Christopher Hithcens and Noam Chomsky: it’s complicated

As two influential political commentators for many decades, Noam Chomsky and Christopher Hitchens had a long and, at times complicated, public relationship. Given Hitchens was a strong and believing socialist early in his career, the two were very close and traveled in even closer circles. However as time went on, especially following September 11th, their relationship soured as their differences were amplified. 

Hitchens on Chomsky 

Though it is a long, albeit wonderful book, we count at least a half dozen references to Chomsky in his autobiography Hitch-22.

“..I could visualize, with an awful and sickening certainty, what we were going to be getting by way of comment from Noam Chomsky and his co-thinkers in the coming days. This realization helped me considerably in sorting out the discrepant and even discordant discussions that were taking place in my interior, and I soon enough sat down to write my regular column for The Nation. I titled it ‘Against Rationalization.’

“I didn’t have to wait long for my worst fears about the Left to prove correct. Comparing Al Quaeda’s use of stolen airplanes with President Clinton’s certainly atrocious use of cruise missiles against Sudan three years before (which were at least ostensibly directed at Al Quaeda targets), Noam Chomsky found the moral balance to be approximately even, with the United States at perhaps a slight disadvantage.”

Ultimately Hitchens’ closed out this passage “As time had elapsed, I had gradually been made aware that there was a deep division between Noam and myself.”

This wasn’t always the case. The two had quite a bit of overlap for so long, and Hitchens had previously shown him quite a bit of affection and adoration in an earlier life. An extremely radical leftist figure at the beginning of his journalism career, the two were very popular figures on the left throughout the 80s and especially the 90s. One example is the following story/joke that Hitchens told about Noam in his introduction to a talk that Noam gave at a fundraising event for The Nation magazine. We’ll continue on with Noam’s views on Hitch below the video but it’s worth a watch. 

Noam Chomsky on Christopher Hitchens

We’re consistently trying to show at least two sides of each exchange and this issue is no different. While Hitchens was more frequent in his attacks on Noam towards the end of his life, Chomsky took many steps to avoid answering or commenting on his former friend and colleague. As above, Noam felt the relationship slowly waining over time. Towards the end of Hitchens’ life, Noam was asked how he felt about The New Atheists (a group of athiest writers and thinkers containing Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and Philosopher Daniel Dennett) after giving a speech. Chomsky said of Hitchens “He’s been making outrageous claims for years. The best thing to do is just ignore him.” 

Eager not to end this article about two of the left’s best thinkers of the last century, we’ll close with a newly re-discovered longform interview featuring a young Christopher Hitchens and Noam Chomsky in 1992. 

As always, we will continue to accept errors and, if we can confirm that any errors have been made or we discover we have missed relevant details, we will update this page and update our errors page that documents all additions or corrections to pages after they are published. Finally it is important to note, especially for this article, that we try to emphasize the most recent opinions rather than older opinions as more recent opinions will be closer to their actual opinions. Should we become aware of position changes by anyone on the Scholar Fact Check, we will make the change and note it on the relevant page. 

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