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The Intellectuals' Michael Moore By: Peter Collier
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, August 02, 2004


The following is the introduction from the new book The Anti-Chomsky Reader, edited by Peter Collier and David Horowitz. The book exposes the most effective and widely read "intellectual" in modern academia, leftist hatemonger Noam Chomsky. National Review has called the book "a masterpiece of Chomsky debunking." The Reader is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for only $10, which is 40 percent off the cover price. Or you can purchase The Anti-Chomsky Reader along with Left Illusions for only $24, a savings of more than 50 percent.

Introduction
by Peter Collier

The dust jacket of Hegemony or Survival, Noam Chomsky’s attack on U.S. foreign policy and the elites that control it, calls the author "the world’s foremost intellectual activist." Normally such a statement could be dismissed as the usual publisher’s hyperbole, but this claim about Chomsky exists in an echo chamber of similar sentiments. According to the Chicago Tribune, Chomky is "the most cited living author" and ranks just below Plato and Sigmund Freud among the most cited authors of all time. While acknowledging that he is reviled in some quarters for his ferocious anti-Americanism and cavalier relationship with the factual record, a recent New Yorker profile calls Chomsky "one of the greatest minds of the 20th century."

Even this rapturous praise does not quite capture the extent of the Chomsky phenomenon. At this point in his career, Chomsky is more a cult figure—"the L. Ron Hubbard of the New Left," one writer called him—than a writer or even a theorist. (Most of his "books" are pamphlets in disguise, collections of speeches, or interviews strung together, as in the case of the best selling 9-11, which was assembled by email with the assistance of his acolytes.) Rock groups such as Rage Against the Machine and Pearl Jam promote Chomsky at their concerts the way the Beatles once promoted the Guru Mahraraji, solemnly reading excerpts from his work in between sets and urging their followers to read him too. Manufacturing Consent, a documentary adapted from a Chomsky book of the same title, has achieved the status of an underground classic in university film festivals. And at the climactic moment in the Academy Award-winning Good Will Hunting, the genius-janitor played by Matt Damon, vanquishes the incorrect thinking of a group of sophomoric college students with a fiery speech quoting Chomsky on the illicit nature of American power.

The devotion of Chomsky’s followers is summarized by radio producer David Barsamian, who describes the master’s effulgence in openly religious terms: "He is for many of us our rabbi, our preacher, our rinpoche, our sensei."

But unlike other cult figures, Chomsky’s power is not commanded by the authority of charisma or the electricity of revelation. His speeches are flat and fatwa-like, hermetically sealed against the oxygen of disagreement by syllogism and self reference. His power comes not from his person, but from the fact that he, more than any other public intellectual, gives an authentic voice to the hatred of America that has been an enduring fact of our national scene since the mid-1960s. It is a voice that is also easily distinguished from others with similar commitments. Chomsky is interested in a few "truths" which are always "beyond dispute." His citations often loop back narcissistically to his own works. He argues with such streamroller-like disregard for other explanations that he often seems to be talking to himself: "The so-called War on Terror is pure hypocrisy, virtually without exception. Can anybody understand that? No, they can’t understand it."

The Anti-Chomsky Reader does not seek to deprogram members of the Chomsky cult. But it does offer a response and antidote to the millions of words Noam Chomsky has emitted over the last 35 years, and tries to explain to those who do not yet accept him as their rinpoche what he has stood for during that time. Some of the ideas on his intellectual curriculum vitae that are discussed in the following pages—his defense of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge; his support of holocaust revisionism—may surprise those who know Chomsky only generally as a critic of U.S. foreign policy. Other of his commitments—the assertion that the U.S. as a world power is continuing the program of Nazi Germany and his fierce hatred of Israel—will, unfortunately, be more familiar. But either way, as Chomskyism continues to grow at home and abroad, it is clearly time for a reckoning.

Any work about Chomsky must begin with linguistics, the field he remade so thoroughly by his scholarly work of the late 1950s that he was often compared to Einstein and other paradigm shifters. Those who admire this achievement but not his politics are at pains to explain what they take to be a disjunction between his work in linguistics and his sociopolitical ideas. They see the former as so brilliant and compelling as to be unarguable -- in all a massive scientific achievement – and the latter as so venomous and counter-factual as to be emotionally disturbing. In their contribution to this volume, Paul Postal and Robert Levine, linguists who have known and worked with Chomsky, take the view that the two aspects of his life’s work in fact manifest the same key properties: "a deep disregard of, and contempt for, the truth; a monumental disdain for standards of inquiry; a relentless strain of self-promotion; notable descents into incoherence; and a penchant for verbally abusing those who disagree with him."

