Sam Harris Vs Noam Chomsky


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Recently Sam Harris was answering some
questions from his fans and he spoke a

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bit about his disagreements with noam
chomsky can you comment on your spat

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with noam chomsky your initial critique
of him in the end of faith you stand by

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it i’m a big fan but I just don’t get
this

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well i’m not aware of having a spat with
him I he’s actually taking a few shots

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at me online and but I we’ve never met
and i’m not aware of him having read the

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end of faith or having notice what I’ve
said about his politics so to some

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degree we could just be talking on
parallel channels here but i just think

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there is a kind of moral confusion
expressed in his political writing which

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ignores intention as a basis upon which
to evaluate certain human behavior at

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the end of the day he’s he simply wants
to use body count as the only metric to

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discuss the moral stature of two sides
in a conflict

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so if we kill a dozen children
unintentionally well that’s every bit as

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bad as doing it intentionally to that i
think is a bad way to look at human

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conflict

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I think the people who are intending to
kill children are different than the

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people who are intending to kill the
people who are killing children and our

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accidentally killing children in the
process

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it’s a huge difference you have to ask
yourself what kind of world is any group

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or society want to create how do they
want the world to be what would they do

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if they had all the power and when you
ask that question you get very different

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answers for specific groups

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no matter how much misery and death is
happening on both sides of a conflict

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when you look at World War two

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he was just a horrific wastage of human
life but the difference between the

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Allies and the Nazis was absolutely
categorical what sort of world that the

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Third Reich want to create ok

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and what did we want to create on our
side we did horrible things the

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firebombing of dressed in the atomic
bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki

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absolutely grotesque acts of violence
where hundreds of thousands of people

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millions of people over the course of
the war died but what sort of world are

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we trying to build what

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and what were your intentions with
respect to the Germans and the Japanese

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really well you

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our intentions because after the war we
did not murder everyone

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we helped rebuild their societies so it
were not perfect but we were different

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from the Nazis

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so you can’t just look the body count
merely to judge the rightness or

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wrongness of human behavior and and
Chomsky seems to discount intentions

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across the board and only look at body
count

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and if you do that in any given instance
you come away with a perverse

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description of what’s happening in the
world and you come away believing the

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kinds of things that people influenced
by Chomsky tend to believe that your

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whether it’s glenn greenwald ER and the
other person who’s drunk this kool-aid

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and you can end up saying things like
the United States is the greatest

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terrorist state in human history right
or some other such nonsense

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there’s a difference between the dick
cheney’s of the world and the AL

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Baghdadi’s of the world and it is
crucial that people on the Left

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understand that

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and as far as i can tell Chomsky has
been a source of pure moral confusion on

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this point

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alright so as often happens when we
discuss these issues

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I’m in the unfortunate position of being
a fan of harris and Dawkins and the new

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atheists as well as a fan of Chomsky and
Greenwald and Scahill and people like

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that

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so inevitably when I talk about these
issues are yet people lash lashing out

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at me from both camps where they say I’m
too much of an apologist for Harrison

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the new atheists are people say I’m too
much of an apologist for Greenwald

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Chomsky

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so that’s definitely going to happen
I’ve accepted that at this point it is

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what it is no matter what I can’t please
everybody when I talk about these things

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I’m just breaking it down as i see it

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so first of all let’s go directly to his
main criticism is that a legitimate

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criticism of Noam Chomsky that noam
chomsky of focuses more on quantitative

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issues than qualitative issues

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I’d say yes I think that’s a fair
criticism of Noam Chomsky

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I mean I also have other disagreements
with Chomsky I think he’s way to the

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left of me on domestic and economic
policy but on the idea that he focuses

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too much on the quantitative and not
enough on the qualitative

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I think that’s a fair point but the
thing that frustrates me about Paris is

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that he seems unaware that the criticism
of him is the polar opposite

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and I think that’s also merited so I do
think it’s a legitimate criticism of

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Chomsky that he focuses too much on the
quantitative and qualitative but Harris

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focuses too much on the qualitative and
not the quantitative so up here – let’s

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back up Paris for a second so harris is
. is basically yes if you tally up the

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body count

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it’s true that America has killed more
people than Isis but does that mean that

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America is worse than Isis course not
that’s ridiculous

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so I agree with him in that respect is
making a good point in that respect but

