Culture Snob: Noam Chomsky v. Alan Dershowitz

1217966951It’s time again for Dan Morrell’s Culture Snob, wherein our correspondent sizes up public figures based on their cultural preferences. This week we break down the battle of Cambridge between Noam Chomsky and Alan Dershowitz.

The Yanks/Sox rivalry is great and all, but for the Cambridge intelligentsia, nothing beats the Israel map-shaking fury and witty historical rejoinders of MIT’s Noam Chomsky v. Harvard Law School’s Alan Dershowitz. Here’s something to add to the conversation the next time your grad school friends start prattling on about this nonsense when you are trying to watch “Flavor of Love 2” reruns.


Dershowitz: Suit and tie

Chomsky: Sweater/Blazer with shirt-no-tie

WINNER: Chomsky

You know, it seems odd that a counterculture hero and critic of capitalism seemingly stocks his wardrobe at J. Crew. The other—much more likely—possibility is that these are vintage threads, and Chomsky is simply the beneficiary of a fashion cycle. But either way, it beats a sweater-vest & calculator wristwatch combo any day.


Dershowitz: Verdi’s Don Carlo (especially the famous male-male duet), Summertime (from Porgy and Bess)

Chomsky: Aksel Schiøtz singing Schubert Lieder; Pablo Casals playing Bach solo cello suites

WINNER: Dershowitz

Fine choices by Chomsky, but he implies that his record player is old and busted, meaning there’s a good chance the man hasn’t listened to music in five decades. Which probably explains why he let Zach de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine play starstruck high school newspaper reporter with him.

BONUS POINTS: Dershowitz is literally writing his own opera.


Dershowitz: Boys from Brazil (also enjoyed Spiderman and Batman movies)
Chomsky: Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights

WINNER: Chomsky

I’ll admit I’ve never seen Boys from Brazil, but even the presence of Sir Laurence Olivier and Gregory Peck can’t make we want to see any film whose Amazon description begins: “Alive and hiding in South America the fiendish Nazi Dr. Josef Mengele gathers a group of former colleagues for a horrifying project – he wants to clone Hitler.” Replace “South America” with “South Jersey,” “Nazi” with “Transformer”, and “Hitler” with “Don Rickles” and we’re on.

OVERALL: Chomsky

One way to keep yourself at least a safe distance away from the unwashed masses is not having your home phone number easily available. This makes Dershowitz either seem totally accessible or a man desperate for human contact. But Chomsky wins because every former dorm room liberal who has had Project Runway and soccer practice pickups transform their formerly fierce, all-consuming indignation about the plight of the oppressed into the soft hum of white noise needs a steady, reassuring figure that never gave up the ghost.

I’ll bet he’d even grant you an audience if you showed up outside his office window with a boombox blaring Bach suites, Lloyd Dobler-style.