Whatever flaws have retroactively appeared, Chomsky’s work in linguistics allowed him to make a transition from the university to the public arena in the mid-1960s and be taken seriously as a critic of the war in Vietnam. In a series of influential articles that appeared in the New York Review of Books and other publications and in American Power and the New Mandarins, he distinguished himself by the cold intellectual ferocity of his attacks on American policy. Although a generation older than most members of the New Left, he shared their eagerness to romanticize the Third World. As Anders Lewis notes in "The Irresponsibility of An Intellectual," Chomsky found in Hanoi a radical version of the Eternal City. He traveled there with other revolutionary tourists to make speeches of solidarity with the communists (whose heroism he believed revealed "the capabilities of the human spirit and human will") and to sing songs and declaim poems.

But Chomsky was unlike other anti-war intellectuals in that he never made a cerebral return to Vietnam to rethink the consequences of the communist takeover there. As Lewis shows, Hanoi has remained for him a place of the radical heart where unblemished goodness continues to engage the absolute evil of American aggression in a freeze-frame death struggle.

He expected Cambodia to yield a similar epiphany. But then came word of the Khmer Rouge’s killing fields. Many of those who had joined him in seeing Pol Pot as a revolutionary hero were shaken. Chomsky held fast, initially trying to minimize the deaths (a "few thousand") and comparing those killed to the collaborators who were executed by resistance movements in Europe at the end of World War II. Steven Morris describes Chomsky’s savage attacks in the Nation in 1977 against the witnesses, some of them fellow leftists, who brought out news of the developing holocaust. In 1980, when it when it was no longer possible to deny that some 2 million of Cambodia’s 7.8 million people had indeed perished at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, Chomsky continued to deny the genocide, proposing that the problem may have been a failure of the rice crop. As late as 1988, when the skulls were piled too high to ignore any longer, Chomsky returned to the subject and insisted that whatever had happened in Cambodia, the U.S. was to blame.

As he was establishing himself as a permanent scourge of American foreign policy, Chomsky occasionally called himself an "anarchist socialist" (which any linguist should have identified as an oxymoron). But aside from genuflections in the direction of Mao’s totalitarian China (which he refers to as a "relatively just" and "livable" society) and Castro’s Cuban gulag (which he regards as more sinned against than sinning) and his equally superficial engagements with Vietnam and Cambodia, he has not been much interested in the theory or practice of other countries, socialist or otherwise. His only subject—David Horowitz is right to call it an "obsession"-- is America and its "grand strategy of world domination." In 1967 Chomsky wrote that America "needed a kind of denazification." The Third Reich has provided him with his central metaphor ever since.

Chomsky has denounced every president from Wilson and FDR to Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as the front men in "four year dictatorships" by a ruling elite. In his view, the U.S., led by a series of lesser Hitlers, picked up where the Nazis left off after they were defeated (primarily by the Soviets) in 1945. Thus, a case could be made for impeaching every president since World War II because "they’ve all been either outright war criminals or involved in serious war crimes." In their efforts to prevent a Communist takeover in Latin America, JFK and LBJ in particular used "the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s execution squads."

As Thomas Nichols shows in "Chomsky and the Cold War," the long conflict with the Soviets and the fact that it was fought out primarily in the Third World allowed Chomsky to elaborate on his analogy with the Nazis and "to spin his master narrative on the evils of American power…." The Soviet dictatorship was not only "morally equivalent" to democratic America, but in Chomsky’s view actually better because it was less powerful. The chief sin of Stalinism in his eyes was not the murder of millions but giving socialism a bad name. Nichols opens a window onto Chomsky’s rage in 1990 when the Wall came down, communism collapsed, and the USSR disintegrated—all events that were previously undreamt of in his philosophy: "The world that emerged was the complete reverse of what Chomsky and his cult followers had hoped for and expected during a quarter century of insistence that the U.S. was morally indistinguishable from the USSR."

Many of the other critics of the war in Vietnam Chomsky had stood with during the 1960s had moved on by the 90s. He remained behind, a bitter ender operating what sometimes seemed an intellectual version of a one man government in exile from his office at MIT and frequently complaining of being ignored and marginalized. In Manufacturing Consent he explained how such a thing could happen: the American media, reflecting the views of the corporate elites that control them, made sure that ideas such as the ones he held remained on the fringe. As Eli Lehrer shows in "A Kept Press and a Manipulated People," Chomsky’s "propaganda model" of the media is a key to his worldview, explaining how the American people are so suffocated by false consciousness that they are willingly accede to the horrors perpetrated in their name. Lehrer writes, "[Chomsky believes] they are either too stupid to understand how the media manipulates every aspect of their lives or complicit pawns who `goosestep’ to every whim of the dictatorial rich."

