The New War on Terror
October 26, 2001 4:19 AM   Subscribe

The New War on Terror Noam Chomsky has written a book called 9-11. He analyses the situation in a long essay published in Counterpunch. Quote: We certainly want to reduce the level of terror, certainly not escalate it. There is one easy way to do that and therefore it is never discussed. Namely stop participating in it.
posted by alex63 (62 comments total)

Also related, Refuting Chomsky, Horowitz's more specific followup to his first "Chomsky can blow me" article in Salon.

This was Horowitz's first article to be hidden behind the "Salon Premium" curtain. Good ol' Usenet. Yes, a lot of the "hidden" material shows up there.
posted by NortonDC at 4:49 AM on October 26, 2001

Horowitz: ... writes a typically fervid acolyte, "is that he actually spends considerable time researching, analyzing, corroborating, deconstructing, and impassionately [sic] explaining world affairs."

Sophistry 101

First rule of lame rhetoric: When quoting someone with whom you disagree (eg: the "fervid acolyte" of Chomsky above), always insert a "[sic]" after any grammatical errors to demonstrate that you are oh-so-much-smarter than your opponent. Take heed, however, that you do not make yourself look like a pedantic windbag by accidentally flagging a word that actually exists and is used properly -- like impassionately.
posted by RavinDave at 5:16 AM on October 26, 2001

Norton, thank you for that link, I very much enjoyed it and helped me put fact to my distrust of Chomsky (I guess we have to bold it now, huh alex ;)
posted by Mick at 5:29 AM on October 26, 2001

Chomsky exemplifies something important about the human condition: there are smart, clever, bad people. Or, as a rabbi I've met has said, "knowledge is not wisdom."
posted by ParisParamus at 5:30 AM on October 26, 2001

P.S.: what's most scary about Chomsky is not Chomsky. It's the legions of people who, impressed with his intellect in the linguistic realm, blindly follow him in other realms. Jim Jones, anyone?
posted by ParisParamus at 5:42 AM on October 26, 2001

Chomsky needs an editor; his grammar sucks.
posted by yarf at 5:42 AM on October 26, 2001

Oh look, Chomsky has written something. Woooo.
posted by aramaic at 5:48 AM on October 26, 2001

Oh look, Horowitz has written something. Woooo.
posted by Carol Anne at 5:56 AM on October 26, 2001

Chomsky didn't write it -- the article's a transcribed speech. Wind him up and he could go on and on about our atrocities for hours. I love the way he issues pronouncements-- it's practically papal.

When Chomsky is describing the reasonableness of the Arab world's support for most of Bin Laden's ideology, it's funny how he leaves out one of the biggest reasons: Frenzied hatred of Jews.

An astounding percentage of people in the Middle East -- 40 percent in one post-Sept. 11 survey of Pakistanis -- think that Israel masterminded the recent attacks and forewarned Jews to be absent from the WTC.

To talk about that, though, is to acknowledge that some of the anti-U.S. sentiment in the region is wildly irrational. And you're never going to hear anything bad about the opponents of the U.S. from Chomsky.
posted by rcade at 5:58 AM on October 26, 2001

When I was in college (in the dim dead days of the late 1980's), Chomsky was all the rage among the incense-and-patchouli set. It appears he still is -- there's always a new generation of disaffected, holier-than-thou political neophytes to act as his cadre.

Chomsky, like Susan Sontag, is one of those annoying people who only smart in certain narrow ways -- a kind of intelligence my farmer uncle used to call asshole smart. He lives enclosed in the liberal world of academia, protest meetings, victim's groups, and "sensitivity to other cultures". He writes angry screeds to Leftist publications and smugly allows himself to be worshiped by the New Left. He doesn't bother to investigate the deeper roots of this war; his understanding of our enemies is in many ways shallower than those of the far Right like Falwell and Robertson.

Chomsky is often eloquent and passionate, but this hides quite a lot of fatuousness. He is no less orthodox in his beliefs than a fudamentalist Imam, and it is his reliance on the New Left dogma that blinds him to the character of this war.
posted by mrmanley at 6:01 AM on October 26, 2001

I liked the [sic]. The word the "fervid Chomsky accolyte" should have used was "dispassionately", meaning without bias.

