97+ Best Noam Chomsky Quotes: Exclusive Selection

Avram Noam Chomsky is an American linguist, philosopher, cognitive scientist, historian, social critic, and political activist. As one of the most cited scholars, Chomsky is also a major figure in analytic philosophy and one of the founders of the field of cognitive science. Inspirational Noam Chomsky quotes will broaden your views regarding life, society, hope, media, politics, and many more.

If you’re searching for powerful life quotes that perfectly capture what you’d like to say or just want to feel inspired yourself, browse through an amazing collection of wise Viktor Frankl quotes, best Margaret Mead quotes, and Richard Feynman quotes.

Most Famous Noam Chomsky Quotes

Optimism is a strategy for making a better future. Because unless you believe that the future can be better, you are unlikely to step up and take responsibility for making it so. – Noam Chomsky

I like the cold weather. It means you get work done. – Noam Chomsky

The whole educational and professional training system is a very elaborate filter, which just weeds out people who are too independent, and who think for themselves, and who don’t know how to be submissive, and so on — because they’re dysfunctional to the institutions. – Noam Chomsky

Education is a system of imposed ignorance. – Noam Chomsky

You cannot control your own population by force, but it can be distracted by consumption. – Noam Chomsky

The media want to maintain their intimate relation to state power. They want to get leaks; they want to get invited to the press conferences. They want to rub shoulders with the Secretary of State, all that kind of business. To do that, you’ve got to play the game, and playing the game means telling their lies, serving as their disinformation apparatus. – Noam Chomsky

If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged. – Noam Chomsky

In the US, there is basically one party – the business party. It has two factions, called Democrats and Republicans, which are somewhat different but carry out variations on the same policies. By and large, I am opposed to those policies. As is most of the population. – Noam Chomsky

If you care about other people, you might try to organize to undermine power and authority. That’s not going to happen if you care only about yourself. – Noam Chomsky

How it is we have so much information, but know so little? – Noam Chomsky

Everybody’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: stop participating in it. – Noam Chomsky

The United States happens to be the only state in the world that has been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism. – Noam Chomsky

The search for truth is a cooperative, unending endeavor. We can, and should, engage in it to the extent we can and encourage others to do so as well, seeking to free ourselves from constraints imposed by coercive institutions, dogma, irrationality, excessive conformity and lack of initiative and imagination, and numerous other obstacles. – Noam Chomsky

Concentration of wealth yields concentration of political power. And concentration of political power gives rise to legislation that increases and accelerates the cycle. – Noam Chomsky

People are capable of seeing the deceit they’re ensnared in. They just have to make the effort. – Noam Chomsky

Globalization is the result of powerful governments, especially that of the United States, pushing trade deals and other accords down the throats of the world’s people to make it easier for corporations and the wealthy to dominate the economies of nations around the world without having obligations to the peoples of those nations. – Noam Chomsky

For the powerful, crimes are those that others commit. – Noam Chomsky

The most effective way to restrict democracy is to transfer decision-making from the public arena to unaccountable institutions: kings and princes, priestly castes, military juntas, party dictatorships, or modern corporations. – Noam Chomsky

Unfortunately, you can’t vote the rascals out, because you never voted them in, in the first place – Noam Chomsky

One might ask why tobacco is legal and marijuana not. A possible answer is suggested by the nature of the crop. Marijuana can be grown almost anywhere, with little difficulty. It might not be easily marketable by major corporations. Tobacco is quite another story. – Noam Chomsky

Far from creating independent thinkers, schools have always, throughout history, played an institutional role in a system of control and coercion. And once you are well educated you have already been socialized in ways that support the power structure, which, in turn, rewards you immensely. – Noam Chomsky

What is called ‘capitalism’ is basically a system of corporate mercantilism, with huge and largely unaccountable private tyrannies exercising vast control over the economy, political systems, and social and cultural life, operating in close cooperation with powerful states that intervene massively in the domestic economy and international society. – Noam Chomsky

If you want to make changes in the world, you’re going to have to be there day after day doing the boring, straightforward work of getting a couple of people interested and building a slightly bigger organization and carrying out the next move and suffering frustration and finally getting somewhere. That’s how the world changes. – Noam Chomsky

It is a virtual reflex for governments to plead security concerns when they undertake any controversial action, often as a pretext for something else. – Noam Chomsky

There was a really monstrous and almost literal genocide in the Mayan area, specifically under Ríos Montt. By now it has been recognized somewhat by Guatemalan society. In fact, Montt was under trial for some crimes. But the U.S. prohibits people from fleeing here. – Noam Chomsky

Anyone who studies declassified documents soon becomes aware that government secrecy is largely an effort to protect policy makers from scrutiny by citizens, not to protect the country from enemies. – Noam Chomsky

The public is not to see where power lies, how it shapes policy, and for what ends. Rather, people are to hate and fear one another. – Noam Chomsky