Chomsky has rigorously argued against personal motive in discussing policy, preferring to see elected officials, for instance, as robotic actors in a Marxoid drama of sinister ruling classes and falsely conscious masses. For the most part, he has kept his own personality out of his work too, cultivating a guru-like persona that communicates as easily by tape recordings as by public appearances. The one exception involves the Jews and Israel. Here there is an unacknowledged and perhaps unassimilated personal content that is hard to ignore.

In "Israel and the Art of Disinformation," Paul Bogdanor discusses the "astonishing displays of polemical rage and vindictiveness" in Chomsky’s long hate affair with Israel, a country he regards as playing the role of Little Satan to the American Great Satan and functioning strategically as an "offshore military and technology base for the United States." The animus toward Israel is so great—Chomsky sees it as a terror state "with points of similarity" to the Third Reich—that it seems to call for a psychological explanation, especially given the fact that his father, an immigrant from the Ukraine, was a Hebrew teacher; his mother wrote children’s stories about the heroism of Jews trying to form a new country in the face of Arab hatred; and Chomsky himself was once a member of a pro-Israel youth group.

Even more bizarre is Chomsky’s involvement with neo-Nazis and holocaust revisionism. This strange and disturbing saga began in 1980 with Chomsky’s support of a French crank named Robert Faurisson, a rancorous anti-Semite who was fired by the University of Lyon for his hate-filled screeds. ("The alleged Hitlerite gas chambers and the alleged genocide of the Jews form one and the same historical lie.") Chomsky defended Faurisson as an "apolitical liberal" whose work was based on "extensive historical research" and said that he saw "no hint of anti-Semitic implications" at all in his work. In his carefully documented "Partners in Hate," Werner Cohn follows Chomsky into this murky world, locating him at the intersection where his loathing of Israel and his "paroxysm of self-hatred" meet Faurisson and the neo-Nazi groups Chomsky allowed to print his books and to promote them alongside the works of Joseph Goebbels.

In the post 9/11 political ferment, Chomsky’s reputation, which had suffered because of his support of Pol Pot and his dalliance with figures like Faurisson, is on the upswing again. His following has grown, particularly in Europe and Asia, where his views have helped inform an inchoate anti-Americanism, and on the university campus, where divesting from Israel (a cause he has led) and attacks against the War on Terror are de rigueur. The New York Times and Washington Post, which had for the most part ignored the dozens of Chomsky books that had appeared clone-like over the past few years, both treated Hegemony and Survival as a significant work, with Pulitzer prize winner Samantha Power writing in the Times that Chomsky’s work was "sobering and instructive."

On 9/12 and for several days afterward, Chomsky discussed the attack on America without particular regret as an understandable response to a longstanding grievance. His audience was far broader than the true believers who had followed him in his idees fixes about East Timor. Those Chomsky rallied were as high as he was on schadenfreude and as committed to the idea that America had it coming for a history of misdeeds stretching back at least to 1812, the last time foreigners attacked the homeland, and actually to 1492, where the nightmare began, according to another Chomsky tract (Year 501: The Conquest Continues).

While bodies were still being pulled out of the rubble of the Twin Towers, Chomsky was charging that the U.S. military response against the terrorists would immediately lead to a "silent genocide" that would cause the wintertime starvation of 3-4 million Afghans. But as David Horowitz and Ronald Radosh show, nothing remotely resembling Chomsky’s scenario actually happened. Relatively few civilian deaths occurred in the U.S. offensive against the Taliban and of those virtually none were the result of starvation. But Chomsky, obeying the first law of the left-- never look back—offered no explanations and certainly no apologies about being so wrong. After going to Pakistan to repeat his calumnies in the weeks after the attack on the Twin Towers, he continued to spread his Big Lie around the world by a slender collection entitled 9/11 that was translated into 23 languages and published in 26 countries. And when asked about his lie Chomsky simply denied that he had ever made it.

Chomsky is more hopeful about the war in Iraq than the general staff of the U.S. forces there. "You don’t undertake violence on the grounds that maybe by some miracle something good will come of it," he says. "Yet sometimes violence does lead to good things. The Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor led to many very good things." This statement bears his indelible stamp. The first part ridicules the effort to remove Saddam’s regime, one of those actually existing fascisms that gets crowded out of Chomsky’s worldview by the imaginary fascism of America. The second part perversely summons the specter of Pearl Harbor to suggest that al Qaeda’s attack may mark the moment when the guns were finally turned around and trained on the real aggressor. Now, as throughout his long career, America’s peril is Noam Chomsky’s hope.

The Anti-Chomsky Reader is available from the FrontPage Magazine Bookstore for only $10, which is 40 percent off the cover price. Or you can purchase The Anti-Chomsky Reader along with Left Illusions for only $24, a savings of more than 50 percent.


Peter Collier co-authored seven books with David Horowitz, including the widely read Destructive Generation: Second Thoughts About the ‘60s. He is also the author of many other books including, biographies on the Fords, Rockefellers, and Kennedys.


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