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May 16, 2005 10:18 PM   Subscribe

Chomskytorrents.org provides a gathering place for torrents with progressive and radical content. As for now, it preserves a special place for the work of American dissident Noam Chomsky.
posted by crunchland (99 comments total)

 
Isn't the word "dissident" a little strong when describing someone who tells the truth?
posted by rougy at 1:25 AM on May 17, 2005


Yeah. Nobody said Chomsky was a dissident. An idiot, moonbat, communist, treasonous liar, class-baiter and seditionist for sure, but a dissident? Ha.

You can't disagree with a perfect system. So I guess, a dissident he is.
posted by crasspastor at 3:25 AM on May 17, 2005


That's a lot of torrents for one person to seed from his basement bunker.
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:55 AM on May 17, 2005


crasspastor, you just won the title of the village idiot. Well done, stupid!
posted by acrobat at 4:06 AM on May 17, 2005


I always wonder why some people have such an intense dislike of Chomsky. After reading 'Manufacturing Consent', I thought it was a pretty dry book, but seemed exceedingly well researched and documented. For all the attacks on Michael Moore, I've yet to see anyone call in to question, with factual backup, his writings.

Most people either don't know who he is, respect his work, or call him a kook. Please, all who hate Chomsky, point me in the direction of someone who has researched his work and found him to be "an idiot, moonbat, communist, treasonous liar, class-baiter and seditionist" etc.
posted by efalk at 4:09 AM on May 17, 2005


*paging craspastor . . . facts needed in aisle 9 . . .

the silence is deafening
posted by tr33hggr at 4:20 AM on May 17, 2005


Sorry, add an "s"
posted by tr33hggr at 4:27 AM on May 17, 2005


Just be glad I say, that it was me of all people to call Chomsky all those horrible names.

Does an overreacting acrobat miss the trapeze? Good thing there's a net.

I was joking.
posted by crasspastor at 4:28 AM on May 17, 2005


I think the problem people have with Chomsky is simple. He looks to criticize his homeland first, and he holds his homeland to a higher standard than other nations.

That is bound to get under peoples skin.
posted by Chuckles at 4:44 AM on May 17, 2005


Perhaps the reasons he holds his homeland to a higher standard is because most of the people who live in this homeloand consider it to be the greastest nation on earth.

Does it not make sense to hold the greatest nation on earth to a higher standard?
posted by jaded at 4:53 AM on May 17, 2005


"Homeland?" You mean, 'United States?'
posted by PHINC at 5:07 AM on May 17, 2005


I'm looking forward to downloading his insightful comments on the Khmer Rouge!
posted by docgonzo at 5:19 AM on May 17, 2005


crasspastor, I missed the joke, it was too similar to "jokes", say, PP would make. And I don't think I overreacted; I just dismissed remark and writer as stupid. If it was a joke, then sorry.
posted by acrobat at 5:25 AM on May 17, 2005


PHINC, I don't understand your question. Is it even a question?

Noam Chomsky bio: born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Clearly in day to day life people who criticize their home are going to get disdain. If I started expounding on how Something Awful is a much better forum than MeFi I would get a lot of unwarranted hatred, no matter how good my arguments were.

It is sad to say really, I hate that aspect of human nature. Give me reasoned and well defended arguments any day.

jaded, being a Canadian myself I find it all too easy to blame America. That said, yes of course a modern industrialized democracy should be held to the highest of standards, weather we are talking about Canada, the USA, or Israel...
posted by Chuckles at 5:26 AM on May 17, 2005


I think he means "Homeland" in the Native American tradition.

Meh, Chomsky tells it like it is based on the historical facts he's learned, which is more than the rest of us.

People who hate Chomsky can't handle the truth. It makes no sense that you should criticize other countries first, and then your own. We should always hold ourselves to a higher standard than our neighbours.
posted by disgruntled at 5:32 AM on May 17, 2005


PHINC: yeah homeland , it worked well and it got well under the skin indeed. Will take time to revert to U.S. , well noted.

As for crunchland link, thanks dude it's interesting..if anything anybody with half a clue can listen to the guy and compare with Coulter, O'Reilly and Limbaugh and maybe notice the same striking difference I noticed.

IF Chomsky is a dissident tracherous agitator it certainly has a magnificent style unreached by the above mentioned opinionists.

Could it be that something he says is also *gasp* correct ?
posted by elpapacito at 5:40 AM on May 17, 2005


Related
posted by gimonca at 6:07 AM on May 17, 2005


Apologies to pastor as well. Hadn't had my coffee yet.
posted by tr33hggr at 6:16 AM on May 17, 2005


good info on chomsky here.

colorless green ideas sleep furiously.
posted by exlotuseater at 6:16 AM on May 17, 2005


If McLuhan was right and the medium really is the message, then I'd like Chomsky a whole lot more if it didn't seem like his main medium was "shrill grad student shouting something into microphone, bullhorn, or message board." That is, I'd like him more if it wasn't for his evangelists.

Regardless of how much truth he tells, regardless of how right he is, and regardless of how much I tend to agree with him, I've long since mentally lumped him in with puppets at antiwar rallies and folks shouting about their optimal blood for oil exchange rate. I'm not sure where this linkage came from, but it's a really hard one to shake.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:39 AM on May 17, 2005


chuckles, can you give me a reference to support your claim that Chomsky
"... looks to criticize his homeland first, and he holds his homeland to a higher standard than other nations" ?
Where in his writings does Chomsky say that?

As far as I've read, an essential part of what he says is that everyone should be held to the same standards.

Chomsky's research is largely about demonstrating exactly how the corporate media uses double standards to produce highly effective propaganda which suits the interests of their owners.

Chomsky is very widely and very nastily criticised in the corporate media, of course, because he's explaining to the public exactly how the media system works.

You wouldn't expect Rupert Murdoch and his employees to *like* that, would you?
posted by cleardawn at 6:52 AM on May 17, 2005


Chomsky makes my head hurt. I suspect he makes everyones head hurt. Some people hate him for it, others love him for it.
posted by jonmc at 6:55 AM on May 17, 2005


Great source for Chomsky. Just saw Manufacturing Consent again - more relevant than ever.
posted by destro at 7:32 AM on May 17, 2005


I never cease to be amazed at the US liberal media's chutzpah -- for years now they've been giving to this man unlimited air time, allowing him to indoctrinate the American public with his anti-American hateful Communistic rhetoric. the cunning, sinister liberal media conglomerates have in the meantime effectively silenced fair-and-balanced voices of reason like the above mentioned obscure O'Reilly and Limbaugh and Hannity.

thank God oppressed Hannity fans of the world can download the occasional samizdat from the Internet -- the tyranny of this Chomsky character over the most important media outlets in America is, well, sickening

heh.
seriously, the fact that America's most prominent voices of dissent are an elderly linguist and a 80-year-old novelist-amateur historian-literary critic speaks volumes on the kind of debate that exists in the country. Vidal's and Chomsky's consolidated prime-time air time in a 365-day cycle is probably equal to the time given to albino chess players
posted by matteo at 7:34 AM on May 17, 2005


I've long since mentally lumped him in with puppets at antiwar rallies and folks shouting about their optimal blood for oil exchange rate. I'm not sure where this linkage came from, but it's a really hard one to shake.

As Sloan once sang, "It's not the band I hate, it's their fans."

Still, robocop, I think the generous way of explaining this is that Chomsky has spent years carefully, accurately, and damningly pointing out the brutal, hypocritical, exploitative nature of American foreign policy. If he's a bit of a poster boy for opposition to American imperialism (and if random unconnected snippets of his arguments get tossed about by many irritatingly shrill activists who haven't actually read much of his work), well, that's the price you pay for being among the nation's most strident and uncompromising critics, I guess.

efalk wrote: I've yet to see anyone call in to question, with factual backup, his writings.

Probably because you can't. Or, rather, you can't and then continue to marginalize him as some deranged radical. You could, say, quibble with the shading of his conclusions, or suggest that his critique of the mass media is a bit too heavy on the quantitative data (there's a lot of talk of "column inches" in Chomsky), but you wouldn't be able to categorically dismiss him on the actual content of his books. So his critics don't.

The fact that his name is so frequently and easily tossed about with that of a sloppy polemicist like Moore (let alone a know-nothing liar like Coulter) is ugly testament to how little room there is in contemporary American political discourse for an unvarnished accounting of the facts.

That guy who says American foreign policy has been an oppressive force in the world at least as far back as the CIA's overthrow of Arbenz in Guatemala in '54? Oh, he's crazy. Just another deluded, tenured, MIT-employed, meticulously-researching, world-renowned-linguist lunatic. Plus also he's just looking for self-glorification, since we all know the quickest path to success and profit in America is to become a prominent left-wing critic. Pay him no mind.
posted by gompa at 7:43 AM on May 17, 2005


Chomsky's merely been telling the truth in America for years.

No wonder he's hated here.
posted by fold_and_mutilate at 7:46 AM on May 17, 2005


Crunchland, thank you. This is a great post... I'm sure as more people use it, the Chomsky content will exhaust itself and there'll be more documentaries (Control Room!)
posted by mert at 7:47 AM on May 17, 2005


I don't hate him, foldy. I just find him difficult to comprehend, cause, frankly he's talking over my head a lot of the time, which isn't the best way to communicate.
posted by jonmc at 7:48 AM on May 17, 2005


The Hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky Or this.

Yeah, he really tells the "truth." Like how he states the Khmer Rouge were the good guys. Or that Bush was planning to manufacture another war before the election because Iraq wasn't going well. Or that the Holocaust is Zionist fiction. Or the lies about the Balkans. Or his lies about Afganistan where he characterized it as "silent genocide" by lying about statistics. I'd annotate this list, but there is voluminous articles exposing these lies on the internet, so if you are interested, just make a simple search.

Yeah, he is the exemplar of an individual who tells the truth in the face of the Amerikkka pig liars who are in control.
posted by dios at 7:54 AM on May 17, 2005


cleardawn, I can't find exactly what I was thinking of, but I offer you this (hand typed!):

Talking about a Salman Rushdie op ed supporting the Afghanistan war in 2001:

What's interesting is the nature of the criticism - it's purely tactical. You thought the tactics weren't going to work, ha ha ha they worked fine, so therefor everything was right. It is the only question you can ask. We didn't ask that question of the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Or take say the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The tactics worked fine, it didn't kill a lot of people, so what was wrong with it? Well, we all know what was wrong with it. It didn't matter that it worked, it's irrelevant, it didn't matter that it didn't kill many people. What mattered is what they were up to. That's what mattered.

