Noam Chomsky-New Century House, Manchester.

Benjamin Short 22/05/2004

Noam Chomsky speaks in Manchester to herald the release of his latest book, 'Hegemony or Survival' in paperback format. The event is also the first of what will become an annual series of peace lectures, organised by the Department of Government at The University of Manchester.

The scope of Chomsky's speech is astounding. In the space of an hour, the subject matter encompasses Iraq, Afghanistan, the recent Madrid bombings, Northern Ireland, the Arab-Israeli conflict, and virtually every other important aspect of contemporary international relations. His fast paced intellectualism is impressive, yet it is no more than would be expected from a man who is considered by many to be the greatest thinker of the modern era.

On several occasions, Chomsky's wit and satirical sense of humour draw laughter from the audience. When technical failures delay the start of the lecture, he jokes that he has been censored by power cuts throughout his trip to the UK. Moving on to the more serious discussion of political and diplomatic issues, he retains the attention of those assembled throughout.

Unsurprisingly, Chomsky is a vocal critic of the Bush and Blair administrations. He talks disparagingly of how the British Prime Minister stands “shoulder to knee” with his American ally, and suggests that their greatest opposition comes from “the second global superpower” that is worldwide public opinion. Whilst he is dismissive of the chances of John Kerry and Ralph Nader at the forthcoming US elections, he offers words of encouragement and admiration to the anti-war movement.

Finally, the respectful and awed silence which has prevailed throughout is broken by a lengthy standing ovation. In an age when governments can silence even their most powerful media critics with ease, and the truth can be buried under spin, PR, and outright lies, it is a genuine privilege to be in the presence of such a strong and articulate dissenter.

In time, history will undoubtedly recognise Noam Chomsky as a true visionary genius; A great mind with a rare social conscience, and the father of a whole generation committed to the principles of equality, peace and freedom.