The threat of China is not military. The threat of China is they can’t be intimidated. Europe you can intimidate. When the US tries to get people to stop investing in Iran, European companies pull out, China disregards it. You look at history and understand why – they’ve been around for 4,000 years, they have contempt for the barbarians, they just don’t give a damn. – Noam Chomsky

We still name our military helicopter gunships after victims of genocide. Nobody bats an eyelash about that: Blackhawk. Apache. And Comanche. If the Luftwaffe named its military helicopters Jew and Gypsy, I suppose people would notice. – Noam Chomsky

Goebbels was in favor of free speech for views he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re really in favor of free speech, then you’re in favor of freedom of speech for precisely the views you despise. Otherwise, you’re not in favor of free speech. – Noam Chomsky

We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas. – Noam Chomsky

The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion but allow very lively debate within that spectrum. – Noam Chomsky

If something is repeated over and over as obvious, the chances are that it is obviously false. – Noam Chomsky

If voting could actually change anything, it would be illegal. – Noam Chomsky

Moral cowardice and intellectual corruption are the natural concomitants of unchallenged privilege. – Noam Chomsky

Either you repeat the same conventional doctrines everybody is saying, or else you say something true, and it will sound like it’s from Neptune. – Noam Chomsky

If you assume that there is no hope, you guarantee that there will be no hope. If you assume that there is an instinct for freedom, that there are opportunities to change things, then there is a possibility that you can contribute to making a better world. – Noam Chomsky

It’s pretty ironic that the so-called ‘least advanced’ people are the ones taking the lead in trying to protect all of us, while the richest and most powerful among us are the ones who are trying to drive the society to destruction. – Noam Chomsky

All public resources go to the rich. The poor, if they can survive in the labor market, fine. Otherwise, they die. That’s economics in a nutshell. – Noam Chomsky

If anybody thinks they should listen to me because I’m a professor at MIT, that’s nonsense. You should decide whether something makes sense by its content, not by the letters after the name of the person who says it. – Noam Chomsky

It doesn’t matter how much you learn in school; it’s whether you learn how to go on and do things by yourself. And that can be done at any level. – Noam Chomsky

Do you train for passing tests or do you train for creative inquiry? – Noam Chomsky

There are very few people who are going to look into the mirror and say, ‘That person I see is a savage monster;’ instead, they make up some construction that justifies what they do. – Noam Chomsky

In our society, real power does not happen to lie in the political system, it lies in the private economy: that’s where the decisions are made about what’s produced, how much is produced, what’s consumed, where investment takes place, who has jobs, who controls the resources, and so on and so forth. And as long as that remains the case, changes inside the political system can make some difference-I don’t want to say it’s zero-but the differences are going to be very slight. – Noam Chomsky

Hypocrites are those who apply to others the standards that they refuse to accept for themselves. – Noam Chomsky

The police can go to downtown Harlem and pick up a kid with a joint in the streets. But they can’t go into the elegant apartments and get a stockbroker who’s sniffing cocaine. – Noam Chomsky

Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are, in principle, under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think of it in political terms, fascist, that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level. […] Just as I’m opposed to political fascism, I am opposed to economic fascism. I think that until the major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it’s pointless to talk about democracy. – Noam Chomsky

A basic principle of modern state capitalism is that costs and risks are socialized to the extent possible, while profit is privatized. – Noam Chomsky

A captured pirate was brought before Alexander the Great. “How dare you molest the sea?” asked Alexander. “How dare you molest the whole world?” the pirate replied, and continued: “Because I do it with a little ship only, I am called a thief; you, doing it with a great navy, are called an emperor. – Noam Chomsky

Governments will use whatever technology is available to combat their primary enemy – their own population. – Noam Chomsky

Students who acquire large debts putting themselves through school are unlikely to think about changing society. When you trap people in a system of debt, they can’t afford the time to think. Tuition fee increases are a disciplinary technique, and by the time students graduate, they are not only loaded with debt, but have also internalized the disciplinarian culture. This makes them efficient components of the consumer economy. – Noam Chomsky

What’s the point of being better than someone else? – Noam Chomsky

Tough love is just the right phrase: love for the rich and privileged, tough for everyone else. – Noam Chomsky

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously. – Noam Chomsky

You never need an argument against the use of violence, you need an argument for it. – Noam Chomsky

Organization and education, when they interact with each other, they strengthen each other, they are mutually supportive. – Noam Chomsky

The internet could be a very positive step towards education, organization and participation in a meaningful society. – Noam Chomsky

As a research tool, the internet is invaluable. – Noam Chomsky

Like most technology, the internet has mixed effects. It’s a neutral instrument. – Noam Chomsky

The internet is an élite organization; most of the population of the world has never even made a phone call. – Noam Chomsky

Citizenship means every four years you put a mark somewhere and you go home and let other guys run the world. It’s a very destructive ideology. – Noam Chomsky

Libertarian socialism is properly to be regarded as the inheritor of the liberal ideals of the enlightenment. – Noam Chomsky

Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state. – Noam Chomsky

It’s perfectly obvious that there is some genetic factor that distinguishes humans from other animals and that it is language specific. The theory of that genetic component, whatever it turns out to be, is what is called universal grammar. – Noam Chomsky

