My Very, Very Allergic Reaction To Brad Delong On Chomsky
My Very, Very Allergic Reaction To Brad Delong On Chomsky
In his "Thoughts" on Chomsky, under the title "My Very,Very Allergic Reaction to
In his first two paragraphs he makes the point that Chomsky's admirers "form a kind of cult," but no evidence is given supporting this insult, which is a familiar form of smear to denigrate people admiring someone with whom one disagrees. He then compares teaching such folks to teaching Plato to pigs. So his opening is pure name-calling.
In his next paragraph he tries to engage in substance, and this effort is worth a close look. He says: "Consider Chomsky's claim that: 'In the early 1990s, primarily for cynical great power reasons, the
The first substantive statement in this paragraph, that the United States always selects strong clients, is truly "ludicrous": the United States supported the Nicaraguan contras, Savimbi's UNITA in Angola, the little rag-tag forces in Nicaragua that it organized to invade Guatemala in 1954, Somoza's Nicaragua, the Florida and Nicaragua-based invasion force for the Bay of Pigs, the remnants of Chiang Kai Shek's defeated army in northern Burma following the victory of the communists in China in 1949, Chiang's Taiwan from 1949, the Persian Gulf Emirates, and many other similarly "strong clients." The implication that because the Bosnian Muslims were shot in large numbers they couldn't have been U.S. clients is not only a non sequitur, it also flies in the face of massive evidence that they were U.S. clients, as any serious book on the subject makes clear (e.g., Lord David Owen's Balkan Odyssey, Susan Woodward's Balkan Tragedy, or Diana Johnstone's Fools' Crusade). This client status is not even controversial. DeLong's ignorance of this subject area is apparently close to complete, as he fails to note that our Bosnian clients also shot a lot of unarmed men, and that we, in collaboration with the Saudis and Bin Laden , ferried massive supplies and mujahadin troops into Bosnia (as described in detail in the Dutch report on Srebrenica) and bombed the Serbs on behalf of our Bosnian Muslim client in the lead-up to the Dayton agreement.
His next sentence about the Bosnian Muslims as "a key to U.S. politico-military strategy in Europe" misrepresents and therefore lies about Chomsky's language: Chomsky didn't say "key...in
DeLong then goes on to say that it is true today that the
But DeLong knows that all this is irrelevant because the
So who is the "nut-boy": Chomsky, or the man who misrepresents his target's language, regurgitates foolish patriotic truths, displays abysmal ignorance on matters on which he writes as if an authority, and rules out evidence and rational discourse on these matters?
After this proof of Chomsky as a nut-boy, DeLong has a few lines on what Chomsky admirers say when he presents them with that nut-boy phrase on
One paraphrased reply mentions Chomsky's "insights." DeLong then goes on as follows: "Insights? Like his writing a preface for a book by Robert Faurisson," which he follows up with selective partial quotes like that Chomsky said that Faurisson seemed to be "a relatively apolitical liberal" and that Chomsky admitted to "no special knowledge" of the topic Faurisson dealt with and hadn't read anything by Faurisson "that suggests that the man was pro-Nazi."
Neither Chomsky nor his "followers" ever claimed these phrases were "insights": that is the trick of a smear artist, who searches for vulnerable language in the target, takes the words out of context, and elevates them to supposed "insights." Note too the illogic: it was an alleged "insight" to write a "preface." Note also the dishonesty in not mentioning that the preface was only written as an independent avis and inserted in the book as a preface without Chomsky's prior approval (see Chomsky's "The Right to Say It," The Nation,
Most important in this phase of the smear enterprise is DeLong's refusal to recognize that the avis was solely a defense of the right of free speech and that from beginning to end that was all the struggle was about for Chomsky. It was certainly not about Faurisson's views or in any way a defense of those views, and DeLong fails to mention that Faurisson was dismissed from his job teaching French literature because the authorities claimed they couldn't defend him against his enemies, and he was brought to court not for his political views but for "Falsification of History" (in the matter of gas chambers) and for "allowing others" to use his work for nefarious ends. This was a major civil liberties case in which, for perhaps the first time in the West, a court decided that the state has a right to determine historical truth.