It didn't matter if it worked or not, but that kind of question we can not ask about ourselves. If you ask that about ourselves - infact it doesn't even happen - but there's a whole (trails off..,). Just to prevent the heresy, even though it barely exists, there is a very impressive array of devices that have been constructed just in case heresy of being honest ever arises. There are even terms that are used like moral relativism. Moral relativism means we apply the same standards to ourselves that we apply to others.


You could make an argument that the whole Manufacturing Consent concept is about noticing the propaganda in the U.S. first, and then western capitalism in general.
posted by Chuckles at 7:55 AM on May 17, 2005


matteo: ironically, it is the very nature of broadcast media (as Chomsky criticizes it) that precludes his appearance on it. There are a few problems, one of which is that in order to have an honest discussion, one needs time to do it in. Chomsky won't do shows like "Crossfire" because they are bound to five minutes of talking and then a commercial, wash, rinse, repeat. That, over the course of a half an hour, will get nothing accomplished. You can't make a cogent, coherent argument with that constraint. The other applicable criticism is that due to the artificial framing of debate, it is usually presented as two diametrically opposed sides, spewing talking points. (i.e Dem vs. Repub, &c.) When you have a position that requires an in-depth explanation, lest you are dismissed as a whacko, you cannot do it on TV. At least not in less than an hour or two.

That said, I agree with you; I'd like to see more of him. We looked into getting him to come to my school to speak, but he's booked solid for the next three years.

On Preview, mert: Control Room is phenomenal. So is Manufacturing Consent, the docu. about the book and Chomsky's life. So is The Corporation... I could go on. And what gompa said.
posted by exlotuseater at 7:58 AM on May 17, 2005


I'd annotate this list, but there is voluminous articles exposing these lies on the internet, so if you are interested, just make a simple search.

Translations: "I'm lazy/I don't actually have any credible evidence."

If what you're saying is verifiably true and not just more right-wing distortions, then we deserve to be given the facts, yes?
posted by eustacescrubb at 8:01 AM on May 17, 2005


dios. you say that Chomsky says that the Holocaust is Zionist fiction. He never said or implied this. If you knew what you were talking about, you would know this. Get the facts, buddy.

I believe you are speaking about what is commonly referred to as "The Faurisson Affair". See here.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:03 AM on May 17, 2005


I see The Power of Nightmares is on there. Get it.

why do albino chess players hate america?
posted by mr.marx at 8:07 AM on May 17, 2005


That's exactly what I am referring to exlotuseater (and that wiki article is definitely a Chomsky-friendly recital of the event). He definitely leaves the implication on the table that it is possible that the Holocaust is a Zionist fiction. Chomsky is a brilliant master of words, and as such, he is brilliant at obfuscation. The Faurisson Affair shows that. He supports the writings of a guy who makes the point that is a Holocaust fiction, but Chomsky never comes out and says that is factually correct. Of course, one never sees Chomsky say that it is factually wrong either. And in everything else, Chomsky likes to point out how the facts show that something is true or not. But in this case, he is intentionally noncommittal (because he knows the implications of being an actual Holocaust denier).

I will note that you did not refute the rest of the lies referred to.
posted by dios at 8:17 AM on May 17, 2005


efalk: "I always wonder why some people have such an intense dislike of Chomsky. After reading 'Manufacturing Consent', I thought it was a pretty dry book, but seemed exceedingly well researched and documented."

That's why people dislike him; because he's not really well-researched at all. (Except as a linguist. Maybe.) It's astounding to me that someone can come out of the twentieth century and have such a skewed vision of government. This is not so much in the facts as Chomsky quotes them-- he always acts as though he has everything down better than everyone else, which is why it's so annoying-- but in their interpretation. Noam Chomsky has a habit of going from 'this many people died' to 'it was OUR fault' so fast that you don't even notice that he didn't connect the two. Between them, he quotes 'facts,' but 'facts' aren't moral or political thought, both of which Chomsky are short on.
posted by koeselitz at 8:21 AM on May 17, 2005


Chuckles, that quote supports my point, unless I'm misreading it? Perhaps we agreed all along? :-))

"...apply the same standards to ourselves that we apply to others."


That's the goal, right? It certainly seems reasonable to me!

So when America invades a country, killing thousands, that should be treated in the US media in the same way as when Russia invades a country, killing thousands. I think that's the point Prof Chomsky is making here, is it not?

Whereas what actually happens is that when America (or Britain or France, for example) invades a country, this is reported as a "liberation" which is intended to bring "democracy" and "freedom". According to the US media, anyway.

Which, of course, is the same claim that Saddam's media made when he invaded Kuwait, and that Hitler's media made when he invaded Poland, and so on and so forth.

The difference, as Chomsky points out, is that modern Western media (not just US - the British and French are much the same, and Chomsky criticises them in the same way) are very much more convincing, more entertaining, and more persuasive than Hitler's media or Saddam's media or the Soviet media.

Because our media include more variety, with even some minor, tactical, disagreements, it appears that dissent is permitted, and that we live in a "free society". It's quite convincing. Most people are convinced.

However, the disagreements are not permitted to question the motivations of our masters. That's the point. Fundamental criticism - honest criticism, in other words - is simply unthinkable.

The obvious fact, for example, that Bush invaded Iraq in order to appear to be tough on terrorism, a "war leader", and therefore get re-elected in spite of his obvious malice and incompetence, is simply unreportable in US media.

Yet what other real motivation could he possibly have had?

Don't tell me it was for the oil. For the amount of money they've spent on trashing (sorry, "rebuilding") Iraq, the Pentagon could have bought all the oil in Iraq three times over.

But that's a different question ... ;-))
posted by cleardawn at 8:27 AM on May 17, 2005


This is good stuff.

And the best part is since we all hate freedom and commerce we don't have to feel bad about not paying or them!
posted by clubfoote at 8:28 AM on May 17, 2005


koeselitz, but there is an added layer. He goes from "these are most of the facts" to "we don't have the rest of the key facts because governments are evil and hide them" to "we can only assume the government did-it- because-it-was-evil/lying."

He builds into the argument the very thing necessary to make all of this ridiculous claims. By stating that some facts are true and some facts are the manufactured lies of the government, he can selectively build his case with any facts he chooses.
posted by dios at 8:29 AM on May 17, 2005


Dios, I took your advice and did a simple search. Turns out Google proves you to be, at best, quite selective in your sources, or more likely, a flat out liar.

When I put "holocaust chomsky" into google I came up with this quote:


QUESTION: I ask you this question because I know that you have been plagued and hounded around the United States specifically on this issue of the Holocaust. It's been said that Noam Chomsky is somehow agnostic on the issue of whether the Holocaust occurred or not.
CHOMSKY: My "agnosticism" is in print. I described the Holocaust years ago as the most fantastic outburst of insanity in human history, so much so that if we even agree to discuss the matter we demean ourselves. Those statements and numerous others like them are in print, but they're basically irrelevant because you have to understand that this is part of a Stalinist-style technique to silence critics of the holy state and therefore the truth is entirely irrelevant, you just tell as many lies as you can and hope that some of the mud will stick. It's a standard technique used by the Stalinist parties, by the Nazis and by these guys.


The only links that supported your view were all linked back to one accuser, Werner Cohn. Chomsky replied directly to him here.


So please, explain how "Supporting free speach, even unplesant speach" equals "crazy holocaust denier."
posted by Kellydamnit at 8:30 AM on May 17, 2005


I stand corrected.

The incontrivertible evidence presented in a single New Criterion article and a blustery screed by a Berkeley economics prof who quotes at length from the emails of "Chomskyites" has made me realize that there is no merit or insight in the half-dozen of Chomsky's own books I've read.

In particular, the New Criterion article builds an airtight case. It points out (in case the blinding light of truth of it is too much for you and you decide not to read it) that Chomsky's initial take on the Khmer Rouge was inaccurate and overly sympathetic to what was later revealed to be without question a brutal, genocidal regime, owing mainly to Chomsky's enormous skepticism of the initial reports of the American mainstream media and official US government sources (who, it warrants mention, though the New Criterion didn't bother to, had just a couple years earlier been lying repeatedly and at length about the fact that they were bombing Cambodia). It then notes that Chomsky himself has since admitted that his early read was inaccurate. It then concludes: "Chomsky still refused to admit how wrong he had been over Cambodia." No arguing with that conclusion. He admitted he was wrong, you see, but not how wrong he was. You see how little merit everything he's ever said about anything is?

Thanks as always, dios, for your enlightening contributions.
posted by gompa at 8:31 AM on May 17, 2005


he can selectively build his case with any facts he chooses.

Hmmm. Who else does that sound like?
posted by crunchland at 8:32 AM on May 17, 2005


cleardawn: you didn't let the other shoe drop.

Should the attack against Afghanistan be seen and treated as qualitatively different than the Nazi's into Poland? It is, so on what basis? You mock the idea that one is called "liberation." Can you concede that invading a country for the purpose of seizing its land is different than entering a country, removing a leader, then turning the country back over to the people? Chomsky can't concede that. He makes no distinction between conquering a country out of imperialistic desire to expand borders and a liberation where the offending country unilaterally withdraws and returns sovereignty. There is a massive qualitative difference, but Chomsky's rhetoric ignores that.
posted by dios at 8:35 AM on May 17, 2005


Dios, you are either monstrously stupid or just a huge fucking liar.

Yeah, he really tells the "truth." Like how he states the Khmer Rouge were the good guys. Or that Bush was planning to manufacture another war before the election because Iraq wasn't going well. Or that the Holocaust is Zionist fiction.

