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Monday, March 10, 2003

Is Noam Chomsky a Good Guide to US Foreign Policy or a Demented Ideologue?

For some reason, Noam Chomsky --- an innovative and important scholar in linguistics, whose work has ramified onto wider subjects like psychology and philosophy --- also sees himself as qualified to comment at length in manic, full-blown manner, full of ex-cathedra pronouncements, on US politics and foreign policy, regarding which his views are ho-hum garden-variety pc-hokum, only delivered with even more than ordinary hoked-up ideological fervor. Naturally, then, he is a hero in the bien pensant radical circles that prevail in universities these days when it comes to US policies, especially abroad . . . above all in ethnic and women's studies, sociology, cultural studies, and literary theory (itself so politicized for three decades that it might as well be dubbed "jargon-laden Derrida and Foucault as applied to American politics and capitalism"). Come to that, he's no less a favorite in such lame-brained programs as Global Peace and Security at UCSB, whose intellectual content, to the extent it can be called that, amounts to making the students enrolled in it feel morally self-righteous and superior . . . an attitude that spills outward into instant indignation like an octopus squirting ink immediately it encounters any contrary analysis and evidence. When they enroll in political science 121, International Relations Theory taught by the buggy prof, their cocksure mental work is suddenly jarred intellectually for the first time, and maybe the last time too.

Here, in a commentary sent to the listserver, gordon-newspost, last spring, Chomsky's work on US foreign policy --- which carries no more authority about the subject than, say, a Hollywood actor's does who goes on a whirlwind jaunt to Baghdad and fawns at the feet of a butcher like Saddam Hussein --- is dissected, mainly as a lead-in to a far more thorough analysis of his wild-eyed, fanatical distortions and lies that was done by David Horowitz and a group of his employees that did what no IR specialist would ever waste time on doing: examining in depth his propaganda tracts.
Part One

Chomsky, a simple ideologue who will twist any facts he can into his ideologically motivated views, plays on the fact that he has done brilliant, pathbreaking work in the study of language --- linguistics and spillovers onto the philosophy of the mind in philosophical circles. His work there has been the most important of the last half century. When he steps outside his specialty, he becomes a self-righteous crank.

Enter David Horowitz, hated now by all right-thinking types on the rad-Left, including now for his attacks on the slavery-reparations hubbub, was once the editor of the most influential journal produced by the Radical Left in the Vietnam war days . . . "Ramparts", which he edited with Larry Collier, who has also recoiled from the nihilism that he and Horowitz detected in those hate-filled, half-crazed circles that played on larger public disquiet about the Vietnam war. By the late 1980s Horowitz had moved to the conservative right, and began a long attack --- the most influential to date, along with plenty of people in moderate liberal and moderate conservative circles --- against what Richard Rorty, the great philosopher (the only original thinker to have associated his work for a while with this ilk) calls the New Academic Left . . . "the school of resentment [Gordon: add " and grudges"} . . . politically useless, semi-literate, and tediously self-righteous." Contemplating his unwanted influence, Rorty recently added that he was "appalled" that he had influenced them in any way whatever. Horowitz has been even harder hitting, publishing a series of exposes in the early 1990s about the attacks on our civil liberties and freedom of scholarly and teaching expression in the universities that New Left types were carrying out with their speech-codes, their Taliban-like kangaroo courts, their efforts to stigmatize and stir up students against moderates and others.

Ronald Radash, the outstanding historian who has recently documented the dominant role of Stalinism and the Communist Party in the Spanish Republic --- something George Orwell noticed when he was a volunteer member of an International Brigade there in 1936-37 (HOMAGE TO CATALONIA, also denounced by the right-thinking Lefties at the time) --- is another former associate of the New Left who has recoiled from its nihilism and self-righteousness. He was one of the first to use new documents to show that the Rosenbergs were guilty of treason in supplying the Soviet Union with nuclear secrets. Lots of these people on the radical -Left, while working out their grudges and resentments pushed with utterly tedious self-righteousness, fanned it seems by hate and paranoid fantasies, play on the idealism of lots of decent people who are unhappy with the status quo and are looking for simple answers. Radash, Horowitz, Collier, Rorty, Camille Paglia too --- a pioneer scholar of sexuality in western civilization, and once big medicine on the left too (only for her to recoil from the rad-left's nihilism and grudges as well: she's at Salon.com as well) --- and lots of others have recognized what sanctimonious hooey comes out of those circles. No doubt you now have to add Christopher Hitchens, who attacked the shocking "America-Is-Guilty" crowd at the Nation after Sept 11th (provoking Chomsky's ire), and Andrew Sullivan --- the former gay editor of the New Republic, who has moved to the center as well, drawing further charges of "traitor!" from those groups.

Three or four weeks ago, an emotionally distraught reporter for the Nation published an article in which he said that the events of Sept 11 had "traumatized" the Left and left it "paralyzed". Most of us thought it had been in a condition of brain-paralysis long before that.

Horowtiz at least has done the necessary spade-work to uncover the lies and distortions and exaggerations in one of Chomsky's main books. Frankly, I wouldn't even bother sending this to you had Chris (and a couple of undergrads at different times too) not asked. Were he not a famous linguist, he'd be considered a splenetic crank . . . a kind of political Bobby Fischer, the great chess player who beat Boris Spasky, the formidable Russian world champion, in a marathon chess match in Iceland back in the 1980s, the most famous on record. Fisher then disappeared. Years later, mentally slipping badly, he emerged living in a flea-bag hotel on the edges of downtown Los Angeles, writing long sputtering stuff about the Jewish World-Conspiracy. Hard to distinguish the writings of the latter from Chomsky's, when Chomsky gets on the subject of the United States.

Part Two

Salon is a good online magazine . . . too much stuff in my view about celebrities and pop media works, but stimulating and intelligent commentary all the same. Almost everything is free there, and the subscription rate is only for a few select pieces (Salon, like others, is now charging for these in order to generate more revenue. The Economist has long done that.)

Refuting Chomsky His defenders say I didn't come up with proof that Noam Chomsky distorts the truth. Here it is in three parts.

- - - - - - - - - - - - By David Horowitz

Oct. 8, 2001 | One of the typical illusions of the Noam Chomsky cult is the belief that its imam and sensei is an analytic giant whose dicta flow from a painstaking and scientific inquiry into the facts. "The only reason Noam Chomsky is an international political force unto himself," writes a typically fervid acolyte, "is that he actually spends considerable time researching, analyzing, corroborating, deconstructing, and impassionately [sic] explaining world affairs." This conviction is almost as delusional as Chomsky's view of the world itself. It would be more accurate to say of the Chomsky oeuvre -- lifting a famous line from the late Mary McCarthy -- that everything he has written is a lie, including the "ands" and "thes."

Chomskyites who read "The Sick Mind of Noam Chomsky (Part I)" have complained to me that my refutation of Chomsky was not achieved "by reasoned argument or detailing the errors of fact or logic in his writings and statements, but by character assassination and the trivializing of Chomsky's strongly held beliefs through accusations that they were unpatriotic."

I confess to being a little puzzled by this objection. Having described Chomsky's equation of post-World War II America with Nazi Germany, it did not actually occur to me that additional refutation was required. Not, at any rate, among the sound of mind. It is true, on the other hand, that the adulators of Chomsky share a group psychosis with millions of others who formerly worshipped pre-Chomskyites, like Lenin, Stalin, and other Marxist worthies, as geniuses of the progressive faith.

Now to the facts . . .