Chomsky shuns conspiracy

July 17, 2008

Andreas Hess, in his review of Sheldon Wolin's Democracy Incorporated (Books, 10 July), argues that Wolin "does not believe in American conspiracies (as Chomsky does)".

Such a throwaway comment leaves the reader thinking that Noam Chomsky is a conspiracy theorist. Chomsky steers well clear of the conspiracy theory scene. Instead, he adopts a rigorous methodological approach that incorporates three key elements: empirical investigation; the use of mainstream sources (such as declassified official documents, public speeches, reports and so on) to highlight the difference between the rhetoric of the mainstream US political system and the reality of its policies; and the use of paired examples of concurrent events to illustrate the double standards and hypocrisy of US policy.

Chomsky has pursued this approach for decades and it is reflected in all his political writings. This is social science as it should be conducted, not a preoccupation with conspiracies.

Andrew Mullen, Senior lecturer, Northumbria University.

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