As for the article by Chomsky himself, to me the most annoying part of it was where he flatters/bullys his listeners into not asking questions: "you're all educated people, so I'm sure you learned about it in High School. "

And the repetition over and over again that his side of the "US war against Nicaragua" is "uncontroversial".

What a pompous, ignorant ass.
posted by hazyjane at 6:03 AM on October 26, 2001

"you're all educated people, so I'm sure you learned about it in High School. "

Actually, I think Chomsky's point is that the truth about what our government does is not taught in high schools in the US. Much of what we learn about history is revised, patriotic drivel.
posted by rbellon at 6:43 AM on October 26, 2001

For refuting Chomsky - who is not ignorant, only intellectually dishonest and simplistic - there is no better resource than MEMRI, where the Arab and Israeli press are translated for all to see.
Two excerpts from yesterday's edition inform us that Rudolph Giuliani is Jewish, besides other things, and shortened his name to Rudy so as not to be confused with Rudolph Hitler(sic):

"Mahmoud bin Abd Al-Ghani Sabbagh, columnist for the Saudi paper Al-Riyadh, wrote a column headlined: 'Al-Walid's check, the homosexual governor [sic], and the propaganda war': "The words of [Prince Al-Walid] did not, of course, please the Jewish lobby in the home of the largest Jewish community in the world. Because the governor [sic] of the Big Apple is a Jew, he refused [to accept the donation] and caused a storm."
"What happened proves beyond any doubt the public insolence, the open hatred, and the collapse of American democratic theory. If democracy means a governor who is a homosexual in a city in which dance clubs, prostitution, homosexuality, and stripping proliferate – the U.S. can keep its democracy."'

"Joining the attacks on Giuliani were columnists in the Palestinian Authority mouthpiece Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. Editor Hafez Al-Barghouthi wrote: 'New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani was obsessed by his hatred of Arabs even before the terrorist attacks on New York. He hides his first name, chosen for him by his Italian father, so as not to remind the Jewish voters of the infamous Rudolph Hitler [sic]. This is why he prefers to shorten it to Rudy.'"
MEMRI, the Middle East Media Research Institute, is essential reading for those who, unlike Chomsky, are not over-protective of their prejudices.

WARNING: You might well be shocked and offended by some of the material.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 6:46 AM on October 26, 2001

Another wisdom dropping from a man who would be Socrates but never quite trusts his own ideology enough to let the disciples that crowd around him ask questions.

Chomsky reminds me of all those people out there who boldly say things about "what the terrorists want" when it's painfully obvious that they haven't a clue. On September 11th there were no demands, no messages, no revendications, only 7000 acts of murder. Obviously it's rather heartwarming that Chomsky should be naive enough to imply that having no war would make things all better, notwithstanding the fact that at 8:30 on 9/11 the US wasn't at war with Afghanistan, and was already contributing to the hunger relief effort. But of course these little details would just get in the way of another rant...
posted by clevershark at 6:51 AM on October 26, 2001

"Rudolph Hitler"? :-) Evidently Mr. Al-Barghouthi will not let the facts get in the way of a good rant either.
posted by clevershark at 6:54 AM on October 26, 2001

You know, this Situation isn't funny...but there's just something about "Rudolph Hitler" that had me howling and holding my sides for like ten minutes. I guess it was the synchronicity with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I had this vision of Hitler standing at a podium in Nuremburg, ranting away...with a glowing red nose.

It kind of reminds me of the whole Bert-and-Bin-Laden thread.
posted by mrmanley at 7:07 AM on October 26, 2001

Yes folks, you are tuned to another edition of MeFi(TM) "Shoot the Messenger". For those who have been in a cave for the last 1 1/2 months here are the rules. This is where members of the studio audience take turns at pilorying the author of the article rather than actually commenting on the content of the article itself. Next week tune in for Chris Hitchens article on .... well let's face it, does it really matter?

Up next, "I can't refute your argument so I'll check your spelling instead".
posted by DaRiLo at 7:13 AM on October 26, 2001

clevershark, there was a 30-45 minute Q&A after this speech, as he does after nearly every appearence he makes. He’s done a million interviews and has several interview books available. I smell a recant coming.

