1967 February 23

“The Responsibility of Intellectuals”: Noam Chomsky Criticizes Pro-Vietnam War Intellectuals


MIT Professor Noam Chomsky’s essay “The Responsibility of Intellectuals,” published on this day, was a powerful critique of American intellectuals who, in various ways, had contributed to or justified the American involvement in the Vietnam War. The essay had an obvious intellectual debt to Randolph Bourne’s classic essay, “War and the Intellectuals,” which criticized the pro-war liberals during World War I for abandoning their principles and giving uncritical support to the war effort (see Bourne’s death on December 22, 1918).

The Vietnam War created a number of civil liberties crises. They include (1) the lack of a Congressional Declaration of War as required by the Constitution (June 3, 1970); (2) threats to freedom of the press in the Pentagon Papers case (June 30, 1971); (3) spying on the anti-war movement by the CIA (August 15, 1967); (4) threats to freedom of expression, for example high school student protests (February 24, 1969); censorship of television programs (February 25, 1968); and directly and indirectly some of the events that led to the Watergate Scandal (May 9, 1969; January 27, 1972).

Chomsky: “It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and to expose lies.”

Read Chomsky’s powerful essay: http://www.chomsky.info/articles/19670223.htm

And don’t miss: Randolph Bourne, War and the Intellectuals: Essays, 1915–1919 (1964)

Learn more about Randolph Bourne: Jeremy McCarter, Young Radicals in the War for American Ideals (2017)

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