DeLong wants to deflect attention from this important issue to Faurisson's views, which he presents in an unattributed quote which refers to Faurisson as "a guy whose thesis seems to be" (and then comes a rhetorical statement about a big lie). DeLong latches on to Chomsky phrases in the avis that Faurisson seemed to be a "relatively apolitical liberal," and was not necessarily pro-Nazi--a view Chomsky arrived at after talking with several of Faurisson's leading critics in France, who were unable to provide any credible evidence of anti-Semitism or neo-Naziism--but DeLong fails to note Chomsky's statement in the avis that Faurisson might indeed be an anti-Semite or Nazi as claimed, but that that would have no bearing on the issue of freedom of speech (see the avis at:
http://www.zmag.org/chomsky/articles/8010-free-expression.html). DeLong also fails to mention Chomsky's repeated expressions of horror at the Holocaust as "the most fantastic outburst of collective insanity in human history" and his statement that we "lose our humanity" if we even enter into debate with those who deny or try to diminish Nazi crimes. Note also the dishonesty in suppressing Chomsky's repeated statements that he has signed free speech petitions for numerous Soviet bloc victims without knowing their views, or even with an awareness of their obnoxiousness--which he didn't mention-- but never suffered criticism, or DeLong-type smear jobs, for not having researched the exact beliefs of these civil liberties victims.
DeLong says, "Would it be better not to misrepresent Faurisson's beliefs? Not to claim that he is a relatively apolitical liberal? Not to say that you have seen no evidence that Faurisson is pro-Nazi? It is, after all, a much stronger defense of free speech to say that you are defending a loathsome Holocaust-denier's right to free speech because free speech is absolute, then to say that poor Faurisson: a relatively apolitical liberal: is being persecuted for no reason other than that some object to his (unspecified) 'conclusions'." As noted, DeLong's statement that Chomsky "misrepresents Faurisson's beliefs" is false. His second point is also false, because if the free speech issue involves protection of a man accused of "loathsome" views, who is being attacked for those views, both the nature of those views and the fact that he is being attacked for them are of some importance, even if they are not central. But Chomsky made it clear that he thought the views of civil liberties victims: loathsome or not: were irrelevant in decisions as to whether they should be defended, a point that every civil libertarian takes for granted. DeLong's smear objective compels him to skirt around this principled position.
DeLong's last line is an obscurantist masterpiece in which he stumbles over his own rhetorical effusion: Faurisson was being "persecuted"--this is irony, suggesting that he got what was coming to him, although DeLong is of course a believer in free speech! And "some object to his (unspecified) 'conclusions'": again, heavy-handed irony in which Faurisson's evil views, that people like Chomsky are unwilling to openly acknowledge or deny, are opposed by good people who have been allegedly "persecuting" him. When he says that the bad folks are complaining that Faurisson was persecuted "for no other reason" than objections to his unspecified conclusions, does he mean that there was another reason to go after him, or is that just reinforcing the point that the "(unspecified) conclusions" were quite enough?
DeLong then takes up Chomsky's crimes in treating
"If a serious study...is someday undertaken, it may well be discovered...that the Khmer Rouge programs elicited a positive response...because they dealt with fundamental problems rooted in the feudal past and exacerbated by the imperial system....Such a study, however, has yet to be undertaken."
DeLong comments: "Reflect that it was published three full years after the Cambodian Holocaust of the Year Zero. Ask yourself whether this is an uncovering or a covering of the crimes of an abominable regime." The answer is that a single stripped-down quote taken out of context and that speculates about what may come from a future study tells nothing to an honest person. DeLong naturally fails to acknowledge that our stated aim in the book was not to uncover crimes but to see how the "facts have been interpreted, filtered, distorted or modified by the ideological institutions of the West" (ATC, vii). For DeLong, as for the mainstream, this was an illegitimate objective.
