Noam Chomsky's Surprising Take on the Russia Scandal

Renowned linguist and public intellectual MIT Professor Noam Chomsky offers his take on the Trump administration and its troubles with Russia.


Noam Chomsky has generally been one of the strongest intellectual voices of the left for decades. But he has an unexpected take on the growing scandal around President Trump and the alleged “collusion” with Russia. The 88-year-old MIT professor Chomsky, a celebrated linguist and philosopher, thinks that the Russia story is a major distraction and it’s wrong for Democrats to focus their energies on it. 

In an April 6th conversation, organized by the American Association of Geographers, Chomsky characterized President Trump as not having a strong center of beliefs, while “his only ideology is ‘me’. What is instead happening is that Republicans, led by Paul Ryan, whom Chomsky called “the most dangerous and savage group in the country," are implementing “savage” programs that they planned for decades designed to favor the rich and “kick everyone else in the face.” 

This kind of planned attack is supported by how Trump’s cabinet was designed, according to Chomsky. 

“Every cabinet official was chosen to destroy anything of human significance in that part of the government. It’s so systematic that it can’t be unplanned. I doubt that Trump planned it,” says Chomsky in the conversation.

And to distract attention from their real agenda, the Trump team is running a “two-tiered operation,” claims Chomsky, with advisor Stephen Bannon in charge of “the effort to try to make sure you capture the headlines.” With one outrageous incident at the White House or incendiary tweet succeeding another, President Trump is keeping the media occupied and people talking. And what happens is that they very soon forget whatever the latest scandal was and move on, while the real issues get left unexplored. 

See the segment of the interview on Trump and Ryan here:

Chomsky also called out Democrats for “cooperating in a very striking way”. The biggest part of that cooperation is their insistence on stoking the Russian scandal and making it a major distraction from more significant problems. Chomsky thinks that finding a common language with Russians is essential even if you believe they hacked the 2016 elections. The United States has not only influenced elections, it has even installed military dictatorships overseas and cannot claim moral high ground here, explains the professor. 

A better way would be to look at what happened through the prism of diplomacy, even if members of the Trump team met with Russians, including the now-infamous meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian lawyer. In fact, President Trump’s attempts to improve relations with Russia is “one of the few decent things Trump has been doing,” says Chomsky.

“So maybe members of his transition team contacted the Russians. Is that a bad thing?” expounds Professor Chomsky. “Recent ambassador to Russia, Jack Matlock, had a blog where he pointed out that ‘It’s exactly what you should be doing. It’s the job of ambassadors and diplomats coming in. There are serious problems and tensions you want to talk over to see if there’s anything you can do about them. Instead of just building up force and violence.’ That’s what the democrats are focusing on, and meanwhile all these other things are going on and they’re not saying anything about them.”  

In a recent interview with RT, Chomsky doubled down on his criticism of the Republican Party, which he previously called an organization “dedicated to the destruction of organized human life on Earth.”

"The position of the savage wing of American capitalism, the Republican Party, is really striking, they are really racing toward a precipice. Has there really been an organization in history that has dedicated itself to the destruction of human life?" said Chomsky. ”The US is racing toward the precipice, while the world is trying to do something.”

Here’s the full interview with Professor Chomsky at the American Association of Geographers:

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New fossils suggest human ancestors evolved in Europe, not Africa

Experts argue the jaws of an ancient European ape reveal a key human ancestor.

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  • The jaw bones of an 8-million-year-old ape were discovered at Nikiti, Greece, in the '90s.
  • Researchers speculate it could be a previously unknown species and one of humanity's earliest evolutionary ancestors.
  • These fossils may change how we view the evolution of our species.

Homo sapiens have been on earth for 200,000 years — give or take a few ten-thousand-year stretches. Much of that time is shrouded in the fog of prehistory. What we do know has been pieced together by deciphering the fossil record through the principles of evolutionary theory. Yet new discoveries contain the potential to refashion that knowledge and lead scientists to new, previously unconsidered conclusions.

