by Bruce S. Thornton
The Anti-Chomsky Reader, ed. by Peter Collier and David Horowitz (Encounter Books)
Of all the pseudo-religions corrupting our thinking–Freudianism, Marxism, Darwinism, to name a few–anti-Americanism is the most bizarre and dangerous. The facts of American life and American history simply do not support the widespread view that the United States, in the lunatic words of playwright Harold Pinter, is a “fully-fledged, award-winning, gold-plated monster” that “knows only one language–bombs and death.” Such hatred usually is spawned by a diseased religious sensibility, an irrational passion for a narrative that bestows meaning on the world and one’s exalted place in it as a champion of the revealed truth and righteousness. Yet the cult of anti-Americanism is worse than any dysfunctional religion, for it masquerades as reasoned analysis based on historical fact.
In the U.S. today, the two high priests of this weird cult are Michael Moore and Noam Chomsky. Moore is the less dangerous, since he is so obviously a revival-tent grifter, the Elmer Gantry of anti-Americanism, his cinematic tongue-talking, snake-handling, and arsenic-guzzling mere cover for an entrepreneurial cunning equal to any of the rapacious capitalists he preaches against–as he revealed when he threatened to sue anybody who criticized him or his latest movie sermon Fahrenheit 9/11, sounding for all the world like a Disney lawyer protecting the Mickey Mouse trademark.
Chomsky, on the other hand, is the Ayatollah Khomeini of the hate-America cult, as David Horowitz has put it, although Chomsky too has profited handsomely in his own church. Yet his hatred is not opportunistic but heart-felt, visceral, a demonic passion of the sort that in the past sparked pogroms, inquisitions, and witch-hunts, and that today sends Arab children to blow up Israeli children. As Horowitz says of this diseased Manichean sensibility, “Those who oppose socialism, Marxism, Communism, Chomskyism embody evil; they are the party of Satan, and their champion, America, is the Great Satan himself. Chomskyism is, like its models, a religion of social hatred.”
Battling this apostle of superstition and hate, then, is an important task, and The Anti-Chomsky Reader makes an excellent handbook for those doing so. And Peter Collier and David Horowitz are the thinkers suited for such a task, for they are apostates from the sixties New Left sect of Marxism who have in subsequent years devoted their lives to exposing the lies and crimes of modernity’s most lethal delusion. The nine excellent essays they have collected cover the whole spectrum of Chomsky’s political views, including his numerous apologies for mass murderers, his flirtation with Holocaust deniers, his hatred of Israel and support for her enemies, and his obscene interpretation of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Another way Chomsky is more dangerous than a hustler like Moore is that Chomsky is a professor of linguistics at MIT. Thus he benefits from the “halo effect,” that is, to him are attributed all the scholarly prestige and intellectual status of one of this country’s top universities. His reputation as a scholar of linguistics creates an aura of rational, evidence-based thinking that the naïve or ignorant bestow as well on his political writings. As John Williamson says in an essay detailing the links between Chomsky’s linguistic and political failings, “If it were not for this reputation, his political views would be held in no higher regard than those of former presidential candidate Lyndon Larouche, who used to claim that the queen of England was the head of an international drug ring.”
In actual fact, the quality of Chomsky’s thinking is on a par with the rantings of a bus-stop conspiracy theorist. Yet Chomsky camouflages the essential irrationalism of his ideas with a carapace of footnotes and references that to the unwary suggest vast scholarly and empirical support. This barrage of facts, pseudo-facts, disputed facts, and outright lies is convincing to the badly educated, the ignorant, and those who simply don’t have the time or inclination to track down every reference and check every alleged fact. However, if one analyzes these references, as Thomas Nichols does in his essay “Chomsky and the Cold War,” one discovers that “the copious references are there to create a kind of pseudo-academic smog; many of them are repetitive, and many more are so vague as to be useless. Quite often, his citations regarding a contentious point only lead the reader back self-referentially to another of Chomsky’s own works in which he makes the same unsupported assertion, and not to some piece of original evidence or to an analysis built on original evidence, as would be expected in a normal footnote.” The result is not an analysis based on evidence but rather “a Potemkin village of intellectual authenticity.”