DeLong seems to think that the "holocaust" occurred instantaneously upon the takeover of the KR in 1975. He pretends that full data on this closed regime were readily available for a book published three years later. He fails to mention that in speculating here Chomsky (and this writer, his co-author) also raised the possibility that the worst charges might also turn out to be true when all the facts are in, and that we were drawing no conclusions about where the truth lies in this range of descriptions (ATC, 293). He suppresses the fact that our reference to the "positive response" was taken mainly from Francois Ponchaud's Cambodge annee zero, where Ponchaud speaks of the "genuine egalitarian revolution," the "new pride" of miserably oppressed peasants in constructive work, and first time women's participation. Ponchaud's book was widely cited as an authoritative source as well as a condemnation of the KR, so citing it and acknowledging its finding of positive features in the KR revolution wouldn't suit DeLong's purpose; nor would Long attack Ponchaud as an apologist for the "crimes of this abominable regime" although Ponchaud's positive statements are unqualified, whereas DeLong goes into a tantrum about a speculation of ours saying that these explicit conclusions may turn out to be correct. We quoted similar material from David Chandler and Richard Dudman, highly respected analysts of
DeLong continues: "But it gets worse. Go back to your Nation of 1977, and consider the paragraph": then quoting us that "Space limitations preclude a comprehensive view," but that specialists writing in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Economist, and Melbourne Journal of Politics have studied the evidence and concluded "that executions have numbered at most in the thousands..." DeLong then quotes at length an ally attacking these source references, and DeLong himself says he looked through the Economist and couldn't find anything written by the Economist staff on the subject. "So why does Chomsky lie about these 'highly qualified specialists'? The claim that it is 'space limitations' rather than 'non-existence' that prevents their being named cannot be a claim in good faith, can it? And why would anyone lie for Pol Pot, unless they were either a nut-boy loon or were being mendacious and malevolent in search of some sinister and secret purpose?"
DeLong's statement that Chomsky lied here is itself a plain lie. Our references were exactly correct. DeLong couldn't find anything written by the Economist "staff," but he knows full well that the reference was to a letter to the editor, published in and therefore provided by, the paper, by Cambodia demographer W. J. Sampson, an economist-statistician who was living in
DeLong and his ally claim that Chomsky said that Khmer Rouge killings were "at most in the thousands," and that Chomsky had implied that this was "a conclusion of an article...[by Nayan Chanda in] the Far Eastern Economic Review." DeLong and friend also note that the author Chanda says "the numbers killed are impossible to calculate." DeLong's ally asserts that "Chomsky presented the Far Eastern Economic Review as confidently denying the possibility that killings were vastly higher, but Chanda specifically denies such knowledge and confidence." First of all, we did not attribute the "at most in the thousands" statement to Chanda, but to Sampson. Second, we ourselves quoted Chanda's statement that "the numbers killed are impossible to calculate," that DeLong implies we neglected (ATC, 229). Third, we quote Chanda saying that the testimony from refugees and others "leaves no doubt: the number of deaths has been terribly high" (229), so the statement that Chomsky denied "the possibility that killings were vastly higher" is another lie.
DeLong ends on
DeLong never mentions that our book was explicitly aimed at countering the huge and lie-rich propaganda barrage on Cambodia that began upon the KR entry into Phnom Penh in April 1975, a barrage and lies which only served a political and ideological purpose and did not help the Cambodians in any way whatsoever. DeLong of course ignores our comparative analysis of the difference in treatment of
DeLong never mentions that estimates of the numbers killed by the U.S. Air Force in its bombing of
In his book The Spirit and Structure of German Fascism, in a chapter entitled "Science: Handmaiden of Inspired Truth," Robert A. Brady noted how often scientists carelessly "assume that the attempt to think rigorously in one field automatically implies thinking rigorously whenever one thinks about anything at all." When he does this "he is merely allowing himself to abandon rational criteria in favor of uncritical belief." Brady pointed out that such "uncritical belief" is often the conventional wisdom, in which God and country rank high. Could it be that just as Brad DeLong, by an act of patriotic faith, explains