This bolded part is clearly untrue and has been thoroughly refuted. So which is it, D? Are you stupid or are you a liar? You pick.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:37 AM on May 17, 2005


Okay. I had this whole long thing written, but I see On Preview that it has been addressed. dios: if by "supports" you mean "wrote a blurb on free speech that was added without his knowledge", then sure, whatever. As to the rest of it, I'm not going to engage with you. You know as well as I do that if I did, it would be a pointless discussion. It would be good if you could back up your assertions with facts though.
posted by exlotuseater at 8:40 AM on May 17, 2005


Ok. I can see where this going. And I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a bunch of Chomsky fans who refuse to admit that he plays fast and loose with the facts, and when I do point out areas where Chomsky has done so, I get shouted down and called names.

This bolded part is clearly untrue and has been thoroughly refuted.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:37 AM PST on May 17

It has been disputed. That Chomsky denies supporting the book because he said he never read what he was commenting on isn't very persuasive to people other than Chomsky supporters.

Do you care to comment about the rest of the areas?

Was Afghanistan silent genocide as Chomsky claimed?
posted by dios at 8:49 AM on May 17, 2005


Chomsky can't concede that. . . . Chomsky's rhetoric ignores that.

Lessons In Right-Wing Debunkery, Vol 1: In order to refute your opponent's arguments, make bold, declarative statements about their nature without citing any evidence whatsoever.

I'd annotate this list, but there is voluminous articles exposing these lies on the internet, so if you are interested, just make a simple search.

Lessons In Right-Wing Debunkery, Vol 2: Declare that your bold statements are so painfully obvious that it's beneath you to cite evidence of them.

he is the exemplar of an individual who tells the truth in the face of the Amerikkka pig liars who are in control.

Lessons In Right-Wing Debunkery, Vol 3: Conflate your opponent's arguments with the rhetoric of the most radical of his putative allies. (Use antiquated epithets if at all possible.)

And I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a bunch of Chomsky fans who refuse to admit that he plays fast and loose with the facts

Lessons In Right-Wing Debunkery, Vol 4: Suggest that the entire debate is beneath you. Consider mentioning that no one has addressed the facts of your case, even though you haven't presented any. Also ignore any participants in the debate who call into question the merits of the very few sources you do cite, and instead suggest that all your opponents have engaged in the ad hominem attacks that only a couple of them have.
posted by gompa at 8:54 AM on May 17, 2005


This really is pointless. Chomsky has a cult following which comes with unthinking supporters who will not concede the cult leader is faulty and will argue to death to defend him. (I have seen this many times... its ugly). So I really don't want to waste time arguing these points which have been well addressed on the internet, especially given the shrillness and rudeness of Chomsky followers. As I have better things to do with my time, I will exit this thread. (I expect that by doing so I will be labeled as a troll and called names for exiting, but I don't have the time or patience to try to present the argument against Chomsky as I know the vitriol that will be spewed).

For those of you who are interested in Chomsky, know this: there are many allegations against the man about some of the fabrications and positions he has taken. Read them and decide for yourself. Just don't be snowballed by his amazing mastery of words and his heavily (but selectively) footnoted arguments (Ann Coulter used a lot of footnotes in her book, too). He has an agenda just like the idiots on the right extreme, and that often leads him to sacrifice the intellectual honesty he gets for his work in linguistics.
posted by dios at 8:59 AM on May 17, 2005


So I really don't want to waste time arguing these points which have been well addressed on the internet

You keep saying that, I do not think "well addressed" means what you think it means.

If you could provide a single teensy weensy link that backs your position when a basic google search refutes it, well, people might stop calling you a liar.
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:02 AM on May 17, 2005


If you could provide a single teensy weensy link that backs your position, well, people might stop calling you a liar.
posted by Kellydamnit at 9:02 AM PST on May 17


What's the point?

Some people have pointed out Chomsky lying? Others will try to explain it away and call those accusing him "liars." So for instance, I could say that "Chomsky lied when he said that evidence suggests that what was going on in Afganistan was an act of silent genocide by the United States." Then he lied again later when it didn't happen and said he never made that position. I could link to two things like this and this. Those will be rejected as not being true, and then I will be called a liar for suggesting that Chomsky is one.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat. With Chomsky supporters, they refuse to concede that the man has been less than accurate with his arguments. So, it is a truism, that arguing with them is pointless. You will call me a liar even though there are legitimate questions about what Chomsky has written over the years. So, as I said, I'm done with this, and will leave it to the circle-jerk cult of Chomsky.

Lord knows that the irony would be to powerful if some people couldn't tolerate some dissent regarding Mr. Dissent.
posted by dios at 9:16 AM on May 17, 2005


cleardawn, I guess that the wording in my first post is a little imprecise, you are right to say that the standard is constant. However, there is a clear difference in the way Chomsky applies that standard.

When discussing the Russian invasion of Czechoslovakia all Chomsky says is that it was wrong. When discussing Iraq or Vietnam he devotes a large portion of his life to making a detailed criticism.

I think this could qualify as holding his own country to a higher standard than others...
posted by Chuckles at 9:23 AM on May 17, 2005


Wash. Rinse. Repeat. With Chomsky [opponents], they refuse to concede that the man has been less [more] than accurate with his arguments. So, it is a truism, that arguing with them is pointless. You will call me a liar even though there are legitimate questions about what [dios] has written over the years. So, as I said, I'm done with this, and will leave it to the circle-jerk cult of [hating] Chomsky.

boy, that was easy!
posted by iamck at 9:25 AM on May 17, 2005


Ok. I can see where this going. And I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a bunch of Chomsky fans who refuse to admit that he plays fast and loose with the facts, and when I do point out areas where Chomsky has done so, I get shouted down and called names.

I wouldn't call you a liar if you weren't one. You made a bold assertion that is demonstrably untrue. When asked for evidence to support your position, you claim to have a wealth of data that you don't feel like sharing.

It has been disputed. That Chomsky denies supporting the book because he said he never read what he was commenting on isn't very persuasive to people other than Chomsky supporters.

Hurr. "Faurisson's conclusions are diametrically opposed to views I hold and have frequently expressed in print (for example, in my book Peace in the Middle East?, where I describe the holocaust as "the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history"). But it is elementary that freedom of expression (including academic freedom) is not to be restricted to views of which one approves, and that it is precisely in the case of views that are almost universally despised and condemned that this right must be most vigorously defended. It is easy enough to defend those who need no defense or to join in unanimous (and often justified) condemnation of a violation of civil rights by some official enemy."

Do you care to comment about the rest of the areas?

No, because unlike you, I don't express opinions about subjects I have absolutely no data on. I can't say whether the rest of what you said is true or untrue, so I remain silent until such time as I can parse what information is available.

Was Afghanistan silent genocide as Chomsky claimed?

I don't know. I never said that I knew. You're changing the subject because you can't admit that you're wrong. You must be either the best, or absolutely the most unqualified, incompetent, wretched lawyer the world has ever seen.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 9:29 AM on May 17, 2005


DIOS (magnanimously): I will exit this thread.

TOWNSFOLK (in joyful unison): Vaya con yourself!

Exeunt DIOS.

TOW-HEADED YOUTH: Who was that masked debunker, pa?

PA: I'm not sure, son, but he surely did save us from the ravages of the diabolical Chomsky.

TOW-HEADED YOUTH: Pa, is it really true that Noam Chomsky and Ann Coulter are roughly equal in the merits of their analysis of American foreign policy just because both use the same method for citing their sources?

PA: If that's what the debunker said, it must be so. After all, he's dios, and we're just a bunch of fools who fell for the amazing mastery of words of the Circle-Jerk Cult of Chomsky.

DIOS re-enters.

DIOS: It is a truism, that arguing with them is pointless. . . . So, as I said, I'm done with this, and will leave it to the circle-jerk cult of Chomsky.

Exeunt DIOS.

TOW-HEADED YOUTH: Who was he talking to?

PA: Nobody knows, son. It's just another part of the mystery of dios.

THE END?
posted by gompa at 9:33 AM on May 17, 2005


dios, you are FLAILING.
posted by Scoo at 9:34 AM on May 17, 2005


Dios, turn off the martyr complex just for a second and look at yourself. You posted some half-assed links to refute Chomsky, and then proceed to label any single person who has ever agreed with anything he's said as a member of a cult. You are a raging hypocrite.

Wash. Rinse. Repeat, fuckwit.

As a thinking human being, I don't agree with everything that any intellectual figure has to say. See, ideas are these great things that allow one to take subtle, nuanced positions on certain views. And bringing up Coulter as a comparison? God, you have some fairly intelligent right-wing intellectuals like George Will and Irving Kristol (although his son is a joke), so stop the baiting. It's just bad form, son.
posted by bardic at 9:40 AM on May 17, 2005


(gompa wins.)

Has anyone said [this is good] yet? Because it is. Thanks, crunchland.
posted by blendor at 9:41 AM on May 17, 2005


And gompa wins.
posted by bardic at 9:43 AM on May 17, 2005


"Chomsky lied when he said that evidence suggests that what was going on in Afganistan was an act of silent genocide by the United States." Then he lied again later when it didn't happen and said he never made that position.

I've read speeches and other essays he wrote about the war in afghanistan, as well as the links you provided. In my opinion, they are weak attempts to deconstruct select bits of text from the whole; when I originally read the speech, I did not get the impression, despite that one phrase, that he was saying that it was happening. I understood him to be saying something along the lines of "Given the facts at hand, it would seem that 'silent genocide' is a possible result (and one that is accepted) of our plans to go into afghanistan." Taken out of context and taken quite literally, I can understand how one might read it differently.

What you are saying is "lying", I think is really clarification. I concede that the 'silent genocide' that may or may not have happened in afghanistan is up for debate; what is not is what Chomsky said which was basically that the U.N. and a plethora of humanitarian aid groups made the assumption that it was almost certain to happen.

That does not make Chomsky a liar.

Oh. On Preview again, it looks like he left. Oh well.

as an aside, this is the sort of thing he was saying. For those that want to read and decide for themselves.
posted by exlotuseater at 9:45 AM on May 17, 2005


I just want to point out that personally, I'm violently opposed to fascism, racism, and anti-semitism, as indeed are most educated people.

Personally, I don't think that Nazis should have any right to speak, or to publish, or to do anything that might help them to persuade the naiive to follow their sick philosophy. The question is, how can you legislate to deny freedom of speech to Nazis while giving it to everyone else? It can't be done, and that's what Chomsky said.

