Noam Chomsky defends David Miller

The world-famous linguist and philosopher tells the JC that his free speech principles led him to sign a letter backing the embattled Bristol academic


US linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky (R), is pictured during a press conference after visiting former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, arrested for corruption in the Federal Police Superintendence in Curitiba, Brazil on September 20, 2018. (Photo by Heuler Andrey / AFP) (Photo by HEULER ANDREY/AFP via Getty Images)

American linguist Noam Chomsky has said “the same principles” that led him to defend the free speech rights of “genuine war criminals” apply to embattled Bristol professor David Miller. 
Mr Chomsky, who is Jewish and a prominent Israel critic, was among hundreds of academics who recently came to Mr Miller’s defence in an open letter after fresh antisemitism claims.
They slammed the  “unrelenting and concerted efforts to publicly vilify” the Bristol professor and praised the “impact of his research on the manipulation of narratives by lobby groups”.
Mr Chomsky defended Mr Miller’s free speech rights in exclusive comments to the JC. 
“I have strongly defended the right of genuine war criminals like [former US secretary of state] Henry Kissinger, [ex White House adviser] Walt Rostow, and others to spew forth their hateful and murderous propaganda in universities. This is a much milder case, and I think the same principles should apply.”
Mr Chomsky notoriously defended the right to free speech of French Holocaust denier Robert Faurisson in the late 1970s, telling the New Yorker last year he did not regret the controversy. 
But he also told the JC he didn’t “like” the quotes attributed to Mr Miller, which he said were mostly reactions to personal attacks. 
“I don't like what is reported, most of which seems to be in reaction to condemnations of him,” he said.
Mr Chomsky also described efforts to censor academics and students critical of Israel. “No one raises a fuss when a grad student is thrown out of an Ivy League department, or a faculty member is denied tenure, for doing scholarly work on the ME that is critical of Israel, and plenty more,” he said.
Mr Miller was heavily criticised for saying Jewish students in the UK were being used as “political pawns” by Israel, a country he accused of committing ethnic cleansing. 
Last week, over a hundred cross-party parliamentarians accused Mr Miller of having brought the university "into disrepute" with his comments.

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