The child-language specialist Elizabeth Bates complains of the ‘scorched earth’ policy deployed by Chomsky and his allies to keep the opposition at bay.
While the overthrow of behaviourism was widely celebrated, the ‘revolution’ intended by Chomsky’s corporate sponsors had nothing to do with the establishment of a science of human meaning. As these forces championed Chomsky in steering the ‘cognitive revolution’ along channels narrowly defined by their specific commercial and political goals, the intellectuals who had supported generativism ‘from the left’ felt betrayed. Had they been able to unite, they might have comprised a formidable intellectual and political force. In the event, however, Chomsky’s politics served him and his sponsors well. Left-wing resistance to Chomsky’s science was always tempered by respect for his moral and political integrity. How do you attack an ‘enemy’ who is on your own side? The ambivalence ended up simply paralysing the opposition, whose splits and disagreements left Chomsky with a free hand – which he used quite mercilessly. It is fair to say that most of those linguists and other creative thinkers whose contributions were excluded by Chomsky had political sympathies not vastly different from his own. Together, they could have mounted an impressive intellectual defence of the unity and autonomy of science. In the event, it was Chomsky’s defection that sealed their fate. Alienated from the academic mainstream, this talented individual was in effect selected by corporate America to do an extraordinary double-act, playing the role of chief enforcer for the new corporate science at home, while using this very status to gain a hearing as the most eloquent academic critic of US policies elsewhere across the globe.