Hazyjane, you should listen to the recording of that speech. The high school thing is an obvious joke. As for Nicuragua, he explains very well what he means by uncontroversial. The international community claimed it was the US that funded and supported the guerrilla war against Nicaragua. That is uncontroversial — outside the US.

Still, it’s amazing to me that people are willing to twist arguments calling, in fact begging, for support of international law and human rights. Chomsky consistenly argues in favor of both. Doing so gets him called a Stalinist, Marxist, a “Partner in Hate.”

I probably won’t buy this book. I agree with him that engaging in a violent anti-terror campaign is likely to create more terror, but his arguments on this issue have been weak compared to many others.

Horowitz really brings the pain, though.

“[Chomsky] describes this fact characteristically as the United States having "benefited enormously" from the conflict in contrast to its "industrial rivals" -- omitting in the process any mention of the 250,000 lives America lost, its generous Marshall Plan aid to those same rivals or, for that matter, its victory over Nazi Germany and the Axis powers.”

Notice that the list of misfortunes doesn’t actually counter Chomsky’s claim that the US came out of the war ahead of all its competition. Sure the US suffered—that is not a refutation. A refutation that didn’t refute. Interesting.

“Cuba was the second richest country in Latin America. Now it is the second poorest, just before Haiti. Naturally, Chomskyites will claim that the U.S. economic boycott is responsible.”

I must not be a Chomskyite since I blame Castro. In fact, Chomsky must not be a Chomskyite. Interesting again!

“Chomsky is, in fact, the imam of this religious worldview on today's college campuses.”

I didn’t even know Chomsky existed til well after college. I must not have gone. (Notice the other fave rhetorical rightist target: those damnable liberal colleges.)

“It would be tedious (and would add nothing to our understanding) to run through all of Horowitz’s perversely distorted cases...”

Did I screw that quote up?

Horowitz’s biggest problem is thinking Chomsky is a communist. Chomsky isn’t, he is as negative toward communism as he is of capitalism. Read his books and you’ll understand this. If you’re Horowitz, you’re on a deadline and you need a convenient punching bag. Chomsky is perennially available, as Horowitz is for the likes Conason.

Chomsky on Horowitz: “I haven't read Horowitz. I didn't used to read him when he was a Stalinist and I don't read him today.”
posted by raaka at 7:14 AM on October 26, 2001

he leaves out one of the biggest reasons: Frenzied hatred of Jews.

Now, that hatred wouldn't have anything to do with Isreal's 20+ year oppressive occupation of Palestine would it? Ya think?
posted by fleener at 7:26 AM on October 26, 2001

Miguel Cardoso:
For refuting Chomsky - who is not ignorant, only intellectually dishonest and simplistic - there is no better resource than MEMRI, where the Arab and Israeli press are translated for all to see.

What exactly does any of the material you quoted have to do with Chomsky? It looks to me like you disagree with him and so you find the most outrageous possible examples of people who have no connection with him other than a shared distrust of Israel. Has Chomsky said anything about "Rudolph Hitler"?

I'm sorry, but in this case, it's your arguments that are intellectually dishonest and simplistic.
posted by anapestic at 7:34 AM on October 26, 2001

Chomsky does make some interesting points. Especially about the terrorist cells acting in isolation, and it being plausible that Bin Laden did know nothing. I also read something interesting today about how Al Qaeda is less like a terrorist organisation such as the IRA, and more like a cult.
posted by Summer at 7:43 AM on October 26, 2001

and it is his reliance on the New Left dogma that blinds him to the character of this war.

Now, mrmanley, if you could contribute to a thread without labelling everyone with a contrary opinion "New Left", as if it's self-defining, you might sound a little less dogmatic yourself.
posted by holgate at 7:45 AM on October 26, 2001

"When Chomsky is describing the reasonableness of the Arab world's support for most of Bin Laden's ideology, it's funny how he leaves out one of the biggest reasons: Frenzied hatred of Jews.

An astounding percentage of people in the Middle East -- 40 percent in one post-Sept. 11 survey of Pakistanis -- think that Israel masterminded the recent attacks and forewarned Jews to be absent from the WTC.