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the deeper idea here the harris is
getting at is the idea that America is

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basically altruistic

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so in his mind when we kill civilians

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it’s always an accident but what people
like myself and i would guess no chance

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you’re trying to get across to harris
and other people is that that’s not true

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that’s empirically not true we know that
that’s not true i mean we’ve covered

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stories on this show just to give one
example where we did drone strikes of a

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funeral when we knew that women and
children were at the funeral but we also

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knew the Taliban operatives wrap the
funeral and they just decided that

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fucking I mean we’ll get the Taliban
guys so there’s some collateral damage

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we know we’re going to kill the
civilians fucking let’s do it

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so the idea that like it’s always an
accident when we kill civilians

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that’s just not correct and those are
issues that Chomsky uh focuses on and

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issues that unfortunately I think Karis
doesn’t discuss nearly enough and also

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to again to attack the idea that it’s
like well we mean well so therefore it’s

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totally different

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it is different for sure but it’s not
totally different so for example the US

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has openly supported dozens of fascist
dictators during the cold war and after

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the Cold War and we didn’t do it because
we’re

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benevolent and we want a better system
of government for the people in South

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America for example know what we did it
because we wanted more geopolitical

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power and control and we wanted natural
resources

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I mean the term banana republic comes
from the fact that we overthrew the

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government so that our banana
corporations can come in and take the

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fucking bananas

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so it’s not the case that were all were
altruistic and we mean well and then

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once we accidentally killed civilians

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no it’s more the case that our focus is
primarily on geo political power and

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control and maintaining a grasp on these
things and keeping the order as it is

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right now and it taking natural
resources for ourselves

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so when we support these fascist
dictators who did all these horrible

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things it wasn’t like we expected that
they were going to set up a better

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system in that all were helping the
people in these places because of that

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we knew that they were doing fucked up
shit and we often looked in the other

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direction because our main concern was
not humanitarian and also what Harris is

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getting at is the idea of murder vs
manslaughter and what he’s saying is

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Chomsky disregard the fact that there’s
a difference between murder and

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manslaughter he may Chomsky makes it
seem like America is the worst by far

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and away because we murder more people
that then you know regimes that were

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outwardly the terrible weather it’s the
Nazis or Isis Sergey other jihadist or

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whoever and like I get that Sam I
understand what you’re saying and there

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is a fair point there that sometimes
Chomsky might go too far in his

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criticism of america and he might not
make a distinction between intentions

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but my response to that is Sam both of
those things are crimes murder is a

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crime and manslaughter is a crime

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so when no charge he comes out and
speaks more about what we do in the

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world

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the reason he’s doing that he’s spoken
about this before he mentioned in his

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debate with William F Buckley a long
time ago

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the reason he’s doing that is because he
says we are responsible for our actions

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I’m paying for that i’m paying for it
when we do something fucked up

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that’s why I’m focusing on this because
i don’t want us to be involved in any

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way shape or form with anything like
that whether it’s murder manslaughter or

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anything else that might be negative and
affect people in

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in a in a bad way I just want Sam to
recognize that

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okay we’re good guys they’re bad guys is
not a sufficient explanation

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that’s not enough for an Iraqi mother
who lost his son her son or her daughter

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or some other family member that’s not
consoling you can’t just throw this

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giant blanket this generalization over
what the u.s. does as well we meant well

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so it’s okay

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no since its us doing it we are
responsible for those actions

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so we can at the same time as we slammed
the actions of Isis and al-qaeda and

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other jihadist and christian
fundamentalist in the KKK we could slam

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all those actions and then also at the
same time say hey the thing we did in

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Vietnam when we used Agent Orange and
napalm and killed civilians that was

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fucked up

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hey when we overthrew the Iranian
government that was fucked up hey when

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we support occupation israel-palestine
that’s fucked up

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hey what we did in South America that’s
fucked up were able to have this

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conversation in a more nuanced way where
it shouldn’t be just us versus them it

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should be

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these actions they did are fucked up and
these actions we did our fucked up and

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let’s just cut out all the areas where
we fucked out so i think what we need

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here is a more nuanced conversation and
not just a conversation about us versus

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them and intentions were good intentions
versus bad intentions and we shouldn’t

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boil it down to the most base-level
conversation because it doesn’t help

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anybody

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