In conjunction with this pseudo-scholarship, Chomsky frequently presents as established history what in fact is propaganda or sheer fabrication. In one of the best essays of the collection, “Noam Chomsky’s Anti-American Obsession,” Horowitz exposes Chomsky’s Soviet-style historiography. On Ronald Reagan’s liberation of Grenada, for example, Chomsky has written, “When Grenada began to undergo a mild social revolution, Washington quickly moved to destroy the threat.” In actual fact, of course, Marxist ideologues had seized power in Grenada in a coup, spurred on by the Soviets who, themselves encouraged by the American “malaise” of the Carter presidency, were aggressively promoting communist revolutions throughout Latin America. Then the Cubans began to construct on the island an airport capable of accommodating Soviet nuclear bombers. Finally, another violent coup installed yet another Marxist dictator who, after murdering his rivals, put the whole island, including U.S. citizens, under house arrest. Only then did the U.S., beseeched by four Caribbean nations, intervene. Afterwards, 85 percent of Grenadans were glad the U.S. had acted and stopped this so-called “mild social revolution” of the sort that everywhere else has spawned gulags and oppression.
Chomsky’s cavalier disregard for the facts of history in the service of his anti-American ideology helps explain his support for the French Holocaust-denier and anti-Semite Robert Faurisson, a connection detailed by Werner Cohn in “Chomsky and Holocaust Denial.” In 1979 Chomsky signed a petition in support of Faurisson’s work, in which references were made to Faurisson’s “findings” and his status as an expert on “document criticism,” statements that outrageously suggested that this purveyor of irrational hatred should be taken seriously as a scholar. As Cohn reports, according to Pierre Guillaume, the head of La Vieille Taupe, Faurisson’s publisher, the petition and Chomsky’s prestige “played a decisive role in gaining public acceptance for the ‘revisionist’ [the euphemism for Holocaust denial] movement in France.”
Yet this is not the only instance of Chomsky’s support of neo-Nazi Holocaust denial. He published the French version of one of his books with La Vieille Taupe, has allowed this neo-Nazi press to promote his books and tapes, and composed a 2,500-word essay in which he defended Faurisson. This essay became the infamous “Preface” to Faurisson’s book. Chomsky continues to maintain that his support of Faurisson is motivated solely by his concern to protect the right of free speech. Yet as Cohn points out, Chomsky wrote “that there is nothing anti-Semitic about Holocaust-denial; he agreed with Guillaume that belief on his (Chomsky’s) part in the historical reality of the Holocaust was a purely personal opinion–a sort of quirk–and was not to be regarded as implying criticism of Faurisson’s ‘scholarly’ work.” When taken with Chomsky’s relentless assaults on Israel, detailed in Paul Bogdanor’s “Chomsky’s War against Israel,” this support of anti-Semitic lunacy and this willingness to be associated with neo-Nazis suggest something darker and more dangerous in Chomsky’s world view–the hatred of America that extends to America’s democratic ally Israel.
Chomsky has another technique he uses to disguise his ideological prejudices as reasoned research. He dismisses or attacks the integrity of sources that contradict his interpretation of an event, and then relies on obscure or nakedly biased sources to create the illusion of empirical evidence supporting his position. For example, after the fall of Saigon, the communists began their campaign of torture, assassination, forced relocation, and imprisonment of their political opponents, as well as ethnically cleansing Chinese citizens and creating hundreds of thousands of “boat people” refugees. Yet as Steven Morris writes in “Whitewashing Dictatorship in Communist Vietnam and Cambodia,” Chomsky dismissed these well-documented reports of oppression as mere propaganda generated by the American need for “reconstructing the imperial ideology.”
Chomsky manages this feat of historical fabrication by ignoring the evidence of newspapers such as the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and Le Monde–all liberal papers opposed to the war in Vietnam–in favor of obscure newsletters such as the New England Peacework and The Disciple. Eyewitness accounts by those who lived through the war and its aftermath are ignored or vilified as the lies of imperialist stooges, while the observations of activists and fellow-traveling journalists vetted in advance by Hanoi for their political correctness are extolled — so too with Chomsky’s shameful refusal for years to acknowledge, without rationalizing or palliating, the Maoist-inspired Cambodian genocide. As Morris says of Chomsky’s work on Vietnam and Cambodia, “it is merely a shallow and turgid brief for an ideologically driven prosecution.”