Chomsky certainly has never claimed that the Holocaust is a "Zionist fiction", and it's laughable to suggest that he would say that. He's spent his life FIGHTING fascism, not supporting it!

If anyone does think "the holocaust is a Zionist fiction", here is a disturbing site which discusses the reality of the worst crime in human history from another perspective.

What Chomsky's interested in is PREVENTING genocides and other human rights abuses, through the kind of accurate criticism of power that might have stopped Hitler, had it existed in Germany at that time.


However, one of the problems with permitting accurate criticism of power is that it requires an absolute right to free speech, for everyone.

And that means that all kinds of evil scum, including Nazis who deny the Holocaust happened, have some kind of theoretical argument for being allowed to speak and publish and all the rest of it. It's only in that sense that they can use Chomsky's arguments in their favour. That does not make Chomsky a Nazi, much as the right-wing media would like it to!

Dios, I'd be interested to hear about some of these "fabrications" that you say Chomsky has made. Is it possible that right-wing web sites, with biased information, have misled you? Have you actually read any of Chomsky's work? I suspect you're a well-meaning person who would probably agree with much of Chomsky's work if you read it, rather than just reading biased reports about him from rightwing commentators.

And yes, I agree that there are differences between Poland in 1939 and Afghanistan in 2002. However, when one looks into the details, it turns out that the differences, uncomfortably enough, are less than one might have hoped.

The US forces, for example, have not yet "withdrawn" and "given the country back to the people", nor is there much chance of that happening until the US either suffers a catastrophic military defeat or has a major change of government policy.

As far as I know, there are no gas ovens in Afghanistan, and let's all feel grateful for that. But there have been atrocities, including at least one mass murder of prisoners, committed there with the support of the US. Do you agree that it's unfortunate that such crimes are not more widely discussed on the mainstream media?
posted by cleardawn at 10:10 AM on May 17, 2005


cleardawn:

also released as Convoy of Death

Doran is really good, check out John Pilger as well, if you haven't.
posted by exlotuseater at 10:27 AM on May 17, 2005


And I'm not going to waste my time arguing with a bunch of Chomsky fans who refuse to admit that he plays fast and loose with the facts, and when I do point out areas where Chomsky has done so, I get shouted down and called names.

Translation: "People who want me to do basic research and back up my claims with credible evidence are making it more difficult to troll this Chomsky thread than I had originally anticipated. I'm leaving."

Well, you know, don't let the door hit you.
posted by eustacescrubb at 10:47 AM on May 17, 2005


Here's my attempt at a critical review of Chomsky's writings.

My main problem with Chomsky is his misrepresentation of evidence. As a reader, I usually assume that if a writer provides a selective quote from someone else, it should provide a reasonably accurate summary of what the other person said. Chomsky doesn't appear to adhere to this rule.

I suspect that this is because Chomsky regards moral responsibility (e.g. the need to stop the Vietnam War) as more important than strict adherence to the truth. In any event, it's necessary to check his references very carefully, or better yet, to check his representation of events against a standard source (Encyclopaedia Britannica, for example); and I don't think that most Chomsky fans do this.

People were complaining about Chomsky's misuse of quotations before I was even born. Back in 1969, Stanley Hoffman (a friendly interlocutor and a fellow opponent of the Vietnam War) described it as a tendency "to draw from an author's statements inferences that correspond neither to the author's intentions nor to the statements' meaning."

Something I wrote in the Wikipedia discussion page for Chomsky:

The problem is that politics exerts a very strong "reality distortion field". There's a conflict between political responsibility and truth: if the truth is complicated, and if by simplifying it you can convince more people, bring the war to an end faster, and save people's lives, should you not do so? (See Chomsky's exchange with Chad Walsh, in which Chomsky argued that it was necessary not only to convince people that the war was unwise, but that it was wrong.)

But once you start down this path, you get a widening gap between your view of the world and reality. To weaken the argument for war against some official enemy, you tear apart the official propaganda which attempts to blacken the image of that enemy; but in the process, you may end up believing in the enemy's propaganda instead. Instead of a simplistic good-guys-vs.-bad-guys view (the "Star Wars script") with the US in the role of the good guys, you get the same simplistic good-guys-vs.-bad-guys view with the enemy in the role of the good guys. Chomsky appears to have fallen for Bosnian Serb propaganda in just this way. This is how you end up with the double standard for the US and for its enemies.

Because Chomsky is so brilliant, he's been able to construct a succession of plausible arguments and rationalizations to accommodate or explain away contradictory evidence, rather than having to admit that his view of the world is wrong. The "propaganda model" of the mass media and the "threat of a good example" explanation of US foreign policy are two examples. His increasing marginalization since the end of the Vietnam War, so that he's mostly interacting with adoring fans and getting criticism from infuriated enemies, rather than receiving serious analysis, probably hasn't helped. Nobody seems to have done a critical Ph.D. thesis on Chomsky's political views. The only book-length treatment, The Anti-Chomsky Reader, is easily dismissed as coming from the apostate David Horowitz.

In short, I think Chomsky's mistake was to depart from absolute adherence to the truth, the most important value of the intellectual sphere, in the name of moral and political responsibility, the most important value of the political sphere. There's a basic conflict between truth and politics, and once you leave the truth behind, it's very hard to go back. Before making moral and political evaluations, I think it's critical to get the facts straight first.
posted by russilwvong at 11:10 AM on May 17, 2005


Oops, I forgot to include a specific example.

There's a February 26, 1970 letter to the New York Review of Books by Samuel Huntington, with a response by Chomsky, which gives an example. ("After Pinkville" is reprinted in The Chomsky Reader.)
In response to "After Pinkville" (January 1, 1970)

To the Editors:

In the space of three brief paragraphs in your January 1 issue, Noam Chomsky manages to mutilate the truth in a variety of ways with respect to my views and activities on Vietnam.

Mr. Chomsky writes as follows:
Writing in Foreign Affairs, he [Huntington] explains that the Viet Cong is "a powerful force which cannot be dislodged from its constituency so long as the constituency continues to exist." The conclusion is obvious, and he does not shrink from it. We can ensure that the constituency ceases to exist by "direct application of mechanical and conventional power...on such a massive scale as to produce a massive migration from countryside to city...."
It would be difficult to conceive of a more blatantly dishonest instance of picking words out of context so as to give them a meaning directly opposite to that which the author stated. For the benefit of your readers, here is the "obvious conclusion" which I drew from my statement about the Viet Cong:
...the Viet Cong will remain a powerful force which cannot be dislodged from its constituency so long as the constituency continues to exist. Peace in the immediate future must hence be based on accommodation.
By omitting my next sentence--"Peace in the immediate future must hence be based on accommodation"--and linking my statement about the Viet Cong to two other phrases which appear earlier in the article, Mr. Chomsky completely reversed my argument.
Chomsky's response includes the following remarkable sophistry:
... I did not say that he "favored" this answer but only that he "outlined" it, "explained" it, and "does not shrink from it," all of which is literally true.
A couple more examples. Chomsky: "It's you, not me, who says that B-G 'uttered those words.'"
posted by russilwvong at 11:17 AM on May 17, 2005


dios writes "Chomsky has a cult following which comes with unthinking supporters who will not concede the cult leader is faulty and will argue to death to defend him. (I have seen this many times... it[']s ugly)."

Many times? How often do you go to those George W. Bush rallies, anyway? It's all about the WMDs, dios! Except when it's all about giving Iraq democracy.

What's ugly is you implying Chomsky is a Holocaust denier. I've never been a big fan of Chomsky, so I followed your links -- only to find they were about Chomsky not realizing someone else was a Holocaust denier. You wasted my time in your zeal to smear Chomsky, dios.

Stop wasting my time, dios.
posted by orthogonality at 11:27 AM on May 17, 2005


Because I share much of Chomsky's worldview, it is with some reluctance that I have to say that I am largely in agreement with russilwvong on this; you always need to trace down Chomsky's quotations and place them within their context. He often seems to behave like a political magpie, pouncing on the cite that will forward his argument, rather than coming to terms with the textual totalities with which he is dealing.

And although he says that his politics is not related to his linguistics, I am not convinced. His linguistic analysis is out of kilter because he will not take textuality, contextuality and pragmatics seriously. His dismissal of Bernstein would be a case in point. If you don't know what I'm talking about, and if you're interested in the linguistic issues, you may go here. (Warning; self-link to a page with about 80 pointers to web-available material critical of Chomsky's linguistics).

This said, dios's accusations are, for the most part, simply slanderous. I believe that Chomsky was at fault over the Faurrisson affair, and I also think that he allowed himself to be overeasily persuaded that the Khmer Rouge were being wrongfully accused, but he has never been an apologist for genocide. I don't even know why this has to be said, other than that some political discourse in the United States is so abysmally low as to be virtually beyond salvage.
posted by TimothyMason at 11:50 AM on May 17, 2005


>>"he can selectively build his case with any facts he chooses."

crunchland: "Hmmm. Who else does that sound like?"


This is a very good point. Chomsky isn't any different from any other politician or pundit we know of in this. It seems as though all of us intent on finding political thought around us will have to look further-- or come up with it on our own.
posted by koeselitz at 11:53 AM on May 17, 2005


"This is a very good point. Chomsky isn't any different from any other politician or pundit we know of in this."

I'm not sure his fans and supporters realize this, though, because of Chomsky's academic and carefully footnoted style. (As I said above, in the intellectual/academic sphere, truth is generally regarded as the highest value.) See the various comments earlier in the thread, e.g., "I thought it was a pretty dry book, but seemed exceedingly well researched and documented."
posted by russilwvong at 12:07 PM on May 17, 2005


Rereading the Huntington example, I realize I screwed up the formatting. Let me try that again.
In response to "After Pinkville" (January 1, 1970)

To the Editors:

In the space of three brief paragraphs in your January 1 issue, Noam Chomsky manages to mutilate the truth in a variety of ways with respect to my views and activities on Vietnam.

