Episode 80

Published on:

18th Aug 2023

Noam Chomsky: Lover of linguistics, the USA... not so much

OK, so we're finally getting around to taking a chunk out of the prodigious, prolific, and venerable Noam Chomsky. Linguist, cognitive scientist, media theorist, political activist and cultural commentator, Chomsky is a doyen of the Real Left™. By which we mean, of course, those who formulated their political opinions in their undergraduate years and have seen no reason to move on since then. Yes, he looks a bit like Treebeard these days but he's still putting most of us to shame with his productivity. And given the sheer quantity of his output, across his 90 decades, it might be fair to say this is more of a nibble of his material.

A bit of a left-wing ideologue perhaps, but seriously - what a guy. This is someone who made Richard Nixon's List of Enemies, debated Michel Foucault, had a huge impact on several academic disciplines, and campaigned against the war in Vietnam & the Indonesian occupation of East Timor. Blithe stereotypes of Chomsky will sometimes crash against uncomfortable facts, including that he has been a staunch defender of free speech, even for Holocaust deniers...

A full decoding of his output would likely require a dedicated podcast series, so that's not what you're gonna get here. Rather we apply our lazer-like focus and blatantly ignore most of his output to examine four interviews on linguistics, politics, and the war in Ukraine. There is some enthusiastic nodding but also a fair amount of exasperated head shaking and sighs. But what did you expect from two milquetoast liberals?

Also featuring: a discussion of the depraved sycophancy of the guru-sphere and the immunity to cringe superpower as embodied by Brian Keating, Peter Boghossian, and Bret Weinstein mega-fans.



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About the Podcast

Decoding the Gurus
A psychologist and an anthropologist try to make sense of the world's greatest self-declared Gurus.
An exiled Northern Irish anthropologist and a hitchhiking Australian psychologist take a close look at the contemporary crop of 'secular gurus', iconoclasts, and other exiles from the mainstream, offering their own brands of unique takes and special insights.

Leveraging two of the most diverse accents in modern podcasting, Chris and Matt dig deep into the claims, peek behind the psychological curtains, and try to figure out once and for all... What's it all About?

Join us, as we try to puzzle our way through and talk some smart-sounding smack about the intellectual giants of our age, from Jordan Peterson to Robin DiAngelo. Are they revolutionary thinkers or just grifters with delusions of grandeur?

Join us and let's find out!
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About your hosts

Christopher Kavanagh

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A Northern Irish cognitive anthropologist who occasionally moonlights as a social psychologist. Chris has long standing interests in the psychology of conspiracy theorists and pseudoscience. His academic research focuses on the Cognitive Science of Religion and ritual psychology. He lives happily in Japan with his family.

Matthew Browne

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An Australian psychologist and numbers-guy. He does research on all kinds of stuff, but particularly enjoys looking into why people believe the things they do: religion, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine and stuff. He's into social media in the same way people slow down for car accidents.