Yet no matter how much evidence refutes Chomsky’s analyses and predictions, he stubbornly holds on to them or refuses to admit he was wrong, just like the medieval theologians whose motto was “Defend, never emend.” In Horowitz and Ronald Radosh’s “Chomsky and 9/11,” the authors analyze Chomsky’s outrageous claim, in a speech delivered after the beginning of the U.S. war against the Taliban, that millions of Afghans were “‘on the verge of starvation'” and that the American military was pressuring Pakistan to eliminate the convoys delivering aid,” actions he called “‘some sort of silent genocide.'” In other words, the American government intentionally was engineering the deaths of several million Afghans.
Of course, as Horowitz and Radosh write, “in reality no such thing transpired. Not 10 percent of Chomsky’s 3 to 4 million starved; not 1 percent; no one hundredth of 1 percent. His statements can only be described as calculated lies.” In actual fact the Bush administration and the military engaged in something unprecedented during wartime–adjusting their military actions to ensure that civilians were fed, not to mention the extraordinary efforts, taken in Iraq as well, to avoid civilian casualties. More food was available to Afghans after the war started than there was before. Yet when in 2003 he was confronted with these facts on the ground that belied his slanderous predictions, Chomsky simply denied he ever made the charge, calling it an “‘interesting fabrication.'”
Rather than evidence-based analysis, then, Chomsky’s political writings reflect his ideological obsessions, specifically, his irrational hatred of the very country that has given him a life of prosperity and the freedom not just to bite the hand that feeds him, but to gain profit and prestige from doing so. Lurking within this hatred is the disdain for the American people, which is characteristic of most “progressives” who, for all their populist rhetoric, simply can’t stand the average person.
This elitest hatred comes through in Chomsky’s most famous work,Manufacturing Consent, coauthored with Edward Herman. Eli Lehrer’s analysis of Chomsky’s ideas in “Chomsky and the Media: A Kept Press and a Manipulated People,” reveals the low estimate Chomsky has of the American public, who are so easily manipulated by the mainstream media’s shilling for the military-industrial complex, a thesis Chomsky has developed in three other books. The ultimate source of this idea, of course, is the Marxist one of “false consciousness,” an equally elitist view of the bovine masses who can’t see beyond the propaganda and so require superior intellects like Chomsky’s to point out to them the real truth. In reality, as Lehrer points out, the media and popular culture are saturated with an anti-capitalist, anti-military bias: “the popular culture’s ‘bread and circuses’ for the masses actually promoted Chomsky’s view of world affairs–replete with U.S. villainy, skullduggery and financing by the very oligarchs who he claims relentlessly pursue the interests of the capitalist ruling class.”
Chomsky’s numerous writings, then, are not the fruits of historical knowledge or reasoned analysis. Rather, they are driven by one thesis: that as Horowitz puts it, “America is the fount of evil in the modern world.” Even a casual familiarity with history shows that the United States is unusual not for its abuses of power but for its restraint. The story of how a critical mass of Americans, the freest and richest ordinary people in the history of the planet, has come to despise their own country despite its virtues, is long and complex. Paul Hollander, in Understanding Anti-Americanism: Its Origins and Impact at Home and Abroad, crystallizes the dynamic of this bizarre phenomenon:
Domestic anti-Americanism often is a reflection of unhappiness with life in a largely secular, excessively individualistic society which–while it provides a wide range of choices and options– offers little help to its member in finding meaning and guiding values in their lives. The openness, freedom, and moral-ethical free-for-all that are characteristic of American culture can become troubling and burdensome.
In other words, anti-Americanism is a psychological and sociological phenomenon, a symptom of moral and spiritual uncertainty. That is why someone like Chomsky with the sensibility of a religious fanatic is the high priest of this dangerous cult. Passionately committed to a discredited and destructive political creed, socialism, Chomsky must hate the one society whose commitment to the freedom of the individual has done more than any other to disprove the claims of so-called “progressives” to improve human life by bestowing power to elites. Thus, as Horowitz concludes this indispensable collection, Chomsky must “kill the memory of American achievement along with the American idea. This, surely, is Noam Chomsky’s mission in life and his everlasting infamy.”