Mr. Chomsky writes as follows:
Writing in Foreign Affairs, he [Huntington] explains that the Viet Cong is "a powerful force which cannot be dislodged from its constituency so long as the constituency continues to exist." The conclusion is obvious, and he does not shrink from it. We can ensure that the constituency ceases to exist by "direct application of mechanical and conventional power...on such a massive scale as to produce a massive migration from countryside to city...."
It would be difficult to conceive of a more blatantly dishonest instance of picking words out of context so as to give them a meaning directly opposite to that which the author stated. For the benefit of your readers, here is the "obvious conclusion" which I drew from my statement about the Viet Cong:
...the Viet Cong will remain a powerful force which cannot be dislodged from its constituency so long as the constituency continues to exist. Peace in the immediate future must hence be based on accommodation.
By omitting my next sentence--"Peace in the immediate future must hence be based on accommodation"--and linking my statement about the Viet Cong to two other phrases which appear earlier in the article, Mr. Chomsky completely reversed my argument.
Chomsky's response includes the following remarkable sophistry:
... I did not say that he "favored" this answer but only that he "outlined" it, "explained" it, and "does not shrink from it," all of which is literally true.
posted by russilwvong at 12:12 PM on May 17, 2005


russilwvong,

Eh. it looks like you're deciding to take what appear to be badly-written statements as evidence of bad faith, when they just seem to be badly-written statements. Chomsky reminds me of people I know who say precisely what they mean and then don't take responsibility when their phrasing is misleading, even if they didn't intend to be misleading. If Chomsky doesn't use the verb said then he expects the reader not to infer that the subject of the sentence said anything. He should probably have thrown qualifiers in like "Ben Gurion held that, as his advisor, so-and-so put it, "blah blah blah," but his explantions in response to people's misunderstandings don't strike me as sophistry, just the bad writing and refusal to admit they might've phrased something differently that plagues most academics.
posted by eustacescrubb at 12:21 PM on May 17, 2005


"If Chomsky doesn't use the verb _said_ then he expects the reader not to infer that the subject of the sentence said anything."

I would suggest that this use of language is contrary to what a reasonable reader might expect. (Whether it's in bad faith or not is a separate question.)

The Ben-Gurion example: Chomsky writes, "During the 1948 war, [Ben-Gurion] held that 'To the Arabs of the Land of Israel only one function remains -- to run away.'"

A reasonable reader would assume that the sentence in quotation marks is a quote from Ben-Gurion, which it's not. In fact, reading Chomsky's first response, I wonder if he remembered himself that he wasn't quoting Ben-Gurion.
posted by russilwvong at 12:31 PM on May 17, 2005


Hmm; this is all getting in quite deep, isn't it!

Seems to me you should ALWAYS check quotes and "facts", if you can. Otherwise you end up believing everything you get fed. Isn't that the point of what Chomsky's saying?

And when you give quotes and facts, you should be prepared to give a reference - or better, a link!

I want to swap positions with Chuckle, since I just found a quote where Chomsky does, indeed, suggest that it's more important to criticize one's own country (and its allies) than to criticize other countries. So Chuckle, you were right, and I was at least a little bit wrong. Sorry. :-))

Here's the quote:

Suppose, for example, that some German intellectual chose in 1943 to write articles on terrible things done by Britain, or the U.S., or the Jews. What he wrote might be correct, but we would not be very much impressed.

The same comments hold for a Soviet intellectual who devotes himself to a critical analysis of U.S. atrocities in Southeast Asia or Central America (or to the American support for the Argentine generals).

What he says may be correct; its significance, for people being bombed or terrorized or tortured within the domains of American power and influence is negligible, possibly even negative.

These are truisms, constantly denied by intellectual servants of state power who, for obvious reasons, pretend not to understand them and typically criticize those who act in accordance with decent moral principles as having a "double standard" or worse.

I try to concentrate my political activities -- writing included -- in areas where there is some moral significance to these activities, hence primarily in areas where people I can reach may act to change policies that are abhorrent, dangerous and destructive. Of course there are other factors that influence my choices, facts about my personal history, etc., which are of no interest here.

One can have many reasons for engaging in political action. If the reasons are to help suffering people, to avert threats or catastrophes, and so on, then the criteria are fairly clear.

For an American intellectual, these criteria dictate a prime concern for policies undertaken and pursued here, whether in the international or domestic arenas.


Obviously, Chomsky (as usual) has a point, but personally, I disagree with him on this.

I think we have to go beyond nationality if we're talking about morality. It seems to me that anyone, of any nationality, can criticize a mass murder with equal revulsion.

Perhaps Chomsky is simply trying to counter the prevailing notion of "patriotism" which so many people understand as meaning that Germans should not criticize the Holocaust, and Americans should not criticize the defoliation of Viet Nam, and so on. It's certainly an idea that needs debunking.

Are there still Americans who think it's "unpatriotic" to criticize American troops for massacring Iraqi civilians? I bet there are, and they're exactly the people who need to watch those Chomsky videos!
posted by cleardawn at 1:35 PM on May 17, 2005


"Seems to me you should ALWAYS check quotes and 'facts', if you can."

I suppose. But we're all busy (or we have things we'd rather be doing), so we have a limited amount of time to do this kind of checking. Some sources are reliable; others are not. The problem is figuring out which ones are which. (My assessment is that Chomsky is not a reliable source.)

Some guidelines that I put together in section 2.4 of the alt.politics.international FAQ:

If you're following an argument and trying to figure out who's right, particularly when it comes to a question of history, keep in mind that you need an accurate picture of the facts before you can make moral judgments. You may find it helpful to do some "triangulation" to check the reliability of the sources that are being cited. To check what author A says about X -- assuming that X isn't a subject I know much about -- I find a number of techniques to be useful: "What he says may be correct; its significance ... is negligible, possibly even negative."

Right. As I said earlier, Chomsky puts moral and political responsibility first, and that implies that when you condemn crimes, you need to consider the effects of your writings. To some extent this conflicts with the need to adhere to the truth: if you can achieve greater political impact by simplifying and exaggerating the truth, is this not justified?
posted by russilwvong at 1:57 PM on May 17, 2005



Are there still Americans who think it's "unpatriotic" to criticize American troops for massacring Iraqi civilians? I bet there are, and they're exactly the people who need to watch those Chomsky videos!


Yes. I know them. They listen to Rush, vote for Bush, and call anyone who reads the Times 'One of those Libs.'

They're about as likely to read Chomsky as I am to wear a tutu.
posted by verb at 2:05 PM on May 17, 2005


To some extent this conflicts with the need to adhere to the truth: if you can achieve greater political impact by simplifying and exaggerating the truth, is this not justified?

Not if your political aims are to increase dissemination of the truth.
posted by breath at 3:06 PM on May 17, 2005


"Not if your political aims are to increase dissemination of the truth."

I would suggest that Chomsky's primary political aim -- in his outspoken opposition to the Vietnam War, for example -- is to help "people being bombed or terrorized or tortured within the domains of American power and influence," not merely to disseminate the truth.
posted by russilwvong at 3:29 PM on May 17, 2005


Chuckles:
I guess sarcastic use of the concept 'Homeland' would be acceptable in my universe. I just quiver at the thought of it making its way into common use. Sorry to reply HOURS later.
posted by PHINC at 3:36 PM on May 17, 2005


simplifying and exaggerating the truth
Let's boil this down to its essence: George W. Bush regularly simplifies and exaggerates the truth but nobody calls him a hero for it.
posted by darukaru at 4:05 PM on May 17, 2005


Ooooh, a chomskyfrenzy! We haven't had one of these in a while.

Now I remember why.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 2:38 AM on May 18, 2005


What happened last time? (Did a search and found this.)

Chomsky: A Principled Dissenter.
posted by russilwvong at 10:02 AM on May 18, 2005


There's a problem with human consciousness, isn't there, when we talk about "the truth". We can ONLY talk about simplified, exaggerated versions of the truth, since we don't have infinite time to describe all the details. So we pick out the important bits, simplify them, exaggerate the things we want to talk about. That's how our conversations work, always. We hope that our approximations are close enough to the truth to be useful.
One reason so many thinking people admire Chomsky is because he summarises things, often, in an unusually intelligent and precise way.
Sure, he might misattribute the occasional quote, and make other errors, no doubt. But it's precisely his ability to describe, and predict, the important and complex events of the world in a few short words that make him one of the world's most referenced academic researchers.
Professor Noam Chomsky is not infallible. Nobody is. But I would humbly ask you, if you think Chomsky is an "unreliable source" : who is there that is MORE reliable? Can you name anyone? I'd like to read their work!
posted by cleardawn at 4:56 PM on May 18, 2005


"We can ONLY talk about simplified, exaggerated versions of the truth, since we don't have infinite time to describe all the details."

Sorry, I don't think this is accurate in Chomsky's case. It's not limitations of time or space that inhibit him from presenting an accurate picture. The Chomsky quote you posted illustrates that above all, Chomsky is concerned with the effects of his actions, including his writings, on the victims of US power; this is admirable in many ways, but it conflicts to some extent with the need to adhere to the truth.

To quote Stanley Hoffmann again: "I detect in Professor Chomsky's approach, in his uncomplicated attribution of evil objectives to his foes, in his fondness for abstract principles, in his moral impatience, the mirror image of the very features that both he and I dislike in American foreign policy. To me sanity does not consist of replying to a crusade with an anti-crusade. As scholars and as citizens, we must require and provide discriminating and disciplined reasoning on behalf of our values."

"But it's precisely his ability to describe, and predict, the important and complex events of the world in a few short words that make him one of the world's most referenced academic researchers."

I thought it was his foundational work in linguistics, not his political writings, that is widely referenced.

"I would humbly ask you, if you think Chomsky is an 'unreliable source': who is there that is MORE reliable? Can you name anyone? I'd like to read their work!"

Okay, great.

I included some suggested reading in the introduction to Noam Chomsky: A Critical Review.

If you only have time for one book, I'd recommend Hans Morgenthau's Politics Among Nations: The Struggle for Power and Peace. (If it matters, Morgenthau was a friend of Chomsky's; like Chomsky, he was a leading opponent of the Vietnam War. The discussion above regarding truth vs. politics is based on the introduction to Morgenthau's Truth and Power: Essays of a Decade, 1960-1970.)

A sample of Morgenthau's writing on Vietnam, from a 1965 essay in the New York Review of Books (registration required, sorry).

