Chomsky’s article is a clear attack on the present intellectual culture, during the time of the Vietnam war, in the U.S., which he argues is in the most part acquiescent to power. Chomsky got his big idea for his work from reading article by Dwight Macdonald he wrote after the Second World War.
Being a highly intellectual minor part of the world, Western society, and having access to the information, literature and having freedom of speech, as opposed to countries with dictatorship, blind following and the countries where the information is twisted in order to manipulate and control people, they manage to make terrible decisions and what is worse scientifically justify them in front of society.
What scares that their motives were all wrong and it bothered no one. They had an idea, they rationalize it to the extent where it does not bother their conscience and they proceed with whatever actions they believe to be appropriate. However when put in reversed situation these people are puzzled, the head of the death camp was scared and asking “What have I done?” when he learned that Russian people wanted to kill him.
The intellectuals are responsible for what they are saying and doing and the consequences it has. They have freedom of expression and thought, access to nearly every source of information to educate oneself, they have an amazing ability to learn the ultimate truth as opposed to many cultures. And it is their duty to communicate it to other people, as they have the right to obtain it, why shouldn’t they provide it to the other people. It is not right to distort the truth and twist it to their own favor. Great scientists and professors and simply incredibly smart people helped to justify the horrible things committed by their governments. There were no just war in this century or in the one before this one, and their actions could not have been justified by any means.
The article brought Chomsky to public attention as the leading American intellectual in the movement against the Vietnam war.