Chomsky: it was a misunderstanding

Noam Chomsky holding sign opposing media monopoly in Taiwan

Lin Ting-an (林庭安) is a Taiwanese student who visited Noam Chomsky and several other academics in the USA and asked them to support the campaign against a media monopoly in Taiwan. She took the photograph above of Chomsky holding a sign written in Chinese opposing media monopoly. The photo was widely republished in the Taiwanese media.

Now the Chinese-language China Times is claiming Chomsky was misled about was written on the sign. China Times is owned by the Want Want Group which is part of the consortium seeking to purchase the Taiwan assets of Next Media and create a media monopoly. They have an obvious interest in discrediting the student led campaign against a media monopoly in Taiwan.

The Taipei Times has covered the story over the past two days. Yesterday they printed an article in which Lin Ting-an explained her meeting with Chomsky. Lin has published the full text of the email she sent to Chomsky to arrange the meeting. You can see the text of the email here. In the email Lin clearly explained the campaign against a media monopoly in Taiwan. She also provided an English translation of the sign she photographed Chomsky with.

Today the Taipei Times published another article saying the China Times had intensified its attacks. The China Times claimed Chomsky and another US academic, Ned Block, were misled by Lin Ting-an. This was based on an email Chomsky had sent to Liu Shih Diing (劉世鼎), an associate professor at the University of Macau.

The China Times has an obvious interest in discrediting the movement which is trying to stop it from expanding its control of the Taiwanese media. They previously attacked NTHU student Chen Wei-ting (陳為廷), a leader of the anti-media monopoly movement who famously criticised the Minister for Education in the legislature.

I contacted Noam Chomsky by email with a few questions about the issue and he replied within a few hours. He said a “stream of journalists” had written to him from Taiwan. He provided the following statement which he also sent to journalists from Taiwan.

I have been in touch with my friend Ned Block, a philosophy professor at NYU, who was also photographed holding a poster. His experience was the same as mine. Both of us were under the impression that the poster called for freedom of press and opposed monopoly, and said nothing about China. I don’t charge anyone with deceit or misrepresentation. I assume it was simply a misunderstanding, resulting from the fact that neither of us reads Chinese.

I must add that I first became aware of Chomsky about 20 years ago via his book Manufacturing Consent. This is an influential tome about how the media in the United States acts as a propaganda machine to defend the political and economic interests of the state and large corporations.

Chomsky has consistently advocated for freedom of the press for many decades. He has also been a victim of  the US media’s self-censorship as they have consistently ignored the views of Chomsky and others from the left. It should be obvious what Chomsky stands for even if he cannot read Chinese.

3 thoughts on “Chomsky: it was a misunderstanding

  1. Mr. Chomsky seems not to read his e-mails very thoroughly. He has no one to blame but himself for this “misunderstanding”, certainly not the fact that the sign was mainly in Chinese. It was all there for him to know. Very disappointed by this reaction.

  2. Klaus, I’m sure Chomsky gets a very large volume of emails. I was surprised that he replied to mine. I think it is admirable that Chomsky seeks to engage with such a wide range of people which is rare for a person of his age and status.

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