"I have spoken of the prestige of the nation and of the prestige of those who govern it, that is, of the mental image which others have of us. Yet there is another kind of prestige: the image we have of ourselves. That image will suffer grievous blemishes as we get ever more deeply involved in the war in Vietnam. This war is a guerrilla war, and such a war, supported or at least not opposed by the indigenous population, can only be won by the indiscriminate killing of everybody in sight, that is, by genocide. The Germans proved that during the Second World War in occupied Europe, and they were prevented from accomplishing their task only because they were defeated in the field. The logic of the issue we are facing in Vietnam has already driven us onto the same path. We have tortured and killed prisoners; we have embarked upon a scorched-earth policy by destroying villages and forests; we have killed combatants and non-combatants without discrimination because discrimination is impossible. And this is only the beginning. For the logic of guerrilla war leaves us no choice. We must go on torturing, killing, and burning, and the more deeply we get involved in this war, the more there will be of it.

"This brutalization of the Armed Forces would be a serious matter for any nation, as the example of France has shown. It is intolerable for the United States. For this nation, alone among the nations of the world, was created for a particular purpose: to achieve equality in freedom at home, and thereby set an example for the world to emulate. This was the intention of the Founding Fathers, and to this very day the world has taken them at their word. It is exactly for this reason that our prestige has suffered so disastrously among friend and foe alike; for the world did not expect of us what it had come to expect of others. This is indeed, as Keyes Beech put it, 'the dirtiest war Americans ever had to fight,' with the sole exception of the wars against the Indians, which, however, were not foreign wars. Cam Ne and Chau Son are not in the line of succession to Lexington and Concord and the other great battles of American history; they give the lie to that tradition. War, the wanton killing of human beings, can only be justified by a transcendent end; this makes a war just. There is no such end and there is no justice here. Those who are so concerned about our collective and their personal prestige might take a moment to reflect on the kind of country America will be when it emerges from so senseless, hopeless, brutal, and brutalizing a war."

Another sample: six principles of political realism, from Politics Among Nations.
posted by russilwvong at 5:46 PM on May 18, 2005


russilwvong: now I've read up on your links, I can see where you're coming from.
Unfortunately, you don't get the basic point about genuine academic debate. You are clearly guilty, right here, of the very "crime" of which you (misleadingly) accuse Chomsky.
The four statements you say you disagree with are, of course, straw man arguments! You do not even claim that they are direct quotes from Chomsky; you simply argue against them as if they were. How convenient!
Each of the four points you list is, in my view, a childish misinterpretation of Chomsky's position. No intelligent reader could possibly arrive at the positions you list from reading Chomsky's work. So who are you disagreeing with?
As to this stuff:
For this nation, alone among the nations of the world, was created for a particular purpose: to achieve equality in freedom at home, and thereby set an example for the world to emulate.
Why on Earth would any sane person want to read such preposterous drivel? The words "self brainwashing" do seem rather appropriate here. Perhaps you should read some of Hitler's speeches? He, too, felt that his nation was created for a particular purpose. I suggest you reflect a little on why, exactly, Hitler was wrong. Then take a look in the mirror. Then, er, read some Chomsky....:-))
Have you watched many of the films yet, by the way? They're really very good!
posted by cleardawn at 6:02 PM on May 18, 2005


"The four statements you say you disagree with are, of course, straw man arguments!"

Er, no. I actually e-mailed Chomsky to ask whether I was interpreting his views correctly. He e-mailed back to say that he didn't have time for a serious reply, but what I'd written looked pretty accurate.

"Why on Earth would any sane person want to read such preposterous drivel?"

Morgenthau didn't say that the US had succeeded in achieving equality in freedom (as opposed to equality without individual freedom, which might describe various Communist states); only that this was the purpose for which the founders created it. I can't think of any other examples of a nation founded to achieve the purpose of equality in freedom (the Third Reich certainly was not!). And you're missing Morgenthau's main point: the brutality of the US in Vietnam was more damaging for that reason; before Vietnam, people had higher expectations for the US than for other countries.
posted by russilwvong at 9:46 PM on May 18, 2005


Ah, this begins to be repetitive, russilwvong. Your argument was, indeed, based on a "straw man" trick. And naturally enough, your new justification for it is also a straw man trick.

Chomsky doesn't bother to debate seriously with you, I would guess, for the simple reason that he can tell from a quick glance at your "work", as can any other academic, that you don't understand (whether deliberately, or accidentally) the notion of rigorous academic debate.

Rather than a discussion intended to arrive at something closer to truth, your debating style seems to be to assume that your prejudice is truth (in this case, your prejudice being the notion that the American government's intentions are more moral than the intentions of other governments) and then use rhetorical tricks, such as the "Straw Man", and false accusations of dishonesty on the part of those presenting evidence, to "prove" your pre-ordained "truth".

As for other examples of "nations founded to achieve the purpose of equaliity [ ...blah...] freedom [...blah...] " I suggest you look at non-American histories of any nation on Earth.

At some point, almost every nation has been a colony of an empire, and has then fought to attain independence, just as the Americans fought to free themselves from the British Empire.

And every empire in history has also produced reams of literature discussing its "unique" place in the world, and the "higher expectations" that people have of it compared to other countries.

The Egyptians, the Romans, the British, certainly the Third Reich, the Japanese, the Russians, the Chinese under Mao, all proclaimed their superior moral code and extolled the ethical "purposes" for which their "founders" "created" their nation. If you read their literatures, you will see the striking similarities with the daily output of Fox News or, indeed, with the output of nationalist apologists like Morgenthau and Hitchens.

Again, I suggest you read a few of Hitler's speeches before continuing, and compare his statements about Germany to your own statements about America. You might be a little disturbed by just how similar they are. Don't run away from that sense of disturbance: it's the beginning of genuine political activism.

If you find Chomsky genuinely difficult to understand, perhaps you're not the only one! You might like to try George Monbiot or John Pilger instead, as an easier introduction to non-nationalist political thinking.

Or even a weekly dose of Amy Goodman might help!

In the end, it's surely more interesting to think for oneself, rather than accepting this "my homeland is the greatest and most freedom-loving nation that God has ever given the means to bomb a hospital" stuff, isn't it?
posted by cleardawn at 7:08 AM on May 19, 2005


Sorry - that should be "daily dose" of Amy Goodman.
:-))
posted by cleardawn at 7:20 AM on May 19, 2005


Er, sorry again, bad link, try again: Amy Goodman. :-))
posted by cleardawn at 7:31 AM on May 19, 2005


"Each of the four points you list is, in my view, a childish misinterpretation of Chomsky's position."

If you're still convinced that I'm misinterpreting Chomsky's views, despite my citing Chomsky himself, I don't know what else I can say to convince you!

What points do you disagree with in particular, and why? I've given direct quotes from Chomsky to back up my interpretation, so other readers can decide for themselves.

Similarly, if you believe that Hans Morgenthau is an apologist for US crimes, despite my quoting him condemning the US war in Vietnam and describing it as leading to genocide, I don't know what I can say to convince you otherwise.

"... it's surely more interesting to think for oneself, rather than accepting this 'my homeland is the greatest and most freedom-loving nation that God has ever given the means to bomb a hospital' stuff, right?"

You do know that I'm not an American, right? (I said that up front in the Chomsky essay.) And you did read the section of the essay where I discussed US narcissism, right?

Is it just Morgenthau's referring to the purpose of the US (in the eyes of its founders, not God! -- how did God come into it?) that makes you jump to the conclusion that he's a Hitlerite apologist for US crimes? Chomsky described the US in passing as the greatest country in the world, but that doesn't make him a US apologist.
posted by russilwvong at 10:16 AM on May 19, 2005


To be precise, russilwvong, you didn't exactly "cite Chomsky". What you did was to claim you wrote an email to Chomsky and that he wrote back and said your stuff was pretty accurate.

Now, maybe that's true. Maybe it isn't. Certainly, you haven't provided any evidence to support it, and I frankly have difficulty believing that "pretty accurate" describes Chomsky's opinion of your mischaracterisation of Chomsky's view.

So, that is, as I said, a "straw man" argument. You have created an imaginary Chomsky who you claim has said things which you then criticize. What's the point?

Now, "apologist" :
According to dictionary.com: "A person who argues in defense or justification of something, such as a doctrine, policy, or institution."

A really good apologist is one who does what you, and Morgenthau, are doing. That is, you criticize the worst and most obvious symptoms of the institution/doctrine/policy you are defending, while robustly and blindly supporting the thing itself. At best, apologists can offer suggestions for reform that leave the fundamental thing in place, while temporarily alleviating some of the more unpleasant effects. Sometimes that's a good thing.

What you are not doing, in your essay or in this discussion, is addressing the basic problem, namely the popular perception that the governments of the US and its allies (Canada included, obviously) and the corporate elite in general, should be regarded as having inherently superior ethical standards to other governments and people.

Because you can't admit that the US (and allied) governments and business bosses are just as likely to have ill intentions as anyone else, you miss the point.

You can't see that the US capitalist system is an evil empire that is responsible for millions of deaths, for example. You feel repulsed when someone suggests it. Insulted, even.

So when someone like Chomsky points out what's going on in the world, you feel it necessary to defend your prejudices by writing articles and posts which, quite unfairly, smear Chomsky as dishonest and unreliable.

Of course the US is, in some respects, at the present time, the greatest country in the world. Certainly the most powerful. Others have occupied that position before, and probably others will again, if the US doesn't cause a nuclear war first and wipe us all out!

One of the great things about America is that it allows, to some extent, free speech. We can write to Metafilter without being shot, for example. Flamed, maybe. :-))

But one of the problems with America is that most people in America have been persuaded (not, as you claim Chomsky says, brainwashed) of various ideas that are, in fact, demonstrably untrue. The methods of persuasion are well documented - not only by Chomsky, but particularly well by him. Hence, because of that dishonest persuasion, when most Americans exert their right to free speech, they simply repeat the lies they've been told. They thus become part of the misinformation system. I fear this is what's happening to you.

When someone like Chomsky comes along and challenges those lies, with the credentials and the intelligence and the research to back up his statements, it's a breath of fresh air to many of us.

Ask yourself: why do you need to spend so much time criticising Chomsky, instead of, say, Bush, or Coulter, or O'Reilly, or for that matter Islam Karimov, or Kim Jong Il, or Turkmenbashi, or any other figure who is genuinely doing things that deserve to be criticised?