To talk about that, though, is to acknowledge that some of the anti-U.S. sentiment in the region is wildly irrational. And you're never going to hear anything bad about the opponents of the U.S. from Chomsky".


anapestic: I was reacting to rcade's post, which I happen to agree with. The Giuliani examples - extracted from a long, long list at MEMRI - are an illustration of how far mainstream Arab media will go to attack Jews and Americans. Chomsky's arguments are dishonest because he never mentions the key fact that Arabs everywhere hate Israel. There is just no room for peaceful mediation. If the U.S. took Chomsky's advice and withdrew its support mayhem would ensue.
So it does help to actually know what the context is. The context refutes Chomsky's simplistic pacifism. I'm sorry if this was less than clear. Hey, it was a long post as it stood! Please read through the articles at MEMRI - some of which expose Israeli hypocrisy and dissembling - and you'll at least find that things are a great deal more complex than Chomsky says they are.
He's an extremely intelligent and well-informed man. And yet he consistently brushes all ambiguities and imponderables aside. That is why he is intellectually dishonest.
Plus, he has a whole book - I'm just commenting on MetaFilter and, length-wise, am probably stretching my luck as it is... :-)
posted by MiguelCardoso at 8:20 AM on October 26, 2001

raaka, controversy is "a discussion marked especially by the expression of opposing views"(from that merriam webster site). So if the US has one view and the rest of the international community has another, then by definition it's controversial. Doesn't matter which side you agree with.
(unfortunately I can't find a damn thing about the Nicaragua ruling on the UN Security Council Web site to either support or refute Chomsky's claim. Anyone got any concrete references?).
As far as the "you learned about this in high school" thing being a joke - it's a double-edged joke, because he really doesn't go on to explain these things we've all supposedly learnt. Come on, the guy's a linguist - certainly he knows the effect his statement would have.
posted by hazyjane at 8:20 AM on October 26, 2001

What exactly does any of the material you quoted have to do with Chomsky?

The material illustrates passionately idiotic rhetoric in the Arab world that is completely ignored by Chomsky, who answers "why they hate us?" with a litany of the reasons that he hates us.

In the world he presents in the speech -- I'd love to hear him in person sometime -- there's no room for the notion that Bin Laden is a murderous demagogue enflaming prejudice and manipulating an ill-informed populace for his own ends. Instead, he's painted in almost heroic terms as an eloquent spokesman for the dispossesed.

Now, that hatred wouldn't have anything to do with Isreal's 20+ year oppressive occupation of Palestine would it? Ya think?

Red herring. Chomsky conveniently ignores the virulent anti-Semitism that's rampant in the Arab world, and it diminishes his argument considerably. He spends considerable time talking about how Americans only see what they want to see in the media, and our media keeps information from us to serve the interests of the powerful.

But he never acknowledges the same things elsewhere in the world, as if the people of Kabul are better informed about their world than the people of Kansas.
posted by rcade at 8:43 AM on October 26, 2001

His statement had the effect of laughter. It was a joke. Which you clearly didn't get.

Your controversy statement makes no sense. If what you said was true, every trial that didn't end with the defendant blatantly admitting to his crime would be considered controversal.
posted by Doug at 8:48 AM on October 26, 2001


What else would you call him? And I use "New Left" in a specific sense -- that the liberal intellectuals of today are markedly different from the anti-war, marxist-leaning liberals of days past. It's as handy a label as any, although it inevitably oversimplifies a complex range of opinion (much like calling conservative thinkers "right wing reactionaries").

The tenets of the New Left are as dogmatic as any religious cult. You can see this in the terminology -- "globalism", "economic fascism", "neo-colonialism". It's a sure sign of intellectual weakness when you rely on so many isms.

It seems to me that a truly open-minded individual would at least be open to the possiblity that this is a just war; that the US has every right and reason to attack and defeat our enemies. But no: the Chomskys and Sontags of the world can only continue to spew out the New Left's party line.