Descriptive grammar is an attempt to give an account of what the current system is for either a society or an individual, whatever you happen to be studying. – Noam Chomsky

Historical grammar is a study of how, say, modern English developed from Middle English, and how that developed from Early and Old English, and how that developed from Germanic, and that developed from what’s called Proto-Indo-European, a source system that nobody speaks, so you have to try to reconstruct it. – Noam Chomsky

The probability of apocalypse soon cannot be realistically estimated, but it is surely too high for any sane person to contemplate with equanimity. – Noam Chomsky

Discovery is the ability to be puzzled by simple things. – Noam Chomsky

It’s dangerous when people are willing to give up their privacy. – Noam Chomsky

Nationalism has a way of oppressing others. – Noam Chomsky

Debt is a social and ideological construct, not a simple economic fact. – Noam Chomsky

If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all. – Noam Chomsky

There are all the activist groups on every imaginable topic – solidarity groups, environmental and feminist groups – sectors of these movements do very valuable work. – Noam Chomsky

If we choose, we can live in a world of comforting illusion. – Noam Chomsky

The worst drug of all by far is tobacco; the death toll from tobacco is just overwhelming. – Noam Chomsky

In the moral calculus of currently prevailing state capitalism, profits and bonuses in the next quarter greatly outweigh concern for the welfare of one’s grandchildren, and since these are institutional maladies, they will not be easy to overcome. While much remains uncertain, we can assure ourselves, with fair confidence, that future generations will not forgive us our silence and apathy. – Noam Chomsky

The general population doesn’t know what’s happening, and it doesn’t even know that it doesn’t know. – Noam Chomsky

As long as the general population is passive, apathetic, diverted to consumerism or hatred of the vulnerable, then the powerful can do as they please, and those who survive will be left to contemplate the outcome. – Noam Chomsky

Nobody is going to pour truth into your brain. It’s something you have to find out for yourself. – Noam Chomsky

That’s the standard technique of privatization: defund, make sure things don’t work, people get angry, you hand it over to private capital. – Noam Chomsky

The world is a very puzzling place. If you’re not willing to be puzzled, you just become a replica of someone else’s mind. – Noam Chomsky

States are not moral agents, people are, and can impose moral standards on powerful institutions. – Noam Chomsky

It’s ridiculous to talk about freedom in a society dominated by huge corporations. What kind of freedom is there inside a corporation? They’re totalitarian institutions – you take orders from above and maybe give them to people below you. There’s about as much freedom as under Stalinism. – Noam Chomsky

He who controls the media controls the minds of the public. – Noam Chomsky

Jingoism, racism, fear, religious fundamentalism: these are the ways of appealing to people if you’re trying to organize a mass base of support for policies that are really intended to crush them. – Noam Chomsky

Democratic societies can’t force people. Therefore, they have to control what they think. – Noam Chomsky

There’s a good reason why nobody studies history, it just teaches you too much. – Noam Chomsky

It is the responsibility of intellectuals to speak the truth and expose lies. – Noam Chomsky

The point of public relations slogans like Support Our Troopsis that they don’t mean anything … that’s the whole point of good propaganda. You want to create a slogan that nobody is going to be against, and I suppose everybody will be for, because nobody knows what it means, because it doesn’t mean anything. But its crucial value is that it diverts your attention from a question that does mean something, do you support our policy? And that’s the one you’re not allowed to talk about. – Noam Chomsky

The indoctrination is so deep that educated people think they’re being objective. – Noam Chomsky

I try to encourage people to think for themselves, to question standard assumptions… Don’t take assumptions for granted. Begin by taking a skeptical attitude toward anything that is conventional wisdom. Make it justify itself. It usually can’t. Be willing to ask questions about what is taken for granted. Try to think things through for yourself. – Noam Chomsky

A language is not just words. It’s a culture, a tradition, a unification of a community, a whole history that creates what a community is. It’s all embodied in a language. – Noam Chomsky

Nobody should have any illusions. The United States has essentially a one-party system and the ruling party is the business party. – Noam Chomsky

When I was in high school, I asked myself at one point: Why do I care if my high school’s team wins the football game? I don’t know anybody on the team, they have nothing to do with me… why am I here and applaud? It does not make any sense. But the point is, it does make sense: It’s a way of building up irrational attitudes of submission to authority and group cohesion behind leadership elements. In fact, it’s training in irrational jingoism. That’s also a feature of competitive sports. – Noam Chomsky

If you want to control a population… give them a God to worship. – Noam Chomsky

Neoliberal democracy. Instead of citizens, it produces consumers. Instead of communities, it produces shopping malls. The net result is an atomized society of disengaged individuals who feel demoralized and socially powerless. In sum, neoliberalism is the immediate and foremost enemy of genuine participatory democracy, not just in the United States but across the planet and will be for the foreseeable future. – Noam Chomsky

You are responsible for the predictable consequences of your actions. – Noam Chomsky

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