That's the question you need to answer, I think. What's the point of attacking Chomsky's honesty, when clearly, he is someone who, in a world of sycophantic liars, is making the greatest effort to be honest?

Who gains by it?

Incidentally, I didn't call Morgenthau, or anyone else, a "Hitlerite". I merely pointed out that there are noteworthy similarities in rhetoric. That's a big difference.
posted by cleardawn at 12:17 PM on May 20, 2005


"To be precise, russilwvong, you didn't exactly 'cite Chomsky'. What you did was to claim you wrote an email to Chomsky and that he wrote back and said your stuff was pretty accurate."

That's right. I don't know if this proves anything, but here's the e-mail, headers and all:


From - Sat Feb 09 23:28:38 2002
Return-path: <chomsky@mit.edu>
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Date: Sat, 09 Feb 2002 19:31:02 -0500
From: Noam Chomsky <chomsky@MIT.EDU>
Subject: Re: The Cold War as a triangular conflict
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To: Russil Wvong <rwvong@yahoo.com> (by way of Noam Chomsky <chomsky@mit.edu>)
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Dear Russil,

Sorry about the delay, and impossibility of answering seriously
now. Utterly swamped, and leaving the country tomorrow for about 10
days. Lots to prepare.

Your account is pretty accurate. Hope we'll have a chance to talk about it
later on.

Noam

At 09:34 AM 2/6/2002 -0500, you wrote:
>Hello, Dr. Chomsky. I recently read "The Chomsky Reader", and
>I found it very interesting, particularly your article discussing
>the Spanish civil war. (I'd read pretty much all of Orwell's
>books back in high school, including "Homage to Catalonia".)
>
>I've been having an argument with some people over the Internet;
>they suggested that I hadn't understood your views correctly, and
>that I ought to check with you directly. I was somewhat hesitant
>(I imagine that you get a ton of e-mail), but if you have the time
>to correct any misunderstandings that I may have, I'd appreciate it.
>
>In particular, I attempted to summarize some of your views as follows:
>
>1. The key conflict during the Cold War was that between
> counter-revolutionary forces (whether directed by the US or the
> Soviet Union) and popular revolutionary movements, not between
> the US and the Soviet Union.
>
> The Spanish civil war is an example of this kind of triangular
> conflict:
>
>        A     B
>
>          C
>
> Here A represents Franco's Nationalists, B the liberal/Soviet
> government, and C the Spanish anarchists; the Nationalists and
> the government both crushed the anarchists. During the Cold
> War, the same pattern was repeated, with A being the US,
> B being the Soviet Union, C being the peoples oppressed by both.
> In China, the conflict between the Japanese (A), the KMT (B),
> and the CCP (C) follows the pattern, except that the CCP won.
>
> Now that the Cold War is over, the US has even more latitude
> to suppress revolutions, without fear of Soviet intervention.
> The role of the activist is to try to restrain US foreign policy
> from aggression and atrocities.
>
>2. International politics isn't as complex as "experts" make it
> out to be. In particular, US foreign policy is primarily
> driven by elite self-interest.
>
>3. Mainstream US intellectuals believe in the myth of US benevolence,
> even when they're being critical of US foreign policy, because
> of self-brainwashing.
>
>Have I misunderstood what you're saying?
>
>Thank you for your help!
>
>Best regards,
>Russil

posted by russilwvong at 10:06 PM on May 20, 2005


"Because you can't admit that the US (and allied) governments and business bosses are just as likely to have ill intentions as anyone else, you miss the point.

"You can't see that the US capitalist system is an evil empire that is responsible for millions of deaths, for example. You feel repulsed when someone suggests it. Insulted, even."

With all due respect, you're making unwarranted inferences regarding my beliefs and feelings. I explicitly said in section 2.2 that the US is responsible for millions of deaths in Vietnam and Latin America.

Personally, I agree with Chomsky's objective of trying to restrain US foreign policy in the Third World, and I admire his moral and political commitment.

The reason I criticize Chomsky (besides the fact that I like to argue) is that I believe adherence to the truth should come first: before you can make moral and political judgements, you first need to get the facts straight. And from what I can tell, Chomsky puts his political objectives above adherence to the truth. I don't believe this is an unfair smear; people reading this can judge for themselves from the examples I've given, or by checking Chomsky's references themselves.

In short, I'm trying to warn people. As I said in the H-DIPLO posting: "As a layman, when I'm reading about a topic I'm not familiar with, I'm at the mercy of the writer: since I can't tell when he or she is making assertions which are questionable or false, I may come to believe things which aren't true. And since we tend to filter new information through our existing beliefs, reading dishonest writers may make me stupider."

And it's not just me. As I said earlier, people were commenting on Chomsky's playing fast and loose with the truth before I was even born. For example, Chomsky's explosive 1967 essay, "The Responsibility of Intellectuals", provoked friendly criticism from Raziel Abielson who acknowledged that Chomsky's account wasn't strictly accurate, but made the point that stopping the Vietnam War was more important. "It will be said that Chomsky's account of American foreign policy is drawn in black and white, and that politics is in reality a spectrum of shades of gray. And this objection would be sound, if Chomsky were writing as a detached observer on Mars. Sure, Viet Cong terrorists have murdered, mutilated, and intimidated their opposition. Certainly, Red China has been far more hysterically aggressive than Chomsky admits (so much as to have frightened their Communist allies, as well as half their own population). But I salute Chomsky for not caring to appear fair to the facts on both sides. For the facts are known well enough by now. It is the moral evaluation of our foreign policy and the decision as to what we are going to do about it that is now in order."

Finally: yes, I have had similar arguments about Ann Coulter.
posted by russilwvong at 10:43 PM on May 20, 2005


Really, you've had similar arguments about Chomsky and Ann Coulter? Fascinating!

Certainly, your approach is intelligent, and I commend you on it. Let's assume, then, that your alleged email exchange is genuine (as you say, it isn't proven, but let's go with it).

So: you pretended to be a sincere, if less than gifted, student, wrote to Chomsky to get him to offer superficial support to your (I still maintain) rather childish and inaccurate over-simplifications of his work, and then set this up as a 'straw man' so you can criticize it as if it was Chomsky's stated position ... really, very resourceful! Well done! Again, who benefits from this?

If you really disagree with Chomsky's statements, why not just list the published statements he has made with which you disagree? You could then tell us on what grounds you disagree with them, no?

Chomsky is, like most historians, an essentially powerless intellectual, deprived even of access to the mainstream media, let alone access to actual power.

His only power, then, is the power of the truth he speaks.

If people like you (or Raziel Abielson, or many others, no doubt) can succeed in casting Chomsky as an "unreliable" figure who is "fast and loose with the truth", then even that little power would be stripped from his words. The fact that you've posted at such length on this subject suggests that this is your chosen goal; why, I wonder, would you want to discredit the Western media's most accurate critic?

The problem with your argument is that Chomsky knows all this at least as well as you do. For that reason, he simply does not "play fast and loose" with the facts. He knows his reputation depends on his honesty, so why would he? His published works are meticulously and accurately referenced. In fact, they're probably the most thoroughly referenced political works available.

Chomsky has, as far as I can tell, no reason to lie, and every reason not to do so.

As you say : "before you can make moral and political judgements, you first need to get the facts straight." This, of course, is precisely what Chomsky does, and very well, too. In fact, as a matter of personal style, he usually leaves the moral and political judgements to the reader; he's simply interested in presenting the facts, free of the usual nationalist and pro-corporate bias.

I note that in this lengthy discussion, you haven't once given a well-referenced quote from Chomsky which you can demonstrate was false. Why is that, I wonder?
posted by cleardawn at 3:54 PM on May 21, 2005


"reading dishonest writers may make me stupider."

I haven't seen much evidence that reading Chomsky makes people stupid. Quite the reverse.

Fox News, it has been shown, certainly does have that effect.

Chomsky is an antidote to the poison we are subjected to each day from our TV sets.

Why do you want to deny people access to that antidote?
posted by cleardawn at 4:17 PM on May 21, 2005


"... you pretended to be a sincere, if less than gifted, student, wrote to Chomsky to get him to offer superficial support to your (I still maintain) rather childish and inaccurate over-simplifications of his work"

What?! I pretended to be a student? I was trying to get Chomsky to offer superficial support for my strawman arguments? What are you talking about? As you can see from the e-mail, I was explicitly asking Chomsky to tell me if I was misinterpreting his views.

You keep saying that my interpretation of Chomsky's views is childish and inaccurate; but you're not providing any evidence or argument. Could you please provide some? What in particular do you disagree with?

"... you haven't once given a well-referenced quote from Chomsky which you can demonstrate was false."

See above. What I found particularly interesting was not just the quotes themselves -- anyone can make a mistake -- but Chomsky's responses, denying that what he had written was misleading.

"Chomsky has, as far as I can tell, no reason to lie, and every reason not to do so."

I can't tell you what Chomsky's motivations are. (I can speculate--he thinks he's basically fighting Nazi Germany--but I can't tell you.) All I do is point out that despite his careful referencing, he's not a reliable source. My motivations aren't important either; plenty of other people have made this observation as well. (I've mentioned Hoffmann, Abielson, Huntington; TimothyMason made the same comment on this thread. If you go back and reread the Abielson quote, you'll see that Abielson is not trying to discredit Chomsky at all! He's excusing Chomsky for not presenting a balanced picture, given the urgency of stopping the Vietnam War.)

"Chomsky is an antidote to the poison we are subjected to each day from our TV sets.

"Why do you want to deny people access to that antidote?"

I don't think Chomsky is an "antidote". I think what Chomsky provides is just a variant of the same self-righteous, emotionally satisfying, good vs. evil mindset that George W. Bush provides to true believers on the other side of the political spectrum. Only the identity of the evil is different. It's the devil theory of politics: it provides someone to blame the evils of the world on. And of course anyone who disagrees must be an agent of the devil, either wittingly or unwittingly; an example would be Coulter's accusation that liberals are traitors.

I would argue that the good vs. evil view of the world is both wrong and dangerous. As Hoffmann says: it's not helpful to respond to a crusade with an anti-crusade. In my view, what people really need is the kind of appreciation of complexity that you would get from reading Hans Morgenthau.

