By Dominic Ponsford
Professor of linguistics and activist Noam Chomsky has locked horns
with The Guardian after claiming it misrepresented him in an interview.
Emma Brockes interviewed Chomsky for the paper after he was named as
the world’s number-one public intellectual by Prospect magazine.
dismissed Brockes’ write-up of the interview as “fake”, claimed he was
misquoted and said the piece wrongly suggested he thought the
Srebrenica massacre during the Bosnian war was exaggerated.
claims now that he had only defended the right of Swedish journalist
Diane Johnston to argue in a 2003 article that the number of massacre
victims was exaggerated.
Regarding the Brockes interview, Chomsky
said in a follow-up letter to The Guardian: “Even when the words
attributed to me have some resemblance to accuracy, I take no
responsibility for them, because of the invented contexts in which they
Chomsky was particularly critical of Brockes’ claim that
he had used quotation marks around the word massacre when he had
written about Srebrenica.
Chomsky said: “She and her editors know
perfectly well that there is nothing like that in print, or anywhere,
certainly not in the interview: people don’t speak in quotation marks.”
a letter to medialens.org, a website dedicated to “correcting for the
distorted vision of the corporate media”, Chomsky said he was equally
concerned about two letters published in The Guardian on 1 November
supporting his apparent position on Srebrenica, as expressed in the
He said: “I have to say that these letters
disturb me as much or more than the original deceit – which worked, as
the letters show. Both writers assume that there is a ‘debate’, as the
editors falsely claimed, in which I question the massacre (or, as they
pretend, ‘massacre’, in Srebrenicaâ€¦ They [The Guardian] laboured
mightily to create the impression of a debate in which I take the
position they assigned me, and have succeeded. Now I’m stuck with it.”
also complained that his own letter to The Guardian criticising the
interview was published next to a letter from a Bosnian war survivor
condemning Chomsky’s apparent stance on Srebrenica. He said: “Someone
sent me the letter The Guardian printed, paired very carefully with a
survivor from Bosnia, which, as the editors know, is based entirely on
lies in the faked ‘interview’ they published.”
Chomsky, 76, has
been a long-standing critic of journalists. His 1988 book Manufacturing
Consent argued that the main function of the mass media in the US was
to mobilise public support for government and corporate special
Guardian readers’ editor Ian Mayes is currently
carrying out an investigation into Chomsky’s complaints. Guardian staff
declined to comment further pending publication of his findings.