Wisconsin Public Radio’s regular program, To The Best of Our Knowledge, hosted Noam Chomsky on June 20, 2010 to discuss his 1967 essay, “The Responsibility of Intellectuals.”
Published on February 23 of that year, as a special supplement to the New York Review of Books, Chomsky used the context of the escalating Vietnam War as an opportunity to lambaste the “the cult of the experts” and challenge intellectuals “to speak the truth and to expose lies.” In addition, he added, “If it is the responsibility of the intellectual to insist upon the truth, it is also his duty to see events in their historical perspective.”
For perceived breaches in the public’s trust, Chomsky directed his wrath first at the actions of Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Walt Rostow, and the “New Frontiersmen” in general. But he also touched on misguided or irresponsible statements made in the public sphere by Irving Kristol, McGeorge Bundy, David N. Rowe, Daniel Bell, and others.
Here’s a link to the NPR program. The Chomsky interview occurs during segment one—the 0:00-17:00 minute portion of the show.
Is Chomsky’s essay still relevant? Or does the context of Vietnam War negate its effectiveness—rendering it meaningless to today’s reader? Does the public today think of intellectuals in terms of truth and lies? Or are public intellectuals just another form of ‘infotainment’ to today’s reading public? Do we only expect irony and/or skepticism from our public intellectuals? – TL