feminist women, women who are familiar with Hustler and the anti-porn feminist movement, can’t admit. Which makes sense if you believe that education system is a system of imposed ignorance: it takes years of indoctrination (through university gender studies courses and so forth) to get us to believe that porn is great for women.

  24. Samantha

    Twisty,

    Chomsky isn’t claiming not to know of the existence of pornography or of porn magazines, only of not knowing that Hustler is a porn mag. His answer is too well thought out to have been made up on the spot, not to mention the fact that his track record is one of staunchly defending human rights. I think his response shows that he’s one of a select few men who view women as human beings.

  25. Frau Lou Salome'

    While I might be willing to accept that Chomsky was not *familiar* with the publication, it would be shocking if a moment’s reflection didn’t tip him off. It’s called “HUSTLER”, for cryin out loud! What on earth do you suppose it *could* be?! This guy works too much in the philosophy of language to be incapable of undertaking such an analysis on his own.

    So, 1/2 point for a quirky brand of cultural illiteracy, but minus 5 1/2 for block-headedness.

  26. Crys T

    Oh, for god’s sake: no one is claiming that Chomsky should be defined as a feminist. But why the hell assume that that makes him necessarily anti-feminist, especially when the only thing you can fault him with is not specifically covering the topic you think he ought to. Why aren’t YOU talking about lesser-used language rights in Western Europe right now? Why is it that I have never seen you do a compare/contrast of language attitudes toward dominant/minoritised varieties in Catalunya, Wales & Euskal Herria???!? *I* think these are important fucking topics and the fact that you haven’t dealt with them in a thorough and thoughtful manner must mean that you are my sworn enemy.

    The guy is by profession a linguist, for fuck’s sake, and the political stuff has pretty much always come after that.

    He himself has never to my knowledge ever claimed to be a font on knowledge on All Things Feminist, or even Some Things Feminist. Just like he acknowledges that he doesn’t get pop culture. He has also never to my knowledge said anything anti-feminist. I’m sure he’s got a dose of sexist/misogynist beliefs like all other men, but I certainly can’t remember ever reading/hearing anything he’s said and seeing red.

    Anyway, his political theories have always centred on the role of the mainstream media in pushing the propaganda of political and business elites. And he deals with a generalised model for that. It doesn’t specifically mention the culture of porn, but there’s nothing to stop you from applying the model to the porn industry/attitudes towards women that keep porn culture going/etc. and seeing how well you think it fits.

  27. tammie

    Jen, I’m not claiming he’s a feminist. I just don’t think it’s fair to hold him to a standard that you yourself (I’m assuming) would not be able live up to. There’s tons of issues that Chomsky doesn’t address; he’s already admitted as much. He’s one person, and, like just about everyone else, sticks mainly to his pet issues. Why the scorn?

  28. Jen

    Tammy, I am not holding him to some super feminist standard that he must meet or he’s an enormous jerk. Rather, I am unwilling to cast him as a feminist, and think it’s intellectually dishonest when someone claims I “know nothing about the man”. I’ve read the majority of his books, and while he discusses women’s issues, it’s usually a side-line to a greater point. That doesn’t mean that he’s a bad person. Far from it. Rather, my opinion is that someone who doesn’t know what Hustler is is probably isn’t the best source, or even a great source, of feminist thought.

    I do respect his work, I like his books, and I think his pet issues are worthy. Crys T, I’ll ask you to stop inferring that I stated that I think Chomsky is anti-feminist. I explicitly stated that he is probably a feminist ally, and a champion of other issues that also direly need discussion. I did not state that his work is meaningless or trivial because he isn’t a pop culture expert or outspoken feminist. My point is only that I will not call him a feminist because, to my knowledge, he has never identified himself as such in his works. Even if he did, someone that doesn’t know what Hustler is is not qualified to be an expert on the social implications of gender roles. That’s not an insult, and it’s certainly not denying that what work he did in other fields is meaningless.

    In short, kindly stop putting words in my mouth. If you assume that I hate Chomsky, which I don’t, then of course I sound scornful. But I never said that, and my supposed scorn is invented, isn’t it?

    Now, I’ll stop derailing the comment thread, I promise.

  29. Twisty

    The idea that the oppression of half the human race is something that ought to be relegated to the status of “pet issue” is fairly abhorrent to me.

  30. RebelRebel

    Just read the Nikki Craft emails and chuckled a little every time he referred to Hustler as a “journal.”

  31. goblinbee

    Chomsky rocks! I’d much rather clone him than bash him.
    And that interview is awesome. More, more, more!

  32. tammie

    “The idea that the oppression of half the human race is something that ought to be relegated to the status of “pet issue” is fairly abhorrent to me.”