So if my "New Left" label is inappropriate, what would you suggest I use to replace it?
posted by mrmanley at 8:50 AM on October 26, 2001

Miguel, Chomsky is an ideologue, and that's not the same as being "intellectually dishonest". Some of his proposals are impractical, undoubtedly, but then he's not in government. I think of him as being in the research and development department of political principal (including the mistakes and the overstatements). It's the job of those with power to compromise. If the academics started only offering real world solutions, the well of possibilities would dry up pretty soon. On the other side of the spectrum, it would be like treating Milton Friedman's work as a realistic blueprint for the economy.
posted by liam at 8:58 AM on October 26, 2001

Personal attacks are a kind of joke too, right? I got the joke.
I'm sorry you didn't understand my controversy statement. The US has one opinion. The UN has another. That means there's a controversy. The reason for trials is controversy. Again, anyone got any concrete references to back up Chomsky's Nicaragua claims?
posted by hazyjane at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2001

Yes, HazyJane, could you rephrase your statement so it makes sense? Thanks.
Chomsky is saying that the Nicaragua incident is without controversy because America was, I believe, found to be guilty of the charges by pretty much everyone in the world. It's now, also, pretty much common knowledge that we did those things. Your definition of controversy is pretty lame if its just the guilty party refusing to admit guilt. But, even if that is your definition of controversy, it is not the definition Chomsky is using. This is not the US vs the UN, but the US against everybody else.
And pointing out that you didn't get a joke isn't a personal attack, so lay off. You, in fact, made a personal attack on Chomsky based on that statement, after you had misinterpreted it.
Whatever, I think he's a pompous ass also. I just agree with him a lot of the time.
posted by Doug at 9:21 AM on October 26, 2001

For all you Chomsky haters here, I hope you realise this thread is contributing towards maintaining Chomsky as the only living member of the ten most quoted people of all time (the others being Marx, Shakespeare etc.). Don't have a link to the list but this article supports me. Before I get blasted I know the list probably refers to quotes in print. I'm just being ... well lets not start with the labels. It would be great to see a list of the most quoted people on the net. Anyone got a link?
posted by Zootoon at 9:27 AM on October 26, 2001

If the academics started only offering real world solutions, the well of possibilities would dry up pretty soon.

What an amazing statement. And the point of offering up "possibilities" that don't apply to real life would be....? (I mean besides impressing other intellectuals.)
posted by mw at 9:31 AM on October 26, 2001

liam, you're absolutely right. We need his sparks. It's not intellectual dishonesty. Apologies too to anapestic. How about passionate disregard for realistic niceties?
I just realized that all my heroes, from Plato to Wittgenstein to Derrida and Parfit, could also be considered "intellectually dishonest" according to my shallow, spur-of-the-moment criteria. Chomsky is a principled idiot - in the Greek sense of having too many ideas for his own good - who, by his extremism, probably shifts us all a little closer to common sense.
I can't forget, of course, that he is probably the greatest linguistic theorist that ever existed. Though I feel his political opinions, come posterity, will eventually be judged as just a charming quirk.
I still maintain, though, that, as the ideologue that he is, he purposefully conceals a hell of a lot of reality he knows about but won't address, in case it makes his peremptory statements less striking. Addressing rcade's argument may be difficult - but only because it's, well, true...

On the other hand, the fact that he's crap as a propagandist also points in his favour!
posted by MiguelCardoso at 9:34 AM on October 26, 2001

Now, that hatred wouldn't have anything to do with Isreal's 20+ year oppressive occupation of Palestine would it? Ya think?

That might be reasonable, except for the fact that the Jews have been hated in the Arab world for thousands of years.
posted by schlyer at 9:52 AM on October 26, 2001

Noam Chomsky is a boring old biddie.
posted by yerfatma at 9:57 AM on October 26, 2001

mw, I didn't say anything about "not applying to real life", just not offering only current real world solutions. It's called idealism - the notion that there are ideas that are not manifested in the material world (for now at least), but which help us to set our moral compasses (and therefore do apply to real life). We need folks who say war is wrong and avoidable, as well as those whose job is to keep it to a minimum.
posted by liam at 10:14 AM on October 26, 2001

schlyer: "That might be reasonable, except for the fact that the Jews have been hated in the Arab world for thousands of years."

Really? I like how causally you throw that out here.

As far as I know its fairly well accepted in most academical circles that Jewish-Muslim relations used to be perfectly alright up until the start of the 20th Century.

Can you provide some information to back up your statement?