Maybe "stupider" was the wrong word; I should have said "less well informed." Certainly if reading Chomsky makes you more likely to reject other writers as being apologists for the US, even while they're condemning US crimes, the range of information that you'll be open to considering will become quite narrow.
posted by russilwvong at 10:11 PM on May 21, 2005


Russil, the condemnation of US crimes is fine.
I'm also perfectly happy to hear condemnations of North Korean crimes, or anybody else's crimes.

The identification of the writer you quoted as an "apologist" comes, as I explained, from the other part of his writing, where he talked about America's unique and manifest destiny to bring freedom throughout the Galaxy, and so on and so forth. That makes him, in my view, not worth taking seriously.

Having researched further, I see you're drawing quotes from the utterly loathsome depths of sites such as this one which is notable for the little comment at the top of the page, describing Chomsky as a "self-hating Jew".

Er. Isn't that rather blatant anti-Semitism? On a site that's putting forward that level of argument, am I supposed to consider anything that it's saying as likely to be true?

It's true that Chomsky has often criticised the more extreme statements and activities of the Israeli government, particularly the ongoing repression of the Palestinians. But this hardly makes him a "self-hating Jew", does it? Is that the level of argument you subscribe to, russilwvong? Are your pretenses of intellectual argument really just concealing an emotional response at that level?

It seems to me that if you DON'T subscribe to that level of argument, then you should stop these pseudo-intellectual trolling activities.

Nobody gains from these dishonest and unfounded accusations you've made about Chomsky.

The fact remains that Chomsky is one of the most intelligent, respected, and honest, political commentators we have; he is someone you should respect.

And someone you should apologise to, for having directed me (and anyone else reading this thread) to that anti-semitic remark on your chosen extremist website.
posted by cleardawn at 7:52 AM on May 23, 2005


Furthermore, Russil, having taken a deep breath and gone back to your nutty extemist site, I notice that even there, there is an ongoing argument as to whether or not any of the statements you quote is true!

Even there, some of the locals are arguing that the person you quote has got his facts wrong, and Chomsky was right all along. So, if that's the best you can do, with all the media and financial and political support that your position has, with reams of anti-Chomsky propaganda appearing regularly in all the Murdoch papers and other pro-corporate media, then I think your criticisms of Chomsky are pretty desperate, are they not?

:-))
posted by cleardawn at 8:02 AM on May 23, 2005


"Er. Isn't [calling Chomsky a self-hating Jew] rather blatant anti-Semitism? On a site that's putting forward that level of argument, am I supposed to consider anything that it's saying as likely to be true?"

I appear to have offended you by linking to someone who describes Chomsky as a "self-hating Jew"; my apologies. The general rules I try to follow are (a) don't be offensive, (b) don't be easily offended. I suppose our tolerance levels for political invective may differ. (I wouldn't describe the epithet "self-hating Jew" as anti-Semitism, just insulting. It's often used to describe radical critics of Israel who are Jewish. And no, I don't agree with it.)

If you want to ignore the chomskywatch blog, of course that's up to you. I thought the specifics of the misattribution seemed pretty clear. Yes, Luka (a Chomsky fan, like yourself) argued that maybe Chomsky wasn't being misleading; but I thought his argument was quite weak. (Luka: "You checked and this quote is not on page 187?" Dhimmi: "Maybe I wasn’t clear enough before. NO IT IS NOT IN THAT BOOK OR ON THAT PAGE!! I own that book and have read it. Stop asking this question.")

It seems to me that I'm offending you by even questioning Chomsky's reliability (hence your comments that I'm childish, misleading, dishonest, desperate, etc.). I doubt I can convince you, so perhaps I should suggest that you check Chomsky's references yourself. But if you won't read anybody who doesn't already hold Chomsky's exact political positions (since you think Hans Morgenthau is not worth your time, for example), then I'm not sure what you could check them against!! If your main source of information is Chomsky, there won't be anything you can check Chomsky himself against, and you'll never be able to figure out that Chomsky is not a reliable source of information. I won't bother suggesting that you read Encyclopaedia Britannica or Samuel Eliot Morison's "Oxford History of the American People", since of course you'll dismiss anything you disagree with as official propaganda.

It's an interesting problem. If you're relying on Chomsky as your main source of information, why should you believe some random stranger on the Internet who tells you that Chomsky is in fact an unreliable source? Indeed, wouldn't your natural response be to doubt the intelligence or good faith of your interlocutor?

Hmm. I guess what I'll suggest is that if you want to check for yourself, anytime you see Chomsky provide some really strong or surprising evidence in the form of a quote from a mainstream source, look it up, and check whether Chomsky is representing the source accurately. The Huntington quote above (where Chomsky makes it appear that Huntington is advocating the destruction of the rural population in South Vietnam) would be one example. Another example: he quotes John Lewis Gaddis in "Strategies of Containment" as evidence that the goal of US foreign policy during the Cold War was to maximize the economic interests of the elite: "To a remarkable degree, [the strategy of] containment has been the product, not so much of what the Russians have done, or of what has happened elsewhere in the world, but of internal forces operating within the United States... What is surprising is the primacy that has been accorded economic considerations in shaping strategies of containment, to the exclusion of other considerations." Look it up and decide for yourself if Gaddis's statements really support Chomsky's argument.

And let me repeat my earlier question: "You keep saying that my interpretation of Chomsky's views is childish and inaccurate; but you're not providing any evidence or argument. Could you please provide some? What in particular do you disagree with?"
posted by russilwvong at 3:59 PM on May 23, 2005


Russil, this debate is tiring, and old, and I think I've made my point adequately. Your only reference for your extreme and offensive claim that Professor Chomsky is "dishonest", has turned out to be a nutty extremist site whose headline announcement is that Professor Chomsky is a "self-hating Jew".

After that I would have thought you might go home and leave this thread in peace; evidently not.

So, let's carry on, shall we?

I do, indeed, keep saying that your interpretation of what little Chomsky you've read is childish and inaccurate.

Frankly, I don't care what you think about that; it's just my opinion of something you've said.

What I do care about is your repeated (false) assertion that Chomsky is an 'unreliable source', particularly coupled with the charming "self-hating Jew" remark for which you still don't feel able to offer an apology.

Instead of the required apology, you offer this trash:

"I wouldn't describe the epithet "self-hating Jew" as anti-Semitism, just insulting. It's often used to describe radical critics of Israel who are Jewish."


Interesting. Most other people can see that this is anti-Semitic; why can't you? It's certainly true that nutty extremist sites (like the one you sourced your data from) often label people in this way. Anyone who doesn't support their one-way-street views gets this kind of treatment.

That they do this "often" doesn't justify it, nor does it make it any less anti-Semitic.

And I'm not going to discuss this with you any more. Sorry, but you're wrong, and, furthermore, I find your views physically nauseating.

You evidently have the intelligence to hold a debate with someone like me: Good. Now, I suggest that you look in the mirror, and see if you have the intelligence to hold a similar debate with yourself.

As a final aside, I'd just like to mention that I used to hold similar views to yours, as an adolescent. It's nothing to be ashamed of; part of the process.

Somehow, one day - or perhaps it was more gradual, over weeks or months - I'd love to know exactly how it happened - I stopped being such a nasty, deceitful little nationalist, and started to have an interest in concepts like internationalism, shared humanity, common decency, and truth, instead.

I pray that one day, you, and your friends over at your nutty right-wing web site, go through a similar learning experience. Pehaps watching some of these simple videos might even help it happen.

May the Goddess be the midwife to your transformation.
posted by cleardawn at 5:16 PM on May 23, 2005


"And I'm not going to discuss this with you any more. Sorry, but you're wrong, and, furthermore, I find your views physically nauseating."

I'm disappointed that you're not willing to continue the discussion (in particular, I'm still curious how your interpretation of Chomsky's views differs from mine), but if it's making you physically ill, I understand. Thanks for taking the time and energy to try to convince me that I'm wrong. I'm not sure we got anywhere, but maybe it's been useful to other people reading this.

For anyone else who's reading this (or who reads this in the future), I think Stanley Hoffman captures (a) the real problem with American foreign policy (in Vietnam and now in Iraq) and (b) what's wrong with Chomsky's response to it:

"We do disagree on the subject of American objectives in Vietnam. Professor Chomsky believes that they were wicked; I do not. I believe that they were, in a way, far worse; for often the greatest threat to moderation and peace, and certainly the most insidious, comes from objectives that are couched in terms of fine principles in which the policy-maker fervently believes, yet that turn out to have no relation to political realities and can therefore be applied only by tortuous or brutal methods which broaden ad infinitum the gap between motives and effects. What matters in international affairs, alas, far more than intentions and objectives, is behavior and results.

"Because I do not believe that our professed goals in Vietnam were obviously wicked, Professor Chomsky 'reads this as in essence an argument for the legitimacy of military intervention.' If he had not stopped his quotation of my analysis where he did, he would have had to show that my case against the war is exactly the opposite: 'worthy ends' divorced from local political realities lead to political and moral disaster, just as British resistance to the American revolution was bound to get bankrupt.

"What Vietnam proves, in my opinion, is not the wickedness of our intentions or objectives but the wickedness that results from irrelevant objectives and disembodied intentions, applied by hideous and massive means. It has its roots, intellectual and emotional, in elements of the American style that I have been at pains to analyze in detail. The Americans' very conviction that their goals are good blinds them to the consequences of their acts.

"To focus on intentions is to prolong a futile clash of inflamed self-righteousness; to focus on behavior and results could get us somewhere. I detect in Professor Chomsky's approach, in his uncomplicated attribution of evil objectives to his foes, in his fondness for abstract principles, in his moral impatience, the mirror image of the very features that both he and I dislike in American foreign policy. To me sanity does not consist of replying to a crusade with an anti-crusade. As scholars and as citizens, we must require and provide discriminating and disciplined reasoning on behalf of our values."

Again, for anyone seeking alternatives to Chomsky for a critical understanding of US foreign policy and the Cold War in particular, I'd suggest Hans Morgenthau and other political realists. (Some others I'd recommend: George F. Kennan, Charles Burton Marshall, Louis Halle, John Paton Davies Jr.)
posted by russilwvong at 10:06 AM on May 24, 2005


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