"Reject the pernicious cult of celebrity"

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"Noam Chomsky to become new X-Factor judge", NewsBiscuit 8/23/2014:

Professor of linguistics and political campaigner Noam Chomsky has been confirmed as the new judge on TV talent show The X Factor. ‘Cheryl Cole was still recovering from malaria and we needed someone who could fill the intellectual void,’ said programme creator Simon Cowell, ‘Professor Chomsky is perfect and the audience just loves him.’

In his first outing as judge, Chomsky quickly made his mark. ‘Your act is part of a propaganda state promoting a culture-ideology of comforting illusion’, he told one hopeful young girl, before adding, ‘I’m saying yes.’

Chomsky then set about a teenage boy-band, describing them as ‘yet another example of pre-packaged ideological oppression whose lyrics systematically fail to demonstrate even a basic understanding of what happened to East Timor in 1975,’ he paused for effect, ‘But, I’m giving you a second chance…You’re through to the next round.’

Not satisfied with attacking the acts, Professor Chomsky then turned his critique on The X Factor audience. ‘You are all complicit in a hegemonic construct designed primarily to keep you from questioning what is really going on in the world,’ he told them, ‘You must learn to think critically and reject the pernicious cult of celebrity.’ It was at this point that the audience went wild, whooping, cheering and chanting his name. ‘We love you Chomsky!’ they screamed as the 81 year-old professor sat at the table with his head in his hands.

The appointment of Chomsky has proved so successful that Simon Cowell is now believed to asking many more public intellectuals to become X Factor judges including Amartya Sen, Umberto Eco and Sinitta.

As the show continues each judge will get to manage their own favourite acts. ‘There is a lot of talent out there,’ said Chomsky, ‘but I have my eye on an anarcho-syndicalist Peruvian flute band who are really going places.’

However, some rivalry has already emerged between Professor Chomsky and fellow judge Louis Walsh. ‘I have the utmost respect for Chomsky,’ said Walsh, ‘but his greatest work was done more than forty years ago. In that respect he’s not much better than Geri Halliwell.’


  1. Nathan said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 10:42 am

    They got me. At least I looked up NewsBiscuit before commenting.

  2. Daniel Barkalow said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 11:23 am

    This article entirely overlooked the early part of Chomsky's appearance, where he critiqued an act's use of non-constituents and linear order before he realized the show wasn't "The X' Factor" as he'd initially assumed. I guess the reporter thought he was talking about dictatorships or something.

  3. Sili said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 11:24 am

    Whatever it takes too keep him out of linguistics.

  4. Joe said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 12:46 pm

    This opens up a whole new career for Chomsky. I'd like to see him do ESPN and perhaps get Seahawks guard Moffitt back in the game.

  5. Ray Dillinger said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 1:18 pm

    I realize that his classification of production grammars did not turn out to be a felicitous model of the human cognitive processes underlying language.

    But in terms of getting computers to do parsing of human languages reasonably correctly and efficiently, it was a breakthrough. It was and is also a crucial foundation of the theory and implementation of formal languages.

    And I can never cite Chomsky to anyone who doesn't already know how fundamental that work was, without finding myself embroiled in a discussion about the politics he has become so exclusively identified with since.

  6. James Wimberley said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 3:16 pm

    Sinitta as a public intellectual? Without the cupertino.
    Sorry …

  7. Jim said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 3:27 pm

    "In his first outing as judge, "

    He's been outed as a judge now? I always suspected……

    But how well suited is something with his theoretical orientation to appear on a show that insists that "The truth is out there."?

  8. David Morris said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 3:31 pm

    And after the show they adjourned to the X-bar.

  9. Neal Goldfarb said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 3:34 pm

    Next he's going on the road with Ali G.

  10. ThomasH said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 4:10 pm

    Surely Chomsky is having them on! This is pure Onion bait.

    [(myl) Certainly someone is having someone on.]

  11. Kapitano said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 5:18 pm

    File under: Satire I wish were true.

  12. Mudge said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 5:19 pm

    This is certainly a "man bites dog" story: Chomsky getting any attention at all in the msm.

    A little too obviously a joke, in other words.

  13. Jonathan said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 6:03 pm

    Last time I taught intro, I discovered that several students had never heard of Chomsky. I wonder if I'm of the last generation where that would have been inconceivable.

  14. Matt Juge said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 6:09 pm

    Also from NewsBiscuit, this time on grammar Nazis:http://www.newsbiscuit.com/2014/08/18/grammar-nazis-apprehended-in-fourth-reich-plot/

  15. Dan Lufkin said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 9:12 pm

    My entire formal education in linguistics was when I took Syntactic Structures in the spring of 1957, the second semester NC taught at MIT. He was one of the best teachers I ever had. I still have the textbook with my notes. He had a great lecture on Zipf's Law and he could do a perfect Philly accent..

  16. Jason said,

    August 26, 2014 @ 11:12 pm

    Why do I have the feeling that I've heard this joke before? Oh yeah:


    LEXINGTON, MA—Describing himself as "terribly exhausted," famed linguist and political dissident Noam Chomsky said Monday that he was taking a break from combating the hegemony of the American imperialist machine to try and take it easy for once.

    "I just want to lie in a hammock and have a nice relaxing morning," said the outspoken anarcho-syndicalist academic, who first came to public attention with his breakthrough 1957 book Syntactic Structures. "The systems of control designed to manufacture consent among a largely ignorant public will still be there for me to worry about tomorrow. Today, I'm just going to kick back and enjoy some much-needed Noam Time."

    "No fighting against institutional racism, no exposing the legacies of colonialist ideologies still persistent today, no standing up to the widespread dissemination of misinformation and state-sanctioned propaganda," Chomsky added. "Just a nice, cool breeze through an open window on a warm spring day."

    "Chomsky actually loosens up", or, alternately, "Chomsky pathologically unable to loosen up", seems to be a rich vein of humor to mine.

  17. George Walkden said,

    August 27, 2014 @ 10:31 am

    NewsBiscuit seem to have been reposting this one for years now. I first saw it in 2013, but it's been around since at least 2010. See http://twentytwowords.com/noam-chomsky-has-joined-the-panel-of-judges-on-the-x-factor/ and http://mindhacks.com/2010/09/07/chomskys-universal-glamour/. (The link to the original article is "mysteriously" broken.)

  18. Rita Veloso said,

    August 28, 2014 @ 10:24 am


    Did someone sing «It's the end of the phrase, as you know it – It's the minimalist program»?

  19. Costas Gabrielatos said,

    August 30, 2014 @ 8:36 am

    Chomsky wouldn't be a good X Factor judge; he can't assess competence through performance.

  20. Rodger C said,

    August 31, 2014 @ 11:16 am

    Costas wins the Internet!

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