It's also worth noting that most Arabs and Pakistani's don't hate Jew's, they hate Israelis. Big difference. And throwing up some extremist articles from small-press propaganda papers doesn't make that so. If I posted some White-Supremacist literature on the web and said "Hey! Look at them racist Americans. All of them must be like this", that would be pretty stupid of me.
posted by samishah at 10:51 AM on October 26, 2001

Well, samishah, if they only hated Israelis and not Jews, what would be the point of saying that Giuliani is a Jew?
posted by NortonDC at 11:54 AM on October 26, 2001

Are you familiar with the Diaspora?
That was around 70 C.E. when the Muslims kicked the jews out and destroyed their temple. Thousands of years ago.
posted by geoffrey at 12:09 PM on October 26, 2001

Are you familiar with the Diaspora?
That was around 70 C.E. when the Muslims kicked the jews out and destroyed their temple. Thousands of years ago.

Are you taking the piss, sir? Was Caligula miraculously converted to Islam 600 years before Muhammed? Or are you just embarrassingly ill-informed?
posted by holgate at 12:15 PM on October 26, 2001

Thanks to all the members of the off-the-cuff society. As Paul Virilio wisely states, we live in a society where the time for reflection has disappeared, we now only have time to react.

All those Mefilados who are as well read and capable of reading and analyzing the WSJ, NYT, Boston Globe, FT, and many other mainstream periodicals, capable of arguing in favor of their own political stance by using that knowledge, and standing by what they say, hey, where are you?

I don't agree with everything he says. He doesn't expect anyone to agree with everything he says. Why not argue about the content instead of usual shallow BS to counter his well documented arguments?
posted by mmarcos at 12:58 PM on October 26, 2001

mmarcos--I had no idea you're such a big Horowitz fan. Good for you!
posted by NortonDC at 1:23 PM on October 26, 2001

mmarcos: Should we leave each thread empty for a few days while we read and reflect?
posted by rcade at 1:38 PM on October 26, 2001

NortonDC, would that more comments relied on arguments like Horowitz'.

rcade, that is one option. Another is to debate (see below) the content in question with real facts as well as possible in real time instead of being asshole smart. (In any case, the first option is awesome and often makes The Well conferences a distinct pleasure to read.)

de·bate (d-bt)
v. de·bat·ed, de·bat·ing, de·bates
v. intr.
1. To consider something; deliberate.
2. To engage in argument by discussing opposing points.
3. To engage in a formal discussion or argument. See Synonyms at discuss.
4. Obsolete. To fight or quarrel
posted by mmarcos at 3:44 PM on October 26, 2001

mmarcos: I've been interested in learning more about The Well for some time. If you don't mind, please email me; I'd like to ask you some questions about it. (Anybody else with a view on the subject is also free to email me.) My email is listed on my profile.

posted by gd779 at 4:00 PM on October 26, 2001

Here's a brief summary of the various decisions of the world court in Nicaragua v. United States.

Here's a page from a law school that contains links to the actual text of the decisions by the world court.

The Chomsky article refers to resolutions brought before the UN that asked all countries to oberserve international law. I tried searching for this, but I could not find a clear reference.

This pretty well sums up what happened in Nicaragua. Central America (and South America) have suffered greatly from the consequences of our foreign policy all through the 20th century. We wanted our bananas (or whatever) and we were deathly afraid that governments that were Socialist or Communist would align themselves with the Soviet Union, thus joining our lovely mutually assured destruction club. In my opinion, our government has done much more harm in this region of the world (including the native people of the US) than anywhere else.
posted by kittyloop at 4:09 PM on October 26, 2001

mmarcos, it seems like you're not debating anything except your sensibility of what is a debate. The sad truth is that most of what can be said topically probably has been. I'm pretty much with those who believe that nothing here is changing anybody elses mind at this point. And another Chomsky link about him pushing the same old agenda isn't gonna help much. If people aren't responding to your satisfaction, then maybe your problem isn't with them, but with you?

holgate, I know you only did what had to be done, but OOUUCH, that had to smart. (wicked background chuckle).
posted by Wulfgar! at 4:11 PM on October 26, 2001