A set of 8-million-year-old teeth may have done just that. Researchers recently inspected the upper and lower jaw of an ancient European ape. Their conclusions suggest that humanity's forebearers may have arisen in Europe before migrating to Africa, potentially upending a scientific consensus that has stood since Darwin's day.

Rethinking humanity's origin story

The frontispiece of Thomas Huxley's Evidence as to Man's Place in Nature (1863) sketched by natural history artist Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

As reported in New Scientist, the 8- to 9-million-year-old hominin jaw bones were found at Nikiti, northern Greece, in the '90s. Scientists originally pegged the chompers as belonging to a member of Ouranopithecus, an genus of extinct Eurasian ape.

David Begun, an anthropologist at the University of Toronto, and his team recently reexamined the jaw bones. They argue that the original identification was incorrect. Based on the fossil's hominin-like canines and premolar roots, they identify that the ape belongs to a previously unknown proto-hominin.

The researchers hypothesize that these proto-hominins were the evolutionary ancestors of another European great ape Graecopithecus, which the same team tentatively identified as an early hominin in 2017. Graecopithecus lived in south-east Europe 7.2 million years ago. If the premise is correct, these hominins would have migrated to Africa 7 million years ago, after undergoing much of their evolutionary development in Europe.

Begun points out that south-east Europe was once occupied by the ancestors of animals like the giraffe and rhino, too. "It's widely agreed that this was the found fauna of most of what we see in Africa today," he told New Scientists. "If the antelopes and giraffes could get into Africa 7 million years ago, why not the apes?"

He recently outlined this idea at a conference of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists.

It's worth noting that Begun has made similar hypotheses before. Writing for the Journal of Human Evolution in 2002, Begun and Elmar Heizmann of the Natural history Museum of Stuttgart discussed a great ape fossil found in Germany that they argued could be the ancestor (broadly speaking) of all living great apes and humans.

"Found in Germany 20 years ago, this specimen is about 16.5 million years old, some 1.5 million years older than similar species from East Africa," Begun said in a statement then. "It suggests that the great ape and human lineage first appeared in Eurasia and not Africa."

Migrating out of Africa

In the Descent of Man, Charles Darwin proposed that hominins descended out of Africa. Considering the relatively few fossils available at the time, it is a testament to Darwin's astuteness that his hypothesis remains the leading theory.

Since Darwin's time, we have unearthed many more fossils and discovered new evidence in genetics. As such, our African-origin story has undergone many updates and revisions since 1871. Today, it has splintered into two theories: the "out of Africa" theory and the "multi-regional" theory.

The out of Africa theory suggests that the cradle of all humanity was Africa. Homo sapiens evolved exclusively and recently on that continent. At some point in prehistory, our ancestors migrated from Africa to Eurasia and replaced other subspecies of the genus Homo, such as Neanderthals. This is the dominant theory among scientists, and current evidence seems to support it best — though, say that in some circles and be prepared for a late-night debate that goes well past last call.

The multi-regional theory suggests that humans evolved in parallel across various regions. According to this model, the hominins Homo erectus left Africa to settle across Eurasia and (maybe) Australia. These disparate populations eventually evolved into modern humans thanks to a helping dollop of gene flow.

Of course, there are the broad strokes of very nuanced models, and we're leaving a lot of discussion out. There is, for example, a debate as to whether African Homo erectus fossils should be considered alongside Asian ones or should be labeled as a different subspecies, Homo ergaster.

Proponents of the out-of-Africa model aren't sure whether non-African humans descended from a single migration out of Africa or at least two major waves of migration followed by a lot of interbreeding.

Did we head east or south of Eden?

Not all anthropologists agree with Begun and his team's conclusions. As noted by New Scientist, it is possible that the Nikiti ape is not related to hominins at all. It may have evolved similar features independently, developing teeth to eat similar foods or chew in a similar manner as early hominins.

Ultimately, Nikiti ape alone doesn't offer enough evidence to upend the out of Africa model, which is supported by a more robust fossil record and DNA evidence. But additional evidence may be uncovered to lend further credence to Begun's hypothesis or lead us to yet unconsidered ideas about humanity's evolution.