Naive as I am about all things technological, I was oblivious of the ubiquity of this phenomenon of audio and video recorded lecturing, so the rash of interesting comments triggered by the idea of my recording my Marx lectures caught me by surprise. I think I had encountered the acronym MOOC, but had certainly not remembered it.
Chris, I accept happily Noam's revision of the old Quaker injunction to "speak truth to power." [I refer to him thus because I actually knew Chomsky back in the day and counted him a friend. Indeed, as the saying goes, I knew him before he was Noam Chomsky.] I have been trying to speak truth about power most of my life. Indeed, what else is In Defense of Anarchism? But it is also a useful exercise to speak truth to power, even if you think that power already knows that truth. The seductiveness of wealth and entrenched power, especially when it masks its real nature and goes unchallenged, should never be underestimated.
Let me illustrate with one little personal story from my early days. During the time that I was a student at Harvard and then an Instructor, McGeorge Bundy was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which was then [and perhaps is still] the most powerful academic administrative position at Harvard. Bundy's later performance as National Security Advisor demonstrates, if indeed demonstration is needed, that he had an extremely refined and well-tuned sense of raw power. As I have several times related, I replaced for a year my Philosophy Department mentor, Morton White, on a committee planning a new undergraduate interdisciplinary major to be called Social Studies. During that year, Bundy pushed approval of the new major through the Harvard faculty. Like all majors at Harvard, Social Studies would need a Head Tutor, which meant some junior flunky to do the administrative scut work that senior members of the faculty shun. Instead of calling me into his office and asking me whether I might want the position [which I certainly did], Bundy showed up at the Winthrop House Senior Common Room one day for lunch, and when I walked in late from a class, he looked up and said, "Ah, here is the new Head Tutor of Social Studies," the very first I had heard of it. This was, on his part, a typical display of power, albeit about something very trivial. The idea was at one and the same time to fluster me with my pleasure at the announcement, to present himself as a casual and genial man, and to show by this act that he and he alone controlled the plum, which he could bestow on anyone he chose. I regret to say that I did not have the self-awareness, at twenty-six, to understand what was happening, nor the moxie to give him the finger, verbally. [I did several years later, but that is another story.]
Tony, your cautionary remarks about sounds one might not want the microphone to pick up is giving me pause. Perhaps I should get hold of a device like the one you are talking about and try it out before I commit myself to what may turn out to be a never-ending embarrassment.