My, my, little do I lend some creedence to Horowitz when I read the comments section to the Chomsky article and see this reply to a letter from a lefty/liberal/etc.: "Don't bother continuing. You're an idiot leftist and you need to do some heavy thinking about the absurdities you're spouting before you waste more of my time."
Let me state on the record that I take back my previous statement about more arguments like Horowitz'. No thanks, NortonDC. Bile like this is a dime a dozen. I want hard facts, not this crap. There are statements galore in his article but I want to know where he found them so I can judge the validity of what he says just as I judge Chomsky.
posted by mmarcos at 4:19 PM on October 26, 2001

For the Record, how many of you have actually seen the book "What Uncle Sam Really Wants" ? It's one of those 100 page "Real books" by Odian press. In other words it is only a pamphlet on Chomsky's views, as compared to the volume: A Primer not a Manifesto.

Once I got to the part where Horowitz assaults Chomsky for not citing his sources on the U.S. sponsored violence in Latin America, I could not believe he was doing it. Chomsky has cited such material in other works that I believe are cited in "What Uncle Sam Really Wants" and it is most often from Amnesty or some other established human rights group.

Horowitz really spends a lot of time fighting the Left. It feels like at least every other month there is another set of back and forth articles where he slanders some "Z magazine" personality and they bicker back and forth.

I've been a sporadic Chomsky reader since high school, and it surprises me the amount of time I've had to spend reading articles like this just to make sure I'm not one of Noam's sheepless followers.
posted by ProfLinusPauling at 5:53 PM on October 26, 2001

Another is to debate (see below) the content in question with real facts as well as possible in real time instead of being asshole smart.

How is calling me (or anyone else here) an asshole going to increase the likelihood of intelligent debate? Personally, I think I gave Chomsky as much rebuttal as his off-the-cuff, short-on-facts speech was worth.

I read it in full, thought it wasn't worth a link on MetaFilter, and addressed one of the points I thought important -- his refusal to acknowledge that a lot of the Arab world's opposition to the U.S. is rooted in anti-Semitism.

I enjoy reading Chomsky, but he seems to have abandoned any pretense of persuading people, choosing the easier path of pontificating to the faithful.
posted by rcade at 8:29 AM on October 27, 2001

I am extremely disappointed by the course of this discussion. Before reading the text people start linking to articles which discredit the author.

Could someone please refer to Chomsky's analysis?
- The US did not show any evidence that bin Laden is behind the attacks (if that is false someone please tell me the evidence).
- They have attacked Afghanistan (truth).
- They did not want to have any legitimation for their actions from the UN or whoever, they just wanted to show that they are the world power. They want to establish credibility as Chomsky says. (that is his core argument)
- The attacks will not stop the people in Afghanistan from starving.

In some areas Chomsky is definitely exaggerating. E.g. I do not think it is proven that terrorists supported by the CIA were responsible for the killing of Sadat in 1981. As far as I know some extremist army officers have killed Sadat.
And calling the US the "world champions of terrorism" is definitely a little bit over the top.

My problem with the counter-attack on Afghanistan is that I do not see the point. What do the US want there? Fight terrorism? Ridiculous as they already have admitted that they will probably never get bin Laden. And even if they got him it would not be the end of terrorism. The terrorists are organised in networks, Chomsky thinks they are based on the principle of leaderless resistance. A war is not going to destroy these networks. As they are everywhere not only in Afghanistan. One thing is for sure. The US are killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan. If there is no good reason to do that the US are behaving like the terrorists. The terrorist logic has won. They killed thousands of innocent people on 9-11 and now the US does the same in Afghanistan. If the only reason for the Afghanistan attacks is that the US want to show off that they are the strongest as Chomsky suspects than this war is definitely not right.
And when Rumsfeld says that the US will not be responsible for any future government in Afghanistan I find that extremely cynical. If the US topple the Taliban they have to take care that there won't be an even crueler regime after. The attack on Afghanistan to me seems to be an end in itself.
posted by alex63 at 9:25 AM on October 27, 2001

I enjoy reading Chomsky, but he seems to have abandoned any pretense of persuading people, choosing the easier path of pontificating to the faithful

And is headed towards autism, by the looks of it. Though I think "enjoying reading Chomsky but" will always be true, bless the old firebrand.
posted by MiguelCardoso at 1:18 PM on October 27, 2001

rcade, the intent was not to insult you directly but to point out the ridiculous and childish level of the language and content of apparent rebuttals to Chomsky's comments.

