Anniversaries From ‘Unhistory’

The events we fail to commemorate say as much about our national narrative as those we acknowledge.

By Noam Chomsky

George Orwell coined the useful term "unperson" for creatures denied personhood because they don't abide by state doctrine. We may add the term "unhistory" to refer to the fate of unpersons, expunged from history on similar grounds. The unhistory of unpersons is illuminated by the [RETURN TO ARTICLE]

  • Reader Comments

    As usual, Professor Chomsky nails it.  Thank you.

    Question: Wasn’t the Magna Carta signed in 1215?

    Posted by Daniel Domoff on Feb 7, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    Well, seems to me, much as I was part of the anti-War movement when I got home from it, that this piece is an oversimplification on the anti-side the equal of many of the over-simplifications there were on the pro- side. It ignores the nuances that infect every issue of public importance.

    Posted by Nanabedokw'môlsem on Feb 7, 2012 at 3:06 PM





    Historiography, this essay’s purpose, and your purview, are we however nonetheless left with this:

                                          the chomsky conundrum

    master<===>minion. etc.  which, mutato nomine, or, in a kartoon kultur, client<===>clown, means just who in your Rolling Thunderdome is riding who when it comes to deciding mount/mounted in further caricaturing MasterBlaster . . .


    apropo such pop, mr chomsky, Who’s Zoomin Who

    Posted by j climacus on Feb 8, 2012 at 12:05 AM

    The Magna Carta was signed in 1215, making 2015 the “800th anniversary” not the “900th”.


    I think Chomsky’s intention is to illuminate issues of “public importance” that are often forgotten in history books. It’s difficult for any reasonable person to understand how America’s infliction of suffering on civilian populations does not qualify, in your books, as an issue of “public importance”. Maybe you can illuminate what reaches your arbitrary threshold of events of historical importance.

    Of course, any op-ed which takes 5 minutes to read fail to capture every “nuance” surrounding the Vietnam War. However, for Chomsky’s purpose—-namely reminding us of the families destroyed by our elected government’s foreign policy—-I think this short article does a pretty damned good job. 

    Posted by Bryce on Feb 8, 2012 at 11:09 PM

    Bryce, “America’s infliction of suffering on civilian populations” without more would be inexcusable violation of at least my accepted precepts. When the armed, militant opposition chooses to dress exactly likely like non-combatant civilians, when small children drop grenades at the feet of a medic they are hugging who 24 hours earlier lanced, cleaned, medicated and bandaged a boil,  the issues cloud up in a hurry.

    The sin is that of the leaders who failed to keep France from re-entering Viet Nam, and of the leaders whose chose to remain blended into and among the civilian populations.

    Iraq should never have been invaded, period. Once that was done, the insurgent opposition of Al Qaeda in Iraq and others again used the civilian population as a shield, while waging war on the interim Iraqi government and on us. That inevitably leads to civilian casualties. The sin is that of George II of Bush and his co-conspirators Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Wolfowitz.

    The fault is not national, but personal.

    Individual soldiers had no choice. Those of us who were non-combatant soldiers just patched people up, including when the factors of triage and time permitted, the other guys, including the several I shot who had taken a shot at me, the medic, but whom I had not killed.

    Posted by Nanabedokw'môlsem on Feb 13, 2012 at 6:36 PM

    ” the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s decision to launch the direct invasion of South Vietnam, soon to become the most extreme crime of aggression since World War II.”

    While I am here replying to a reply to me, I might point out a few examples of how that sentence is a bit hyperbolic. “Direct invasion” does not describe 1) the sending of a few hundred to a few thousand trainers to VN, a country of millions, and 2) in response to an invitation of the then government of the territory in question. A direct invasion looks like the attack on Iraq, the German invasion of Poland and later of France, and the Soviet invasion of Hungary.

    “The most extreme crime of aggression” statement overlooks the Soviet invasion of Hungary in 1956, the entire Arab-Israeli conflict, Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, North Korea’s invasion of South Korea, and doubtless other conflicts memory of which escapes this old man at this time.

    Mr Chomsky is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts. And, yes, I borrowed that phrase from another.

    Posted by Nanabedokw'môlsem on Feb 13, 2012 at 6:46 PM

    . . . yet response to that invitation, from diem, had a rsvp to maxwell taylor. mcnamara . . .

    however, your apprehension of hyperbole indeed seems warranted

    as does, above, perhaps some response to questions of solzhenitsyn, golomodor, and the chomsky conundrum


    Posted by j climacus on Feb 18, 2012 at 7:21 PM

    A marriage should be celebrated every day and even more so when you reach certain milestones. The names of some anniversaries provide guidance for appropriate ways to celebrate or traditional gifts for married couples to give to each other.

    Posted by ganjaman on Jul 11, 2012 at 11:12 PM