Book Review: 9-11 (Noam Chomsky)

Book Review: 9-11 (Noam Chomsky)


I think for most Americans, we can all picture exactly where we were on September 11th, 2001. Same for older generations with Kennedy’s assassination, or Pearl Harbor, or big other catastrophic events. Especially if they hit home or were local.

I was in study hall, early morning, I was 16 at the time, and was sound asleep and woken up and my teacher put the news on. At this point the first plane had hit, and we witnessed the rest live. Not much school happened that day, and I honestly don’t remember being taught a single thing that day, or even the rest of that week or weeks. I had turned 16 on August 27th 2001, and on September 11th, 2001 – the entirety of the world changed in an instant.

Noam Chomsky

A quick biography of Noam Chomsky, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Avram Noam Chomsky[a] (born December 7, 1928) is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian,[b][c] social critic, and political activist. Sometimes called “the father of modern linguistics”,[d] Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. He is a Laureate Professor of Linguistics at the University of Arizona and an Institute Professor Emeritus at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and is the author of more than 150 books on topics such as linguistics, war, politics, and mass media. Ideologically, he aligns with anarcho-syndicalism and libertarian socialism.

Born to Jewish immigrants in Philadelphia, Chomsky developed an early interest in anarchism from alternative bookstores in New York City. He studied at the University of Pennsylvania. During his postgraduate work in the Harvard Society of Fellows, Chomsky developed the theory of transformational grammar for which he earned his doctorate in 1955. That year he began teaching at MIT, and in 1957 emerged as a significant figure in linguistics with his landmark work Syntactic Structures, which played a major role in remodeling the study of language. From 1958 to 1959 Chomsky was a National Science Foundation fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study. He created or co-created the universal grammar theory, the generative grammar theory, the Chomsky hierarchy, and the minimalist program. Chomsky also played a pivotal role in the decline of linguistic behaviorism, and was particularly critical of the work of B. F. Skinner.

An outspoken opponent of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War, which he saw as an act of American imperialism, in 1967 Chomsky rose to national attention for his anti-war essay “The Responsibility of Intellectuals“. Becoming associated with the New Left, he was arrested multiple times for his activism and placed on President Richard Nixon‘s Enemies List. While expanding his work in linguistics over subsequent decades, he also became involved in the linguistics wars. In collaboration with Edward S. Herman, Chomsky later articulated the propaganda model of media criticism in Manufacturing Consent and worked to expose the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. His defense of unconditional freedom of speech, including that of Holocaust denial, generated significant controversy in the Faurisson affair of the 1980s. Since retiring from active teaching at MIT, he has continued his vocal political activism, including opposing the 2003 invasion of Iraq and supporting the Occupy movement. Chomsky began teaching at the University of Arizona in 2017.

One of the most cited scholars alive,[20] Chomsky has influenced a broad array of academic fields. He is widely recognized as having helped to spark the cognitive revolution in the human sciences, contributing to the development of a new cognitivistic framework for the study of language and the mind. In addition to his continued scholarship, he remains a leading critic of U.S. foreign policy, neoliberalism and contemporary state capitalism, the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, and mainstream news media. Chomsky and his ideas are highly influential in the anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements.

Noam Chomsky (Wikipedia)

For more information on Noam, you can also visit GoodReads – Noam Chomsky, as well as numerous other philosophical and literature based sites on the web. He is a renowned linguist, educator, philosopher, essayist, and political commentator.


Some of the interviewers for this book are:

Book Review

GoodReads Blurb:

In 9-11, Noam Chomsky comments on the September 11th attacks, the new war on terrorism, Osama bin Laden, U.S. involvement with Afghanistan, media control, and the long-term implications of America’s military attacks abroad. Informed by his deep understanding of the gravity of these issues and the global stakes, 9-11 demonstrates Chomsky’s impeccable knowledge of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East and South Asia, and sheds light on the rapidly shifting balance of world power. Speaking out against escalating violence, Chomsky critically examines the United States’ own foreign policy record and considers what international institutions might be employed against underground networks and national states accused of terrorism. 9-11’s analysis still stands as a measure of how well the media is able to serve its role of informing the citizenry, so crucial to our democracy in times of war.

9-11 by Noam Chomsky (GoodReads)

It’s now been just over 20 years (read this in February of 2022) since the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9-11 (September 11th, 2001). So there has been some time and perspective, to how the attacks happened, what all has transpired since, and everything else surrounding the world in that time frame. I’ve aged 20 years (good god now I feel old), I’ve witnessed the “War on Terrorism” and our efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, and numerous other places in the world. Saw the attack in Islamabad that resulted in the death of Osama Bin Laden, and how the world has changed as a whole due to all of this.

It’s amazing how well this piece of work holds up, and how Noam Chomsky’s opinions, intellect, and insights are almost prescient. Especially considering this is a collection of interviews, and not just a full on essay by Chomsky (to be fair – there is an essay at the end of the book).

It is a rushed book, and a rush series of interviews collected and edited into this volume. Which is all the more reason why this is actually an impressive work – twenty years after the fact. Chomsky certainly sheds a lot of light on events leading up to 9-11 from a non-American perspective and gives some form of indication and idea of why the attacks were not a complete and total ‘surprise’ by the world at large. He brings up salient points on how America could (before the attacks) have been considered the largest terrorist active country in the world, with regards to our actions in Beirut, Nicaragua, and elsewhere.

This isn’t an pro-American piece of work, and Chomsky doesn’t paint America in the most sympathetic light. This isn’t to be confused with him believing it was a justified attack. Far from it. Nothing justifies what happened on 9-11 and Chomsky wants to be very clear about that. But our actions in Afghanistan, radicalizing fanatical Islamic groups, our actions in Beirut, and Nicaragua, and numerous other countries over the past few decades (leading up to 2001 – 1990s, 1980s, 1970s), certainly doesn’t make us the complete victims we always believed us to be. And don’t get me wrong here – we are victims in this attack. Its an immeasurable and incomparable attack. Pure innocents and civilians died. This wasn’t a ‘war’ attack on a military unit. This was a terrorist attack on innocents.

Like I said above, Chomsky brings up a lot of good points, many of which I only learned years after September 11th, 2001. Especially since I was younger then, in my teens, and my knowledge and research base wasn’t nearly what it is today. The interviews in the book are done well and Chomsky comes off very well, and in his normal talking and writing style. There is some bad or off point questions, but I believe they’ve edited this enough that its coherent, makes sense, and stays on point and topic and creates a nice piece of work with the book.


My GoodReads Rating: ***
Global Average GoodReads Rating: 3.73 (as of 2.18.22)
My LibraryThing Rating: ***.5



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