Anti-semitism and the Arab world's views on Jews and Israel are well worth discussing. The fact that Chomsky did not mention them is a good point, too. They can add to serious discussion of whether what he says is bullshit or not. But pointing out something Chomsky did not mention is not a rebuttal. Labeling Chomsky 'asshole smart' does not amount to a rebuttal. And calling him short-on-facts is not a rebuttal, because he mentions his sources, obsessively.

I enjoy reading Chomsky AND... because Chomsky knows how to argue and back himself up with data. I disagree with a lot of things he has to say and agree with others. I just wish a lot more of us, conservatives, liberals, (fill in the blank), were capable of the same level of discourse.
posted by mmarcos at 6:11 PM on October 27, 2001

Heh. A whole thread attacking/defending the messenger rather than the message. I'm impressed with the effectiveness of the initial few posts in drawing fire, but surely this and the dinner party post form a back-handed compliment: people may not like him, or his message, but it's a damn site easier to make personal attacks than it is to avoid his conclusions...
posted by andrew cooke at 1:01 AM on October 28, 2001

Your argument cuts both ways, mmarcos. How many supporters of Chomsky's speech, including I would presume yourself, have offered anything of substance that addresses the points he made? You certainly haven't.
posted by rcade at 9:26 AM on October 28, 2001

I didn't make any claims so I have nothing to back up; I suggested those who make claims back them up because I want to find out if Chomsky is right or the poster is right or neither or both are right or the claim is irrelevant. A dissertation is not necessary, simply stating where the information is located is fine. Is this unreasonable?

And, um, remind me now, where exactly did I state that I supported Chomsky's speech? The scroll bar is located to your right.
posted by mmarcos at 1:24 PM on October 28, 2001

You haven't said anything yet, mmarcos. You'd rather argue about how we should argue. Is this one of the traits of The Well too?
posted by rcade at 1:32 PM on October 28, 2001

rcade, if you (for example, you're not the only one, of course) had posted back up to your post on the survey I'd have happily devoured all that information and replied or not, agreed or not, online or not. What's the source of the poll information? I'm interested in seeing who took the poll, what the questions were, what the sampling criteria was, etc., if it's available. I'd like to put it through the same wringer we should all put Chomsky's claims through. (Ironically there's a massive thread on metatalk about a request from MiguelCardoso to "Please cite your source, Spoon." And this is just about kitties for crying out loud!)

It is a trait of The Well to get to the bottom of things. The "well" you're digging is getting deeper and deeper so I'll stop now. FIN.

(unless you [and others] want to post back up.)
posted by mmarcos at 2:45 PM on October 28, 2001

kittyloop, thanks very much for the links. I'll be reading through them today and tomorrow. I used to live in Central America , and what I saw from speaking with local people in Nicaragua and Costa Rica were mixed feelings regarding American involvement in the region. Such complex issues. Of course, members of those factions most opposed to what was done by the US were probably not people who were willing to chat much with me.
(However, I really don't think this stuff is what the terrorists had in mind when they attacked the US. For me, it's a different topic entirely, although Chomsky disagrees.)
posted by hazyjane at 12:54 AM on October 29, 2001

passionate disregard for realistic niceties

/me scribbles that one down and puts it in his back pocket. That bad boy is gonna come in handy some day!
posted by owillis at 1:12 AM on October 29, 2001

rcade I believe that you, like many others, confuse anti-semitism with anti-zionism. Jews lived in the Arab and Islamc world in far more peace and harmony than they did in the European world, or just about anywhere else save America. Relations only really went bad in a fundamental way after the Zionists formed Israel in the 1940's. Ask any Sephardic Jew how he/she liked Morocco, Yemen, Iraq, Iran, or any number of places and almost all have fond and even idealized memories.

It's common in the West to take ones own history (in this case, Europe's virulent anti-semitism) and graft it onto current events, but it really doesn't hold up under scrutiny.

Your point though, is well taken, that Chomsky doesn't bother to give the context behind the opposing side of his argument. But then again, who does?
posted by chaz at 1:29 AM on October 29, 2001

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