    It is to me too. You’re putting words in my mouth that I haven’t said.

  33. Hattie

    Hustler is crap. Porn is crap. Why say more?

  34. Twisty

    I promise you guys, Noam Chomsky’s reputation is secure, and he does not need to be defended by the radical feminists. He merely exercises his white liberal dude privilege when he luxuriates in an ignorance of Hustler. I wish I had never heard of it, either. But, as I tell all the liberal dudes who say “I never beat women, how can I be oppressing them?”, male privilege is enjoyed by all men whether they like it or not, and is experienced by women as misogyny.

  35. K.A.

    The other thing about Chomsky is that he is heralded as a prominent intellectual in a way that casts him as a rogue idealist whose opinions are so contrary to the powers that be that he is like a martyr, constantly under fire from oppressive white dudes, while his little fanboys who feign the same delusional ideas about their own oppression for being such brilliant libertarian liberal thinkers latch onto him as their intellectual leader. In reality, any woman who actually spoke out intellectually about particularly contentious/unpopular sociopolitical justice issues (like saying the Lebanese get shafted by the pro-Israel media or something like that) would be brutalized viciously for being the one saying something contrarian. This effectively keeps women out of the position of ever being considered a liberal intellectual hero, a pioneer in any type of new thinking that’s unpopular with the general public at the time, a creative leader, an equally effective force of justice. Chomsky doesn’t realize how privileged he is to even be able to be respectfully, seriously listened to because he is not a woman, nevermind how he completely ignores oppression and war on women.

    That sucks, to say the least. It’s appalling. And it hurts.

  36. tammie

    “I promise you guys, Noam Chomsky’s reputation is secure, and he does not need to be defended by the radical feminists. He merely exercises his white liberal dude privilege when he luxuriates in an ignorance of Hustler. I wish I had never heard of it, either. But, as I tell all the liberal dudes who say “I never beat women, how can I be oppressing them?”, male privilege is enjoyed by all men whether they like it or not, and is experienced by women as misogyny.”

    “Luxuriates in an ignorance of Hustler.” Where is this luxuriating that you speak of? Is my grandmother luxuriating in her “white liberal dude privilege” because she’s never heard of Hustler, either? Are you luxuriating in your white American privilege by not doing more for starving people in the third world? I bet I can name any number of issues that you’ve never heard of to demonstrate your shocking unconcern for the poor of this world. Maybe I’m wrong, though. Let’s see your long resume of activism so it can be judged whether your sanctimony is merited.

    Again, I’m not claiming that he doesn’t benefit from male privilege. However, if ignorance of Hustler is a sin, then so is ignorance of many other important issues. I don’t object to the critique of male privilege, I object to the sanctimony. But whatever…

  37. Twisty

    Tammie, I merely point out that ignorance of Hustler is a luxury that feminists do not enjoy, and that Chomsky’s appearance in the magazine was an act of misogyny whether he intended it as one or not. This is not sanctimony. This is not even an attempt to portray Chomsky as contemptuous of oppressed peoples. This is radical feminist theory. As to your contention that I personally enjoy white privilege, I fail to see how such a contingency, true though it is for me and every other white person on the planet (including Chomsky), exonerates Chomsky in the Hustler debacle.

  38. K.A.

    He has made a career out of studying systematic oppression of various peoples, and yet, something as severe as women’s oppression is given the occasional passing thought that demonstrated no research into the matter. He is very well-educated about the details of any other historical and current social justice issue, as long as it’s not women!

  39. K.A.

    Actually, I shouldn’t say he has made a career out of it; that MIT linguist fellow has made a name for himself as a voice on sociopolitical justice issues.

  40. xochitl

    Well, keep in mind that there are plenty of people (including women, such as Amy Goodman) who knew what Hustler was and still decided to do interviews with the magazine. Keep in mind that there are feminists who know what porn is and refuse to speak out against it.

  41. politichick

    I was in the room when a close male friend of Chomsky received a call from him about the Hustler debacle.

    When the friend got off the phone, he explained how Chomsky was horrified, knows not from pop culture, that he lives and breathes research and analysis to the point that if his wife didn’t make his meals and remind him to eat, he’d starve.

    Hm.

  42. K.A.

    Oh, so he just takes women for granted in an entirely different way then, politichick? I see. Hahaha.

  43. Odium

    I don’t care if that conceited moron thinks he’s absolved of any complicity by denying knowledge of a porn rag. A cracker cock-bearer is still a cracker cock-bearer, and should be treated as such.

  44. Jack

    If only Chomsky would shut up about the suffering of people in Central America, Southeast Asia, the Occupied Territories, East Timor, etc. and focus on the truly downtrodden of the world: American radical feminist bloggers who are oppressed by Hustler Magazine.

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